Month: March 2016

Vampire Weekend

For some reason Easter always makes me think of two things, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and vampires. Now the deliciousness of the greatest pairing in food history is understandable, its peanut butter and chocolate together for goodness sake, but the vampire thing maybe not so much. Let me try to explain, Easter is when we celebrate the resurrection and since vampires are the living embodiment of the previously dead it kinda makes perfect sense. Vampires have been considered pretty cool for a long time since 1897 when Bram Stoker first created Dracula. That coolness factor was seriously damaged by the Twilight series when they became sparkly yet dull-as-dishwater and turned Kristin Stewart into one of the highest paid “actresses” in Hollywood, further proof that there really is no justice in this world.

Barnabas Collins was my first vampire, and you know what they say, you never forget your first. I used to run home from school in first grade so I could catch the tail end of Dark Shadows, if my grandmother would let me. Now my grandma was a total soap addict but she was also pretty religious and did not think too highly of me watching a show about werewolves and vampires. She was a grandparent though and usually caved in and watched it along with me, probably praying for my mortal soul the entire time. So in honor of Easter and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and all things Cadbury, here are a couple of vampire pics you very well may have missed but are well worth checking out this holiday weekend.

What We Do in the Shadows: Fans of Christopher Guest and his mockumentary style of movie making will adore this flick about a group of four vampires living together as flatmates in New Zealand. Vampires, they are just like the rest of us, they fight over who’s supposed to do the dishes or take the trash out or who got blood all over the bathroom. I hate when that happens.

Jermaine Clements (Flight of the Concords) is Vladislav, an 862 year old vamp with a mortal enemy called The Beast (his ex). Taiki Waititi is Viago, a 379 year old romantic who still loves Katherine, his girlfriend from the old country, currently living in a nearby senior facility. Jonathan Brugh is Deacon, who at a mere 183 years young, is the baby of the group, especially when you consider the oldest vamp is 8,000 year old Petyr. Petyr looks like Gollum, lives in the basement and does not interact much with his roomies. Petyr does not have to attend house meetings nor is he expected to do any chores, so apparently age does have some benefits, if you happen to make it to 8,000.

The quartet spend their days sleeping and their nights prowling the streets of Wellington looking for victims and hoping to get asked into one of the cool clubs. Deacon has a servant/familiar, Jackie (Jackie van Beek) who is a mega-desperate vampire wannabe type. One night to speed up the process she invites an ex-schoolmate and an ex-boyfriend Nick (Cori Gonzales Mac) over for dinner in the literal sense but things go horribly wrong and next thing you know Nick is the new roommate. RIP Petyr.

Newbie Nick creates all sorts of problems for the other three but he does get them into all the clubs they so desperately wanted to go to and he comes with a computer nerd best mate named Stu (Stuart Rutherford) who hooks the vamps up with all the mod cons like cell phones and the internet. Fans of Flight of the Concords will recognize Rhys Darby (Murray from FOC) as Anton, the alpha dog of the werewolves who is a gentleman and expects his fellow wolves to act accordingly. If you need a good laugh after eating a bunch of ham and cheesy potatoes and way too many Peeps than this movie is for you. I loved it so much I’ve watched it twice. There is a sequel already in the works and I can’t wait. (HBO, iTunes rental, Amazon and Google Play for purchase)

Only Lovers Left Alive: If you like your vampires cultured and sophisticated with a smattering of clinical depression thrown in for good measure than this one’s for you. OLLA is a Jim Jarmusch film so you will either love it or hate it, depending on how much you like art house cinema and his particular minimalist style of movie-making.

Tilda Swinton is Eve, she lives in Tangier and spends her spare time reading one of the eight million books she has stashed in her funky casbah. Eve sneaks out at night to collect blood from her friend/dealer Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who it turns out really did write all of Bill Shakespeare’s plays, who knew? Eve’s husband Adam (Tim Hiddleston) lives in an abandoned neighborhood in Detroit making dark funereal music, buying vintage guitars and designing his own electrical system. He also moonlights as a doctor, names Faust, so he can get a constant supply of O negative blood, because killing people is so last year. Eve books herself on a couple of red eyes to Detroit to see if she can snap him out of his funk but since Adam used to pal around with Bryon and Shelley (not exactly known for being a barrel of laughs), it’s not looking too promising.

Adam drives Eve around Detroit at night proudly showing off his abandoned, dilapidated city. He even takes her to see the house Jack White grew up in and surprisingly it looks pretty good, especially compared to Adam’s, which could use a lot of TLC. Their happy reunion is short-lived however when Eve’s pain-in-the-ass and the ultimate houseguest from hell sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) shows up.

This movie is worth seeing for a lots of reasons but mainly for the performances of both Swinton and Hiddleston. She kicks ass and looks fabulous whilst doing it and Loki has never been hotter, he practically out iggies Iggy Pop himself and that is no easy feat. Hiddleston’s star has risen since this movie was made so he probably won’t be doing anymore weird little indie flicks like this which is too bad. Only Lovers Left Alive isn’t for everyone but fans of Jarmusch or movies that are not the same-old same-old will be glad they took the time to seek it out. (iTunes, Starz, Google Play)






Friday Night Lights

I did not grow up in a particularly religious household. We were Catholic in a very loosey goosey kind of way. My mother was the product of parochial schools and my father was a convert. The conversion happened years before I was born so in the sixteen years we had together the only Catholic experience I remember sharing with him was his funeral and he wasn’t really there so I’m not entirely sure that counts. Probably not.

Growing up the only times we went to church (my mother and I and sometimes my Swedish Lutheran grandmother, don’t ask) were the usual big deal holidays, Easter, Christmas, sometimes Palm Sunday. There were a couple of times in my life where I was a little more into it. After my father died I guilt-tripped my mother into going every Sunday for a while. My wanting to go regularly had absolutely nothing to do with the holy spirit and absolutely everything to do with a boy I went to high school with who had the kind of parents who MADE him go to weekly Mass. My goals were simple, sit close enough so when given the slightest chance we could shake hands during the “peace be with you” and “also with you” moment and no one would be the wiser and think that I planned it that way, no not at all. Teenagers think they are so smart. Problem was the parish was pretty large and finding space within the acceptable peace giving and receiving range was not that easy. I gave up eventually and went back to sleeping in on Sundays.

So while we did not go to confession or attend Mass regularly, the one thing we religiously did do was follow Lent rules. You had to give up something that mattered and there was no meat or poultry on Fridays, ever. Anyone who grew up in a Catholic home, even a not very religious one, probably did the same and can remember the dinners that came along with it. Friday meals often meant some sort of hotdish (casseroles for the non-Minnesota speakers).  Tuna hotdish was a staple and the bane of my Lenten existence. My mother made it like all the other suburban ladies of her generation with cream of mushroom soup, quite possibly the vilest creation Campbell’s ever foisted onto the culinary world, and I use that term loosely.

I cannot stand onions or mushrooms. She eventually caved in on the onions but the soup was non-negotiable. Heaven forbid anyone made a bechamel from scratch in those days. I did not care that the actual pieces of mushroom in the soup were the size of an atom, it was gross and disgusting and I much preferred the Fridays when she made salmon loaf or we had breakfast for dinner. The very best Friday night Lent dinners though were without a doubt going to a fish fry. Church fish frys are the best, VFWs and American Legions have their charm but nothing beats a church basement without proper restaurant-quality ventilation. It can quite literally take your breath away and stink up your clothes for days but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since many churches cater to a certain nationality based upon the ethnic background of their parishioners you can take a virtual culinary trip around the world for cheap (generally about ten bucks) and not even have to bag your liquids or be body searched. If you like pierogies hit up a Polish church, if you like hummus find a Lebanese one, there are lots of options out there and Lent is too dang short to not try at least a couple while you’re at it.

For a classic fish fry experience there are two in Minneapolis not to miss. St. Albert the Great is about the closest thing to fish fry heaven there is on Earth. St. Albert’s is a city church with a diverse parish. If I was ever going to be a regular church-going person this one could be it and not just because they have homemade grandma desserts of which I could eat each and every one. Spaghetti, soft white rolls that stick to the roof of your mouth like Wonder bread and a priest straight out of central casting who walks around the basement with a microphone in hand like he owns the place. Father Gillespie talks to everyone, tells bad jokes and cajoles people into buying raffle tickets or playing bingo, whether they want to or not.

The other big kahuna fish fry happens only once a season and it is so damn popular there is even a drive-thru option for those not wanting to face the sometimes Disney-esque lines. Our Lady of Grace calls themselves the Lollapalooza of fish frys which seems kinda appropriate if the alt-fest was held smack dab in the middle of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The fish comes from local eatery Tin Fish (they cook it outside to cut down on the odor situation) and the pasta courtesy of D’Amico. It’s not in a basement but a gymnasium and the desserts are from Costco but don’t hold that against them because the food is pretty stellar. Throw in Wally the Beerman and a good time is pretty much guaranteed to be had by all.