Austin Gastro Graze: Micklethwait Craft Meats Trailer
I heard about this little trailer in a recent BBQ write-up featuring numerous places in the Austin area. Opened only right around 9 months, the critic reviewed Micklethwait Craft Meats as “..the next Franklin’s.” And that’s something any self-respecting Austin resident doesn’t ignore.
We headed down to their location near Hillside Farmacy about 11:15 am on a Saturday. They’re located at 1309 Rosewood Ave., near east 11th. There was little to no parking in their tiny lot, but no line for their food, either. Quite the contrast to Franklin’s just down the street. The yellow painted trailer and impeccable picnic tables were a welcome site, surrounded by trees on a sunny morning. It’s a great little spot for what would turn out to be the best bbq I have ever had within Austin’s limits.
We ordered a half pound of brisket, 3 pork spare ribs, a side of jalapeno cheddar grits, cole slaw, a pork belly sausage, and a homemade Moon Pie. The total came to just under $30 and was more than enough food for 3 people. They accept both cash and credit cards (yes, their Facebook page says Cash Only; this is incorrect, coming from their people directly). I’m in the mood for BBQ about once a month…maybe once every 6 weeks. I’ve been killing to go back to Micklethwait’s since I first bit into their brisket. And it’s only been 3 days.
Their meat is sold by the quarter pound. This makes getting ribs a little awkward, I tend to order them by the number, “I’d like 47 pork ribs in my face right now, please”, but their customer service is stellar and they were patient with my less than perfect order style. All meat is about $13 a pound, rather than different prices for different cuts, and they also do plates, but I’m a choosie kind of girl when it comes to my Q and just order by weight. Their sides are $1.50 a piece and their cheesy creamy cheddar jalapeno grits were AMAZING. Perfect texture, not too salty, very flavorful and creamy, and an excellent compliment to their meat. The cole slaw was homemade as well, bright, a little citrusy, but paled in comparison to the grits.
The meat. Holy crap, where do I begin? I’m an opportunivore when it comes to love. I’m not biased for men only or women or dinosaurs. If something is worthy of true love, it earns mine – but it must be worthy. And Micklethwait’s brisket is sooooo worthy. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned, flavorful and perfect. They give you a little cup of sauce, but you don’t need it. If someone told me Micklethwait’s brisket was actually Solient Green I wouldn’t love it any less (or, rather, Soylent. Thanks, Dave). It’s THAT GOOD. Their ribs were big and meaty, and so juicy that I took video of the juice dripping out of the pork as I went to take a bite. That’s love right there. Now, I’m not a huge sausage fan. If it’s not a jalapeno cheddar brought out of New Braunfels I probably won’t eat it, but their pork belly sausage was very tasty and a nice change of pace to the usual merely spicy or overly-greasy BBQ joint sausage.
We ended the meal with one of Micklethwait’s homemade Moon Pies. Flaky, sweet, moist, and creamy, not to mention massive, it was an excellent ending to a fantastic meal. I’m not sure these are the best for a hot summer’s day because the chocolate does get messy, but they come out of a cooler all nice and chilly, and the sweetness cuts through the savory meat flavor, perfectly rounding out a great meal.
Is it better or as good as Franklin’s? Well, them’s fightin’ words and it’s too early in my young years to get into that kind of debate. What I can say, however, is I have no problem skipping the line at Franklin’s and hitting up this joint and I certainly don’t feel I’m missing anything. I no longer have to drive to Lockhart or stand around on hot pavement for three hours to get great brisket and ribs. I can get incredible Q right here in Austin from a food truck and not have to take a half day from work to do it, provided Micklethwait is open. And I believe it will only be a matter of time until they either have to expand or start running out of food early in the day due to popularity. Bottom line is they’re just that good.
UPDATE: I went with coworkers for lunch today. I got a single huge 1/3 pound pork rib, a 1/4 pound of brisket, 2 bottles of water, and a small side of grits. Myself and a male friend split the meal and the entire thing was $11 with tip.
Micklethwait Craft Meats trailer is open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday 11am – 3pm and is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday 4:30pm to 8pm. They are located at 1309 Rosewood Ave., near east 11th street. CASH AND CARDS ACCEPTED
ATX Gastro Graze: Michi Ramen Brick & Mortar
There once was a food truck – an amazing wonderful food truck – located at NATY, or North Austin Trailer Yard that served the most delicious Ramen you could ever imagine. Michi Ramen. Their twitter feed consisted of only numbers, for they could only serve a limited number of bowls each day, and used their tweets as a count down. And they inevitably sold out every single lunch and dinner. This ramen was like nothing you’ve ever had before, with broth cooked for days with pork flesh and bone to ensure a richness that couldn’t be matched. Life changing goodness, body fortifying. And almost literally good for your soul.
…Okay, I may be exaggerating, but only a little.
Any way, one day Michi couldn’t keep up with its fans demands and closed shop (or truck as it were) to find and establish a brick and mortar location. We had to go months without ramen, settling on Ramen Tatsu-Ya…which I should really do a Gastro Graze on (while it IS good, it’s a bit over hyped and it ain’t no Michi). But finally our patience paid off: Michi Ramen restaurant is now a go!
Located on North Lamar in the old Afin location (6519 N. Lamar, ATX, 78752), Michi’s space is open and bright. They don’t have a liquor license just yet, but they’re working on it and in the mean time it’s BYOB. Having a larger truck means that they get to have more food offerings, including numerous sides or little bites and dessert on top of their four different styles of ramen, three different broth thicknesses, and a plethora of toppings available.
I apologize for the bit of blurriness in these photos.
We order bowls of the Michi in both Light and Stout, the Sapporo in regular with an Onsen egg, and the Veggie in regular, as well; Tatsu-Ya at this time does not offer a vegetarian option. I had had the Ajitama egg when they were a food truck and while some may be turned off by its color due to marinating, it is absolutely delicious. We also ordered both kinds of fried chicken, the calamari salad, the vegetable tempura, gyoza, and Burnt Ends. It was hard to get pictures of every thing, as most was devoured as soon as it hit the table. The food came out fast, was very delicious and affordable, the atmosphere was baby friendly, though the crowd was primarily people aged about 27-42 without children.
Sapporo with regular broth and an onsen egg mixed in.
For $7-10 you get this steaming hot, seemingly bottomless bowl of ramen, with perfectly tender noodles. My Sapporo came with corn and scallions, as well as three huge slices of pork, mushrooms, beans sprouts, and so much goodness. I paid the extra 50 cents for an onsen egg which I immediately mixed into the broth, making it even richer. I found the Sapporo to be a little sweet, though not in a bad way, and we attributed that to the fresh corn that a welcome firmness in texture to the soft, but not soggy noodles.
The calamari salad was both bright visually and in flavor, without any hint of fishiness or chewy texture. It was, in short, refreshing, an excellent palate cleanser, and even those at the table that don’t like this sort of thing found it tasty!
The Burnt Ends are fatty, tasty, crispy little bites of pork, smokey and sweet. There’s no picture because we were close to wrestling one another for the last bite, let alone anyone pausing to snap a shot.
Our table ordered both offerings of fried chicken the Tatsuya Age and Toriten. Both were very good, large, juicy, white meat chunks, and large portions for the $4 they charged. While there’s no picture of the Toriten (a tempura batter fried chicken) I think that was my favorite, though the Tatsuya was very good as well with the lemon and bright dipping sauce. There was something delightfully Texan about the Tasuya, but it wouldn’t be something that would be a necessity on their menu. Both would be great for pickier eaters or children.
The vegetable tempura and Gyoza were also good. Nothing amazing. Simply easy staples that should always be good – how could you mess them up?
Mochi Ice cream!
Finally: Dessert. Michi offers ten flavors of Mochi Ice cream. While it’s not hard to find mochi ice cream even in grocery stores now a days, they did have some flavors I hadn’t tried before. And while we all shared Lychee, Pistachio, and the Chocolate Peanut butter flavors, at $3 for 2, and so many side plates for under $5 I’ll be hard pressed to not stop in regularly for “a quick bite” of so many of their offerings.
In short, I recommended the trailer without hesitation until it closed. I now highly recommend the restaurant as well. For families, for dinner, for a date, for lunch, for dessert (and BYO saki), for foodies, for punks, for whomever. Michi has excellent ramen for a variety of tastes, excellent and affordable sides, great though stark atmosphere, and I hope they’ll be a new constant on the Austin restaurant scene.
Austin Gastro Graze 6: Stiles Switch
So, I haven’t written a Gastro Graze in a while. We have been trying to cut back on eating out, but the amount of new eateries popping up in Austin hasn’t slowed. Yesterday Chip and I decided to try Stiles Switch, a new local barbecue joint on North Lamar.
Stiles Switch has a nice location with an industrial feel and, best yet, lots of parking. That being said, it was 1:30pm on Saturday…and the place was almost empty. The interior of the restaurant was very clean and well kept, and it has a more established feel than the 10 months it’s been open. The gentlemen behind the counter were very nice, as well. For our lunch, Chip and I decided on BBQ staples: 6 pork ribs, 1/2 pound of brisket, and cole slaw. There wasn’t an option for moist (fatty) or lean on the brisket, and we didn’t notice that they also served sausages until after we’d paid for lunch, so I would go back to try their jalapeño cheddar offering. I generally stay away from chicken at BBQ places, which Stiles does serve, only because of its tendency to be dry. We also got a root beer and an orange soda. The total came to $31, which means they’re a bit pricier than Black’s or Smitty’s out in Lockhart, but that’s the price of not having to drive an hour out of town.
Ribs are a staple when gorging myself on smoked meats. A rub can make or break them; I find Cooper’s to be too black peppery though Chip disagrees. Stiles had a decent rub on their ribs, however, that was a good balance of smokey, sweet, salty, with the flavor of pepper coming through without being over-powering. Our lunch order came with a cup of the Stiles sauce which was…interesting. I’m not a big fan of BBQ sauces, but they seemed to be attempting a new spin. Rather than use a base of ketchup in their sauce, it tasted heavily of canned tomato soup. It was odd to say the least, though not all together bad, but most of it remained when Chip and I finished eating.
Stiles Switch sells two kinds of cole slaw and we got a small serving of each. I’m generally not a fan of mayonnaise based cole slaws, but theirs was tasty and not heavy. Chip felt it seemed to be a very basic slaw, however, and nothing special. The other slaw they served was a lemon vinaigrette variety, which was flavorful and bright, and a nice change of pace from the usual offering. Stiles also offered potato salad and macaroni & cheese, neither of which Chip or I tried.
Now to the brisket. I am picky about my brisket. It should be moist – but not too moist. Unfortunately, the brisket we had at Stiles was closer to beef jerky than to juicy, tender brisket found at Iron Works or Franklin’s. As you can see on the left side of the picture, this brisket is dry. It was also cut very thick, which only served to make its texture all the more unappetizing. Between the two of us, Chip and I only finished one piece of our 1/2 pound of brisket. The bark was tasty, but was ultimately too tough to enjoy.
Would I return to Stiles Switch? Yes, because I would like to try the sausage, and maybe even give the brisket a second chance, but it won’t be any time soon. Would I recommend it? Probably not. My issue that barbecue is not cheap, and there’s so much competition near and far in this area, that a restaurant really can’t afford to make less than great.
Austin Gastro Graze 4: HopDoddy’s Burger Bar
UPDATE: Another Austin Foodie was kind enough to post his own thoughts on Hopdoddy’s and, as one burger lover to another, it is best and fair to also take his feelings toward Hopdoddy’s into account!
A few days ago Chip and I tried Hopdoddy’s during a hankering for a burger. Normally, we’d go to Phil’s Ice House or, if we were in a rush, P. Terry’s, but in the spirit of trying new things, we found ourselves at the newer Austin chain.
Yes, I did call it Hop Daddy’s for the longest time. Thanks for asking.
Background on Hopdoddy’s: Two guys, Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso, created this chain, one man based in Austin and one in Scottsdale, AZ. Now, about these two boys: They’re the brains behind Z-Tejas, Roaring Fork, Eddie V’s, and The Salty Sow, a new favorite, and all restaurants I’ve enjoyed in my life here in Austin. In November of 2011, however, these men decided to sell the rights to a couple of their eateries to the same corporation that owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden. A sale to the tune of $59 million. You read that correctly. And they, like anyone that just gets an absurd amount of money that generations of their kin can live off of, decided to create more restaurants. Because the restaurant business is known for being relaxing. Yeah, it’s crazy, but that’s what they did.
Hopdoddy’s was their newest venture. It offers a varieties of meat as well as a veggie option. All of their beef is hormone and antibiotic free and humanely processed. They also offer Bison, Turkey, Lamb, and Sushi-grade Tuna, and their buns are freshly baked twice a day. Their menu has some very appetizing combinations, including The Buffalo Bill (Bison, Blue Cheese, Frank’s Hot Sauce, Apple-Smoked Bacon, Sassy Sauce) and the Primetime (Texas Akaushi Beef, Brie Cheese, Truffle Aioli, Arugula, Caramelized Onions, Steak Sauce). Chip ordered the Llano Pablano (Angus Beef, Pepper Jack, Roasted Poblano Chiles, Apple-Smoked Bacon, Chipotle Mayo and, no, if you say Llano properly it doesn’t rhyme) and I got the Magic Shroom (Angus Beef, Texas Goat Cheese, Field Mushrooms, Mayo & Basil Pesto) with brie instead of goat cheese.
The Llano Pablano burger with fries.
The Shroom burger with Brie instead of Goat cheese.
The burgers were tasty, they really were. And for an order-at-the counter style joint, there was actually roving waitstaff to clear plates and refill drinks, as well as run orders out to tables. The fries were some of my favorite in town. The vibe is hip, the food good, and the price is to be as expected for the quality of the food you’re getting. So it’s by far a great experience all around. Is it great? Meh. I’m just partial because everyone’s favorite burger joint is personal to them. Luckily in Austin we’re spoiled by good burger bars and you only have to pick your favorite and argue endlessly over delicious versus delicious-er with friends.
P. Terry’s – Great for on the run and better than any Whopper Jr. you’ll ever had. AWESOME fries and good shakes, too. My pick for a fast burger that’s just the right size, fresh and flavorful, with great fries.
Hat Creek – A larger burger than P. Terry’s, but just as fresh with a few more options, but not as many locations as the hometown favorite. Lacks the awesome fries. Chip’s pick for on the go.
Phil’s Ice House – Super family friendly, right next to Amy’s Ice Creams, offers great burger combinations, sweet potato fries, and onion rings, and even have foot long corn dogs. This is my pick for a Saturday lunch when Chip and I want to sit for big burger that will fill us up right up to a late dinner.
Onion Rings and Footlong Corn Dog at Phil’s Ice House.
Crown & Anchor – Good burger, great lunch atmosphere, perfect for when I worked on campus and wanted an affordable and yummy burger, salad, and beer for lunch. It’s not amazing, there aren’t a ton of options, but it’s tasty and a little dive bar-esque, which is an excellent pick me up for the middle of your day.
Hut’s – Endless options of combinations, decent burgers, HUGE onion rings, and their Buy-One-Get-One on Tuesdays make them a super affordable choice for families and college students. Chip, myself, and a couple of friends practically lived there on Tuesday nights when we first moved to town and were trying to make it all work. Not saying they’re tops, just saying their an inexpensive alternative with an extensive menu.
Bottom line: Go to town; while out and about pick a local burger joint, because you can’t go wrong with any of the above.
For more Austin Adventures and Recipes be sure to follow me @TheNerdyFoodie.
Austin Gastro Graze 3: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop & Hillside Farmacy
Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
Heading to a dinner party and don’t know what to bring? Want something special for an appetizer, but don’t know what to plate up? Or maybe you’re just a lover of cheese, like me and want something exciting.
If any of those are sound familiar, and you’re in the Austin area, I highly recommend Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. This little place down on Duval, just north of the campus, is a great shop to try something new, get something impressive for the table, and really bring an evening of courses together.
If you need a very specific cheese for a recipe, you can bet that not only will Antonelli’s carry it, they’ll probably offer a number of variations. Overwhelmed shoppers need not fear, either, as the staff at this cheese emporium are incredibly nice and, most importantly, extremely knowledgeable. Merely mention what flavors you do like or what you’re serving for dinner, and they’ll share tips and let you taste alternatives you may not know existed. And to bring everything together in perfect harmony, Antonelli’s also offers complimenting wines, honeys, meats, and baguettes. My friends and I have always said that if we were to win the lottery one of the first thing we’d do is have a dinner of a multitude of different cheeses, and Antonelli’s would be the only shop we’d need to make our purchases.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of cheese and charcuterie, Antonelli’s offers classes a couple of times a month for nerdy foodies in the need to know. Tickets are $35 and sell out pretty quick, so be sure to plan ahead. On top of all that, when you check out at Antonelli’s you have the option of giving them your email and name. They then will put you in their system so that you always know what you’ve ordered in the past and they can make recommendations on your next purchases that will delve you further into the world of cheese. We’re looking forward to having a Fromage Fest in fall, inviting each friend to bring a different kind of cheese, putting out pickles, breads, crackers, and wine and gouging until the sun comes up. When you have plans like that, suddenly Autumn feels very far away. Good thing I’ll have time to squeeze in a couple of classes before then!
Hillside Farmacy is a bakery and eatery located East 11th, just east of Blue Dahlia. My office chose to go for lunch recently for a coworker’s birthday, and our experience would be rated to 3 out of 5 stars, where as Blue Dahlia would be 5. I’ll review that for you at a later date, but let me just say Blue has Farmacy beat on price and execution.
The interior of Hillside Farmacy is very pretty, great usages of classic and modern. The staff is very “hipster”, but the client base is very, very mixed. A person going for lunch should expect to pay right around $10+ for their sandwich, which isn’t too bad. It’s choosing the right plate that’s a little tougher. Myself and four coworkers each ordered a different sandwich. Tap water was placed in the center of the table for us to serve ourselves, which was quaint, but it is Austin in late June, so having the option of ice, or even chilled water would have been nice (it was room temperature and the jar-glasses were iceless).
The short rib sandwich received excellent reviews from the two coworkers that shared it, and there was not a crumb left by the end of the meal. The grinder, which is similar to an Italian sub was also enjoyed, but at $11 it was much more than similar offerings at other locations. One coworker had the Forager, a brie and mushroom sandwich, which was very tasty (see picture below). I had the Faccia Bedda, and it was rather disappointing. Though the menu states it’s made with smoked mozzerella, it seemed to contain a single slice of deli counter cheese, sliced on the thinnest setting. I had to pull it a part to discover if there was any cheese on it at all and it was completely void of the deep smokey, salty flavor that normally accompanies this kind of mozzerella; it could have been American and made no difference in flavor. The single slice of tomato was awkward and the arugula was served on the side. My final coworker got a single bite into her pate sandwich before she began pick it apart (see below), finally quietly settling on going back to the office to eat other food. She was asked by two staff members why she had stopped eating (as well as why she was declining a box) and she explained very calmly and honestly, but politely as is her style: “The pate was very dry, almost like an over cooked burger patty. The bread is too big, and the strong flavors of the pickles, goat cheese, and mustard are far too much competition for each other.” To Hillside Farmacy’s credit, they took the sandwich off the bill, even though no fuss was made and no complaint; my coworker only explained the issue when pressed. One confusing aspect, however, was that one of the two Farmacy employees mentioned that he himself had had similar feelings about this particular sandwich, had received the same review of it from customers “all the time”….so why leave it on the menu or not change it?
While I always recommend trying new places to eat, Farmacy seems fairly hit or miss as well as being somewhat expensive. While it’s in a very good location, and has a charming interior, their menu needs a bit of work to be listed as a full fledged Foodie Find. It’s certainly worth trying, but be aware that what you get maybe hit or miss, especially for the price.
What the Hell Did I Just Watch: Prometheus & Moonrise Kingdom Reviews
As far as Prometheus goes, I’m doing an un-review. I say little and there are no real spoilers, period.
If you want something more comprehensive scroll down for the Moonrise Kingdom review.
I’ll keep this brief. It shouldn’t be discussed unless you’re with people who have already seen it.
I went to see Prometheus. Spoiler alert: If you’re 8+ months along in pregnancy and you go see it, you will have you kid shortly there after. I’m not kidding, totally happened to a friend of mine (Welcome, new baby Kai, to the World and Nerdom!). Other than that, be prepared to leave with a ton of questions. If you don’t walk out with at least some questions that spawn (get it?) into more questions, then you’re doing it wrong.
David. Focus on David and his agenda. I’m not a huge Alien (or Aliens or Alien Resurrection or Alien 3 or Alien vs. Predator or Alien vs. Predator 2) fan, but I do love Sigourney Weaver, puzzles, and science fiction. No, Sigourney wasn’t in this one, but I still found it to be entertaining and interesting. I’m hoping many of my questions will be answered in the sequel, Paradise, that we probably won’t see before 2014. It’s gross, it’s phallic, it’s spacey, it’s Ridley Scott. Go see it. It’ll be fun. There’s not much else on Netflix anyway.
Moonrise Kingdom review:
I love Wes Anderson. I love his usage of color, his need to show viewers that it’s okay to love and lose, that the more we care the more painful it is in the end. His long shots, his simplicity, and always, always his choice in music. Moonrise Kingdom starts off much the same of his other films, the classic songs, the endless single shot that reveals a lifestyle, and blocked colors, beautiful, bright, setting our mood and the tone of his story.
“I know what you do with that dumb policeman…” Photo courtesy of Booooooom.com
Suzy is a twelve year old girl feeling troubled. She’s on the cusp of womanhood, she has no real friends, and her mother and father, lawyers with little to no true relationship remaining in their marriage played by Bill Murray and the fantastic Francis McDormand, think her to be troubled as well. Ultimately, however, she seems pretty on the ball compared to most tweens, merely going through all those horrible bits we all had to face. Sam is also a troubled youth of 12, recently orphaned and trying just to fit in where ever he lands while being himself…which is a bit over every one elses’ heads. Both Sam and Suzy are growing up on a small island off the coast of New England, the story focusing on the summer of 1965. Shortly after meeting in 1964, Sam and Suzy become pen pals, sharing much of themselves, trusting only each other with their secrets and childish demons, until finally they hatch a plan to go camping for a few days together. What ensues is the frantic search for the children by the adults in their lives, revealing that youth – even “bad” youth – is always innocent while adults are just hot messes. Bruce Willis plays an wonderfully thoughtful and patient policeman, with Edward Norton as a stiff Khaki Scout leader who really wants to be the Dudley Doright of his troop, and Tilda Swinton as the heartless, frigid Social Services.
The shooting locations were primarily around Rhode Island and Jamestown, absolutely beautiful settings made all the more breathtaking through Anderson’s shooting style, that made me ache for my own childhood. The story itself was interesting and entertaining, but not very thought provoking. It was as if watching a very well written and enjoyable young adult novel. It was a bit funny, a tiny bit heartbreaking, but more than anything it was relatable on a very real level. We were children once, or we have them now. It’s what we went through, what we feared, what we worry about today, and it’s a pleasure to watch. We’ve all felt left out, odd-balled, or worse – doing whatever we had to in order to be a part of the group. Moonrise Kindgom touches on this unabashedly and goodness wins the day.
Each primary adult in the film was dressed to their own accord. The policeman and savior in white, the Khaki leader in starched tan, Social Services in harsh navy like the turbulent sea, Suzy’s father in aged sweaters and mismatched pants while his wife dresses almost too young for her age, signifying blatantly what their marriage had become to each. The Narrator is always in red, and adorable. This aided in the story telling aspect and was somehow refreshing after all the overly stressful movies, TV shows, and news that air nightly at home.
Photo credit Salon
Moonrise Kingdom is simple and lighthearted in it’s writing, a wonderful interlude between the usual deeper fare, missing even the minor politics and family struggles that Anderson’s previous live-action works delved into. It’s filled with his usual honesty for the beauty we may be missing and the ugly that we sometimes prefer to ignore, flows comfortably, and is extremely entertaining. I in no way mean to intend that in being less complex than, say, Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore this film lacked anything; it was merely a sweet story, simply told, with all the visual delight Anderson always brings to his films and was very endearing. It’s very enjoyable, and everyone in it, including to new-comers to the screen Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, are wonderful, though my favorite ma have been the minor role played by Jason Schwartzman; the narrator, played by Bob Balaban, was also hysterical. Gilman and Hayward encompass Sam and Suzy, playing with raw innocence, and the kind of awkward determination that only children can possess. Their characters were imperfect, the actors themselves perfect, making the viewer remember, at times uncomfortably, exactly what those years of life were like.
I recommend Moonrise Kingdom for the Wes Anderson fan or those just searching movie theaters for a more upbeat alternative to Spiderman, Prometheus, or Avengers. It’s summer, but we don’t have to to have Action Flick boners to see an excellent film. And you don’t have to take my word for it: Moonrise Kingdom got a 95% on RottenTomatoes! It’s funny, a good date movie, and a great summer flick when you get tired of gratuitous explosions, films that cost hundreds of millions for no obvious reason, and bloodshed…though Moonrise Kingdom has that, too.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie
Photo credit AwardsCircuit
What the Hell Did I Just Watch: Dark Shadows Film Review
Last night I reeeeeeally didn’t want to cook. Whenever I don’t want to cook on a week day I use it as an excuse to go to the Alamo Drafthouse. In Austin, and now numerous other cities, to go to the Alamo means getting dinner and a movie all at once for a reasonable price without having to put up with other peoples’ crappy, crappy children.
There are a number of movies coming out this summer that I’m very excited about.
MIB III. Oh, fuck yeah, I’m gonna see this!…at some point.
Moonrise Kingdom. Can. Not. Wait. I’m currently stalking tickets for this because, even though today is its opening, it is no where to be found in the Austin area.
Prometheus. I don’t have to explain this.
Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. This is only available on June 6th and 7th. I’m still searching for a theater that will feature this incredible piece.
And those are just the movies coming out between today and June 8th.
Yeah, I mean, the MIB III is a little shameful, but everything else I am truly excited for. Which is why I allowed myself of seeing Dark Shadows last night: to promote Tim Burton’s career. This is a review of said film.
Photo Credit SomeLikeItRetro
Dark Shadows is the tale of Victoria Winters and the Collins family set in the small sea side town of Collinsport, Maine. Once a wealthy shipping and canning family, the Collins have fallen from their former glory in the eighteenth century to the town outcasts in the 1970’s. The very few remaining Collins still reside in the original mansion of two hundred rooms though only Elizabeth Collins Stockard, the matriarch without husband, her dishonest, slimey brother Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn, and Roger’s son David are all of the Collins name that remain. Also living in the home are two caretakers who provide minimal comic relief and Dr. Julia Hoffman, a psychiatrist hired to aid David work through the tragic death of his mother whom he believes is still living. Victoria Winters, an assumed name she adapted in an effort to forget her horrifying past and build a new future, is drawn to the Collins family through outside powers to accept a governess position for David. The story is entertaining, though flawed, and blatantly left open-ended; a sequel, however, is highly doubtful.
In usual Burton form, Dark Shadows is visually appealing, colorful, feeds your inner child. Johnny Depp, coming into his own as a deeply true character actor, transforms into a creepy, bloodthirsty, and honest Barnabus Collins with an excellent post-Britain/New Colonies accent that never falters. Just as well done was Johnny Lee Miller, perfect as the philandering, sleazy uncle, Helena Bonham Carter, playing a psychiatrist and her hangovers as an art form, Bella Heathcote acting both the delicate and beautiful Victoria Winters and Josette, and Eva Green perfectly portraying the vengeful Angelique, and all flawlessly hiding their own native accents from England, Australia, and France.
Photo Credit INeedMyFix.com
With the exception of Chloe Moretz (something I never thought I’d have to say about her) the acting was fantastic and, in fact, my favorite was Michelle Pfieffer – her acting through looks alone could kill. I always expect Johnny Depp’s characters to become how he personally portrays them, the way Santa Claus has become what Coca Cola has dictated, something done so well that it is that which is committed to memory above any prior notions. Eva Green is evil, vengeful, and immensely seductive as the witch Angelique, the scorned lover of Barabus, who is hell bent on ruin all Collins family members until the end of time. Gulliver McGrath as David Collins was fleetingly wonderful, simply not in the film enough, where as Moretz’s overly dramatic and poorly timed teenage angst was rubbed in our faces far too much. In fact, without revealing any spoilers, I will go so far to say that her entire character could have been scratched from the script without having any impact on the story.
The story starts off at a rapid pace. We learn quickly that Barnabus is easily swayed by pretty flesh though his heart is not. Once in the ’70’s, the roles of those living in the Collins Manor are played so thickly that their actions become a bit predictable all too soon. Some bits are over played (we get it, an eighteenth century vampire attempting to reconcile disco is super silly, the sex scene is hysterical, but does it have to go on for so long?), but other characters that have depth and mystery about them, such as Victoria and David are barely touched upon. The actors did the best they could with the script they were given, with the exception of Moretz, who, again, wasn’t really necessary to the story at all.
Photo credit BlogOfDarkShadows.com
Unfortunately, good acting is not enough, nor is a performance by Alice Cooper and excellent costuming. Dark Shadows does not need to be seen in theaters. It simply doesn’t. It’s entertaining if you’re a fan of Buton’s work and worth seeing at home once it’s streaming through Netflix, but it lacks the heart breaking beauty of Sweeney Todd or the larger than life characters of Beetlejuice or Peewee’s Big Adventure that are simply art in a theater. The laughs are primarily small chuckles and some characters that are very interesting are barely seen making the veiwer come away wanting more, but not in the form of a sequel. That being said, I am deeply interested in his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, also due out this year, and will not hesitate to see it when it arrives at my local Alamo Drafthouse.
What Does a Critic Owe Its Audience?
I love research. I love knowing what was, what didn’t work, what changed, and watching it all disappear as the future charges on.
I like knowing the whole story, which is why I read a book prior to seeing the tale depicted on the big screen.
I do not <any longer> huff and puff during a movie when aspects I loved in the story were changed or omitted all together. Having a spouse who does not read broke me of that seriously annoying habit long ago. But when I read film reviews – which I rarely do – I immediately know when the critic has or has not read the book that inspired the movie.
But do they have to? Do they have to know the whole story?
Photo credit hungergameswtc.net
When I read the Rollingstone review of The Hunger Games I got the very distinct impression that the author did not read the books, that their complaints with the film were not relative to what the actual problems were. But then I thought “Why would the critic have to read the books?” After all, their review is of the movie and not the story.
I want more, though. Isn’t that always my problem? I want my reviewer to be knowledgable, to not just say “I like X, Y, Z, and disliked A.” I want something comprehensive, something worth arguing intelligently…but then maybe I’m just expecting too much from the critics. To ask that they look at something truly critically is apparently asking too much. I often say “If I can dothat [i.e. the work produced by another], then they’re not trying; it’s not art; it’s a poor writing.” And that’s why I so rarely read reviews: I don’t care nor do I think there’s enough information.
Which brings me back to the beginning: How knowledgeable does a critic have to be to write a truly comprehensive piece? What do they owe their readers? I guess I just expect more (no surprise there). I’m not the brightest crayon in the box. When it comes to faith in information, when it comes to trusting another person to give us information, though, shouldn’t we have somewhat high expectations for them?
Perhaps, by biggest problem is that simplifying things means that we’re dumbing down our society, that we’re making it okay to operate on less. And knowledge is free, if we’re operating on less of anything it should be gasoline and electricity. It should be less caloric intake, and less anger. But we should never, ever sacrifice education due to laziness.
How did I get here from a disappointing movie review? Add that to one of my many problems.
*Side note for Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class fans: Due to the filming schedule of Jennifer Lawrence on the Hunger Games set, she will be unable to film X-Men: Second (?) Class until January of 2013. Yep, they’re going to hold up filming the entire movie just for Lawrence, who, ironically, never has to work again if she doesn’t want to. [Blastr]
Movie Review: Young Adult
In a Super Secret Screening on Monday October 24th, the Alamo Drafthouse of Austin invited fans to a free showing of Young Adult, featuring in-person guests Director Jason Reitman and star Patton Oswalt. The film opens in limited release on December 9th and wider on December 16th.
Young Adult begins in Minneapolis, a city of industrialism without the prestige of Chicago or New York. Charlize Theron plays the washed-up ex-school socialite Mavis Gary, a ghost writer claiming famous author status, who returns to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota in an attempt to woo back her old high school flame. Darkness, rather than hilarity, ensues. Patton Oswalt plays Matt, an unexpected conscience and friend, who is just as guilty of being unable to let go as the delusional and pretentious Mavis. In usual Theron and Patton fashion, both play their characters as if they were built for them specifically, running a fine line between bleak truth and dark humor.
Young Adult doesn’t lack depth in its main character; Mavis’s failures and subsequent denial of them are more than evident through her boozing, inability to look at herself in a mirror before happy hour, and inherent conceit. The rest of the film, however, seems to barely scratch the surface by comparison. This story hits so close to home for so many that the script just isn’t enough to make Young Adult the home-run Juno was. The film does make attempts to get the viewer emotionally involved, adding a glimmer of back story outside Mavis’s ego. In a scene with an old flame’s wife, Theron portrays Mavis as not only naked and raw in feeling, but also unwavering in her blind egomaniacal sense of self when confronted with maturity. Another scene chances an impossible change of heart in Mavis while she shares a brief, but perfect connection with Sandra, played by the fantastic Collette Wolfe, but in the end it’s not enough. There are many questions the viewer will find unanswered, but that may simply be to drive home the fact that the universe revolves around Mavis; you’re in her world even though you don’t deserve to be. Almost twenty years after graduation, and with a career many would find envious, Mavis reveals herself to be just as sad as the hometown she mocks and resents.
While this film is enjoyable, Young Adult lacks a wow factor. The leap into something darker than Juno and Up in the Air is a adventure for Reitman that he pulls off well and Oswalt and Theron are fantastic with the story they’re given. The film, however, ultimately seems stuck deciding whether to be a drama or a dark, dry comedy of the ordinary. Theron is undeniable enthralling to watch, like a trainwreck that just keeps getting worse.
Stephen King once said “I hated high school. I don’t trust anybody who looks back on the years from 14 to 18 with any enjoyment. If you liked being a teenager, there’s something wrong with you,” and I agree. While everyone knew or – worse – currently knows a Mavis, seeing her on the big screen in all the glory of pitiful masochism and reminiscence is not enough for a truly fulfilling story. Young Adult begins well, truly tries in the third act, and its star and directors play their parts well. The story just simply falls short.