Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movies I Always Watch: Deep Blue Seen It

Have you ever seen Deep Blue Sea? It’s ridiculous, but that doesn’t matter. It’s one of those movies I always seem to watch. It attracts me like blood in the water does a humongous, mutant shark.

When the trailer for Deep Blue Sea debuted, I was excited. As a huge Jaws fan, it looked as if there might finally be a good, new shark movie. God knows none of the Jaws sequels were any good. But Deep Blue Sea had potential; genetically engineered “smart” sharks wreaking havoc on a sinking, aquatic lab.

Okay, it seems absurd when you read that now, but when I first saw the trailer, with those cool, evil looking sharks and various, action packed cuts, I was psyched. As usual, the actual movie did not live up to the trailer.

Deep Blue Sea has some of the most ludicrous and memorable scenes in B-movie history, like LL Cool J hiding in an oven while a shark tries to ram through the door. Naturally, the gas is leaking too, adding even more danger to LL’s situation. Luckily, he keeps his Cool (J) and manages to escape and blow up the shark, thanks to the gas leak and his lighter.

Thomas Jane is the hero of the film, a shark wrangler whose trademark is swimming with the beasts, acrobatically avoiding their bite, grabbing their dorsal fin and riding them like a rodeo horse. I’d love to see this guy on the mechanical bull at Gilly’s Bar sometime.

Perhaps the most memorable scene involves Samuel L. Jackson, who before he was tired of those muther f-ing snakes on that muther f-ing plane, was tired of these muther f-ing sharks. Jackson has just finished giving an inspirational speech about survival, but is standing a little too close to an access pool and is devoured by a giant, animated shark that jumps out and gobbles him up. It is definitely the signature moment of the film.

The three best scenes are probably these:
1. The opening scene, where a shark attacks two partying couples on a boat.
2. When Stellan Skarsgård’s character gets his arm chomped off in the lab. (It’s proof that smoking is bad for your health.)
3. When Michael Rapaport’s character is gulped down by a shark in one fell swoop.
4. When Saffron Burrows’ character strips down to her underwear, uses her wetsuit as insulation and electrocutes one of the sharks in her flooded quarters. No one has ever looked sexier killing a shark.

The icing on the Deep Blue Sea cake is the song at the end of the movie. It’s by LL Cool J and it’s called "Deepest Bluest." The chorus constantly repeats the line, “My head is like a shark’s fin.” It’s hilarious, but I guarantee, you’ll find yourself singing it later that day. I wonder if this movie had been about a killer octopus instead, would LL have sung, “My head is like a tentacle?”

Here’s a link to the music video, which combines the cool footage from the trailer that I mentioned earlier with scenes of LL and some ladies doing some hard core, hip-hop synchronized swimming. It’s kind of like they combined Jaws with the "Mama Said Knock You Out" video and the pool scene from Caddyshack. You really have to see and hear it for yourself.

Deep Blue Sea opened the flood gates for the plethora of cheesy shark movies that are constantly running on the SyFy channel, like Malibu Shark Attack and my personal favorite, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Be wary. While real sharks are a natural hazard for surfers, the super sharks in Deep Blue Sea are a danger to channel surfers. If they catch you, they could kill your entire afternoon.

Oh no…
My head is like a shark’s fin.

That stupid song is stuck in my head. See? I told you.
My head is like a shark’s fin.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas- Ep. 6: Magically Delicious

I was so psyched for last night’s Top Chef because it featured Penn & Teller. I am a big fan. Their magic/comedy act is always great and their show B*llshit on Showtime is one of my favorites. (Thanks to BS, I find myself skeptical of just about everything these days.) But Penn & Teller would not appear until the second half of the show. First we meet guest judge Chef Michelle Bernstein, who apparently is no relation to that lovable family of bears. (Oh wait, they’re the Berenstain Bears. Never mind.)

This week opened with the chefs mourning the departure of Scarfy. To show solidarity, a number of them even don red scarves. There is also an overwhelming sentiment that Robin should have been eliminated, and many of the other chefs begin to ostracize her. But if you can’t take the heat, get the hell out of the Top Chef Kitchen… brought to you by the Glad family of products.

The theme of the Quickfire Challenge was Angels and Devils. Create a plate that showcases two dishes that exemplify good and evil. I immediately thought that if I was a contestant, I would make Devil Dogs and Angel Food Cake. Then I realized… that’s why I’ll never be a contestant on this show.

- Ash decides to make custard. You just knew he’d have problems with the temperature. Doesn’t he watch this show?
- Eli, Ashley and Jen all make scallops. Is it me or are there an inordinate amount of scallops made on this show?
- Big Papi makes Chilean Sea Bass. Padma complains that her serving had bones in it. Perhaps they were there part of another voodoo ritual. I think he’s gonna need some black magic to last on this show much longer.
- Robin’s theme is sugar, with her story of cancer survival as a backdrop. Eli is pissed that she plays the “C” card to elicit sympathy from the judges.
- Laurine is a miserable mess this week, practically making Stone Cold Jennifer look like The Joker. She’s not happy with the challenges and she hates Robin. (The chef, not Batman’s sidekick.)
- Ash, Bryan and Laurine are the losers. One of Ash’s custards did not set, so he only submits one dish. I don’t want to say I told you so, but…
- Bryan had tried to keep it simple with a play on the colors black and white, but in the end he was just seeing red.
- The top three were Mike V., Eli and the dark horse; Robin. And Robin wins. This makes many of the other chefs want to hang themselves with their red scarves.
- With Robin having immunity, you could practically see the bullseyes on Ash and Ron’s foreheads for the next challenge.

Finally, Penn & Teller enter the kitchen to introduce the Elimination Challenge. They do an amazing ball and cup trick and then deconstruct the same trick with transparent cups. The second time around is even more amazing. The challenge is to deconstruct a dish, which will be determined by drawing knives.

- Toby Young, the Dr. Evil of Top Chef is back at judges table. He’s the Simon Cowell to Gail’s Paula Abdul… Or should I say, Ellen?
- Stone Cold Jen pouts her way through Meat Lasagna. She even avoids Tom Colicchio when he makes his rounds.
- Laurine pouts her way through fish & chips. Robin’s constant chatter does not help matters.
- Big Papi is thrilled to get paella, but it’s clear he has no idea of the concept of deconstruction. He even asks Colicchio for advice… not a good sign.
- For me, I can’t help but think of George Costanza’s mother when I hear the word paella.
- When I was a kid, my mother always talked about how a pressure cooker could possibly explode. This week, I finally saw it happen. The duct tape holding Eli’s damaged pressure cooker just isn’t enough and it goes ka-blooey. Obviously Eli is no MacGuyver.
- Kevin has to make something called Mole Negro. I have no idea what that is, but I am familiar with its religious cousin, Holy Mole.
- Eli makes sweet & sour pork dumplings. The judges refer to them as bull testicles, a dish we learn that Padma has actually consumed.
- Mike I. tries to fake his way through Eggs Florentine. He fools no one.
- Ashley plays the “P” card and once again references her poverty stricken childhood. Perhaps she still can’t afford a comb?
- Ash gets Sheppard’s Pie and fails to deliver the potato element of the dish. That’s two dishes in one episode where he fails to deliver. I can’t believe he survives this round.
- Robin does not waste her immunity and serves up a repulsive clam chowder

The losers?
- Laurine, who only puts two chips on each plate.
- Ash, who substitutes mashed potatoes with an “Exorcist” looking pea puree.
- Ron, who does not deconstruct his dish, and manages to serve food which is both dry and soggy at once. Strike three! Big Papi strikes out and it’s his turn to pack his knives.

The Winners?
- Smile Jen, they loved your lasagna.
- Ashley, your pot roast boasted a wealth of flavors.
- Michael V. – Hail Caesar.
- And the winner is Kevin! Moley, moley, moley. He also gets some non-stick pans as a bonus. Maybe he should give them to Ron as a parting gift.

Okay, time for me to pack my knives and go. I’m off to find a place that serves Mole Negro. I just have to know what that tastes like.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 5: I’m a Cowboy, on a Steel Pan I Fry

This week Top Chef opened with the contestants rising and shining from their beds. It was funny seeing Ashley first thing in the morning because she always looks like she just rolled out of bed, and this pretty much confirmed it.

Perhaps even funnier was Scarfy’s pajamas. His light blue tops and bottoms made him look like he was in hospital scrubs. It would have been great if they had opened this episode with the theme music to the show Scrubs, and when they got to the line about “I’m no Superman”, they could show Scarfy running around in his blue PJs, using his red scarf as a cape.

Anywho… each week it seems like the contestants don’t feel a lot of love from the judges. Well that would change this week, literally. The guest judge was Chef Tim Love. I can only wonder how many times this guy has said, “The secret ingredient is Love.”

First we had the high stakes Quickfire challenge, which would once again award the winner $15,000; however no one would get immunity this time around. The ingredient was based on a viewer’s poll in which cactus beat out rattlesnake. Freaking rattlesnake!! How great would that have been?

I could just hear the judges;
“This rattle is overcooked.”
“Mmmm, that venom marinade was really clever and tasty, but suddenly I don’t feel so good.”

So the chefs carefully descend on the table of cacti, trying not to get pricked while they prep. Most of the chefs are unfamiliar with the plant, except Mike I., who shares the secret of de-sliming a cactus; blanching it. (See, I learned something tonight.) The rest of the gang try a variety of things…
- Ashley makes cactus jelly donuts. Perhaps she would have won if she made crullers shaped like cacti, with sprinkles for thorns.
- Kevin made a pork tenderloin that was described as slimy. Should have blanched it, dude.
- Big Papi was leery of cactus because they are poisonous in Haiti. FYI, this guy has lived a harder and more interesting life than any of us. But he still finishes at the bottom.
- Scarfy uses tequila, another surefire ingredient, and ends up as a top finisher.
- Mike V. is one of the losers in this round. Will his temper and ego be his weakness or strength as the field narrows?
- Mike I. is sharp like a cactus, and wins the Quickfire. He needed that.

On to the Elimination Challenge. The gang must cook for cowboys. They head to Whole Foods to shop. It struck me that these people always seem to have such a better time shopping at Whole Foods than I do. Then it dawned on me… it’s because they are not paying.

Some of the chefs start buying pretty eclectic ingredients and I am thinking that they are missing the chuck wagon on this cowboy challenge. (For instance, Big Papi and Scarfy both make ceviche.) The group is then surprised when they are taken out to the desert and left to camp out in teepees. So they are cooking for cowboys, but sleeping like Indians.

Thoughts on the Elimination Challenge:
- Big Papi makes a voodoo barrier to protect his tent from snakes. Like I said, this man is far more interesting than you or me.
- Eli assumes the role of city slicker and whines about having to sleep outdoors.
- Mike V. assumes the role of kitchen slicker and whines about having to cook outdoors.
- While most of the other chefs bitch about the conditions, Laurine embraces it and happily cooks a hearty meal on the open fire. It’s the first time I really take note of her this season.
- I like Jennifer, but she needs to smile once in a while.
- Holy spoiled seafood, Batman. Robin makes a terrible prawn salad.
- Scarfy’s fish makes the judges sick. As a matter of fact, Tom spits it out. Never a good sign. He should loosen that red scarf, because he is choking.
- Robin, Big Papi and Scarfy end up on the bottom. Papi is there because he broke the golden rule; he made a second dish and it killed him.
- What’s with all of the backwards baseball hats? Is this Top Chef or Top Catcher?
- Mike V. (who harnesses his anger), Laurine, Ashley and Bryan end up in the winner’s circle.
- Bryan rustles up a cowboy win. It’s not just the desert heat, this guy is on fire.
- No surprise. Scarfy loses the challenge. We bid you adieu!! Pack your scarf and go.

Okay, it’s time for me to pack my knives and ride off into the sunset. Next week Penn and Teller magically appear as guest stars. I love those guys, so I am psyched.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Ep. 4- The French Connection

Tonight the stakes were high on Top Chef as two chefs were eliminated instead of just one. That’s because they upped the ante on the Quickfire Challenge, giving the winner immunity and a seat at the table during the Elimination Challenge and the loser gets a seat on the next Greyhound bus out of Sin City. The secret ingredient was snails, or perhaps I should say escargot, since there was a French theme running through zee whole episode. Although I must admit I was rather disappointed that neither of my favorite French foods, French Toast nor French Fries, were represented at all tonight.

Naturally this theme gave Scarfy, zee French contestant, a home field advantage. It was a sort of birthday present to him, as it happened to be his 29th birthday. We got to see him celebrate by getting drunk, folding his red scarf into a pair of skintight swim trunks and prancing into zee hot tub.

Thoughts on the Quickfire:
- I have never eaten a snail, and I honestly still have no desire to try them now.
- Could Ashley swear a little more? Watch your French, girl.
- Robin did a take on bagels, lox and cream cheese with snail. I thought that was interesting.
- Jennifer seemed intimidated by the ingredient, but she nailed the snail.
- Mike I. went with a Greek take on snails and it paid off, putting him in the top three and redeeming himself temporarily from his poor showing last week.
- Kevin won again, using something called bacon jam as his secret weapon. Bacon jam… I love this guy. As I mentioned, Kevin got immunity for the next round. His biggest challenge was to actually clean himself up and dress nicely because he got to sit at the table and eat with a group of esteemed judges at the Elimination Challenge.
- Jesse, Ashley and Robin were the bottom three. In order to determine who went home, they had an Amuse-Bouche cook off. One bite to save your life.
- Turns out Jesse bit the dust with her one bite, so she packed her knives and left.
- When dismissing Jesse, Tom Colicchio missed a golden opportunity to say “Please pack your knives and escargot.”

On to the Elimination Challenge, where the gang gets to cook for Joel Robuchon, who is basically zee Michael Jordan of French cooking. Also at the table will be a virtual who’s who of French cooking. I may not have caught all of their names, but I’ll take my best guess as to who was there. I believe it was Marcel Marceau, Inspector Clouseau, LeBeau from Hogan’s Heroes, Pepé Le Pew and Jean-Luc Picard.

The chefs drew knives and paired up based on French sauces and proteins. Once again, Bryan and Mike I. were paired up. I was hoping Ash and Ashley would be a team so that they could say something like “Let’s kick some ash.” But that was not to be.

Thoughts on the Elimination Challenge:
- Big Papi explained that there is distain between Haitians and the French. I wonder if he spit in the food when the cameras were off.
- Big Papi cooked frog legs and all I could think of was The Muppet Movie. Ironically, his partner was Robin, which is also the name of Kermit the Frog’s nephew. (Anyone remember The Frog Prince?)
- Mike V. and Bryan sibling rivalry resurfaced, particularly in Whole Foods, where they rough housed in the isles like a couple of 10 year olds.
- Mike V. was paired with Jennifer, so you knew you had another strong team. I was not surprised to see them as finalists.
- Scarfy did very poorly. Not only did the French guy screw up a French Challenge, but he screwed up using bacon, the “can’t miss” ingredient. In French, they would call that “meessing zee lay-up.”
- Question: When a French guy is sad, does he sing zee bleus?
- Bryan helped Mike I. deconstruct a béarnaise sauce and they ended up in the top two. When it came time to give and take credit, Mike I. wisely did not divulge just how much Bryan had to do with his sauce. He obviously learned his lesson from the last time. To his credit, Bryan did not throw him under the bus either.
- Hector and Ash were a team, which was the biggest case of opposites being teamed up since Paula Abdul and MC Scat Kat.
- By sitting at the table and eating, Kevin got to see things from the judge’s perspective. I bet that helps him going forward.
- Bryan wins again. I am seeing the thoroughbreds pulling away from the pack as we round the bend. Kevin, Mike V., Bryan and Jennifer seem to be the strongest horses in this race.
- Hector had problems with cooking and carving his meat and that cost him big time. He was eliminated. I told you the steaks were high.

Okay, it’s time for me to pack my knives and go too. Next week the chefs are out in the desert. I wonder if they will have to make dessert.

Bon Appetite.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Ep. 3: Cooking Ain’t Preeti

Tonight I had to pinch myself to be sure I was not dreaming. For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs were presented with a pile of every kind of potato imaginable… except maybe for Mr. Potato Head. As an openly admitted potato junkie, I could not wait to see what they would come up with for the Potato Challenge. (Or the Potatoe Challenge, as Dan Quayle might say.)

The guest judge was former Top Chef Master contestant, Mark Peel. I thought it was great that they had a guy named “Peel” as a judge for the potato challenge. It got me thinking of other potential celebrity judges; Laura Flynn Boyle, Jerry Rice, Dane Cook, Carrot Top, Irving Fryar, Mike Judge, Julie Strain, Meatloaf, Peter Pan and John Oates to name a few. But never Edward Burns… or Andy Dick.

Thoughts on the Quickfire:
- The chefs frantically attacked the spuds, because potatoes can be a time consuming food to cook. At one point, Kevin offers Preeti his blanching water, but somehow she ends up using Ashley’s instead. This does not go over well with Ashley and she is preeti upset. Luckily for Ashley, things boiled over and she ended up in the top three.
- Meanwhile, Michael I. (Mr. Know-It-All) decides to cook a potato risotto and informs us that risotto is in fact a cooking style, and not a rice. While I did not know that, the smug way he said it made me want to dunk his head in Ashley’s stolen, boiling blanching water. He’s preeti cocky.
- During the judging, I felt bad for Eli, who used shelled pistachios and still managed to serve Padma a shell. That’s nuts.
- Good old Jesse was up to her old tricks; making a good dish and then screwing it up. This time she added too much cayenne to her potato soup. Having done that myself, I was hoping it would come back and burn her.
- Big Papi made some kind of fish and rambled on about Bob Marley. Something tells me that guy's got some good herb in his spice rack.
- Ash made sweet potato ice cream. I winced when I heard him decide he was making a frozen dish. That always seems to be a dangerous move on these shows. So many times the dishes just don’t get cold enough. But give him props, they loved his custard. That’s cool.
- I realized tonight that Ash’s name is Ash Fulk. I was wondering if he is any relation to Gaylord Faulker.

Eli, Ron and Jesse ended up on the bottom and Jennifer won the Quickfire, giving her immunity.

Then a guy walked in and for a minute I thought it was Dr. Bellows from I Dream of Jeannie. But it was not. It was an Air Force colonel who informed the group that the Elimination Challenge would be cooking for 300 troops and their families at a nearby air base.

The group broke into teams and Jennifer assumed the role of Executive Chef. By the way, Jennifer kicked ass in this role. In A Bronx Tale, the mob boss Sonny is asked if he would rather be feared or loved. It’s clear that Jennifer would rather be feared. I love that.

- Once again, Kevin impresses me. He takes that unassuming, fat guy persona and couples it with real cooking expertise. He and Eli team up and make a southern pork dish that I was drooling at. Mike and Mike made a pork belly dish with mustard and peanuts that will also haunt my dreams tonight. And that chili looked good too.
- Poor Big Papi and Jesse were the last two picked when they made the teams. It was like a sad scene from elementary school when they pick teams on the playground.
- Big Papi and Jesse made a chowdah (that’s how it’s pronounced) which Tom Colicchio was pretty heartless and condescending about it. However, the crowd loved it.
- Mike I. decided to make a second dish. Wasn’t he paying attention when Ashley tried that? It’s never a good move. It’s a move that eventually landed him in the bottom three, by way of the winners circle. Once he admitted he had nothing to do with the pork belly and everything to do with the under cooked shrimp, he was all done. (Unlike his shrimp.) Tom Colicchio was right, he did treat it as a throw away dish. As I said before, Mike I. is preeti cocky.
- Michael V. wins the challenge, kind of like Eli Manning following up Peyton’s Super Bowl win with his own. Remember? Brian V. was last week’s winner.
- Laurine was also in the bottom group. Who the heck is she? I honestly had no recollection of her from the first two episodes.
- It sure was ugly for Preeti. It was a bit sad that the girl who told us that 9/11 was the event that motivated her to become a chef is voted off while cooking for the very people and cause that inspired her.
- I give Laurine and Preeti a lot of props for not throwing each other under the bus. I know it’s a competition, but they cooked as a team and they went down as a team. Could you imagine Marcel or Hung in that situation?

Well, it’s time for me to pack my knives and go. I’m off to bed, with visions of pork bellies dancing in my head.
Bon Appetite.