Archive for the ‘CineMonday!’ Category

In January of this year, I did a CineMonday! review of a movie I had recently watched called Fast Food Nation.

As I read an article in the New York Times this morning called “E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Ground Beef Inspection”, I was reminded of my review, which was fictional, yet based on reality. Well, here’s reality for you.

This is a story about a 22-year-old children’s dance instructor who is now paralyzed from the waist down because she ate a contaminated hamburger. Some excerpts:

The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.


Unwritten agreements between some companies appear to stand in the way of ingredient testing. Many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli, according to officials at two large grinding companies. Slaughterhouses fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will set off a recall of ingredients they sold to others.


As with other slaughterhouses, the potential for contamination is present every step of the way, according to workers and federal inspectors. The cattle often arrive with smears of feedlot feces that harbor the E. coli pathogen, and the hide must be removed carefully to keep it off the meat. This is especially critical for trimmings sliced from the outer surface of the carcass.


Federal inspectors based at the plant are supposed to monitor the hide removal, but much can go wrong. Workers slicing away the hide can inadvertently spread feces to the meat, and large clamps that hold the hide during processing sometimes slip and smear the meat with feces, the workers and inspectors say.


Cargill’s final source was a supplier that turns fatty trimmings into what it calls “fine lean textured beef.” The company, Beef Products Inc., said it bought meat that averages between 50 percent and 70 percent fat, including “any small pieces of fat derived from the normal breakdown of the beef carcass.” It warms the trimmings, removes the fat in a centrifuge and treats the remaining product with ammonia to kill E. coli.

With seven million pounds produced each week, the company’s product is widely used in hamburger meat sold by grocers and fast-food restaurants and served in the federal school lunch program.


The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela, the officer. “If I test and it’s positive, I put them in a regulatory situation. One, I have to tell the government, and two, the government will trace it back to them. So we don’t do that.”

According to the article, the woman who was paralyzed by eating ground beef tainted with a powerful strain of E. coli was purchased at Sam’s Club. The article goes on to explain that Costco, on the other hand, tests all of the beef it sells.

Craig Wilson, Costco’s food safety director, said the company decided it could not rely on its suppliers alone. Costco said it had found E. coli in foreign and domestic beef trimmings and pressured suppliers to fix the problem. But even Costco, with its huge buying power, said it had met resistance from some big slaughterhouses. “Tyson will not supply us,” Mr. Wilson said. “They don’t want us to test.”

I am not shocked by what I read in this article, but I am saddened and disgusted. If ever there was a reason to stop eating ground beef, this is it. If not for the sake of the cows or the sake of the planet, then by all means, think about doing it for your own sake and the sake of your family. I know I will not be letting my daughter eat the hamburgers at school, and I will never buy ground beef from Sam’s Club. The risks are just too high.


h/t to Sara B. for linking to this on her Facebook page

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CineMonday! Returns

Before Sarah hijacked this blog, I had a regular feature called CineMonday! which highlighted a movie that I had recently watched. Now that Sarah is moving toward the background of my mind, I’ve decided it’s time to resurrect CineMonday! for the good of my readers (and myself).

Movie: Sicko
Year: 2007
Starring: Michael Moore
Director: Michael Moore
Genre: Documentary
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours
Stars: 4 out of 5

Sicko is a must-watch movie for all Americans. It goes deep into the abyss which is the American healthcare system. Moore travels all over the country as well as to France and England to gather stories. The movie is not about the uninsured, but about the millions of Americans who are insured but who either cannot afford their deductibles or are denied services because of financial decisions made by a board of directors.

One story in particular hit home with me- a woman told the story of her 18-month-old daughter who came down with a fever of over 104 degrees. She took her to the hospital and was told that she had to go to a different hospital because her health insurance wouldn’t cover the costs of treatment. The woman begged the hospital staff to help her little girl, but was eventually escorted out of the building because she was “a threat.” By the time the woman got to the other hospital, the baby had died.

Tragedies like this are occurring every day in this country because our health care system is run by private insurance companies. In England and France (and every other western country), universal health care is the norm, and although there are some drawbacks, it is regarded as some of the best care in the world. You walk into a hospital, get treated and walk out without having to pay a dime. In one hospital, Moore interviewed the “cashier,” who gave cash reimbursements to patients for their travel to and from the hospital.

Sicko is very informative and while I know that we must take what Moore has to say with a grain of salt, it was definitely worth watching. I recommend it to everyone, especially right now as we debate what health care in America should look like.


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Movie: Fast Food Nation
Year: 2006
Starring: Wilmer Valderrama, Greg Kinnear
Director: Richard Linklater
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Runtime: 116 minutes
Stars: 3 out of five

I put this movie on my Netflix list because I had read the book this year and heard that there was a movie loosely based upon it. I knew it was not a documentary, but thought it was a drama about the behind-the-scenes of the fast food industry. In reality, it’s more about the struggle of immigrants and how they are involved with the production of fast food.

The story follows several different story lines. One is Greg Kinnear’s character, a corporate executive who heads to Colorado to find out why there is fecal matter in the meat. A larger part of the movie, though, follows the Mexican immigrants who cross the border illegally and find work at the meat packing plant that provides all the beef for Mickey’s “Big One,” a reference to the McDonald’s Big Mac. The executive is shown the sterilized, sanitized part of the plant, but we, the audience, get to look behind the curtain at the gruesome way cows are slaughtered so that we can eat a hamburger (spoiler: this doesn’t happen until the last five minutes of the movie). We also learn how the meat packing plant knowingly hires illegal immigrants so that they can keep costs low. The immigrants are not provided with benefits and are subjected to dangerous conditions which often cause them to be maimed and/or killed while on the job.

Fast Food Nation was difficult to watch at times, but worth a look.

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Movie: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Year: 2008
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 120 minutes
Stars: 2.5 out of five

Hmmm, what can I say about Hellboy II: The Golden Army? I’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth, and Hellboy II is no Pan’s Labyrinth. My expectations going into seeing this movie were not high, and I was not disappointed. It’s not that this is a terrible movie, but it certainly isn’t a good movie. The sets were very intricate, several characters were Pan’s Labyrinth-esque, and the movie had some interesting special effects. But the writing. Oh, the writing was bad. Plus, there is way too much focus on the love between both Hellboy and Liz, and between Abe Sapien and Princess Nuala.

The best thing I can say about Hellboy II is…watch the DVD extras. The interview of del Toro in the marketplace is really quite amazing. I found the behind-the-scenes stuff way more interesting than the movie itself.

Bottom line? One word: Meh.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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There was no clear winner in the You Pick CineMonday poll, so I guess I will have to review all of them! These are the five that each received one vote:

Hellboy II
Fast Food Nation
Pan’s Labyrinth
Sex and the City: The Movie
Iron Man

I will attempt to get all five movies reviewed in short order, but no promises. Have a great week, everyone!

P.S. When I got to work this morning, the temperature read -28 degrees below zero. Global warming, my foot!

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You Pick CineMonday!

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a movie, so I’m going to let you pick which one it will be. Please be so kind as to pick from this list of movies I’ve seen since the last CineMonday:

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We finally found time this weekend to sit down and enjoy a movie together.  I’ve seen this one before, but I’m glad we put it in our queue- it’s worth a second look.

Movie: Jean de Florette
Year: 1986
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Yves Montand
Genre: Drama, Foreign Language
Rated: Unknown
Runtime: 120 minutes
Stars: Four out of five

After both his mother and uncle die, Jean, a hunchback, inherits a beautiful estate in the French countryside.  Jean is from the city and is determined to make a go of living in the country, along with his wife and daughter.  Unfortunately for him, his neighbors scheme against him in order to obtain the property, which has a hidden spring.

Courtesy of http://www.been-seen.com/archive/2746.jpg.

Courtesy of img5.allocine.fr/…/18/36/28/94/18923760.jpg.

This is a wonderful movie from beginning to end.  The setting is so beautiful it’ll make you want to move to France.  If you decide to rent Jean de Florette, be aware that it is the first of two movies which should be watched together.  Manon of the Spring is the movie that picks up where Jean de Florette leaves off.  You will want to watch Manon because of the way Jean ends.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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Movie: Becoming Jane
Year: 2007
Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, James Cromwell
Genre: Romance, Drama
Rated: PG
Runtime: 120 minutes
Stars: Three out of five

I wasn’t all that excited to watch this movie, and I can’t tell you why. I mean, I don’t know why, not that I can’t tell you why, like it’s a secret. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a movie set in the 1800’s, and I guess it just didn’t light my fire. Anyway, it turned out to be a pretty good movie.

It’s based on the true story of what happened to Jane Austen when she was a 20-year-old aspiring writer. She falls in love with an insufferable womanizer at the same time that a wealthy young heir offers to marry her, even though she does not love him. For those of you that have read Austen’s novels, you will recognize a common theme here. I won’t spoil the ending for you…you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.

It’s worth a rental, and is especially fun for women. My husband refused to watch it with me.


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I can’t believe another week has gone by without me watching a movie. Netflix is really getting their money’s worth with us lately. My problem is, now that the shows are back on cable, we just don’t have time for a movie during the week. For some reason, we didn’t feel like watching one on the weekend, either. I’ve got Becoming Jane and Mannon of the Spring/Jean de Florette sitting next to the DVD player, begging me to watch them. They’ll just have to wait.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to review a favorite again:

Movie: Chasing Amy
Year: 1997
Starring: Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Kevin Smith (also wrote and directed the movie)
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Runtime: 113 minutes
Stars: Four and a half out of five
Times I’ve seen this movie: about 20

This is another movie you do not want to see with your parents. Unless your parents are swingers. That curse. And drink. And are gay. Chasing Amy is about Holden and Banky, BFF’s since high school, who now work together on Holden’s comic book series. Holden falls head over teakettle for Alyssa Jones, who turns out to be a lesbian. Holden decides that it’s okay to just be friends, but then just has to profess his undying love for Alyssa. Hilarity ensues.

This is one of my all time favorite movies. One of the best scenes is toward the beginning of the movie in the bar, where Banky and Alyssa are trading “scars from sex” stories while Holden rolls his eyes (Alyssa’s stories all involve girl-on-girl action, which Holden finds horrifying, since he just found out she’s gay and therefore has no chance with her).

If you are a fan of Kevin Smith movies, you will love this one. There are plenty of recurring characters, like Jay and Silent Bob, as well as recurring actors, like Brian O’Halloran from Clerks, Matt Damon from Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back and Dogma, and Scott Mosier from…well, every single Kevin Smith movie. One thing about Kevin Smith is, he sure likes to hire his friends.

If you haven’t seen Chasing Amy, please do. You won’t regret it.


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Hello all!

Welcome to CineMonday! Favorites Edition. I was so busy this weekend with the Obama rally and a family dinner that I didn’t have time to watch one of my Netflix movies. I’ve decided to review one of my favorite movies, Jeffrey.

Movie: Jeffrey
Year: 1995
Starring: Steven Weber, Patrick Stewart and Sigourney Weaver
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Runtime: 92 minutes
Stars: Four and a half out of five
Times I’ve seen this movie: about 10

Jeffrey is a gay man living in New York City in the mid-nineties. He has decided to give up on love (and sex) because of AIDS. Unfortunately (so to speak), Jeffrey meets and falls head over heels for Steve, a fine specimen of the male species. Jeffrey does his best to stay away from Steve, even though his heart is pulling him closer and closer to finding the love of his life.

My favorite character in Jeffrey is Sterling, played by Patrick Stewart. It’s a must-see if you love Stewart and have seen his work in other genres (its a far cry from Captain Picard on the Starship Enterprise).

This movie is certainly not for everyone. Trust me, you won’t want to watch it with your parents. Okay, you wouldn’t want to watch it with my parents. It’s fun but also has a serious side that is very real and touching.

I hope you like it as much as I do.


Image from Wikipedia

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