Archive for Travel

Leap Year

DVD (2010)  Written by Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont/Directed by Anand Tucker STARRING: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott

The story  If a man receives a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day, he must accept it — that’s what tradition says. So with February 29th around the corner, and no proposals on the horizon from her long-time boyfriend Jeremy, Anna Brady (played by Amy Adams) decides to take matters into her own hands. She will hunt down Jeremy (Adam Scott) on his Dublin business trip and pop the question! If it worked for her grandma Jane, it’s gotta work for her too, right? We quickly discover the answer to that as a storm redirects Anna’s flight and she ends up washed ashore in a tiny Irish town a day’s journey from Dublin. It’s there where she meets Declan O’Callaghan (Matthew Goode) — a tall, dark and brooding Irishman who runs the town’s only hotel as well as taxi service. In the shadow of Declan’s rugged manliness and Mr. Rochester-like aloofness, the trendy metrosexual weasel-face that is Anna’s fiance-to-be melts away like a bad dream come morning. But Anna is determined to get to Dublin and propose to Jeremy. Declan agrees to drive her to Dublin and the journey begins.

It’s a 6.5  Leap Year is a quiet movie, with a script that borders on pathetic at times. But heaven help me, I really like it. Despite the flaws of the film (dreadfully dull and contrived Boston scenes book-end the film), the movie springs to life once in Ireland, and is full of romantic little vignettes. Leap Year  is formulaic, but the chemistry between Adams and Goode totally wins you over. I can count three girlfriends of mine who speak of Leap Year with a happy sigh, and Roger Ebert, my go-to critic, gave this movie three stars out of four.

Sweet extras  As film critic Roger Ebert once wrote: “When was the last time you saw a boring Irishman in a movie?” With phrases like “jabs” (boobs) and “brown trout” (poop), the world is never dull. Here are some of the Irish phrases or objects referenced in Leap Year. You’ll find these useful for understanding some of the movie dialogue, as a few of them are never explained. What is a tripe and why should you be repulsed by it? You’ll find out below.

chancer: a scheming opportunist

eejit: an idiot

diddly-eye: foolish or foolishness

bob: money, cash

hang sandwich: a ham sandwich

tripe: edible sections from the stomachs of farm animals, in particular oxen, sheep, or goats. (Note: if you ever want to eat again, don’t google images).

Sláinte! (pronounced slán-jah):  an Irish toast, meaning “to your health.”

a claddagh ring: A  traditional Irish ring that features two hands clasping a heart topped by a crown. It is most often given as a token of love, though it can also mean friendship. When worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointing to the fingertip, the wearer indicates they are single. Worn on the same finger but with the heart pointing toward the palm suggests the wearer is in a relationship. When the ring is on the left hand wedding ring finger, it means the person is married or engaged.

Good for who? Leap Year is great for a quiet night at home alone. And this one is for rom-com lovers only. We are a special breed and no one but the forgiving rom-com aficionado will find the worthwhile moments beyond the movie’s flaws. Sexual references are minimal, with some hells, a couple of as*es, and one very loud and distinct  JC  which will grate on the baptist minister’s wife like fingernails on a chalkboard. That’s too bad, because I think she would have liked this one.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Coq au vin and the toast you’ve been looking for

The toast  Anna and Declan stumble upon an Irish wedding, and are invited to stay. The bride gives this toast to her husband, which several readers of this blog have asked me about over the past two years. This would be a lovely one to recite at your own wedding or that of a friend.

“May you never steal, lie or cheat.

But if you must steal, then steal away my sorrows.

And if you must lie, lie with me all the nights of my life.

And if you must cheat, then please cheat death,

because I couldn’t live a day without you.”

The recipe  On their travels, Declan and Anna stay in a small farmhouse and cook dinner for their hosts. They make the french dish coq au vin with fresh ingredients found in the garden. Rumour has it this dish — a sort of chicken and veg stew braised with red wine — takes several hours to prepare authentically, but quick and dirty recipes for it abound online. Here’s a delicious quicky coq au vin recipe from http://www.eatingwell.com that I tested on the weekend. It took about an hour, and I swapped out the dry red Zinfandel for red cooking wine which was cheaper and still delish!

Eatingwell.com said it makes four servings, but I found it only made three. Note: I served my dish with yellow baby potatoes — halved, sprinkled with olive oil, and baked in the oven on a cookie sheet while I prepared the recipe.  Also note: Unlike Declan O’Callaghan, I did not kill my own chicken to make this.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts (about 12 ounces each), skin removed, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, preferably Zinfandel
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Place flour in a shallow dish. Cut each chicken breast in half on the diagonal to get 4 portions about equal in weight. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and roll through the flour.
  2. Whisk water with 2 tablespoons of the leftover flour in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook, turning once or twice, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. (To make sure the chicken would be cooked completely through, I gave the thicker pieces a head start in the microwave. Just a few minutes for each piece).
  4. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan; reduce heat to medium-low. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add broth, wine, tomato paste and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring once or twice, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate. (Note: I did not have a thermometer to test the chicken — another reason I pre-cooked the chicken a bit in the microwave first).
  7. Increase the heat under the sauce to medium-high. Stir the water-flour mixture, add it to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Serve the chicken with the sauce, sprinkled with parsley. Optional baby potatoes placed along side.

Enjoy!

Paula Jane

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Made of Honor

(Columbia Pictures)

DVD (2008) Written by A.Sztykiel, D.Kaplan, H.Elfont/Directed by Paul Weiland   STARRING: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan

The story: Hannah and Tom meet at Cornell University when he mistakes her for her roommate in the middle of the night. Hannah maces Tom in the eyes with Eternity by Calvin Klein and they are BFFL ever since. It’s now 10 years later, they’re living in New York, and they’re just as tight as ever. Tom (played by Patrick Dempsey) is a wealthy, heartless womanizer and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) is a loveless art conservator geek. She says “I love you” too much and he has a bizarre need to only say those words to strange dogs. He’s been with so many women but Hannah has never been one of them. She’s his best friend and that’s good enough for him. Hannah, meanwhile, seems to have hidden feelings for this man-child but Tom is oblivious.

Hannah is suddenly called away to Scotland on a paintings acquisition trip for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is gone for six weeks, and this is when Tom realizes just how much he misses her. It’s a total Ross and Rachel moment (almost eerily so) when Hannah finally returns and Tom meets her at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and the intention to confess how he feels. But she’s met a new man and he’s come back to New York with her to announce their engagement. “Tom,” Hannah asks, “will you be my maid of honor?”

It’s a 6 Made of Honor is nothing near genius, but there’s something about this little story that pleases me. Perhaps it’s the Scottish scenery that woos me, or the lead characters, or the humour in watching Patrick Dempsey hanging with the girls as he carries out his MOH duties? The movie should have spent more time up front developing Hannah and Tom’s friendship, and I wish Tom’s moments with the dogs didn’t feel so obviously plopped in just to build the theme. But still, I refuse to abandon it. I think it’s cute, even though critics have not been kind (it received a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and phrases like “bonehead plot” have been thrown around like wedding confetti.)  Several of my girl friends, however, have watched Made of Honor and enjoyed it. It’s not a movie you should buy to own, but it does make a good cheapy weekend rental.

The envelope, please Made of Honor should win a prize for Most humiliating attempt to win back a girl.  Patrick Dempsey in a mini kilt with white briefs underneath. I needn’t say more.

Sweet extras The scenery is worth the watch. Fiancée Colin lives in a Scottish castle and the last third of the movie takes place here. It’s actually the beautiful and haunting 13th-century Eilean Donan castle, which rests in the Scottish highlands just outside Dornie. The Eilean Donan castle was also featured in several other films including Highlander (1985), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), and the James Bond film The World is not Enough (1999). Interior castle shots are a mishmash of other locations, including Dunvegan castle on the Isle of Skye.

Good for who? Watch this movie if you like Patrick Dempsey, wedding-related rom-coms, or the sublimity of castles by moonlight. But watch out: there’s coarse language and sexual references scattered steadily throughout. Don’t even bother inviting the Baptist minister’s wife over for this one because just when you think you’ve heard the word “balls” enough, you’ll hear it again. I suppose if one doesn’t like the movie, one could make a drinking game of it?

The movie is rated PG-13 for language and sexual references. Here’s a full breakdown of the content on Screenit.com’s review of the movie.

Paula Jane


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Roman Holiday

DVD (1953)  Written by Ian McLellan Hunter / Directed by William Wyler

(image: Paramount)

I was raised on black-and-white movies. My dad is a film buff, and as for me, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what Ioh, oops, flashback, sorry, I mean I saw hundreds of old movies as a child. Yet of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she…no wait, I mean, of all the old movies I’ve seen growing up, I don’t remember ever being shown an Audrey Hepburn film. So it was really exciting when I recently got to watch my first Hepburn film at the Oxford  in Halifax — a classic theatre, complete with balcony.

The film was Roman Holiday, a 1953 romance-comedy which tells the story of a princess and an unscrupulous American newspaper man. On a tour of Europe, Princess Anne (“from a country which shall remain nameless”) seems to be on the verge of losing her sanity.  Unable to handle the pressures of her  exhausting schedule, she slips away from her guardians in the middle of the night and enjoys 24 hours of freedom in Rome. She meets reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who spends much of the day with her as she experiences life’s little pleasures, many of them for the first time. The catch is that she doesn’t know that he knows that she’s Princess Anne. He’s secretly recording her every move, and we’re cringing at the thought of what he’s going to do with the story once they part ways.

Hepburn has such likeability, and it’s no wonder she won an Oscar for this role. If you’ve never seen Audrey Hepburn in action, you’ll fall in love with her here. Her character’s sparkling personality and naïveté is such a great contrast to co-star Gregory Peck, who is tall, dark and kinda grumpy and bitter.  The story feels so fresh and clever, despite the age of the film. Watching Roman Holiday caused me to re-assess my definition of rom-coms, which I truly thought was etched in stone when I started this blog. So I don’t spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll just say the ending of Roman Holiday pleasantly surprised me. I loved how it played out, and it brought to mind the wise words of my screenwriting professor which I have since added to my article What’s a romantic comedy? Not this.

Sweet extras The 1994 film Only You referenced Roman Holiday in more ways than I originally realized. The most obvious, of course,  is the visit to the ancient sculpture La Bocca della Verità (“The Mouth of Truth”), a scene in which Tomei and Downey Jr. actually recite lines from the Hepburn-Peck film. Watch both films and see if you can spot the references to Roman Holiday in Only You. I found five.

Good for who? This is a movie for absolutely anyone, except those who really dislike black-and-white movies. There is a colourized version of the film available, but I encourage you to watch it in black and white—the way the good Lord intended it!

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie!

When life overwhelms you and drives you to little princess hissy fits, take a lesson from Princess Anne and shake up your routine. Explore your own city or a nearby town, or maybe just try something you’ve never tried before: a new hairstyle, gelato, or perhaps a little champagne with your lunch. The idea is just to get out, enjoy something new, and appreciate the little things each day has to offer. I’ve been working on a writing project for the past two weeks and yesterday decided I needed a Princess-Anne-inspired break. With a Pavarotti CD, a bag of roast chicken chips, and my smelly dog Chachi, I drove to Wolfville, a little college town I love about 45 minutes away. Wolfville is not Rome, and I am no princess, but you get the idea. This would be a nice afternoon to myself.

Since the whole experience was about exploring and trying something new, I’m proud to say that I learned two new things about my dog that day: one, he is not a Pavarotti enthusiast (see photo. His ears are back. I think they’re bleeding.), and two, Chach is a little Houdini. When we first got out of the car, he slipped his collar while my back was turned. I found him at the side of a pizzeria, a few blades of grass stuck to his face. I scolded him, but he seemed in great spirits and was jumping around happily. I think the little numbskull was having his own Audrey Hepburn moment.

We strolled for a half hour, enjoying the sun that had broken through the clouds. I then put Chachi in the car while I explored a few shops and ate lunch. I chose a creepy dark pub where I was one of three seated customers. There were two junkies at the bar. I watched a darts competition on the widescreen and admired a set of faux Greek vases next to the beer signs. I said to the waitress: “I want to try something I’ve never tried. Name some weird things you serve.” She suggested some sort of mundane sandwich with a pickle. I exclaimed “Seafood chowder! Got any?” My plan had been to go my entire life without eating seafood chowder (most seafood does not appeal to me) but heck, I’d do it for Audrey. The waitress said that yes, she had some homemade Nova Scotia chowder, but she looked very concerned as she said “It’s got lobster in it…it’s got scallops in it… it’s in milk…it comes with a roll…” She said these things as if it were a list of dire warnings. No matter, I said, please bring it to me with a Diet Coke.

The chowder soon arrived — with some of the sauce splashed around the sides of the bowl as if the haddock had been jumping mere seconds ago — and I was taken aback. “Lady,” I wanted to say to the waitress, “this fish soup smells like fish!”   But it was actually very good, although way too rich in taste for me to finish.  It was like a Hershey’s Cookies n’ Crème chocolate bar in that way,  only full of fish.  In the bathroom stall afterward, I was scrawling notes about the chowder and when I got  up, my pen dropped into the toilet. I would have left it there, but this was the last of my favourite pens (Basin Stationary has discontinued them). So the Princess put her hand into Rome’s Mouth of Truth and I put mine into Wolfville’s toilet water. Ah, sweet synchronicity.

The best discovery of the afternoon was an excellent used bookstore called The Odd Book which has a terrific history and classics section. I bought a book called Late Medieval Italy, and I could have browsed the store all afternoon had I not been required to return to my responsibilities and duties as princess of the Woodlawn subdivision.  I returned a better, more worldly woman.

Paula Jane

 

 

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Only You

DVD (1994)  Written by Diane Drake/Directed by Norman Jewison 

(Image: TriStar Pictures)

Damon Bradley. This is a name 11-year-old Faith Corvatch gets from a Ouija board one windy spooky evening. It’s the name of the man she’s going to one day marry. “My soul mate! My other half!” she exclaims. Cut to 14 years later: the sweet and slightly-flakey Faith (Marisa Tomei) is a school teacher who seems to have forgotten all about the mysterious Damon. She’s engaged to marry a practical podiatrist named Dwayne and although Faith still believes in true love and destiny, she has resigned herself to the fact that “life’s not like how it is in the movies.”

But 10 days before her wedding, she hears that name again — Damon Bradley. Chasing what she truly believes is her destiny, Faith flies to Italy in pursuit of the man she’s meant to be with, even though she’s never met him.  “It is irresponsible of me to marry the wrong person!” she wails. Faith is a bit self-absorbed (the kind of friend you’d love to monkey-punch now and again) but she is kept in check by her sister-in-law Kate (Bonnie Hunt) who joins her on this spur-of-the-moment trip to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Hunt is the quintessential BFF and rom-com sidekick: she’s consistently funny and really knows how to work a chiffon scarf (see “Live this movie” below).

If you love romantic comedies, and you haven’t seen Only You, you must beg for my forgiveness and then rent this movie immediately. It’s the ultimate girl-trip movie with spectacular scenery, and it’s fun to see Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. when they were so young and unmarred by time, prison or Mickey Rourke.  Only You often rates just a “6” or “7” with most critics, but don’t listen to that nonsense. I agree with Roger Ebert: on the rom-com scale, Only You is easily a “9”.  I love this quote from Ebert’s 1994 review: “Only You is the kind of lighthearted romance that’s an endangered species in today’s Hollywood. It is total fantasy, light as a feather, contrary to all notions of common sense, it features a couple of stars who are really good kissers — and it takes place mostly in Venice, Rome, and the glorious Italian hillside town of Positano. What more do you want?”

Sweet extras  Two beautiful hotels in the film—the Hotel Danieli in Venice, and the Hotel Sirenuse in Positano—are real, and their exteriors and parts of their interiors were used in the making of the film (see “Live this movie” below).

Good for who?  This is a perfect girls-night movie – maybe not so much for the boyfriend or husband; it’s also a great one to watch alone. As for content, there’s a bit of quick groping and Robert Downey Jr. throws a couple of JCs our way, but it’s clean beyond that.  I have a friend who’s freaked out by Ouija boards,  soothsayers, and skeletons in old-lady dresses: this movie has two of those things, but only at the beginning and they are played out in a lighthearted way.

Loved this movie? Live this movie!

When taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to stalk a man you’ve never met, you’ve got to pack light. So how do you keep yourself looking fresh and sophisticated with a limited wardrobe? From Venice to Positano,  best friend Kate made genius use of a black and white chiffon scarf which reappeared with her time and again over the weekend.  Here’s how to do what Kate did while exploring la bella Italia.  You will need a square large chiffon scarf.

1. The hairband:  When that naughty Giovanni took Kate on a tour of Rome’s fountains, she wore her scarf this way with her hair down.  (a) Fold square scarf in half to form a triangle.  Continue folding along the bias like this to form a long band.  (b) Place band over the head and tie securely but not too tight into a knot behind the head. The knot should be  under the hair and at the neck. (c) Let the ends of the scarf drape over one shoulder.

2. The scarf  scarf: Dress up a plain sweater by just draping the scarf around your neck. Allow one end to fall to the front, and the other to the back.

3. The Grace Kelly:  This style is worn for drama or for protecting a hairdo. Kate wore the Kelly when the gang hit the coastal roads of Italy to Positano in an open convertible. It’s easy: (a) Fold square scarf into a triangle. (b) Place atop the head with folded side toward the front and the triangle point toward the back. (c) Cross the two ends in front of the neck and pull them to the back. (d) Tie the ends in a knot at the back, tucking in any loose edges of the scarf under the knot.

4. The shawl:  This style looks lovely with a sleeveless dress. Just fold the large square scarf into a triangle and drape it over the shoulders — either pinning it in front or allowing it to drape naturally.  Kate wore the scarf in a shawl style as she arrived at the Hotel Sirenuse in Positano.

 

Live the stalker lifestyle!  If you’re travelling to Italy, you can retrace the steps of Faith and Kate on their hunt for Damon Bradley. From Venice, down through Tuscany to Rome and then along the coast to Positano, you can stay in two of the actual hotels featured in the movie.

 

Hotel Danieli, Venice:  The girls alight from a gondola at the Hotel Danieli in Venice, but they’ve just missed the elusive Damon Bradley by an hour. The girls hang out in the lobby (featured in the film) and ransack a hotel room, looking for clues. This five-star hotel overlooks Italy’s Arno River.  For reservations, or just to drool and dream, visit www.danielihotelvenice.com. Rooms start at approximately EUR 550  a night ($700 US/CDN). The ever-generous Kate put the room on her credit card.  I’m sure your BFF will do the same for you.

Sirenuse Hotel, Positano: Faith and Kate stayed at the gorgeous Sirenuse Hotel overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Book online  or just watch the Positano webcam and wish you were there at  www.sirenuse.it. (photo: caprionline.it)  A two-bedroom suite with a seaview is just EUR 2,000 – EUR 3,400 per night — that’s approximately $3,000 – $5000 US/CDN per night.  Did Giovanni pay for this one, or did Kate put it on her credit card again?

Paula Jane

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