[Note: There is a semi-spoiler in this post, but it will come as no surprise to anybody who has been watching this season. This season will be equally unenjoyable with or without this knowledge.]
With the show’s series finale last Sunday, I think it’s safe to say that Dexter will never rediscover the magic of the first four seasons. It’s no coincidence that the show’s decline corresponds with the gradual depature of major creative forces: Daniel Cerone, Clyde Phillips, and Melissa Rosenberg. Cerone left the show after season 2, with Phillips and Rosenberg following after season 4. 24′s Chip Johannsen took over as showrunner for season 5, and the results weren’t terrible. Then came Scott Buck. More like Scott #uck, am I right?
Juvenile jokes aside, the final seasons of Dexter simply were not very good. Many fans, myself included, wanted a trial and/or a season of Dexter on the run. We wanted to see the most interesting storyline that the series could offer: what would happen if Dexter’s perfectly constructed little world were to fall apart? Semi-spoiler: we don’t see any of this.
Along with other fans, I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had the trio of Cerone, Phillips, and Rosenberg stuck around for the entirety of the series. It’s very easy to complain or even deconstruct the past 4 seasons and explain why each failed, as nearly every fan who has stuck around to the end has probably already done. But what if I can do better? What if the series’ finale perfectly capped off a ride that remained thrilling throughout its entirety? What if the final seasons didn’t suck? Michael Barryte from YouTube’s Belated Media answered this question for the equally, possibly more, maligned Star Wars prequels.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll start from season 5 and pretend I took over showrunning duties. Every season of Dexter had good elements. I’ll concot a better narrative from these elements. The characters deserve better, as do the fans.
Fast and Furious 6
Run Time: 2 Hour 10 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 72%
Director: Justin Lin (The previous 3 movies in the franchise, Annapolis)
Concept: Chris Morgan returns as writer, along with Justin Lin, for their 3rd collaboration in this franchise’s 6th overall installment. Most of the major and supporting characters from the fifth movie return, with the somewhat noticeable exception of the characters of Rico Santos and Tego Leo.
Expectations: After 4 straight movies that received lukewarm-at-best reviews, 2011′s Fast Five infused new life into the franchise with a terrific 78% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Fast and Furious 6 keeps the momentum going with another high score. In the end, I’m a car person, so I’ll probably like this movie.
Synopsis: Following their successful Rio heist, Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner retire from their fast and furious lifestyle to settle down and start families. They enjoy their new lives but long to return to the familiarity of Los Angeles. During this time, Agent Luke Hobbs is tracking Owen Shaw and his band of terrorists that have been attacking military convoys and stealing technology that poses a threat to millions. Hobbs finds Toretto and asks him to bring the team together from the last movie to take down Shaw. Toretto agrees after Hobbs shows him evidence that former lover Letty, presumed dead after the 4th movie, is alive. The rest of the team agrees under one condition – full pardons for everybody.
The absolute best thing about this movie is the return of actual street races. Universal gets it right this time by showing a few races on screen unlike Fast Five, which didn’t show the most interesting races. I like the decision to evolve the franchise, but street racing remains at the core.
Action scenes in general were what you would expect from this franchise – a ton of fun and delightfully over the top. In addition to improbable jumps and high speed chases and crashes, this movie introduces extended hand-to-hand combat. These fight scenes are superbly choreographed. All action scenes were mostly well-executed and helped the movie race through its 2 hours 10 minutes run time.
The humor works very well throughout the film. It’s consistently funny from start to finish, which pairs well with over the top action. Even Tyrese Gibson’s character, who only exists to be funny, manages to avoid becoming annoying.
A big reason why action scenes are thrilling, and why stunts can be downright heart-pounding, is the sense of danger that is involved. The characters that are involved could get seriously injured or even die. In Fast and Furious 6, many characters walk away unscathed from moments that should, at the absolute least, seriously injure them.
I would have been fine if they killed off most of the characters. There’s a severe lack of character development in this film, with many having little-to-no use. For example, Tyrese Gibson’s character never transcends “funny Black man.” A lack of development is acceptable for some of the protagonists that we have grown to love in the past 5 movies, but unacceptable for the villain. Owen Shaw’s motives are never revealed. We only know that he is a very bad man.
The plot in general is a major weak point of the film. I’ll highlight some of the sillier moments. The retconning of Letty back to life is very lazily done. And she has amnesia – one of the laziest devices available when not central to the plot. Rather than foreshadowing the shocking twist towards the end, this movie chooses to beat you over the head so that it’s impossible for you to be shocked at all. The actual events that lead to the ultimate resolution are downright nonsensical.
And good grief… Fast 7?
Verdict: There truthfully was no way I would dislike this movie. I love cars, and let’s face it – who watches the Fast and Furious franchise for its plot? This movie caters very well to fans of the series, so it’s definitely worth seeing if you enjoyed Fast Five and its predecessors. Unfortunately, due to the lack of character development and nonsensical plot, everybody else, even members of the target audience who aren’t familiar with the series, should probably not see it.
For those of you who don’t know, Frito-Lay came up with a contest to determine the next flavor of Lay’s, similar to what PepsiCo has done with Mountain Dew in the past. The 3 finalist flavors are Chicken and Waffles, Sriracha, and Cheesy Garlic Bread. These chips have been remarkably difficult to find, but I’ve tracked them down. Here is a list of where to buy in Los Angeles, as well as my first impressions of the flavors.
Chicken and Waffles
Available at: Metrofresh at Wilshire and Vermont for $1.49; 7 Eleven at 7040 W. Sunset Blvd
Impressions: For this flavor, the focus is clearly on the syrup of the waffles. I wasn’t able to taste the chicken at all. While they’re trying to go for a sweet and salty combination, the syrup is simply too overwhelming. Sweet and salty is a terrific combination, but get chocolate covered pretzels instead.
Available at: Walgreen’s at Sunset and Vine $1.49
Impressions: The actual flavor sticks closer and truer to its intended flavor. This time, we have a sweet and spicy combination. The chips don’t taste like Original Lay’s dipped in sriracha, but it is a very good approximation of sriracha flavored seasoning. There is also a fair bite to the chips. Those who aren’t accustomed to spicy foods may be caught off guard.
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Available at: Okay, fine, I couldn’t find these.
Impressions: Yeah, really couldn’t find them.
Wow. Why are these so difficult to find? I wasn’t able to find any big bags. I think Sriracha is my favorite flavor. Not too surprising, since I’m a spicy food junkie. It’s probably a good thing I couldn’t find the cheesy garlic bread, because there’s a staggering 28 grams of Fat per bag!
Sometimes you have to go with fast food for one reason or another. You may have a narrow lunch break and this is your only option. You may just want it because eff it, you do what you want. Relax, I’m not one to be judgmental. Here’s a list of some gimmicky new items that various fast food places released along with my brilliant insight on them.
1. Nacho Cheese/Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos
So Taco Bell unleashed a crunchy taco with a Doritos flavored shell. You have the choice of regular, with beef… er “beef,” lettuce, and “cheese,” or supreme with those options and sour cream and tomatoes. Works great in theory – nacho cheese and cool ranch flavored Doritos definitely add to a crunchy Taco. I’ve tried both and… well it’s Taco Bell. What the heck did I expect? What would you expect? Their ground “beef” is simply disgusting. That makes these tacos not worth it at all.
Instead try… if you’re absolutely in love with the idea of eating a taco with a Doritos shell, buy the shell and make your own taco with it. As far as I know, Frito-Lay doesn’t sell the shells to the retail market, but you can probably buy them from your local Taco Bell.
2. McDonald’s new Spicy McChicken
Your average below average chicken sandwich – i.e. McNugget-style chicken. McDonald’s should offer a real spicy chicken.
Instead try… any real spicy chicken sandwich to be honest. Chickfila probably offers the best fast food spicy chicken sandwich.
3. McDonald’s Frozen Strawberry Lemonade
So Mickey D’s is trying to be trendy with their whole McCafé concept. Yeah, you silly charlatans aren’t fooling anybody. I decided to give it a try anyways cause why not and… ugh fml. The strawberry part tasted too clearly like syrup and was disgustingly sweet. I’m getting a sugar headache just thinking about it, and I had it for the first and last time over 2 years ago.
Instead try… okay, come on. There’s none such thing as a good fast food strawberry lemonade, frozen or regular! 51 grams of sugar – yum yum…. oh god why :(((?
4. Shanghai Angus Steak/Grilled Peppercorn Shrimp/Samurai Surf n Turf
So Panda Express unleashed two shiny new dishes that are sooooo high quality that each costs $1 extra if you pick that dish. The Samurai Surf n Turf is a combination of the two dishes. The steak is pretty good. They’ve mastered getting the beef tender enough to not be bothersome with its chewiness. Not worth the upcharge though, in my opinion.
The Grilled Peppercorn Shrimp is terrible. The shrimp either is tasteless or bitter. This unfortunate fact makes the Samurai Surf n Turf also not worth it. Sad, really.
Instead try… Broccoli Beef and Beijing Beef are both good and don’t carry upcharges. Honey Walnut Shrimp is exponentially better than Grilled Peppercorn Shrimp.
5. Fishy McBites
No… no… Screw your commercial and your annoying jingle! Not even gonna try it. Also, it’s Mickey D’s, so it’s at best decent.
Instead try… eh, I don’t really know of any good fast food seafood in LA. Perhaps Long John Silver’s or Captain D’s elsewhere?
6. Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze at Taco Bell
Wow, just wow. Simply terrible. It’s possible that my local Taco Bell, renown for being terrible even for a Taco Bell, screwed this one up, but then again that’s unlikely. It tastes like crushed ice with very little Baja Blast syrup.
Instead try… the Fruitista Freeze. Both strawberry and mango are downright remarkable in their… Oh wait, Taco Bell idiotically no longer carries Fruitista Freezes. Well, dern. Walk to the nearby 7-Eleven if you want a slurpee.
Run Time: 1 Hour 43 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 22%
Director: James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin)
Overview: To say that Hollywood currently lacks originality is an understatement. It almost seems that every single movie that comes out is a remake, sequel, prequel, or adaptation. Writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare use a familiar trope to give an account of the final days of Edgar Allan Poe.
Expectations: When I first saw the trailer, I was very excited. The premise of the movie looked very intriguing. I knew that if properly done, this movie could end up as one of the better ones of the year. When first reviews came out, I was shocked to see how overwhelmingly negatively it was received. As the premiere date approached, the rating remained around 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I became worried. James McTeigue directing gives me qualms since The Raven marks a second consecutive film under 30% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, critics sometimes go hyper critical. I have enjoyed films in the past that have bombed on the Tomato Meter. Also, I am a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe.
Synopsis: Edgar Allan Poe’s final days are shrouded in mystery. The Raven mixes fact and fiction to give an intriguing account. In this movie, Poe has reached the end of his career. His minor successes as a writer are in his past, and Poe is an unwanted drunkard. After a particularly gruesome murder, Inspector Emmett Fields draws a strong tie to a story he recently read. Brief investigation yields that this murder is similar to a murder in Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” After vetting him, Inspector Fields enlists Poe’s help in catching the killer. The serial killer plays a cat and mouse game with Poe and escalates things by capturing his love interest.
One of the greatest positives of The Raven is John Cusack’s depiction of Poe. Cusack immersed himself into the role and lets the audience see into the mind of the troubled literary genius. His portrayal slightly falters in the drunk scenes. It doesn’t feel congruent with the character of Poe. Brendan Gleeson also gives a good, but underutilized performance as Captain Hamilton, father of Poe’s love interest.
The film stays very faithful to the period. It’s lighting, sets, and costumes combine to create the perfect backdrop of the story. The scene with The Pit and the Pendulum was particularly well executed.
I love the facts that Livingston and Shakespeare weaved into the story. The duo does a respectable job of paying homage to Poe. The Raven makes numerous references to Poe’s works, both overtly and subtly. The writers also weave known facts about Poe’s life and final days.
Unfortunately this terrific concept was not executed very well. One very disappointing thing is Alice Eve’s acting. She is bland in a lot of scenes, but Kristen Stewart-esque in one in particular. The lack of facial expression in this scene erases the horror significantly.
The pacing typical of the serial killer trope was not executed in this film. Breaks in the tension did not lead to surprises, causing it to feel inconsistent.
Another inconsistency is the tone of the movie. It seems The Raven does not know whether or not to take itself seriously. A lot of the film is over the top and unrealistic, almost getting silly. This contrasts poorly with other elements.
By far the biggest disappointment was the ending. It transcended believability, logic, and even common sense. The ultimate villain was not convincing and seemed to similarly struggle with logic and common sense. Livingston and Shakespeare could have done a much better job incorporating Poe’s late life into the story.
Verdict: It’s not bad, it really isn’t. I was perhaps helped by the fact that I am a big Edgar Allan Poe fan. The issues would be minor, were it not for the terrible ending. But it was still a better ending than the one for Mass Effect 3.
Sometimes there are certain things that are so horrendous that they warrant a revival of a blog that hasn’t been touched for a long time. This was one of those circumstances. Do not fly United Airlines.
The baggage fee sucks and…
I was forced to check my carry-on bag that was only 2 inches taller than their maximum height. This bag was accepted as a carry-on by multiple airlines at multiple airports. It is total garbage that something that was just barely over their limit. I barely had the money to pay the checked bag fee.
Airplane seats already aren’t roomy
The seats on the airplane are small and cramped as is. On United, they are even worse. I have never had such little elbow room in my life. My natural posture caused my elbows to encroach on the space of the other passengers. Other people that I rode with noticed this also.
At least they have peanuts/pretzels?
Nope and nope. The complimentary snacks that seem to be the most basic offering of any airline are conspicuously absent. Any snacks must be bought for insane mark-ups.
Flight delays galore
Never seen so many in my life. They are common with airline travel, but not this common.
Airline travel sucks as it is. Some though provide a slightly more pleasant experience than others. Fly Southwest or Jet Blue. You will not save money by flying United – after all, hospital bills for aneurysms are pretty expensive.
Nahm San: Korean BBQ
3333 S. Hoover Street #E
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Prices range from ~$7 to $12. Prices feel perfectly proportional to what you are getting. Non-fountain drinks all cost $1.50. Fountain drinks are around that price but do not come with free refills and are fairly small.
There’s beef, chicken, pork, squid, and a vegetarian option. There are also soups available. Nahm San offers all of the favorites that can be expected at a Korean BBQ place. Most dishes come with the choice of kim chi or a salad.
The food is always cooked to order on a flat top grill. Ingredients are pretty fresh and always of expected quality. Portion sizes and quality are pretty consistent from order to order. One source of disappointment is the amount of oil that is used in the food.
Portion Size: 3.5/5
Portions for all of the items are enough to satisfy any appetite. The only issue that I have is their proportioning. For dishes such as the beef bulgogi or barbecue chicken, there is a disproportionate amount of rice in relation to the meat. The beef rib, the most expensive item on the menu, is best shared. The portion is easily large enough for 2-3 meals.
This is located in the UV. I’ve never noticed anything disconcerting about their kitchen conditions.
I’ve never had significant issues with the service here. The workers are usually polite. The cooks have worked there for a long time and are always able to prepare your meal in a timely fashion, even during the busiest hours.
It’s the food court at the UV.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
While eating at a food court can never equal the experience of eating at a restaurant, when speaking strictly about the quality of food, Nahm San will not disappoint. Few restaurants at the UV make their hours clear, but Nahm San seems to be open later than other places. It is a little more costly than other places, but this place is worth checking out if you want local Korean BBQ.