Monthly Archives: February 2012

Tusker Lager & Jumanji

Welcome to the Jungle, Drinkers!

Do you ever really need an excuse to watch Jumanji? I doubt it. But in case you felt the need to justify watching a 1995 Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst avoid gunfire and wrestle alligators (no, I’m sorry, crocodiles), then grab yourself a Tusker Lager and prepare yourself for a confusing evening. That’s what I did! I haven’t enjoyed either of these in years, which made the evening even more surprising, exciting and altogether bizarre. Let’s get hunting, shall we?

For those who need a refresher, Jumanji is the terrifying tale of the world’s more sadistic children’s game. This magical board game lures in unsuspecting children with drums and then, upon the roll of the dice, unleashes unholy jungle-themed horrors into this mortal world. Essentially, Jumanji is a portal to hell in a completely accidental and allegorical way. The film begins with the younger version of Robin Williams being sucked into the board game, not to return for another 26 years when Kirsten Dunst and her baby bro unwittingly continue the game. With an uncanny ability to convince others, (and an ability to avoid all symptoms of PTSD) the two children get Robin Williams and his old flame to continue the game in order to dispel the jungely evils that the game has released. I’d like to point out that at this moment, the only things the game had let out were about 10 monkeys (that seem to multiply and learn to drive by the end of the film), a few giangantor mosquitos and a lone, male lion. I’m not animal control expert, but that doesn’t seem that hard to manage, does it? Regardless, shit continues to get real as the film progresses until Robin Williams’s character learns to be a man, face his fears and a roll a three. Jumanji!

I'd trust this man with my life. Wouldn't you?

Okay, enough exposition. How was the movie? It was fine. But for a movie that I assume that was geared towards kids, it’s wholly terrifying. The CGI in this film is actually quite good, so seeing a young boy get sucked into a board game is not something you shake off easily. Yes, the fantasy and the unnerving comedy of Robin Williams in the face of almost certain death does seem apt for a kids movie, but at other times it seems too dark or too twisted. Maybe that’s just my “adult” eyes judging this film, but it’s a film that does not inspire much confidence in adults. Our two “adult” heros are repeatedly described as being trapped in their childhoods while all the “real” adults bumble about helplessly.  I mean, I guess that’s no different than most kids movies… except that a crazy man in a hunting outfit can drop a bunch of coins on a counter and illegally purchase a silenced automatic sniper rifle. Other than that it’s a fairly standard kids movie that is both exciting and scary at the same time.

Remember when Kirsten Dunst looked the same as she always has?

So what was our Jumanji beer? It was East African Breweries’ Tusker Lager which all the way from Nairobi, Kenya. I actually first saw this back in high school when I spent a month in Tanzania (Kenya’s neighbor to the south). And no, I didn’t have one back then! Come on, guys! What do you take me for? Anyway, this lager is perfect for beating that Kenyan heat and is one of better light beers I’ve had. Though, to be fair, I haven’t had many light beers at all. Tusker pours a clean, straw color with minimal head. The beer smells a bit sweet and grainy, which is a good way of describing the beer. Though it is light and crisp, you get hit with strong notes of honey-like sweetness, fruit and grain. It’s incredibly easy to drink and very refreshing, making it the perfect beer for the summer which is only…4 months away…

And I’m actually kind of glad that this beer was so light when you think about it in terms of the film. Had I been a drinking something heavier, I think the darkness of the film would have gotten to me. I mean, a small New Hampshire town, that is inexplicably filled with vandals and the homeless, is easily overrun by a bunch of monkeys. Oh and the local police does nothing to stop the man with a gun walking through a store with what is a clearly a military-grade firearm. It’s scary stuff! Fortunately, the lightness of the beer helped remind me that this movie was supposed to be fun. And so fun was had in a bizarre, 1995 Kirsten Dunst kind of way.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Tusker Lager:
-Clear, straw color
-Sweet, fruity flavor
-Not much body, but that’s okay.

Jumanji:
-A bit dark & creepy for a “kids” movie
-New Hampshire law enforcement is a bit lacking
-I want to watch Hook now.

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Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Ale & The Company Men

Evening, Drinkers!

Tonight’s BAAM was just inches away from being a day drinking special (which would have been oddly fitting), but I decided to keep it classy and leave my beer consumption for after 7 pm. Now, judging from the title, you might be a little confused about tonight’s combo. Wilco Tango Foxtrot seems oddly militaristic and The Company Men seems like a benign enough name devoid of guns, but the two actually have quite a bit in common. Lagunitas described their Limited Release Wilco Tango Foxtro Ale as a “jobless recovery ale,” a subject which The Company Men deals with directly. And in light of our socio-economic/political times, (and my recent escape from unemployment) this pairing seemed particularly poignant. Apologies in advance if my political beliefs rise to the surface, as this is a blog about beer and movies and not about politics. But let’s started.

While it seems that many people have heard of The Company Men, not many people have seen it. This 2010 non-indie indie movie has a star-studded cast addressing the issues that we as Americans seem to be wrestling with each day. The cast features a litany of abnormally attractive and successful actors including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Rosemarie DeWitt (one of my personal favorites). The successful cast of The Company Men delves into issues of unemployment, executive pay, corporate greed and American manufacturing while grounding these subjects in deeply human stories. While at times the narrative uses a bit too much corporate jargon, the story itself is presented in layman’s terms. Staggeringly successful and loyal employees at a transportation manufacturing company (primarily ships) are laid off and forced to come to terms with their own affluent, Boston lifestyles and the lifestyles of those above them on the corporate ladder. Having been overpaid their whole careers, men like Ben Affleck have a difficult time adjusting to life without the luxuries on which they have to rely. And while the film only briefly touches on issues of class and wage disparities, it does address the excessive compensation of corporation’s top executives in relation to the layoffs of lower-level employees. Tommy Lee Jones’s character is one of these overpaid executive and seems to have a conscious about the whole situation, though never really takes a stand. In one of his more poignant moments, he suggests that the CEO, his boss and old friend, sell a Degas painting in order to raise revenue and satisfy stockholders in stead of firing employees, a scene that illustrates the gap between executives and their employees. There’s a lot to be said about this film and its argument against corporate greed, but that could take awhile, so we’ll move forward in the hopes that you’ll actually go watch the movie. In terms of actual craft however, I felt this film was a bit clunky. While it’s held together by strong performances from some of the best actors around, the editing style is choppy and jarring. Sequences slam in to one another, distorting time and relationships in a frustrating way that breaks the narrative. For example, apparently Tommy Lee Jones’s character gets a divorce? It’s unclear, but it happens and it’s frustrating. While each scene and sequence is generally quite beautiful and meaningful, they do not always mesh together cleanly. Another quick point I’d like to make before moving on is this film’s contention that American manufacturing is still the backbone of our economy. Not to get overly political, but this conceit is a bit naive and nostalgic. While it makes us viewers feel proud, it is not really honest in a film that takes the time to prove its honesty. And while I feel that the manufacturing industry is important to our economy, I’m not convinced that it holds the same redemptive qualities that it does for our fictional protagonists.

It's hard to make jokes about films with shots this dramatic.

So did our Wilco Tango Foxtro jobless recovery ale help us get through the unemployment blues? Well, it certainly was a pick me up. Sporting a hearty 7.85% ABV in a hefty 22 oz bottle (a bomber, if you want to be cool like me), this beer can turn any bad day around. While the bottle makes a note of this beer’s maltiness, I found that the beer’s hoppiness was its defining flavor characteristic. This brown colored ale has an almost IPA-esque floral hoppiness to it that can be a bit bitter at first. However, you do notice the aforementioned malt when that hoppiness dissipates into a balanced and smooth finish. It’s actually a bit surprising when you experience that transition, but Lagunitas somehow makes it work. So for the IPA-shy, I don’t know if this is beer for you. But those of you who are willing to trying something a bit more bitter, I would definitely give this one a shot.

While unemployment is nothing to celebrate, BAAM’s first economic downturn-themed review was quite a success. With a thoughtful, if at times clunky, movie to watch and a interesting, balanced beer to drink, I’m sure you’ll feel a little better by the end of the evening, regardless of how much money you’re bringing in.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
The Company Men:
-An earnest, however liberal, look at corporate greed and unemployment.
-Tommy Lee Jones plays the ever-elusive, well-intentioned corporate VP with a heart of gold.
-Ben Affleck’s character is much older than Ben Affleck appears. To a fault.

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Ale:
-Gorgeous, brown color. Minimal head.
-Bitter hoppiness at the front. Smooth, mellow maltiness at the finish.
-Not sure I get where the name is coming from…

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Young’s Double Chocolate Stout & Chocolate

Greetings, Drinkers!

You ever get those irresistible chocolate cravings? Well beer drinkers experience this too and tonight’s review is dedicated to those who require the occasional chocolate binge. As such, we’re drinking Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout (hailing from England) and watching the 2008 film Chocolate (which is from Thailand). Tonight’s combo was actually suggested, and made possible by my good friend/roommate/occasional beer buddy David. He picked up this beer a few weeks ago on our latest beer run and suggested I try it out while watching “this crazy martial movie.” David was even gracious enough to watch the movie with me, albeit he drank a Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale and not the BAAM-approved stout. Regardless, this chocolate-lovers evening was quite interesting, so let’s get started.

For the none of you who have even heard of this movie, Chocolate has nothing to do with chocolate. Rather, it’s the story of the autistic love-child of a former Thai gangster and a member of the Japanese Yakuza. Zen, our autistic love-child protagonist, has the ability to absorb and apply any martial arts moves she sees in movies. Her only weakness? Flies. For no real reason. Joined by her joyfully pudgy friend, Moom, Zen sets out to settle her mother’s old mob debts in order to cover her mother’s cancer treatments. Crazy fights ensue. And for a girl with no actual martial arts experience or physical training, Zen totally kicks ass. Like Batman, she beats the crap out of everybody she meets without actually killing them. As she settles more scores, Zen peaks the interest of her mother’s old mob boss, a man with questionably long hair and a small army of trannys with guns. As such, Zen fights more people. She kicks more ass. Her mother dies tragically. Moom is shot and then disappears from the end of the film and Zen is whisked away to Japan by her previously aloof father. Between the fight scenes, the plot is told through montage (and in one short, animated dream sequence that was rather violent). The reason I’m telling you the whole plot is just to prove to you that this movie is not really worth seeing. Yes, the fight scenes are pretty sweet, but there are other great martial arts films that are more narratively cohesive and have logical titles. However, I would like to point out that all of the best fights in this film (both good and bad) are female. So that’s something, right? That and Zen fights a fellow mentally-challenged super kung fu expert. That was pretty awesome.

Were the swords necessary? I just wanted to know where you were hiding the chocolate!

Okay so maybe the movie wasn’t all that chocolatey, but was the beer? Actually, the brewers weren’t lying. This beer is very chocolatey. Pouring a deep, deep black (like pitch black) with a modest two-finger head, this stout’s chocolatey aroma immediately hits you. When you sip it, you get a smooth, chocolate malty flavor that is not too sweet or heavy. For a stout, it’s actually medium-bodied which makes it an easy, casual beer which you can enjoy without thinking too hard. While the beer is nothing extraordinary, it’s still a solid beer. If you’re a bit apprehensive about trying heavier beers, give the Double Chocolate a shot. Though it’s black color can be intimidating, the flavor is quite tame.

So there’s our chocolate-lover’s evening. A double chocolate stout and a Thai Chocolate. A triple chocolate night, if you will. Sure, the film made no sense and had an army of non-tranny tranny hooker fighters, but it was fun. And that’s what BAAM is all about. As my buddy David pointed out, this film is supposed to be mindless and fun. He’s right, too. I think he and I pretty much joked our way through the whole movie but we didn’t miss much. The action was pretty sweet and that’s really the only reason you’re watching the movie anyway. In a way, the beer is the same. It’s not too complex, but it’s fun and easily enjoyable.

And as I’ve mentioned in the past and demonstrated tonight, I am totally open to suggestions for beer and a movie combos. You don’t even need to give me the complete pairing. Got a cool beer you want to tell me about? Let me know and I’ll pair it with a random movie I find on Netflix. Just saw an awful movie on the SyFy Channel? Tell me about it and I’ll find an appropriately high ABV beer to watch with it.

Remember, both beer drinking and movie watching are social activities, so hit me using social media (see what I did there?). Find me on Facebook or on Twitter @beerandamovie1 to share your ideas for future BAAM combos.

And as always, keep drinking my friends.

 

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout:  
-Pitch black color
-Strong chocolate malt aroma & flavor
-Modest, medium-body

Chocolate
-Strings of fight scenes pasted together with montage
-Apparently autistic kids can learn to kick ass from watching too much TV
-Chocolate? I’m confused.

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Valentine’s Day Special: Red Ales & My Bloody Valentine (1981 & 2009)

Hey there, drinkers!

I’ve got a special BAAM for you today in anticipation of the lovely holiday  ofValentine’s Day (get it?). I’ve teamed up with my friend Anne from We Recycle Movies to bring you our first ever crossover review. For those unfamiliar with WRM, Anne reviews and compares films that have notable sequels or have been remade throughout the course of Hollywood history. And with her insane knowledge of film history, it’s always cool to see what she has to say. For this review, Anne picked the movies and I picked the beers. She chose both versions of My Bloody Valentine (1981 and 2009) while I chose Porterhouse Red Ale (aka Slaughterhouse Red Ale) and Hop Head Red (aka Chopped Head Red). She educated me on horror tropes and I educated her on the delights of beer. We both provided the (much needed) comic relief. Really, it was a wonderful evening. While my review of both the beers and the movies can be found below, please check out WRM’s review for another perspective on these terrible movies. But without further ado, let’s get killin’.

Brief set up for both these films: My Bloody Valentine is a slasher film about a murderous miner (yes, a miner. It’s weird.) that terrorizes a small, coal mining town around Valentine’s Day because he was once trapped in a mine explosion on Valentine’s Day. Aside from the killer’s signature pickaxe, he has a proclivity for putting his victim’s hearts in heart-shaped chocolate boxes. So if you get  a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day, make sure it’s not bleeding before you open it. Okay, let’s get started on the original.

The 1981 version of My Bloody Valentine is considered to be a classic, underrated slasher flick by about six people. For the rest of us, it’s just bad. It’s generally unclear who our protagonists are and no character is likable or sympathetic in any way. In the case of a horror movie, it’s not a good sign when you really just don’t care when people die. Anne and I agreed that our favorite character was a supporting character with a sweet mustache and maybe five lines.

Best part of this movie? His 'stache.

And though this film was made in the 80’s, when horror films weren’t too wild, it’s still quite tame. Most deaths are implied and what is shown is minimally gruesome (though the old woman put in the drier was kind of gross). More importantly, this film lacked boobs. No self-respecting horror movie should be devoid of boobs. Ask Anne. She agrees. And the all-male shower scene did not make up for this failing. Really, who wants to watch ugly miners lather up? I could keep on going with my frustrations in this movie (our assumed protagonist is a dick. The murderer kills randomly. Everyone has an odd Canadian accent…), but I don’t want to bore you. Feel free to bore yourself by watching this movie, but I have to imagine you have better things to do.

Like watching the 2009 version of My Bloody Valentine…in 3-D! Actually, we didn’t watch this movie in 3-D, but this film was marketed as the first 3-D horror movie for its theatrical release. And though we watched this film in only 2 dimensions, the 3-D moments were painfully obvious. Pickaxes being thrown at the screen. Tree limbs through windshields. Pickaxes going through beds. Pickaxes going through glasses. Pickaxes going through faces. It was amusing and no doubt severely disappointing in theaters. Anyway, though this film breaks pretty radically with the original (we have a protagonist now…sort of), it did pay homage to some of the memorable moments from the original, which I appreciated. Another dead body was stuffed into a drier, none of the male characters were likable, people get pickaxe’d to the brain, the female lead is named Sarah…you get the idea. Overall, they modernized the film without alienating all six fans of the original film. They did, however, update the killer. Yes, he is still a miner but he is not the same character as the original. And now our killer apparently suffers from schizophrenia and takes medication that in no way curbs his murderous tendencies. Maybe he just had high blood pressure…Again, I don’t want to bore you with talking about this film much more but as you have probably figured, it wasn’t a very good movie. And I’m not even sure if it took place during Valentine’s Day. So let’s talk about beer.

I hate Valentine's Day...in 3-D.

So in honor of watching two movies, and with the more practical reason of having two drinkers, Anne and I shared two different red ales. First beer we tried was the Irish beer Porterhouse Red. This beer’s rich red color belied its low ABV (4.4%) and its mediocre flavor. Now, it’s entirely possible that my bottle had spoiled as I found it to taste a bit stale and flat. Checking my experience against those on Beer Advocate, it seems like I either completely missed the boat on this one or the bottle I had was no good. Either way, it didn’t do much for me and I have surprisingly little to say about it. Though it did have a sweet pull tab cap that was very fun to open.

But moving on to a beer that I actually enjoyed: the Hop Head Red IPA out of Green Flash Brewing. As some readers may know, I’ve been on an IPA kick recently and trying a red seemed a natural next step on this expedition. Pouring a deep, red color, this beer smelled distinctly of IPA. That unmistakeable hoppiness comes right out in the aroma. When you taste it, you’ll know it’s an IPA but there’s something else going on too. There is a richness and a depth in it that I attribute to the redness in it. My exposure to reds is fairly minimal but I have to say that I really enjoyed this beer. I don’t think it’s much of a “beginner” beer but Anne would be in a better position to answer that question.

So that’s it, drinkers. Our first BAAM date night with WRM. Anne and I hope to do more crossovers in the future, assuming there is no public outcry. I had a lot of fun drinking these beers and watching these terrible movies. While I really enjoy doing these reviews, having a friend to share it with really makes the experience all the better, as is the case with most things in life.  And while I would recommend watching some better films,  there really is no substitute for grabbing a beer and sitting down for a movie with good friends.

Keep drinking, friends! And check out We Recycle Movies.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Porterhouse Red Ale: 
Lovely red color
Disappointingly stale in flavor
Possibly had a bad bottle

Hop Head Red
Distinctly IPA with something more
Robust, complex flavor profile
Not a beer for the uninitiated

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Disappointing lack of boobs
Unconvincing, unlikable & unclear protagonists
Sweet, mustachioed supporting character named Hollis.

My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Some boobs.
Pays appropriate homage to its predecessor
It has three dimensions.

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Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout & Battleship Potemkin

Evening, Drinkers!

Tonight, we’re getting serious with some serious beer and some serious film history. We’re drinking North Coast’s universally loved Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout while watching the 1925 classic Russian propaganda film Battleship Potemkin, directed by the typically dense Sergei Eisenstein. And while I know that Rasputin’s time was much earlier than the days of the Soviet Revolution, the two bits of culture seemed a natural fit. And I was not disappointed.

Now, most of you have probably heard of Battleship Potemkin but have never seen it, nor do you know anything about it. And, for the most part, that’s fine. It’s typically a film reserved for film students, along with Eisenstein’s more graphic and…interesting film Strike. However, I would put money down that you are all familiar with one specific scene that is about as iconic as they come. Ever seen a movie in which a  baby carriage roll down a set of stairs? Yeah. That’s from Battleship Potemkin. There are probably a dozen or more films that directly reference this scene, known as The Odessa Stairs. Relatedly, there are probably another dozen or so films that show a person getting shot in the eye which is also from the same scene in Battleship Potemkin. Anyway, is this Communist propaganda film enjoyable or, at best, understandable? Actually, it’s both. While director Sergei Eisenstein is known for his very intense opinions on the purpose of cinema and the art of editing (collision editing, as many call it now), this film is relatively straightforward. While there are plenty of excessive shots that repeat information to the audience, tension is built fairly effectively. And though the translated subtitles are clunky, the story is pretty easy to follow even without dialogue: disgruntled sailors join the workers of Odessa in defiance of the Czar’s tyranny. Sure, at times, it’s great to see the hypocrisy of the film in the light of history (how dare the Russian army kill one of its own!…Clearly no Communist would do this during WWII…) but I love watching propaganda films. They shed so much light on how a nation viewed itself or, at the very least,  how a nation wished it looked. Either way, the film is quite a bit of fun from a historical sense. It’s definitely not a great crowd-pleaser, nor is it a first date movie, but for you budding cineastes out there, it’s definitely worth the viewing.

Yeah, you've seen this before. But if you haven't, there's something wrong with you.

So let’s move onto tonight’s second classic: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. This 9% ABV bad boy pours black as night. Literally. It’s impeccably black in color with a thick, caramel-colored head that just invites you to take a drink. Giving off a strong aroma of roasted malt, this beer goes down smooth and leaves you with a delicious, warming sensation that just makes you smile. For those who like darker beers, this one is unparalleled. Just one sniff and you’ll be sold. And even for those who aren’t into the heavier beers, Old Rasputin is fairly approachable. Maybe you wouldn’t drink the whole thing yourself, but its lack of bitterness and smooth finish make it very easy to drink. Simply put, this is a great beer and I would recommend that you try it. Still don’t believe me? Check out  G-LO’s review of Old Rasputin over at It’s Just The Booze Dancing for a second opinion. All the guys over there sound smarter than me anyway, so I assume they know what they’re talking about.

Oh, in an unrelated story, you should watch the video below. Skip to 1:00 and enjoy some Russian history.

Alright so that about does it for tonight. Classic Russian cinema, classic Russian-inspired beer and…classic…Russian-themed…funk? Not too sure about that last one. Anyway, I wasn’t too sure how this night would turn out. I was nervous going into Battleship Potemkin, as similar films can be dry, boring and slow. However, with a great beer in hand, this film was a pleasant surprise. It was enjoyable and educational. The best kind of evening.

HEADS UP NEWS FLASH BREAKING STORY ALERT: BAAM and We Recycle Movies will be doing a Valentine’s day themed crossover review next Friday. We will be watching some awful movies and drinking some beers that I have never tried, so it’ll definitely be a lot of fun. So stay tuned for that!

Keep drinking, my friends!

Tonight’s Tasting Notes: 
Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Rich, black color
Thick, full body
Remarkably smooth & easy to drink

Battleship Potemkin
Easy to follow, despite bad translating
Iconic piece of cinematic history
Unabashedly propaganda. Is there any other kind?

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