Monday, August 4, 2014

Sunday Brunch - Blueberry Coffee Cake

Oh, another long absence. My routine for writing has been out of whack, but this delicious morsel was too good to not write about. Adapted from this recipe: Everybody Calm Down

1/2 cup Vegetable Shortening
1 cup Sugar (cane, coconut, etc.)
2 Egg Replacers (Ener-G is what I use)
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1 cup Sour Supreme (or other sour cream substitute)
2 cups flour
1 cup Blueberries
3/4 cup Flour
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/3 cup Vegan Margarine, melted

Combine shortening through 2 cups flour in a mixer, adding in that order. Pour 1/2 of the batter into a 9x13 baking pan and sprinkle the blueberries across the batter, then add second half of batter. Combine 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar, cinnamon together and add melted margarine and create a crumble; sprinkle on top of cake. Bake at 325F for 45 minutes to one hour (test with knife in centre, ours took much longer)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Brunch: Simple Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

1 Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
1/2 Medium Onion, diced
1 Chili, crushed
1 tsp Flaked Sea Salt

Parboil sweet potatoes for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the onions and begin sauteing. Drain the potatoes and add them to the pan. Stir in the crushed chili and salt and fry until browned on most sides. Serve with Thai Chili sauce, ketchup or chili sauce. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Record a Week: Paul McCartney & Wings - Band on the Run



I am almost entirely unfamiliar with McCartney's post-Beatles work, except for the title track on this album. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The album kicks off with that wonderfully memorable synth-filled intro to Band on the Run, before it kicks into the main part of the song. Then it follows up with Jet, which is more rocky than I had expected the album to keep pace at. It's not until some songs later on the A-Side that you begin to notice the slower parts of McCartney's writing that Lennon apparently loathed so much. However, it doesn't stay like that. The second side picks back up and has a fabulous ending in the final two songs, including some wonderful reprised lines from earlier songs thrown in.

I took so long getting to this record because it represented a piece of post-Beatles music that I wasn't familiar with and I was afraid a lackluster showing might sour me somehow. I purposely steered far clear of anything between Abbey Road and McCartney's recent fronting of the surprisingly hard-rocking Nirvana/Beatles mash. Though it had some of the cheesy McCartney bits, there was definitely some good rock in there. Pleasant surprise!

Sunday Brunch: Tropical Date-Cinnamon Oats

Adapted from a post by:

1 cup Almond Milk (I use unsweetened to make it refined sugar-free)
1 tsp Vanilla
1/3 cup Oats
2 Dates, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp Chia
1/2 tbsp Hemp Hearts
1/2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Coconut
1/2 Mango, chopped (other half served on side)
1 Banana, chopped

Bring the almond milk and vanilla to a low boil. Add the oats, chia, coconut, hemp, dates and cinnamon. When nearly cooked (should be fairly thick), add chopped fruit and cook, stirring constantly, for another few minutes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Brunch: Spicy Tofu & Plum Scramble

1/2 brick X-Firm Tofu, large crumbles
1/2 small Onion, diced
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds (optional)
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Dried Chili, crushed
Salt + Pepper to taste
1 Plum, chopped + pit removed

In a pan, saute the onions in a bit of water over high heat. Add the tofu and stir, splash in a little more water if it dries up. Stir in the spices until everything is evenly coated. Add the chopped plums and stir until the plums soften. Serve with oatmeal for a complete gluten-free breakfast.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Brunch: Fruity Overnight Oats

2/3 cup Large Flake Oats
2/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 tsp Chia Seeds
1/2 cup Mixed chopped fruits (I used Mango, Melon, Banana and Strawberry)

In a blender or food processor, purée the fruits. In a jar or lidded shake cup (pictured), combine purée with oats, milk and chia. Give it a good shake until mixed and then throw the lid on, put in the fridge and let sit overnight. In the morning, top with fresh berries/sliced fruit and eat it up. The result is a creamy, yummy raw treat.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Brunch: Spiced Chickpea Casserole

*Adapted from a recipe at

2 cups Water + more for cooking
1 tbsp Soy Milk Powder
3 tbsp Corn Starch
1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Tahini
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Cayenne (or more if you like spicy)
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
2 cups Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups Chick Peas (drained and rinsed, I cooked dried ones and used the water as one of the cups of water for the sauce)
1 cup Cauliflower, chopped
1 Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, add the first 12 ingredients (up to Dry Mustard) and combine.

Add 2 tbsp water to a large pan and brown the onions (add more water as needed to prevent sticking). Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add cauliflower, potatoes, chick peas and sauce and stir until it thickens. Pour mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 40 minutes.

A Record a Week: Johnny Mathis - Give Me Your Love For Christmas



Well, Christmas in March, who knew? More accurately, I didn't think I could possibly have owned any Christmas albums that weren't Bing Crosby (except for possibly Jim Reeves, but R is a long way away and I wasn't concerned about that yet). Lo and Behold, here's Johnny Mathis, who Bette Midler (via Wikipedia) has dubbed 'the king of Christmas'. My lack of knowledge of Christmas music besides Bing, and the general association with Tin Pan Alley, is clear to me after reading about this man. This was his third out of now six Christmas-themed albums. Who knew?

The style itself is a bit more up-tempo than most Christmas stuff I've heard, while not being super schmooze-y.  In fact, Mathis presents a mostly palatable version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, a song my wife has accurately described as a 'funeral dirge'. When next Christmas comes around, I am going to keep an ear out for him and if I don't hear him, I'm going to call and request him from stations that insist on Michael Bublé or any soft pop garbage.

Extended Absence Due To Cats

I am aware that my posting has been down as of late, but there's a reason for that. Well, a few reasons. For one, I've been reducing my sugar intake and that pairs up with less brunch posts (though I am determined to try out some things that aren't just fresh fruit arrangements). Mostly though, we've had an interesting couple of months involving cats.

It all began with a friend posting an ad from Kijiji on a social media site. The ad was a cry for help from a person who was looking for a home for their pets while they underwent a medical emergency. We took in the cats and for a while, everything was hunky-dory. All six cats seemed to tolerate each other (I should say 4, one of the adoptives ran to hide in the basement and one of ours was completely sketchy). The adoptives each had personalities and other traits that mirrored our cats' and it was kind of neat discovering them. Then one day, something changed. I'm not sure if the balance of power amongst them switched or the other guys were just getting comfortable here, but they became the dominant group. The old guy in their group began sitting on top of our old guy wherever he chose to rest and would stay there until he pried himself up and moved. The polydactlyl one would chase around our small one until she hid under something (kitchen island, bathroom cupboards, etc.) and wait at the edge taunting her. The one who hid in the basement came to the top of the stairs, not brave enough to come out, but still would stand his ground at the cat door, preventing the other cats from getting to the basement (where the litter box is...and yes we tried opening the door, but they still wouldn't go past him). This very quickly progressed to our cats peeing other places. The one we caught we took to the vet and he had a 'possibly stress-related urinary problem'. Great, he peed all over our family room chair, the bathtub and the front hallway multiple times. In comes a litter box for the spot by the front door. What a wonderful way to greet house guests! Still though, it fixed the problem and in no way is that a bad thing. Then, though, our cats began showing up with scratches on their faces and bodies (vet said the body ones could be stress-related). One day, our old guy was not sitting properly and had a really swollen genital area. We immediately took him to the vet and they diagnosed him with 'crystals' in his urine that was blocking the tract. Now, this most likely was a result of us feeding him a blend of generic food and the more expensive high-protein food we usually feed our cats (6 cats is pricey) and not his normal vet food. I am taking full blame for this, even though the vet said it can be brought on by stress. Anyhow, we then had to monitor the old dude AND keep the other cats separate and the two factions separated from each other. The result was each floor of our house having either one, two or three cats cordoned off. Our cats are all back together post-healing, but still separate from the other ones for now. We are trying to get things dealt with, but it's not feeling fair to either set of cats.

Now, I realize that this makes the other cats seem like jerks. On their own, they are EXCELLENT cats. Very snuggly and sweet, but put 6 cats together and they are going to form a hierarchy of some sort and most likely, as happened, the two sets of three would stick together and be against one another. One set was bound to become the alphas and it just happened to not be ours. It's been a very stressful experience, for the cats especially, but us as well. I think fostering is a great and important thing and one we will probably do again, but maybe not until our cats have lived out there life stress-free.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Brunch (Gluten-Free February): Monster Salad

1 cup Mixed Greens
1/2 cup Kale, massaged, pieces
1 cup Brown Rice, cooked
1/2 Red Pepper, diced
1 cup Brown Mushrooms, chopped
1 Zucchini, diced
1/2 brick Tofu, diced
1/2 Avocado, diced
1/2 cup Strawberries, diced
1/4 cup Chia Seeds
1/4 Cup Sesame Seeds
2 tbsp Gluten-Free BBQ Sauce
2 tbsp Salsa (should be GF, but check)

In a pan, steam fry the tofu, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers until soft. Add in rice and BBQ sauce/salsa.  Lay greens out on a plate and top with fried mixture. Top off with avocado, strawberries and seeds.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Record a Week: Dean Martin - Greatest Hits Vol. 1



When you think of crooners, Dean Martin's name is one of the first that come to mind. He was in the heart of the crooning era and a part of the famous 'Rat Pack'. I am not sure if crooning was as cheesy in its day as I find it now, or if it fit more in with the times. I find artists like Bublé endlessly talented, but extremely over the top and I'm not sure if it's a result of artists from that time being remembered as idols and the ones at the origin of many of these crooning/big band standards that they aren't viewed in the same light. Then again, Bublé tours massive venues, so I guess I'm not the majority in that sense.

As mentioned, this album holds up as an album full of Martin's crooning standards and as such, has that smooth sound that makes that music what it is. It does, however, get a little old and stuffy by the end of the record. I imagine that is a result of me not knowing the later songs, but talent alone doesn't do it for me over the length of an album.

This album also came out in a time when you could seemingly make ENDLESS amounts of 'best of' records by the same artists. I find it hard to believe anyone made any money off of any of these compilations, when they all contained a selection of similar songs. Once copyright came into play that dried up pretty quick.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Brunch (Gluten-Free February): Lumberjack Breakfast

1/4 cup Onion, thinly sliced and quartered
1/2 package X-Firm Tofu, crumbled
1/2 Bell Pepper (any colour).
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Turmeric
2-4 tbsp Salsa, to taste
1/2 cup Hashbrown Potatoes (from frozen or fresh)
1/2 Avocado, diced
Sliced fruit for a side

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry onions until translucent and then add crumbled tofu. After 1 minute, add spices and stir until tofu takes on a 'scrambled egg' look, then add diced pepper. When pepper is soft, stir in salsa and cook for a minute or so, until salsa is warm. Serve over hashbrown potatoes and top with avocado, serve with your favourite fruit on the side (I am eating Cara Cara oranges as much as possible until they're out of season). Chili sauce also goes well on top of the scramble.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Brunch (Gluten-Free February): Apple Pie-Style Rice Pudding

1/2 cup Rice, short-grain, uncooked
1 cup + 1 tbsp Water
1/2 Apple, small, peeled and diced
3/4 cup Almond Milk, divided
2 tbsp Rice Flour (or Nut Flour)
2 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Egg Replacer (Ener-G is GF)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Boil the water in a medium saucepan and add a dash of salt. Add rice and diced apple to the pot, cover and simmer for 18 minutes.

With about 5 minutes left on the timer, bring 1/2 cup almond milk to a low boil. Meanwhile, combine rice flour, sugars and 1/8 cup almond milk in a small mixing bowl. Add the Ener-G (already mixed by the box), vanilla, cinnamon and another 1/8 cup almond milk. Add the spiced mixture to the heated milk and stir frequently until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in finished rice. Serve hot or cold as desired.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Olympic Dreams (not aspirations)

My dad has traveled to Sochi to cover the winter Olympics and it has really been worrying me. He’s been to many games before, but with everything surrounding this one, I was concerned for his well-being. To make matters worse, I hadn’t heard from him since his plane left on Tuesday. I finally heard from him today, but before that happened my stress managed to manifest itself in a dream last night.

In the dream, I awoke to the phone ringing, which I missed. I immediately filled with dread and got on the computer (I don’t know why). In my email there was a notice that my dad had died in a bombing(again, not sure why it would be email). I broke down, obviously, and I remember thinking about how much I really didn’t want him to go and tried to get him not to (actually wanted/did those things).

The worst part about the dream is that my mother was there to console me about it. When I woke abruptly, the fact that my mother is not actually alive to console me set in a while before the realization that my dad is (at the time ‘probably’) fine. It was a panicky little bit and I can’t be happier that I finally got a message from him saying all is well.


A Record a Week: The Mar-Keys - The Great Memphis Sound


"DEAR JAMES" MEDLEY (Night Train, Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, I Got You, Good Loving, I'll Go Crazy)

The Mar-Keys were a studio session backing band in the 60's (and have recently reformed), who also had some single hits of their own. As such, most of the music is instrumental and many are familiar/cover songs. It's an excellent background album to have on, as I find most big band is.

The album swims seamlessly between swing, soul and some funk/r&b as it showcases songs from the Stax catalog (the label for which they were a backing band). The result is the best possible version of Muzak, which I wish they would pump everywhere instead of the inane version that they usually do.

This record felt like a throwback to my household when I grew up. TV was a thing we liked to watch then, but it was more of an event than a thing that always happened. The main room was reserved for reading, conversation and 100% of the time - music. As a result, the music was often softer music or instrumental. This record would fit perfect into that situation; unless you were reading a book, in which case getting up every 10 minutes would probably be irritating.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday Brunch: Icelandic Brunch - Porridge w/ Veggie 'Blood' Sausages ***Bonus Gluten-free February option

I've been dreaming of a trip to Iceland lately, so I looked up what their style of breakfast is this week. Unfortunately, they have a very heavy reliance on meat over there, so it was mostly that. No better time to try my hand at sausages from scratch! Thank you to The Post Punk Kitchen for the base recipe, which I altered.

Secondly, I am going to post BOTH the gluten-free and the very much not gluten-free recipe. The oats are GF by nature, as long as you get ones that aren't processed in a plant that also processes gluten products. ***The Gluten-Free recipe will be in bold.

1 cup Water
1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk(1 cup unsw. Almond Milk + 1 tsp Vanilla)
1 cup Porridge Oats
1 tsp Salt

Bring the milk, salt and water to a low boil and add the oats. Simmer for 4-5 minutes until smooth and top with a bit of maple syrup or brown sugar and pour Almond Milk over top. I topped with some blueberries because I can't get enough.

1/2 cup Cooked Navy Beans, drained
1 cup Vegetable Broth (should be GF, but double-check to find one that is)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Tamari or other GF Soy Sauce Alternative
1/2 cup Bean Flour
1/2 cup Rice Flour
1/4 cup Tapioca Starch
1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast (again, should be GF, but check label to be sure)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsp Crushed Fennel Seed
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
3-4 Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped well

For preparation, get a large pot with a fitted steam basket (or whatever steaming option you have) and get it boiling. Prepare 4- 5 pieces of tinfoil, each 5-6 inches wide x box length (regular, not wide box).

Mash the beans into a paste with minimal chunks. Then add the rest of the ingredients in order, stir with a fork or spatula until a (wet) dough is formed. separate the dough into 4-5 pieces and form into tubes about 5 inches long (5 pieces will yield skinnier sausages). Lay along the foil and wrap up tight, spinning the ends like a Tootsie Roll. Place wrapped sausages in the steamer for 40 minutes, then fry or grill at mealtime.  I fried them up and drizzled with some maple syrup.

1/2 cup Cooked Navy Beans, drained
1 cup Vegetable Broth (should be GF, but double-check to find one that is)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 1/4 cups Vital Wheat Gluten1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast (again, should be GF, but check label to be sure)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsp Crushed Fennel Seed
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
3-4 Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped well

Follow directions as listed above.

A Record a Week: Herbie Mann - The Evolution of Mann





This isn't the first Jazz Flute album I've reviewed, which I wouldn't have wagered when I began this project. Nor would I have guessed how boppin' it can be. Some of the songs fit into the 'smooth jazz' category, but some have a real funky beat happening underneath and it is delightful.

He's a very talented flautist and was able to keep active for 50 years, despite a pocket of time where Jazz was not as popular as disco and rock music. He saw this and worked with some artists in that genre to be able to keep it up until the interest in Jazz began to regain some steam. Another record by a name I recognized, but knew nothing about and another surprise. If I ever held an upbeat party with a retro theme, this would definitely be a record to throw on.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Record a Week: Makara - Discography

*I aimed to get back into the recipes this week, but was missing some key ingredients for what I wanted to make. They will return next weekend, along with another record review.



The turn of the millennium seemingly was the perfect time for screamo music, specifically out of California. There was seemingly 1000 bands that consisted of a total of 20 people or so. Whenever you see posters from that era, they all have long brackets underneath ie. (ex-the locust, ex-orchid, ex-etc.)

The music was fun, emotionally-driven, screamy and often dancey. The lyrics were often political in nature, but if you weren't into that, no matter, because you couldn't hear what they were saying most of the time anyhow. This album meet ALL of the criteria. Members went on to/came from/were simultaneously in other screamo bands of note, they were political (heavily gender-politics) and they were emotionally-driven screaming music.

I don't remember ever being particularly attached to this album, though I did recognize some of the songs. I think another distro carried it and the guy who ran it (and played in several bands that several bands I played in played with [see above criteria haha]) recommended it strongly to me. He got way deeper into that scene while I pulled back from it and went in the Arab on Radar/Chinese Stars/Lightning Bolt direction. If you're a fan of Orchid, 1905, Yaphet Kotto, anything like that, definitely check out this record that may have flown under your radar.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Post-Holiday Movie Wrapup

When I left work for the holidays, I made a plan to try and see an average of 1 movie for the 12 days I was off. It took 3 movies on NYE day and seeing one after a 2 day stint back at work (I count it because we went to see it while on holidays. but the machines at the theatre were broken), but I got it done. Can't remember the exact order I saw them, so I'm just going to go alphabetical.

American Hustle (2013)
Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence

I went into this movie without knowing too much about it. In fact, now that I have no cable (and the commercials that come with that), that's mostly how I enter movies these days. If you're in the same boat I was heading in, here's the gist of it: an FBI agent uses two small-time con artists in an attempt trap some high-ranking government officials, but ends up having the tables turned on him.

Jeremy Renner is great as the New Jersey Governor (or young Joe Pesci?); Jennifer Lawrence is decent as the con-man's wife; Amy Adams is good as the con girl that plays a bunch of sides; Bradley Cooper holds his own as the FBI agent and Christian Bale is excellent as the con man. It all comes together into a pretty good movie. I'm sure it will be in the Oscar field, but I don't personally think it's the best in any field except maybe Bale for best actor. The movie came together in a fun way and Bale was great, so I'll give this a 7.75/10 (maybe 8)

Captain Phillips (2013)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

This is the story of Captain Richard Philips and his cargo ship that gets hijacked by Somali pirates. He and his crew put forth a heroic effort to stay alive, which results in the safety of the crew, but extreme peril for Captain Phillips. The coast guard and Navy SWAT get involved and there's a small B-story about trying to deal with the situation without violence. I think a few older actors are trying to make a push for an Oscar (McConaughey for sure, Hanks seems to want another one). Hanks did a lovely job in this one and Abdi was great as well. I didn't feel 100% emotionally drawn into the movie, but it was still good. I'll go 7.25/10

Fruitvale Station (2013)
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz

This one was a heart breaker. Based on a true story, this tells the story of a young man who has done jail time and doesn't seem to be all that changed when he gets out. The movie takes place from new years eve through new years day as he has flashbacks of his troubled life and decides to make a change. As he is en route to his new years plans, the subway stops and his past catches up with him, the police racially profile him and it ends badly.

This was an emotionally gripping piece with excellent acting from Jordan. It makes me sad to know that racial profiling is still a thing, but it's important to know about it as long as it does. I thought this one was great, though I don't think it will get serious Oscar consideration. 8.25/10

Heartbeats (2010)
Starring: Monia Chokki, Niels Schneider, Xavier Dolan

This is an interesting story of two friends (a straight lady and a homosexual man) that fall in love with the same easy-going guy. The original french title seems to make more sense (Les Amours Imaginaires). There were some great dynamics between the characters as they each tried to keep the guy for themselves. The love interest has no interest in being tied down and the result is every relationship becoming frayed, before the two friends eventually return to friendship in their hatred against the guy that spurned them.

An interesting, if not entirely original, forlorn love story told in the french language. I'll give it a 7/10

The History of Future Folk (2012)
Starring: Nils d'Aulaire, Jay Klaitz

This one was very interesting. Bill is a married man who plays solo folk music in a spacesuit under the name 'General Trius'. His marriage is troubled and his music isn't entirely successful. It turns out, though, that his pseudonym is not a stage persona, but that he is in fact a General from the planet Hondo that was sent to take over earth. When another Hondo inhabitant is sent to take over the mission, the two abandon it and play music together as Future Folk and also save the world from an impending meteor.

The movie is a mock history of a real alien-themed band. It was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it for fans of Safety Not Guaranteed or Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. 8/10

 The Lifeguard (2013)
Starring: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer

A very disturbing story of a woman who can't handle the cruelty she sees in her job and moves back to her home town and takes up her old job of lifeguard at the local pool. However, as she takes that job, it's not the only thing that returns to old ways. She begins hanging out with teenagers and even starts a relationship with one of them. This tears a hole in already strained relationships between herself and her family and friends and many disasters happen along the way.

Bell was good, but the movie fell flat a bit for me. I think if the missing piece (whatever that may have been) was there, this could have been a career-defining role for her. Not sure if it was her not fully committing or the direction falling short or a combination of things, but it didn't work for me. I'll give it a 6/10 for its effort.

 Runner Runner (2013)
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck

The whole first half of this movie, I kept thinking 'I must have seen this movie before'. I hadn't, it just was not at all original. In fact, it felt a little bit like that Kevin Spacey movie '21' about card counting. I admire Timberlake's effort in the acting world, but I think he should maybe do less drama and more comedy? His appearances on SNL are always amusing, but is movies considerably less so. I was also disappointed by Affleck, who I think has made excellent career choices in the past few years (especially in direction of film). Oh right, plot. It's a student who has payment due very shortly if he wants to stay in school and has been banned from promoting gambling at the school. He decides he will play online to win his money, but loses in a fixed room. When he takes that to the owner of the site, he gets drafted by that guy to work for him. When he gets roped in, he learns he will be the scapegoat and has to yet again find a way to bail himself out. Meh. 5/10 from me and that's probably generous.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott

An adaption of the 1939 short story of the same name (or a remake of the 1947 film, whichever way you look at it), the movie follows Walter Mitty, a daydreamer with a rather ordinary life. When the negative of the final cover of Life magazine goes missing, Mitty goes on an adventure that is even wilder than his dreams to try and recover it.

I thought the movie was a lot of fun. It was neat to see Wiig in a role that was funny without being over-the-top goofy. The movie wasn't spectacular, but it was a lot of fun and did make me want to go to everywhere he traveled on his journeys. Plus I went with my son, which always makes me view a movie in a more lighthearted way. 8.25/10 with a bonus .25 for using an Of Monsters and Men song during a scene where he was in Iceland.

 Side Effects (2013)
Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum continues to surprise me. I think 'he can't possibly be a good actor, right?' But he usually does a good job. Is he elite? No, I don't think so, but he is definitely not a total slouch. In this story, a man gets out of jail to return to his wife, who then gets depressed. As a side effect from a medication prescribed by her new psychiatrist (Law), she sleepwalks and kills her husband. When the trial opens up, secrets begin to get uncovered by the psychiatrist, both about the patient and her original doctor (Zeta-Jones).

This one kept popping up in 'suggestions for you' on Netflix, so I gave it a shot. Somewhat predictable, it still provided a good amount of entertainment. I'll go 6.75/10

The Spectacular Now (2013)
Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson

A coming of age story with a dark undertone, The Spectacular Now follows Sutter during his final year of high school. He's a party guy who doesn't consider the future until his girlfriend Cassidy(Larson) breaks it off with him. He then meets Aimee(Woodley) who goes through the ringer with him as he figures out a lot about his life and himself.

Larson has her hands in some of my favourite films of the year (Short Term 12 was tops on my list) and although her role in this was not as large, her character drove the plot forward at important points. When I first saw the show Secret Life of the American Teenager, it was so stilted that I didn't think the actors could be any good. Woodley has proved me wrong over her last two movies and I see that continuing into the future. Teller did a great job as well. 8.25/10

 This is Martin Bonner (2013)
Starring: Paul Eenhoorn, Demetrius Gross

This made me snicker a bit, because of the scene in Family Guy where Stewie says 'what's a Bonner?' (referring to boner), and that's become a running joke around the house.

This movie portrays a slice of the life of fictional character Martin Bonner. Bonner is a volunteer coordinator for a group that helps inmates transition into the world. Throughout the movie we learn he has left behind a life on the east coast to take this job in Nevada and he finds mutual support from a program member Travis.

Eenhoorn brings a great subtlety to this role and it works perfectly. The movie is a slow burn and quite effective. 8/10

 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill

Excess. That is the name of the game in this adapted true story of a stock broker's rise to the top and subsequent crash (though the crash is minimal, all things considered). Excessive partying, excessive drugs, excessive nudity, excessive run-time. It has it all. DiCaprio does a good job as the up-and-comer that becomes the kingpin and Jonah Hill gives what is probably his funniest performance to date. The excess was a bit too much for me, though. Not the individual things, but the many scenes that could've been cut a little shorter. Case in point: what I consider to be the best scene in the movie. DiCaprio and Hill's characters take these qualudes called 'lemons' that are supposed to be the most intense version of the drug available, but they don't seem to work. After 15 minutes or so, the drugs aren't kicking in and they take more. The scene gets really funny when DiCaprio heads to a country club to find an un-tapped phone to call from and the drugs kick in. He is forced to slide, roll and crawl his way back to his car before attempting to drive it home. That scene has many points it could have made little trims and it was the best scene. The rest of the movie had several points that could've been trimmed back and not been 3 hours long. That being said, it was entertaining for many parts and had several recognizable actors doing small roles that brought the whole thing together. Look at that, the excessive movie brought on an excessive review. 7.5/10

 The Arm (2012)
Starring: Jessica Hecht, Miles Heizer

I'll keep this short, in fears of writing more than the script length. The Arm tells the story of a boy who, along with his friend, meet two girls in a shop. While the friend starts getting intimate with the one girl, he starts text messaging the other girl. When the girl dies while text messaging with him, the family of the girl turn to him, thinking he was more invested than he actually was. When he gets roped in to speaking at her funeral, he realizes he didn't actually know anything about her. 4/5 (felt fitting to rate a short out of a smaller scale)