Tuesday, 23 June 2009

TV Series Season Review - One Tree Hill Season 6

Since this blog is about reviews, I'm going to spend the next few posts talking about some of the tv series I watch and how I thought they fared this season. Bear in mind that this is my personal opinion and although I can safely say I have watched all the episodes of these series, I am not some sort of tv critic.

Major spoilers included so don't proceed if you haven't finished watching the current season.

One Tree Hill (Season 6) - 2/5


As much as I love One Tree Hill, I can't help but watch it and wonder what I'm doing watching a show that has deteriorated so much. What can I say about this season? Pretty bad story lines, and useless added characters.

We start off with crazy nanny Carrie who has a fixation with Jamie, when everyone thought we were going to see Haley kicking the hell out of the nutjob in comes Deb to save the day. Crazy nanny Carrie came and went so fast that I failed to find the purpose of her. Especially when a mere episode afterwards it seemed that the Scott family had dealt with all the issues. It didn't tear Haley and Nathan apart, it didn't give Jamie another storyline (and one that could have been interesting). Haley rediscovers her love for music but instead of recording an album herself, sticks to producing and when she finally has some conflict going with the headteacher, she quickly resolves it by quitting teaching. I would have expected a bit more of a fight from TutorGirl. Nathan is still moping around for an NBA shot, he makes a friend who helps him with his "comeback" but said friend gets suddenly killed, leaving Nathan with an angel on his shoulder.

If all seems quite well and boring at the Scott household, the same cannot be said of Brooke Davis who has been assaulted and possibly raped but all her close friends solemnly believe she just fell down the stairs. From this storyline comes the whole reason why OTH was still worth watching, the solid acting by Sophia Bush and the addition of Sam, her foster daughter, to the cast. Sam, a troubled teenager, brings back some of the edginess that OTH had on its early days. She's a bit like Brooke in a way, people think she's bad but she's got a big heart. After confronting her attacker (in a much more kick ass way than Haley), Brooke finds some peace and meets a man that seems to love her wholly. This man is Peyton's LA ex, Julian, who is also producing Lucas's movie. Julian could and should have been so much more plotwise. He is a likeable character. Perhaps too likeable. I would have preferred him to drive a wedge between Peyton and Brooke again. Not in a "we're not friends anymore" way but just by bringing the whole love triangle memories back. However, I miss the fun Brooke, the Brooke that was more light-hearted and the Brooke that was also bitchier.

Finally, the golden couple of the show, Peyton and Lucas, find their way to each others' arms, they get engaged, they get married and they have a child. Not without a lot of Peyton drama, of course. We start by getting to know Peyton's biological father. Why? I don't know. He didn't add anything to the show and he didn't make Peyton change in any way. Then, Peyton has pregnancy problems and when the reasonable thing was to have an abortion, as there was a great risk that both mother and child would die anyway, Peyton decides to go ahead. It seems selfish of Peyton to wish on her child the same thing that has haunted her life. Twice. She knows the pain of losing two mothers (adoptive and biological) and knowing that she might die and her child might live, she chooses to do so. It is sad to notice that in 5 years, Peyton hasn't changed much and still puts her needs above others'. As far as Lucas goes, he's dealing with the failure of his second novel but lo and behold he gets asked to sell the film rights for his first novel and the production starts despite Lucas doubting Julian's intentions. This idea, however, wouldn't go far and any smart viewer knew it. They couldn't have a parallel season 3 of OTH on season 5 and although it helped Lucas come to terms with Keith's death a bit, we all knew it couldn't go on and sooner or later the film would be cancelled.

As far as the adult characters are concerned. Deb starts dating Skillz (ridiculous, I know) but soon finds out he deserves more. Dan is struggling to find a donor and when he finally does, the heart is eaten by a dog (possibly the worst TV scene ever). Andy and Karen are still AWOL with Karen only doing a small appearance at the birth of her granddaughter.

If it wasn't enough that this show is lacking reasonable and interesting storylines it is also flooded with temporary, useless characters like Owen, Chase, Mia, Mouth and Millie who are hardly worth our time and their salaries and whose stories are just not that interesting to watch.

With the news of Hilarie Burton (Peyton) and Chad Michael Murray (Lucas) leaving the show, we can only hope One Tree Hill comes back fresh and reinvigorated and with storylines that gripped us. And please, please, please, don't lose Dan (Paul Johannson)!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Walnut and Apple Cake Recipe

Here’s another recipe I made up.


Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cups of sugar

2 cups of flour

¼ of a cup of olive oil

1 cup of walnuts

¼ of a cup of apple cut in tiny cubes

1 teaspoon of cinnamon


Preparation:

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Beat the eggs with the sugar until they get a soft yellow and creamy consistency. Add the walnuts and the apple and mix well. Add the olive oil and the cinnamon and the flour carefully and stir. Pour the dough into a greased tin. Preferably, use a rectangular cake tin or one with a hole in the middle. Cook for 1 hour approximately but check your cake regularly.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Slumdog Millionaire


So I finally went to watch the Best Motion Picture of the Year. My expectations were high as there was so much talk about the movie.

Here’s a brief synopsis, twenty something Jamal Malik goes on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the hope of being seen by the love of his life, Latika. However, Jamal does more than appear on TV and scoops the big prize when he answers all the questions correctly. When TV officials start suspecting the knowledge of a mere slumdog, Jamal is arrested and questioned about how he knew all the answers. The reason for this? All his life prepared him for that moment.

Through flashbacks we learn that Jamal and his brother lived in the slums, they saw his mother being killed, they befriended a young girl named Latika that they adopted as their “third musketeer”, they were taken in by a man whose intentions seemed friendly but were, in truth, quite twisted and whilst Jamal and brother Salim manage to run away, Latika stayed behind. The two brothers tried to make a living the best they could but mostly resorting to less than honest activities, which provide some comic relief in this, at times, very emotionally heavy movie. When one day Jamal, who never forgot about Latika, learnt of her whereabouts, they go after her and young Salim kills the seemingly friendly man from their childhood.

Salim however, sends Jamal away and rapes Latika, or so we think because the movie never shows what happens. Jamal then tries to survive on his own in a much more legal and honest way. Meanwhile, Salim starts working for a slum gangster doing what he does best.

One day, whilst working in new Mumbai at a call centre, Jamal tracks down Salim in order to find Latika. He finds that she is living with Salim’s boss, the slum gangster, who obviously does not treat Latika very kindly. Jamal invites Latika to run away with him but she is caught by the gangster’s men before.

Hoping to be able to contact Latika through the TV, Jamal goes on the show that he knows she always watches. Upon seeing his brother’s success, Salim helps Latika run away and plans to kill the gangster. After the final lifeline “phone call to a friend” they finally meet and are free to live their love.

The best thing about this movie is how the narrative is constructed. All the moments fit quite well together and there isn’t an excess of scenes. Most of the story is very believable and even though it seems like Jamal can never be lucky in life, he’s a strong character for most of the time. Salim’s character, the anti-hero, is also believable. As an older brother, he did what he had to do to defend his brother but somehow along the way grew to become someone he couldn’t recognise anymore.

Slumdog Millionaire is a very good movie but its main problem resides in the “need” for a love story. I wouldn’t have had a problem if Jamal wanted to rescue an old friend anyway, or had never forgotten the little girl he had to leave behind. The love story seems forced on screen and it’s only saved by Dev Patel and Freida Pinto’s (now obvious) chemistry. I also wish Latika hadn’t been freed by Salim. It seems her life was determined by men and for men and she never had any control of it. People that go and watch this movie for the love story will probably be disappointed as there is a lack of substance in it. In fact, it seems that the love story was just a reason for the movie, it could have easily been left out and the movie would still make sense and would still be great.

Definitely worth watching for the narrative, for the excellent direction by Danny Boyle and the believable acting by Dev Patel and the children (who by the way are far from having all the credit they deserve). I would give it a 7/10.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Penne Pasta with Vegetables à la Missing Rome

This is a simple quick recipe I whipped up for dinner the other night. The pasta I used is penne but you can use another type of pasta. It makes roughly two portions.

Cook the penne as told on the packet.


Ingredients:

Two handfuls of spinach leaves (washed)

A quarter of a courgette sliced thinly

A quarter of a medium red onion cut thinly

A quarter of a yellow pepper cut in small pieces

Six cherry tomatoes cut in quarters

One tablespoon of olive oil

One teaspoon of pesto

A pinch of salt, oregano and chilli


Preparation:

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and then start frying the spinach on a high heat. Be patient as the leaves shrink and turn them frequently. When they are nearly all shrivelled, drop the rest of the veggies into the pan and stir frequently. Leave on a low heat for five minutes and stir every now and then. Season with salt, oregano and chilli. Just before serving add the pasta and the pesto and stir very well for about a minute. You want the pasta and the vegetables to be well mixed.

Serve with Parmesan cheese freshly grated.

Monday, 23 March 2009

I've been to Rome and I liked it - Part Four

Sorry about the wait but here I am with some advice and tips for those who want to visit Rome.

  • Choose a central hotel but because attractions might seem quite scattered through the city plan your visit beforehand. We came to the conclusion that most of the things we wanted to see were around the Colosseum and the Pantheon and therefore we chose a hotel right in the middle.
  • Get ready to walk. If you want to see Rome walk everywhere or if not use the bus.
  • Buy the Roma Pass. You can get it at Tourism Offices or online. It costs only 23€ and it gives you a transport pass for three days (trains, metro and buses), plus free entry to two museums/attractions and discounts on several others. On top of that you get to skip ticket lines. It is definitely worth the money.
  • Traffic is awful. I am Portuguese so it wasn’t a big culture-shock for me but if you’re used to respectful and calm drivers, be prepared. To cross a road in Rome, don’t be afraid, just look both ways and if there isn’t a car close enough to hit you without braking, start crossing. They will stop for you.
  • Eat and eat and eat. Eat fresh, lovely, al dente pasta. Eat a pizza, a real pizza. Eat some dish with fresh uncooked tomatoes, you’ll see you never had tomatoes like those before. Eat ice-cream, choose from lots of different flavours and just stroll down the streets savouring a good home-made ice-cream.
  • Beware of anyone offering you roses or to take a picture. Trust the old saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and say “No” very firmly.
  • If you don’t think you’re fit don’t go to the top of St. Peter’s. You can get nearly just as good views from the nearby Castel Sant’Angelo.
  • Be prepared to not know what you are looking it at. Yes, it’s a stone but was it a domus, an ara, a forum? We were on a tight budget so we avoided the audioguides but if you can afford it, they might help you to know what you are looking at.
  • On the bus, be forceful on the way out. It’s likely that no amount of scusi will get you to the exit door so you might want to add some pushing and shoving with your words.
  • Everywhere is cobbled stone, either road or pavement so perhaps avoid thin soles and most definitely heels. Streets aren’t disabled friendly either.
  • Supermarkets (as we know them: big and with lots of different food) are hard to find so if you need one, ask at your hotel reception, don’t go walking around aimlessly in the hope of finding one. There are lots of small specialised shops though.

All in all, Rome is a wonderful place and I hope everyone visiting it enjoys it and appreciates it as much as I did.

Friday, 13 March 2009

I've been to Rome and I liked it - Part Three

Our final day started with the Pope’s Angelus. Needless to say you can hardly see him as he’s so far away but it’s pretty amazing to say “I’ve seen the Pope” and I’m not a religious person. From there we headed to the museum we thought were the Capitoline Museums but was, in truth the monument to Vittorio Emanuele. After realising our mistake, we walked to the Capitoline Museums which were so close but hidden that our blunder was almost understandable. The Capitoline suffered from the same lack of signs as all the other places. Everything was scattered and I’m sure we’ve missed lots of amazing statues just because we didn’t know what they were. What I didn’t miss, though, was the bronze statue of the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus (from the legend of the founding of Rome) that graced the cover of my Latin study books. I actually never thought I would see it in person. It’s just a simple (very old) bronze statue but it meant a lot to me.

We then visited Castel Sant’Angelo. Another very early medieval building, very stony, simple and circular. It’s a very amazing construction, especially because it was so old. I personally could have done with a bit more of showing what certain rooms were for and who lived there but I was happy just to go to the terrace and get a good view of Rome and without the torturing steps of the Basilica.

During our days we also saw the outside of some beautiful churches which seem to be everywhere in Rome: Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Maria della Minerva were only two.

That’s the bulk of my visit to Rome, on my next post I will write about the general feel of Rome and give some tips/advice to potential visitors.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

I've been to Rome and I liked it - Part Two


The second day was the day my hopes and expectations were high: Colosseum and Palatine Hill. I’ve studied Latin (language and culture) for five years so being on those places only Titus Liuius wrote about made me really excited. The Colosseum is not as good as I expected it to be. It’s in pretty bad shape and you never know what’s original, what was rebuilt, where stone had eroded or being taken out of. I’ve visited a “colosseum” in El-Djem in Tunisia that could put the Colosseum to shame. Palatine Hill also verged on waste of time. Sure it is amazing to walk amongst all those columns, all those bits of something but it got very, very frustrating because, like all things in Rome, there are no signs, no legends to what you are seeing so you had to guess or rely on the few leftover inscriptions saying Ara Vestae or something like that. I was very disappointed and frustrated about it. Also extremely tired from all the aimless walking. We queued up to see Domus Augusti and must have stayed in line for a good 30 minutes as only five people could go at a time. When we got in, there were no signs to help us identify the rooms, what the things were, not to mention that it was minuscule.

After leaving Palatine Hill we made our way to what we thought were the Capitoline Museums. A sign from the heavens that we were at the wrong museum was that it had just closed (more on that later) so we changed plans and headed for the Pantheon instead. The Pantheon is an old church, medieval in every way and a spectacular building. It was one of the highlights for me. When we got there, there was a service going on. Obviously, there wasn’t a sign informing people when the service would be over or even if the Pantheon would reopen for the day. Luckily some guards facilitated the information upon asking so we headed towards Piazza Navona for an hour. Piazza Navona is not that impressive. It’s really just a square with a fountain (like many others in Rome) and with very over-priced restaurants and artists trying to earn some money.

Back to the Pantheon, the place was crowded but people moved fast and the circular shape of the building helped to spread the masses. The highlights were, of course, the highly protected tomb of Rafael and the tomb of Victorio Emmanuel, the first king of Italy.