Sunday, July 22, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises … All ears (and eyes).

I'm a movie buff. For those that don't know me and haven't seen my living room … I have 14 movie posters lining the walls. One of these posters is from the movie Inception.

The Dark Knight Rises, and the trilogy of the most recent Batman movies, have all been directed by Christopher Nolan ~ who is also director of Inception.

I'm a pretty tough movie critic. I have to be honest and say that I have liked most every Christopher Nolan directed movie except these Batman entries.

I love Batman, mostly because he could possibly be real. His powers as a superhero lies more in his spirit to fight injustice and perseverance no matter what the odds. I've always had this idea that someone like Bill Gates could really fund a secretive eccentric superhero double life.

Those themes certainly prevail in this movie. That said, there seems to be too much drama without any character development. It seems they made the movie 30 minutes longer than it should have been.

I'm not a fan of the "I'm going to talk deep, so you won't recognize my voice" voice that Christian Bale delivers. It almost ruins all of Batman for me.

I also have to admit that I wasn't a fan of Catwoman being portrayed by Anne Hathaway. I'm not a fan of Anne Hathaway looks wise or her acting abilities. But, she hit this out of the ball park! She also had one of the most clever costumes EVER in a movie. I won't give it away but it REALLY makes sense once you see it and makes you smile at the awesomeness.

Speaking of acting, actor Tom Hardy reveals one of the most convincingly evil roles as a villain to date.

Actor, Tom Hardy in Inception
I'm still going to say Jack Nicholson as The Joker is #1 in the Batman movies, but Tom Hardy nails this newer, more modern version of Bane ~ relating his evil to anarchy and lawlessness. His voice acting is incredible behind the Bane mask.

Hardy is said to have gained nearly 30 pounds of muscle for the role. It shows. He looks buff and like someone you do not want to mess with!

Actor Tom Hardy as Bane in
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
Bane is one of my favorite Batman villains. He received the worst visioning of a villain in the 1997 Batman & Robin disaster ~ directed by Joel Schumacher. He certainly is done justice in this entry by Nolan. He's given a completely different story and purpose as a villain than he is in the previous movie adaptation and from the comics where he debuted.

Plot-wise - I do believe the movie could have been shortened - leaving out some of the Commissioner Gordon drama (Gordon is played by actor Gary Oldman). That said, you really can believe the terror plot to take over Gotham City and see how the government would be powerless against the plan that Bane puts into place.

I'd also like to mention that, like this summer's earlier superhero blockbuster, The Avengers … I was pleasantly surprised to not hear a single curse word. At least, none that I could put an ear on. The violence is very dramatic, hardly any blood. Their is neck snapping, but I do think this is truly a movie your children could see … they may start to squirm a bit during the dramatic parts though.

The ending is a typical Nolan plot twist and worth the ticket price just to see.

Rating out of 10 : 7.5.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Don't Eat @ Joe's: A Bad Experience @ Joe's Crab Shack [UPDATED 2X]


* This story has been updated on July 29, 2012

I know, I know … people rarely write reviews about good experiences.

For restaurants, especially national chains, one should expect consistency in quality, taste, and service.

When on vacation, you go to places like McDonald's because you know it will taste the same as it does back home.

There really isn't a need for a good review of a chain restaurant other than a recommendation to try a new special or point to a great discount.

___________________________________

For my daughter's 20th birthday, she wanted to celebrate at Joe's Crab Shack.

Joe's has 120+ chain restaurants across the USA.

I like seafood, but it's not something I crave.

I personally don't like the recent Joe's Crab Shack commercials.

I always check out restaurants and menus so I know what the prices are and have an idea of what to get once I get there. 

I also knew that Joe's ran occasional discount and appetizer specials. I printed off six different free appetizer coupons because that's how the bills would be divided.

Prices at Joe's are high ... averaging $18-$40 per person, not including drink or appetizers.

The atmosphere at Joe's is purposely set up like an old beach seafood restaurant and is very appealing to seafood lovers.

Joe's has outdoor seating that personally appeals to me.

The restaurants have a nice playground with sand for the kids to play and where they can be easily monitored from the outdoor seating area.

The service is purposely aimed at being a kind of "yankee bad attitude" not really southern hospitality.

(Note: The restaurant originally started in Texas.)

My step daughter had made reservations two days in advance for 25 people at 6:45PM. This would require 4 outside tables ~ seating 6 at each table comfortably.

Approximately 12 of us showed up at 6:25PM.

We notified the staff that we had arrived. We saw them clear two tables as they emptied and put them together. Then, as the two other tables became empty, the hostess sat other waiting customers at those tables. This caused a delay for us to get seated and a lot of confusion as other members of our party arrived.

18 from our party had arrived by the time we were seated at 7:10 ~ 25 minutes after our reservation.

While the restaurant was filling fast, no one was really waiting to be seated except our party.

We were finally seated.

Our orders were taken.

The food came out unevenly. While it can be understood that 25 orders takes time, it took nearly 30 minutes for everyone to be served. Some had almost finished as other's food arrived.

My food - "A Steam Pot" was good but not outstanding and to me ~ not worth the $24.95 I paid for it. The corn seemed undercooked and the dish was rather oily.

The Crab Dip, Joe's signature appetizer, was very tasty.

Our party's drinks weren't kept full and I found myself needing water because of the saltiness and oiliness of the food.

My daughter's "steam pot" was cold, the corn on the cob even had ice crystals on it. It seemed as if the pot had been in a cooler and the cook skipped "steaming it".

Several in the party got the wrong dish or no dish at all and there was a significant delay in getting replacement dishes out. I was amicable and just accepted what I was brought.

When it came time for the bills … none of the appetizer coupons were taken off, the bills had added gratuity of 18% ~ higher than a customary 15% (but to be fair, this was understood before receipt). I just personally don't like tipping more than 15% for bad service.

Most of the bills had errant orders and some seemed unreasonably high.

My daughter had been told her meal would be discounted because of the "cold food" error. Her bill didn't reflect that credit.

We sent the bills back to recalculated three different times. The process took nearly 30 minutes to sort out.

Several discussions were made with the manager and assistant manager. A number of excuses, citing short-handed staff and a new cook; were given.

Because of delays and bill errors ~ the entire Joe's experience lasted 3.5 hours as we left at 10:35PM.

While certainly none of Joe's fault, I think the following is worth mentioning due to everyone in the party being exhausted and in need of leaving 2 hours sooner …

My 9 year-old son and his slightly older cousin were playing on the playground and had a bad accident.

The Joe's location was 25 miles from my home … we drove home towards a nearby hospital because my son was complaining of bad neck pain.

Fortunately, the diagnosis was a sprain.

This extended the trip to beyond midnight for my family ~ making it a 5 hour "from the front door and back" journey.

I sent Joe's an email through their "contact us page", I only received an automated response and never heard back from them regarding my issues.

What I had hoped to accomplish with this review … I personally think if you have another choice for seafood … I'd consider another establishment.

[UPDATE] After seeing this review, I was contacted by the General Manager of the Greenville SC location who was very pleasant and sincerely wanted another opportunity to impress me and my family. He's offered another chance via gift card. I declined, but he insisted and like I said, he was very pleasant. I'm always willing to chalk a really bad experience up as a "nothing seemed right night". I will update this review once I've had the chance to visit a second time.

[UPDATE II] I'm glad I gave Joe's a second chance! It's so hard for me to believe that so many different things could go wrong, but it seems like that is exactly case. We, along with other tables that I could see, were treated fairly ~ we got the "crab cracking bibs", the dancing waitresses, lots of visits to the table to ask how our meal was and to fill our drinks. <--- All things that didn't happen, that normally happen at Joe's.

My daughter's "steampot" was great this go around. In fact, everyone's food was perfect! My wife and I split the "Big Hook Up" and is was very tasty. My son got the "Kid's Steampot". We also got dessert this time and  the Key Lime pie, Apple Crumble with ice cream and the kids Painted Rice Krispy treat were all perfect!

While I definitely wasn't seeking out this completely gratis meal by writing this review and I don't write reviews to harm businesses; I'm very glad that Joe's stepped up to the plate to prove that they are tops in not only seafood, but customer service.

Time Changer

Plot:
19th Century Bible Professor Russell Carlisle has written a new book. He needs the endorsement of his peers, but a devout colleague believes that Carlisle's premise that morality can be taught independent of Christianity will seriously affect the morals of future generations. To prove his theory, he sends Carlisle more than 100 years into the future, offering him a glimpse of where his writing will lead.
I've been interested in the premise of time travel for a book I'm writing and I stumbled on this at my local library.

I started watching with the preconceived notion that it would be cheesy. I was pleasantly surprised.

This movie had outstanding writing and very good acting. It was also nice to see Gavin McCloud, the former Captain of the TV Series, The Love Boat.

The ending is a very well thought out cliffhanger.

Buy here through this link on AMAZON.COM.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Orgreenic "As Seen On TV" Non Stick Pan: Womp-waaaaah

I like to try out "As Seen On TV" products when I get the chance.

Usually I'll use a credit I have with Amazon or deep discounts at places like CVS pharmacy.

Most recently I've tried out the Orgreenic "Non Stick" Pan.

The claims in the commercials show its durability and strength. The commercials show burning cheese, burning chococolate, cooking meat - all with no oil, butter, or "other lubrication". They also show cooking fried and scrambled eggs easily with no butter. The egg cooking is what most attracted me. For the first week everything seemed great. I was actually amazed at how the non stick "coating" was performing. But then … things began to be worse than ANY other cooking utensil.

First, on week two, the pan developed a scratch. (Something the commercials claim won't happen.) The commercial even goes as far as creating an elaborate computer animation of how they have a "patent pending" coating process.





Orgreenic Commercial Second, after about a month's worth of fairly heavy use - although caution not to scratch or abuse it - things are now regularly sticking and the pan is very frustrating to use. Recommendation: DO NOT BUY!