Craig Elmore

November 19, 2013

Bake Sale for Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

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Hey Everyone,

My friend Diana Stewart is hosting an online bake sale and auction this Thursday.  The money raised will go to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines.  Below is my interview with Diana where she tells how she came up with the idea and her personal connection to The Philippines.

1.) You’re having a bake sale to help relief for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines.  What gave you the idea for the bake sale? 
I actually hosted an online bake sale to raise money following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti back in 2010 (http://thechiclife.com/2010/01/online-bake-sale-for-haiti-bid-here.html). That bake sale was inspired by this bake sale in NYC by Super Vegan (http://supervegan.com/blog/vegan-bake-sale-for-haiti-we-need-your-help/). I felt helpless watching the coverage following the earthquake and decided that if I couldn’t donate a lot of money, I could donate a lot of my time to help raise funds. So, I reached out to my friends in the food and healthy living blog community and received tons of support and donations. They’re a great group of kind and supportive people! This time around, my sister actually texted me suggesting I host another online bake sale but for the Philippines this time. This time, the disaster hits a little closer to home for me since my mom is actually from the Philippines. 
 
2.) How can someone donate to the bake sale? 
The online bake sale/auction to raise money for the Philippines will open at 9pm ET on Thursday, November 21st, and it will run for 24 hours. Anyone can bid on one or more of the donated baked goods (and other items) and whoever has the highest bid by the end of the auction will win the item. Winners will actually donate their money directly to the charities supported by this bake sale and auction. So, by purchasing something from the auction, they will essentially be donating to the bake sale. I’ve also posted links to the donation pages for the two charities the bake sale is supporting in case anyone can’t participate in the bake sale but wants to make a donation on their own.
 
3.) What kind of baked goods are for sale?  
We have tons of stuff! So far, people have donated everything from cookies to granola, from healthy to paleo-friendly to decadent. We have delicious listings, including Banana Nutella Bread, Paleo Pumpkin Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Oatmeal Chewy Bars. On top of that, we also have some non-baked-goods up for auction, including gift cards, homemade grocery bags, and a handmade crochet hat. And, I recently added some local Charlotte, NC items that can be arranged for local pick-up from local bakers and businesses, including 5Church Restaurant and Y2 Yoga.
4.) How does someone make a bid? 
At 9pm ET on Thursday, November 21st, I will publish a link on http://thechiclife.com to the full listing of auction/bake sale items. There will be a button/link to bid on each item that will go to each item’s individual auction page. Anyone can bid on an item by leaving a comment on the respective page with their bid amount. The person with the comment with the highest bid before 9pm ET on Friday, November 22nd will be the winning bidder, and I’ll email them with instructions from there.
 
5.) Where will the money raised go to? 
The winning bidder will have their choice of where to make their donation – either the Typhoon relief fund for the American Red Cross or World Food Programme. 100% of the bid amount will go directly to one of these charities. Once I receive confirmation that a winning bidder has made their donation, I’ll let the bidder and the donator work out the rest from there so things are convenient for both.

 

You can read more about Diana and the bake sale on her blog at    http://thechiclife.com/2013/11/call-for-donations-online-bake-sale-and-auction-for-the-philippines.html

 

November 11, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club

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Based on a true story in the 1980’s, Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey as hard partying Texas electrician and sometimes rodeo bull rider Ron Woodroof who is shocked to learn he’s contracted HIV and given only 30 days to live.  Desperate and left with little options Woodroof begins making trips to Mexico to acquire medicine not yet approved by the FDA.  When the medicine begins to help his symptoms Woodroof starts selling the drugs in Texas to other HIV patients.  He makes an unlikely partner with Rayon, played by Jared Leto, a transvestite prostitute who also has the disease.  Together they successfully created The Dallas Buyers Club.

This film is the latest chapter of The McConaissance.  For those who aren’t movie junkies The McConaissance refers to McConaughey’s career/artistic revival after many years stuck in romantic comedies.  I was one of many people who had made the mistake of dismissing him as an onscreen mimbo.  However he has recently strung together an impressive list of performances in independent films including The Lincoln Lawyer, Mud, and the X-rated Killer Joe.  McConaughey’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club is the best and most surprising of this list.  I think he’ll get an Oscar nomination for it.  Perhaps Leto will too.  He does very strong work as the street smart yet tragically drug-addicted Rayon.

There has been a lot a build up to this movie, or I should say to McConaughey’s weight loss.  I can remember as far back as a year ago seeing him mention it in interviews for other movies and I have to say that it is an incredible physical transformation.  He looks nothing like the handsome leading man we’re used to seeing.  Both he and Leto lost A LOT of weight to accurately portray their characters and their dedication has paid off.

Jennifer Garner sadly is another matter.  She plays a doctor who is stuck between supporting McConaughey’s character and condemning him.  Hers is the least flashy and interesting character in the movie and I don’t think Garner is one of those actresses who have the ability to elevate the level of material she’s given.  She’s only as good as the material and the material for her doesn’t have the depth that McConaughey and Leto’s characters have.  Hilary Swank was originally cast in the role before she dropped out.  Perhaps she could have done something more with it or maybe she saw it for the dull role that it is.

Although the movie deals with the difficult subject of AIDS the script is smart enough to include humor whenever it’s appropriate, giving the movie some much needed levity.  That’s one thing that makes it easier and more fun to watch than 12 Years a Slave, another true story dealing with a difficult subject matter.  Much of the humor comes from McConaughey’s character, his ability to scam his way out of some sticky situations and his failure to get out of others.  The director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack know when to have fun with these characters and when to focus on how devastating AIDS is to the human body and the stigma it carried in the 80’s when little was known about the disease.

My Grade: A-

November 9, 2013

My Tinder Dates

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For Distance it should say “RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!!”

November 6, 2013

12 Years a Slave

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“12 Years a Slave” is the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man living in the antebellum United States.  He’s a musician happily married with children living in the North.  One day he is offered a job in Washington D.C.  Northrup takes the job only to wake up one morning to find that the people he was working for have abducted him and sold him into slavery in Louisiana.

Northrup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is an educated well-spoken man who has to learn the hard way that showing his intelligence and revealing his background can be extremely dangerous.  Another slave early on gives him the advice to keep his mouth shut because that is the only way to survive as a slave.

Throughout his time as a slave Northrup encounters a few different kinds of slave owners.  At first he is bought at a slave market by a plantation owner named Ford, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who puts Northrup to work.  What’s interesting about Ford is that he appears to genuinely like Northrup.  He listens to Northrup, gives him a violin to play and favors Northrup’s opinion over some of his employees.  This raises the tough and interesting question of whether or not a slave owner can be a good man.  Northrup wants to believe Ford is a good man in the hopes that Ford will grant him his freedom but as another slave reminds Northrup he’s still a slave owner and you’re a slave.

Later Northrup is sent to another plantation owned by the cruel Edwin Epps played by Michael Fassbender.  Epps quotes the Bible to his slaves, using it as an excuse to beat them if they displease him.  Another of the slaves is Patsey played by Lupita Nyong’o.  Hers might be the most heartbreaking character.  Epps is attracted to her, which leads to jealousy and brutality.

Two scenes in particular that stuck with me, involved the slave owners whipping the slaves.  There have been movies that have shown this before but these two were shot with the whipping in the background, at a distance while other slaves were going about their work as if nothing was happening.  This gives the audience a profound sense of how common and ordinary this horrible and barbaric act was on these plantations.

As the movie progresses I felt we were seeing Ejiofor’s character speaking less and less.  Instead there were more scenes of Ejiofor’s anguished face speechless while Fassbender was doing the talking.  There is even a moment where Ejiofor is sitting in silence alone, his eyes looking right into the camera at us looking as if he has nothing left in him.  As if the man we met at the beginning of the film has been beaten down so much that he may have given up all hope and may be completely gone.

One misstep I think the film makes is the inclusion of Brad Pitt.  He appears for a few scenes at the end of the film.  I think it seems out of place to throw in a movie star into a movie like this after an hour and a half of seeing great and believable character actors, or actors not quite at the movie star level of Pitt.  It did take me out of the movie a bit and I’ve never liked Pitt when he tries accents.  However I have to acknowledge that Pitt is also a producer on the film and perhaps without his presence the movie wouldn’t have been made or would have gotten a smaller budget.

This is the 3rd feature film for director Steve McQueen and “12 Years a Slave” has some common themes with his past work; suffering, torture of the human body and spirit.  McQueen is a director who isn’t afraid to tackle difficult themes and stories.  He’s shown this with his previous work in “Hunger” about prisoners on a hunger strike and “Shame” where the main character is a sex addict.  For a newer filmmaker he has made bold choices and has been able to pull them off.

However, I do find it difficult to be excited about his work because it’s difficult to watch.  That’s not to say that all movies should be carefree but I do want my movies to be fun and entertaining and that’s difficult to have when your watching 2 hours of suffering.  I don’t want McQueen to start making romantic comedies but it’s hard to watch his work and not want a stiff drink afterwards but perhaps that’s the point.

My Grade: B+.  It may not be a fun night at the movies but it is an incredible story.

November 4, 2013

Carrie

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Based on a novel by Stephen King Carrie is the story of Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.  The novel was  previous adapted in 1976 and starred Sissy Spacek as the title character.

I went into this movie not having read the book but having seen the original movie and having seen it I can say there aren’t a lot of surprises in the new movie.  This new version does give us more of Carrie’s mother, played well by Julianne Moore, who believes Carrie to be evil even before her powers arrive.

This is an interesting addition but beyond that there isn’t anything new to the story.  Nothing new is explored about Carrie or the other characters.  In fact the trailer pretty much shows scenes from the very end of the movie, so even the filmmakers know that they aren’t going to surprise us.  So as is the case with many remakes if you’ve seen the original there isn’t any real reason to see this new one.

Now that’s not to say that the remake is bad, if fact I did like it.  I think it’s well cast.  Chloe Grace Moretz has played dark characters and been in dark movies before and she’s very good as Carrie.  Though still vulnerable, she seems less fragile to me than I remember Sissy Spacek in the original.  When we see her at the prom finally fitting in and having fun we do believe that maybe things could be ok for Carrie even though we know that doom is still headed her way and your heart breaks for her when it happens.

The director Kimberly Peirce is working in the horror genre for the first time.  I think she and the movie do a good job except the payoffs felt a little like a letdown.  When Carrie unleashes her power to get her revenge I felt like it was missing some bite.  I think some of the special effects got in the way and became too cartoonish.  Also the final scene of the original at Carrie’s grave became a classic, the remakes falls short of it.

My Grade: B. If you’re new to Carrie it’s worth seeing.  If you remember the original don’t bother.

October 31, 2013

Captain Phillips

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Captain Phillips is the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years.  It stars Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips and Barkhad Abdi as Muse the leader of the pirates.

The story is in part a tale of two captains.  One who is more intelligent and the other more ruthless and willing to do anything to accomplish his mission.  The movie opens with both men leaving their homes and getting ready for their jobs.  A cat and mouse game develops between the two of them and it goes back and forth throughout the movie.  Things become even further complicated when the Navy gets involved.  What we get is a sense that no one is really in control of the situation and anything can happen at anytime which adds to the tension.

The film is directed by Paul Greengrass whose past work includes the last two Bourne Identity movies and United 93.  What Greengrass does is bring a documentary hand-held visual style to his movies.  It is especially effective here because this movie is based on a true story.  It does help create a sense of chaos, a sense that this is really happening.  Even though many people may remember this story and know how it ends, Greengrass is still able to keep you on the edge of your seat.  I was gripping the armrests of my seat during the sequence when the pirates are attempting to board the ship.  I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next even though I knew they were going to get on the ship and I felt that way for entire movie.

One of the joys of this movie is seeing Tom Hanks again.  It’s been a while since Hanks has been great and in a great movie.   So this movie may seem like a bit of a comeback for him, which I am very happy with because as a BIG movie fan I think we need as much great Tom Hanks as possible.  As Captain Phillips we see Hanks playing a smart and resourceful man but also a very vulnerable one.  There are scenes where Hanks brought the audience I was in to tears.  It’s great to have him back.

The actors playing the Somali pirates are terrific as well.  The actors, who actually live in Minneapolis, are lead by Barkhad Abdi as Muse.  His character is given as much screen time as Hanks.  Another interesting element that Greengrass brings to the movie is an understanding of the pirates.  We see their horrible living conditions, how piracy may be the only option for them.  There is a moment when Hank’s says, “There must be something better you can do than kidnap people.“  Abdi’s response is, “Maybe in America.”  This may generate sympathy for the pirates and it may not.  Greengrass leaves that up to the viewer.

There are a few flaws with the movie.  It does feel a little stagnant after a while when Hanks and the pirates are on the escape vessel and the movie does feel a little bit too long.  However the movie does make up for it with a fantastic ending.

My Grade: B+

 

October 31, 2013

The Counselor

The-Counselor

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

That’s about all I remember, falling asleep.  It commits the worst sin a movie can, it’s boring.

The Counselor, the latest from director Ridley Scott, on paper has all the elements needed for a great movie.  It’s got a good director, impressive cast, an acclaimed author and an interesting subject matter.  The story takes place in Texas where a lawyer, play by Michael Fassbender, finds himself over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.  I could go into further detail about which movie star plays what character but none of it matters because the script is so vague and dull it loses your interest very quickly.

I think I fell asleep about half way through and woke up for the last 5 minutes.  In that 5 minutes I saw Brad Pitt die, Penelope Cruz’s dead body, Michael Fassbender crying and Cameron Diaz is somehow victorious over all of them.  I’m not sure what happened to Javier Bardem.  I didn’t care about any of it.

Ridley Scott’s work is often criticized for being style over substance.  I think that’s a fair assessment.  While he is considered an A-level director, his filmography has arguably more misses than hits and The Counselor is one of his worst that I’ve seen.

My Grade: Bring a Pillow

 

October 30, 2013

My Date With A Married Woman

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Just got back from another first date.  Turns out she was married, had a boyfriend and her family tried to stage an intervention for her on Facebook.  Now you might think this information would cause me to immediately get up and leave without finishing my meal but I didn’t.  Why, because she was HOT!  So I sat there and listened to her for another 2 hours, said goodnight and went home.

As I was driving home I realized that the girls I’ve gone out with this year have been the most attractive of my entire life and all of them, with the exception of one, have been such a MESS.  Is there something to that?  What do you guys think?

Maybe I’ll take my Uncle’s advice and “go ugly” from now on.

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