Friday, September 19, 2014

The Maze Runner Review #MazeRunner @MazeRunnerMovie

The Maze Runner - 4 Out of 5 Stars
By John Derby

Opens Friday September 19th
I liked it.  The movie had a whole lot of adventure and action, and a story that kept me in suspense from the puzzling beginning to the unanticipated end.  The seamless special effects had me lost in the tiny world of a wooded glade surrounded by a circular maze. The maze has 100 foot tall walls, gargantuan gates that open and close with their own clockwork, and cyborg scorpion creatures that seem to police the maze when the gates are shut to the inner sanctuary of the glade.

The movie is about a group of teen boys that have had their memories stripped, and have been placed in the glade with a new boy and rations added each month.   The movie opens after boys have been accumulating for 3 years.  The protagonist of this movie, played by Dylan O'Brien (who I remembered from the movie "Internship"), is shown arriving via an industrial elevator which pops up through the ground.  Even with his memory erased, he is motivated to get the group out of the glade.  He quickly rises from low man on the totem-pole to one of the elite "runners", who are allowed to run through the mazes during the day in the hope of finding a way out.

The story unfolds slowly, but always kept my attention. I didn't read the book, but a person who I saw the movie with said the story did not stray too far from the book.  As mysterious as the movie is, it seems the book is just as mysterious.  Halfway through the movie, a girl is brought in to the group, and I was pleasantly surprised that there were no romances or sexual situations added to a movie that did not need that.

This movie earns the PG-13 rating.  There is violence, and the maze and the creatures that roam it provide a good level of scariness.  I would not recommend this movie for kids under 13, unless they are OK with that kind of suspense and carnage (like my 10 year old daughter).

The Maze Runner kept my attention through its entirety.  It has a good story, great effects, a good use of action, and likeable characters and actors. The end of this movie has some closure, but it is clear that this movie is just the beginning of a longer                                                                                       story, one that I am looking forward to seeing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dunkin' Donuts in Santa Monica #donuts #foodies #LA

Dunkin' Donuts Rating..... 7.5 out of 10

Minimum 1 Hour Wait for Dunkin' Donuts at 7:20am
By John Derby
9/14/2014.  We love rating donuts.  Last Sunday morning, we got up early at 6:30am, got in the car by 7am, and drove to the new Dunkin' Donuts in Santa Monica.  My 12 year-old Nephew was very excited.  He had heard the hype about its popularity, and with his appreciation for donuts he insisted that we try it. He was sure we needed to leave early to beat the 2 hour long lines.  Well, it turns out that 7:20am was not early enough.  The line was out the door, around the corner, and 200' down the street.  We did not wait, and travelled one block to Krispy Kreme donuts.

In line, camera raised over my head to get a glimpse of the donuts
This Sunday we were motivated.  We got up at 5am.  Made it to Dunkin' Donuts at 5:45am.  Parked in front.  There was only a small line inside, maybe a 10 minute wait.  Service is really slow.  Not because the servers are slow, but because you can't see the donuts until you are at the register, and even then it is tough to see with several servers in the way. I think the biggest problem with the store is that the donuts are behind a 6' tall wall with fogged glass.  What are they thinking?  The menu (which is visible) doesn't help the donut selection, and mostly talks about breakfast sandwiches and drinks.

Looks good, but only 5 donuts in my box of 6
When it is our turn at the counter we have an on/off view of the donuts as the servers are constantly in the way.  All the donuts are labled with names that are not familiar.  A look up to the sign says donuts .99 cents, 6 donuts $5.49, and a dozen for $9.49.  So that must mean all donuts are .99 cents, right?  No.  Some single donuts are charged as two donuts.  I said I wanted to buy six donuts, and immediately the cashier rang up $5.49, and charged me.  Then we could make our selections, though we still had no idea what they offered yet. We quickly scanned the selection from afar, chose 5 donuts, two cake style, two raised style and a cinnamon roll (the cinnamon roll, called a coffee roll, is charged at the cost of two donuts).

How We Do Our Donut Ratings
About once a month, we buy donuts from one or more donut shops to rate them. We test a cinnamon roll and take turns choosing at least one more donut from each store.  The donuts are taken home and tested by our three judges: My 10 year old daughter Lauren, my 12 year old nephew Sean, and myself.  We each rate each donut using the Derby Donut Scale (scale of 1 to 10) and the averages are used to rate the shop.  The table below shows each donut with its scores (the Dunkin' Donuts names are in parenthesis).

9/14/2014 Donut Tasting - Raw Scores
Donut Name/Description  Lauren     Sean       John       Ave.    
Cinnamon Roll (Coffee Roll) 8 9 7.5 8.2
Plain Cake Donut (Old Fashioned) 5 8.5 8.5 7.3
Chocolate Raised (Chocolate Frosted) 7.5 8 5 6.8
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Donut (Double Chocolate)             8 9 8 8.6
Maple Raised 8.5 7 5 6.8

Comments from the judges

Lauren - I really liked their donuts

Sean - I would go back if the lines weren't so long

John - We tried both cake and raised donuts.  Usually the raised donuts are my favorites, but the dough in these donuts was not great. No softness or chewiness.  The plain cake was really good.

Conclusion - The donuts were pretty good, but not great.  Certainly not worth a long wait.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You Opens Friday #TIWILY

This Is Where I Leave You Jonathan Trooper and Elise

This is Where I Leave You opens this Friday and it is just as good as it looks, possibly even better. I was invited to a screening and lunch with the author and screen writer, Jonathan Trooper and it was difficult not to fawn all over him after watching the film.

As Jonathan said it is difficult to make a film that is equal parts comedy and drama and probably even hard to get a studio to make it, but this is just such a movie. You know those movies where you know all the laughs in it from seeing the trailer? Well this is not one of those, not even close. You are laughing through this entire film and every now and then you wipe away a tear and think " hey how did they get me all emotional and crying without me noticing?"

I admit that this film was highly relateable for me as the youngest of four children. It definitely reminded me of events during my father's passing with my own sibling heirarchy. Though my mother is yet to get a breast augmentation.  But you don't need to have lived it to get it. The main issue is just people trying to figure it out. There is a running gag of a toddler working on potty training throughout the film and it really is representational of all these characters just trying to learn how to deal with basic life issues.

The cast is stellar beginning with legend Jane Fonda and if possible picking up steam with Tina Fey and lead Jason Bateman. The rest of the cast is rounded out by a who's who of great TV show actors Adam Driver (“Girls”), Rose Byrne (“Neighbors,” “Bridesmaids”), Corey Stoll (“House of Cards,” “Midnight in Paris”), Kathryn Hahn (“Parks and Recreation”), Connie Britton (“Nashville”), Timothy Olyphant (“Justified”), Dax Shepard (“Parenthood”), Debra Monk (“Damages”), Abigail Spencer (“Rectify”), and Ben Schwartz (“House of Lies”)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Our Picks For 2014 Fall TV season

It's that time of year when all the new network shows are about to premiere. As a kid I would pour over our weekly copy of TV Guide to familiarize myself with all the new shows and try to make my picks. Basically nothing has changes, I just go to now.

Here are my picks for this fall. Some of them I have picked because they look really good and some of them are chosen because of beloved cast members I feel a loyalty to and am pulling for. I'll let you know which is which.

Wednesday Sept 17 10/9c The Mysteries of Laura (NBC)

This is cop show starring Debra Messing as a police officer struggling to balance work and family. It sounds formulaic, but the trailers look genuinely funny. I love the line about no one ever believing she'll shoot them. I really like Debra Messing and it's been awhile since we've seen her in a part where she can really do something. SO here's hoping this is as good as the trailer looks.

Sunday Sept 21 8/7c Madam Secretary (CBS)

There are two White House shows premiering this Fall and nothing against Kaherine Heigl State Of Affairs, but I pick Tea Leoni's. She plays the secretary of state who is surprised to be tapped for the position but more than capable if a bit short on patience for the theatre that is Washington. I'll admit I'm hoping for another West Wing here.

Thursday Sept 25 10/9c How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

This in Shondra Rhimes new show set in a law school. It star Viola Davis as a law professor who makes Kingsley in Paper Chase look like Mary Poppins. Based on the trailer it looks like her interactions with her students are going to cross every line there is and what they're learning from her may not be the best lessons.

Tuesday Sept 30 8/7c Selfie (ABC)

This is one of those shows with a cast member, Karen Gillian, whom I love. She was the female lead in Doctor Who for several years. This show is about a shallow social media addict, Eliza Dolley (Karen Gillian) who hires Henry(John Cho) to rehab her image. The names are straight out of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady we'll see how closely the show follows.

Thursday Oct 2 9/8c Gracepoint (FOX)

This is the American version of the hugely popular Broadchurch that aired last year on BBC America. I was told that the ending will change in the American version so all of us who were shocked by the English ending can experience it all over again, and hopefully be equally surprised by the American ending. This series will also star David Tennant but the rest of the cast will be new and includes Nick Nolte.

Thursday Oct 2 9:30/8:30c A to Z (NBC)

Here's a cute little sitcom about boy meets girl. That it stars Ben Feldman (Ginsberg in Mad Men) doesn't hurt at all. This looks like a fun premise and while I usually find sitcoms predictable this looks to have some original ideas. 

For a complete TV Guide calendar of all show premeire dates

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Complete List of Donut Shops on Westside of Los Angeles #Donuts #LA #LAFoodies

By John Derby

Its funny how the internet has made so many things easier.  However, while I was trying to look up all of the donut shops within 5 miles of my house, I realized that not everything is easy on the web. I paged through list after list of local donut shops, and realized that none of them were more than 50% complete.  So...after a year of searching for the best donut on the Westside, I have made a more complete list.  I believe I have listed all of the donut shops from Santa Monica to El Segundo, and from the beach to Overland, but there are still many shops to the East that we may try. My 10 year old daughter, my 13 year old nephew and myself, have traveled to many of the donut shops on the list, and I will post our previous ratings soon.

So, here it is.

If you find that I've missed a Westside donut shop please let me know in the comments and it will be added.

Donut Appetite!