Holiday Egg Nog

Ingredients

  • 12 large eggs
  • one 12-oz container of Domino Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 half-gallon of Maple Hill Creamery Organic Whole Milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons of McCormick Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract (a/k/a “Small Batch”)
  • 1 teaspoon of McCormick Gourmet Organic Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 pint heavy (whipping) cream
  • Additional nutmeg, optional

Instructions

  1. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt.
  2. Gradually add 4 cups milk.
  3. Cook and stir over low heat until a thermometer reads 160°-165°, 30-35 minutes.
    Do not allow to boil.
  4. Immediately transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Stir in vanilla, nutmeg and remaining milk. 
  6. Place bowl in an ice-water bath, stirring until milk mixture is cool.
    (If mixture separates, process in a blender until smooth.) 
  7. Refrigerate, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.
  8. To serve, beat cream until soft peaks form.
  9. Whisk gently into cooled milk mixture.
  10. If desired, sprinkle with additional nutmeg before serving.

Tips

  • Eggnog may be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for several days.
    Whisk it before serving.
  • If you’re entertaining the 21-and-over crowd, spike this easy eggnog recipe with bourbon or dark rum.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Perhaps this would be better if your kids reviewed this movie, but for some unknown reason, I was intrigued when I first saw the film on the release schedule. Unable to catch it when it was first released, it’s now on home video; so I’ve given it a viewing.

Based on the children’s educational series, Dora The Explorer, this movie isn’t afraid to be self-aware. Very early on, Dora (Isabela Moner) brakes the fourth wall and addresses the audience a couple of times to the bewilderment of her father Cole (Michael Peña) and his wife Elena (Eva Longoria).  They are explorers who have been living in the jungles of Peru with Dora. Cole and Elena figure out the location of Parapata, the lost Incan city of gold and decide to set off to find it.  However,they also choose to send Dora to Los Angeles to live with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and his parents, who left Peru ten years earlier.

The film plays with Dora exploring life in “the city,” which she is thoroughly unfamiliar with, and she continually embarrasses Diego with her unfamiliarity. Dora doesn’t understand because she and Diego were quite close when he lived in Peru, but Diego has grown quite accustomed to life in the city, and he’s less than enthused in guiding his cousin through the process of acclimation.

Dora and her classmates go on a field trip to a museum, and when she wanders off to explore some off-display exhibits in the museum basement, she, Diego and two other classmates are locked in a crate and shipped off to Peru by a group of mercenaries.  These mercenaries plan to use Dora to find her parents and convince them to find the lost city of Parapata.

It’s all somewhat goofy and transparent, but kids will probably enjoy it.

Trailer:

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Zack Gottsagen is Zak, a young man with no family and Down’s Syndrome, who has been placed in a retirement home because there is no other facility to place him in. Zak spends his days watching a videotape purporting to teach one wrestling. Zak also spends a lot of time trying to escape from the retirement home.

Shia LaBoeuf is Tyler, a young man who appears to be a crab fisherman, but who we learn is actually stealing crab pots from a man, Duncan (John Hawkes), who took over fishing licenses held by Tyler’s brother (Jon Bernthal) who has recently died. Tyler clearly feels that Duncan “stole” the licenses from his family and, so, he is merely taking what belongs to him. Not that Tyler doesn’t know that what he’s doing is illegal because he’s spending his days ducking the authorities and Duncan.

Zak shares a room with Carl (Bruce Dern), who he’s driving crazy with his constant viewing of the wrestling tape; so Carl devises an escape plan for Zak to gain some peace.  Meanwhile, Duncan confronts Tyler over the stolen crab pots and threatens him if Tyler doesn’t stop. Tyler doesn’t take kindly to the threat and takes an action that propels Duncan to pursue him.

Tyler takes off in a boat in which Zak is hiding, and it sets up the journey that we are about to follow. While Duncan is pursuing Tyler, Zak is being pursued by Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a volunteer at the nursing home who was supposed to be watching Zak and who had dubbed him a flight risk.

Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, who wrote and directed The Peanut Butter Falcon, set up a scenario where the characters Tyler and Zak become traveling companions as Tyler tries to escape Duncan and head to Florida while Zak travels to the wrestling school advertised on his video, which is along the route Tyler plans to take.

My only problem is with the screenplay, which too often takes convenient short cuts to move the story along. However, there are delightful performances by LaBoeuf, Johnson, Hawkes and Gottsagen, who himself has Down’s Syndrome but turns in a dynamic performance as a man who single-mindedly sets out to accomplish his goal of becoming a wrestler. Add in a marvelous performance by Thomas Haden Church as The Salt Water Redneck, the wrestling guru Zak is determined to meet and be trained by.

All too often, society imposes their ideas of what a person is capable or incapable of doing, and this story does its best to implode those myths and give us a different perspective on people’s capabilities and our concepts of friendships and families. I’m a sucker for a story with heart, despite some weaknesses in the narrative.

Despite these minor misgivings, The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of the better films of 2019, and I definitely recommend you give it a chance. In limited release and now available on home video, it’s worth your time.

Trailer:

Crockpot Cashew Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh tenders or chicken breast tenders
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup cashews

Instructions

  1. Combine flour and pepper in a large Ziploc bag.
  2. Add chicken.
  3. Shake to coat with flour mixture.
  4. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Brown chicken about 2 minutes on each side.
  6. Place chicken in the slow cooker.
  7. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in small bowl; pour over chicken.
  8. Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours.
  9. Add cashews and stir.

Serving Suggestion

Serve over rice.

If you like sauce and want to have some to pour over the chicken and the rice, double the sauce ingredients

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

In real-time, 28 years have passed.  In movie time, it has been a couple of decades. A young Mexican couple are making out near a bridge when they notice sparks appearing in the deck of the bridge.  A large familiar sphere appears, and a nude female figure falls from the sphere to the ground.  When the couple goes to investigate, the police arrive and begin to question the couple about this semi-conscious nude female in their presence.  At that moment, the female (Mackenzie Davis) puts a hurting on la policia and takes the young Mexican dude’s clothes and makes her way to find Daniela Ramos.  Daniela lives with her brother Diego, an aspiring musician, and their father in Mexico City.  Daniela wakes Diego as he and she work in an auto plant; she doesn’t want to be late.  She also begs her father to make his doctor’s appointment.

After Daniela and Diego leave for work, sparks fly at their residence and who should turn up at their apartment but another terminator, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) who quizzes their father on the whereabouts of Daniela.  Soon after, D&D’s father turns up at their work location because his kids forgot their lunch. Except Diego points out that Daniela brought their lunch.  Can you guess who Diego’s father is?

Of course, you can and that’s the problem with much of Terminator: Dark Fate. Much of what we see has either been revealed in the trailer, or it doesn’t take much thought to figure out what’s going on. The previously nude female has been sent to protect Daniela.  She battles the Rev-9 on the factory floor and she—identifying herself as Grace—, Daniela and Diego escape in a truck with the Rev-9 in hot pursuit. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up and we’re off on another Terminator adventure.

The balance of the story is a mishmash and rehash of ideas out of originator James Cameron and a committee of storytellers and screenwriters that defy credulity. Cameron and his cohorts have devised a scenario where what happened before didn’t really happen. It’s the old problem of dealing with time travel except this time, we don’t really deal with it.  We’re presented a story and expected to accept it, even though it’s banal and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Don’t blame any of this on the actors or the director.  The actors do a credible job with the story they’ve been given, and director Tim Miller has kept the action moving, perhaps in the hope that the script won’t catch up to him.

All-in-all, Terminator: Dark Fate is a disappointment.  The return of Schwarzenegger, Hamilton and Cameron held out so much promise, and only Arnold and Linda delivered. Here’s hoping that Cameron is saving his best material for those Avatar sequels he’s been threatening us with.

If you must see this film, wait for home video.

Trailer:

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Roman Griffin Davis is Johannes Betzler, a ten-year-old boy who enthusiastically joins the Hitler Youth. “Jojo,” as his mother and second-best friend call him, dresses up in his uniform and talks to his best friend, an imaginary Adolf Hitler, played with delightful abandon by director, co-producer and co-screenwriter Taika Waititi. I’m most familiar, I’d imagine like most people, with Waititi’s work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I’m now destined to examine his entire body of work which, as it turns out, is rather quite extensive.

Along with his tangible best friend Yorki (Archie Yates), Jojo goes to a Hitler Youth training camp, run by Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) or rather “Captain K,” in an attempt to make him more accessible. During their training, Jojo is tasked with killing a rabbit in a scene that demonstrates the power of peer pressure and the concepts of nature versus nurture.  Jojo can’t bring himself to kill the rabbit. He ends up running into the forest to the taunts of the other campers who have now dubbed him “Jojo Rabbit.” While in the woods, Jojo imagines a conversation with Hitler which galvanizes him into grabbing a grenade from an instructor and throwing it against a tree with disastrous and unforeseen results.

Jojo is injured and while confined to his home, he discovers his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johanssen) has been hiding a young Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), in a secret room in their house. Jojo gives some thought to turning her in, but Elsa convinces him that it would have disastrous consequences for Jojo and his mother.  So, instead, Jojo decides to discover what makes Jews tick. Elsa feeds his paranoia, which makes for a delightful narrative.

Waititi has taken a difficult subject and turned it into a masterwork of drama, comedy, and just a tinge of horror. He turns in a delightful comedic performance as an imaginary Hitler while at the same time constructing a tale of a town about to be liberated seemingly against its wishes. The film is exceptionally photographed by Mihai Malaimare Jr., which, combined with the direction of Waititi, communicates feelings subtly and powerfully.

Scarlett Johanssen is marvelous as a mother who is trying to raise her son among the madness of a world at war, and Davis is good as the dutiful son of his parents and the Third Reich. Throughout the film, the relationship between Jojo and Elsa evokes curiosity and tenderness. Sam Rockwell continues to turn in nuanced performances as in this one where he is at times comic and, other times, compelling.

Jojo Rabbit is currently in limited release, and it was challenging to find a theatre where I could see it.  Fortunately, it opens in wider release on 8 November.  If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you see it.

Trailer:

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Some mild spoilers of the first film follow immediately.

I recently re-watched Zombieland (2009) and this movie basically picks up where that one left off except, as narrated by “Columbus,” some years later, presumably ten. The family of “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg), “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin) are still together after all these years. As the opening credits roll, they take up residence in the abandoned White House.

Columbus and Wichita are still paired off, and Tallahassee has taken a paternal interest in Little Rock, who has grown into a young woman and is now quite restless as a result. Little Rock’s annoyance at being treated like a “little girl” and a miscalculation by Columbus in his relationship with Wichita creates an event that propels the plot of the rest of the movie.

When our family leaves the White House and begins traveling again, they have to avoid a new breed of zombies, which Columbus names the T-800. These zombies are stronger, faster and more deadly than other zombies our troupe has encountered before. Incidentally, Columbus has classified the zombies they’ve come across into groups. So, now the zombie types have names to go along with Columbus’ rules.

The problem here is the way the script develops is somewhat redundant of the first film. Some very similar events happen; so if you’ve seen the first film, you might be getting a little bored as to how things progress. However, other events happen just new enough to keep you mildly interested.

While the script may be lacking, the performances are not. The characters are familiar, but the acting is fresh and delightful. There are also some new characters that we meet along the way, beginning with the daft blonde we saw in the trailer, Zoey Deutch as Madison, and an equally cliche free spirit named Berkeley (Avan Jogia).

The saving grace of the script is that it’s incredibly self-aware, and that brings enough humor to carry us through the entire film. This includes performances by “guest stars” (my phrase) Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch.

If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll enjoy the second one. Although I’ve listed it as a prerequisite, it’s not absolutely necessary to view it before viewing Zombieland: Double Tap. There’s enough exposition in Columbus’ narration that you’ll be able to follow along just fine.

I found Zombieland: Double Tap to be mildly humorous, but other people in the audience were laughing out loud, and I can understand why. There’s a mid-credits scene you should stay for and a post-credits scene you can catch at home whenever you get around to watching it there.

Trailer:

Red Band Trailer:

Joker (2019)

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix team for an unconventional comic book movie about a man and a city’s descent into madness. There has been some discussion that this isn’t a comic-book movie, but it undeniably is. It is an origin story.

Arthur Fleck is a devoted son. He lives with his mother, but he is not dependent on her. Rather, he takes care of her, and he does it by working as a clown for hire. His job takes him to various places: for example, a music store going out of business and a children’s hospital. Arthur also suffers from a (real-life) condition, which causes him to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. So much so that he carries a card that can explain it to people when he cannot.

The construction of the story is masterful and subversive, and it requires the audience to think and deduce some of the action going on before them. Phoenix’s performance is nuanced and skilled. It captures some of the cartoon-like nature of The Joker without it being cartoony. In some form, you respect Fleck’s struggle, and then he shocks you with his behavior. In a sense, Fleck has a code, and until the very end of the film, he never violates it.

To tell you more would spoil the experience.

Rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images, Joker is the best comic book film with that rating since Logan.

I highly recommend it.

Quick Macaroni & Cheese (Air Fryer)

Ingredients

  • 112 grams elbow macaroni
  • 2 liters water (2 quarts)
  • 225 grams Cracker Barrel chunk cheese (8 ounces)
  • 15 grams butter (1 tablespoon)
  • 9 grams flour (1 tablespoon)
  • 250ml milk (1 cup)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat air fryer to 400°F (205°C).
  2. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. Prepare elbow macaroni according to package directions, approx. 7 minutes.
  4. Drain macaroni. Set aside covered.
  5. Melt butter in a saucepan.
  6. Stir flour into melted butter.
  7. Gradually add milk to butter and flour stirring as sauce thickens.
  8. Once sauce thickens, gradually whisk cheese into white sauce; save some for topping.
  9. Once cheese melts into the sauce and is smooth, pour into baking dish.
  10. Top casserole with remaining cheese and, optionally (panko) bread crumbs.
  11. Bake casserole at 400°F (205°C) for 30 minutes.

Serving Suggestion

Serve the casserole with a breaded pork chop which can be baked at the same time as the macaroni and cheese casserole, turning once midway through baking time.