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Jun, 2012

Movie Review: People Like Us

Last night I saw an advanced screening of the new Dreamworks drama/comedy, People Like Us, starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Hall D’Daddario. Plot summary goes that Sam (Pine) finds his estranged father has died and reluctantly returns home to Los Angeles hoping to inherit some money but instead finds out he has a 30 year old sister and young nephew. A result of his father’s extra-marital affair. As this relationship develops, Sam is forced to examine everything he believed to be true about his family and reevaluate his own life choices.

First off, I liked this movie a lot. It’s not the best drama in the world, but it’s a pretty darn good one. Dreamworks is selling it as a “dramedy” but there’s very little “medy”to it. It’s mostly drama and pretty heavy at that. The young Josh (D’Daddario) lends a few laughs to the picture, here and there, but overall it’s a serious film about family and relationships. Bring tissues.

Their are many strong points to this film – the acting is excellent and so it the direction. I was especially impressed with, well all of the main characters I mentioned in the first sentence up there, but Michelle Pfeiffer is great as the grieving widow and distant mother. Nice to see her playing her age and doing it well – wrinkles and all! The young boy in the film, Michael Hall D’Daddrio, is fantastic. I’m always amazed by superb child actors and he really does a great job delivering a wide range of subtle emotion over the span of a very large and demanding role for a kid his age. Pine and Banks were also super watchable and each of them delivered layered characters that were believable and compelling. The only kind of wasted role was Sam’s girlfriend, Hannah, played by Olivia Wilde. She did a fine job with a boring role that was mostly about exposition. And of course, the wonderful Philip Baker Hall as the attorney and long time friend of the deceased father, was as natural and seamless as ever. One of my favorites!

I found it interesting that the movie is loosely based on the real life events of writer/director, Alex Kurtzman who knew his father had had a family before his but never knew them. He then met his half-sister for the first time, completely by chance, at a party on the very same day he was thinking about writing a script about a guy meeting a long lost sister. Wacky!

The film has well developed characters and natural dialogue and only loses a little of that tightness at the end, when things feel a little more contrived at times, but not to the point where it ruins the rest. Not even close. My main complaint was the score. Composer A.R. Rahman is a two time Academy Award winning composer, but his work just didn’t jive with me on this one. Right from the beginning of the movie, the scoring felt a little too movie of the week-ish to me and was often overly sentimental and somewhat insipid. It was overly pronounced and I feel a good musical score should support, not manipulate above and beyond the actors’ performances. But maybe you love sap and you’ll love the score. Me, not so much.

However, the use of other music throughout the film was very good (the deceased father was an old school rock music producer) and songs by Bob Dylan, The Clash, Foghat, Loose Fur, James Gang, Charles Mingus and more are strategically placed and appreciated.

I wouldn’t categorize this as a total “chick flick” but it’s a drama and it’s not a good date movie. Go with someone you don’t mind crying in front of and maybe even see it with your brother or sister and have a feel good family date. From a professional point of view, it’s refreshing to see actors acting, writers writing and directors directing in something original again. Remember? That’s what movies used to be. For this reason alone, it is worth seeing.

People Like Us opens nationwide June 29, 2012.

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Jun, 2012

It's Summer And That Means One Thing: Milk

OK, maybe it also means school’s out, family vacations and omg I have a lot of cellulite I’m never putting on a swimsuit again, but there are also some awesome things you can make and chomp with milk this summer.

My friend and super awesome milk-loving blogger, Marsha Takeda Morrison, and I attended a cooking class sponsored by the fab Got Milk folks. Now those of you who know me know that I love to bake. Cook… not so much. I’m a good cook and can follow almost any recipe, but I’m no stranger to a package of Top Ramen (“Oriental flavor” is my fave. I know.) only because I really don’t like to cook. I was a little concerned about the hands-on aspect of this event as I’m more of a mouth-on person when it comes to food, but I can honestly say, I had a blast! Especially since we made desserts! YUM!

We paired up with a cooking buddy at our own cooking stations and first made Swiss merengue topped chocolate pudding tarts with Danielle Keene from Top Chef! Danielle was awesome, but the best part was getting to torch the top of the merengue AND I still have my eyebrows. Phew.

They look good enough to eat, don’t you think? We thought so, and we did. YUM! (I’m going to use the word “yum” a lot, fyi.)

Then my favorite part came next! Michelle Quilles of Blooming Gelatin Art taught us how to make GELATIN ART with milk based, colored gelatin injected into clear flavored gelatin using hypodermic syringes! Seriously one of the coolest culinary things I have ever seen! She made these gelatin flowers right in front of our eyes in just a matter of minutes:

Then I tried my hand at making the easiest flower, a chrysanthemum. Gosh, I’ve always wondered how to spell that and now I know. Onward… here’s what I made. Not bad for a first timer:

The next morning, Aubrey and I ate it at breakfast and it was delicious!

Of course, the Got Milk people treated us to a delicious lunch and a table full of other amazing milky summer desserts, my favorites being the Lavender Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Berry Caramel Sauce (YES you read it right) and the Coffee Banana Malt Ball Milk Shake. These sound pretty fancy-schmancy, but you’d be surprised how easy they are to make right at home. Here are a couple recipes for you to try, because I love you so much. Oh, and thanks to Eatz for letting us mess up your kitchen.

Cheers to summer eats and don’t forget your lactaid if you’re Asian. xo Amy


Lavender Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

 with Berry Caramel Sauce

Serves 8


  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 ¼ tsp. dried lavender
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp. powdered gelatin


In a saucepan over medium heat, bring vanilla bean, lavender, sugar, ½ cup milk and 1 ½ cups of heavy cream to a simmer.  Cover, remove from heat and set aside to steep for 30 minutes.   In a separate bowl, mix gelatin powder in remaining ½ cup milk to hydrate.  Reheat vanilla mixture and pour over gelatin mixture.  Whisk until combined and gelatin is dissolved.  Whisk in crème fraiche and strain.  Cool to room temperature.

With an electric mixer, whisk remaining 1 ½ cups of heavy cream to soft peaks.  Gently fold in vanilla bean mixture in two parts.  Pour into small greased ramekins and chill for 6 hours or overnight.  Unmold and serve with blueberry caramel and fresh fruit.

Berry Caramel Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ¾ cup fresh berries (in season), pureed
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Berry Caramel Directions:

In a saucepan over high heat, combine sugar and water.  Boil until mixture is an amber color. Add berry puree and butter.  Whisk until dissolved.  Strain and serve over panna cotta.


Coffee Banana Malt Ball Milkshake

Serves 4


  • 1 pint premium-quality coffee ice cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced
  • ¼ cup malt balls
  • Whipped cream
  • Cinnamon
  • Chocolate sauce (optional)


Combine ice cream, milk, bananas and malt balls in a blender until smooth.  In a tall glass, top the milkshake with whipped cream, malt balls and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Optional:  Before pouring milkshake, line glass with chocolate sauce for added touch.



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