Shanghai River Restaurant – Highly Recommended

Posted on April 6th, 2003 in Houston,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy

Shanghai River Restaurant
(713) 528-5528
2407 Westheimer, 2 blocks east of Kirby

http://www.shanghairiverrestaurant.com

Houston has an overwhelming selection of Chinese restaurants, and many of them are good. A few of them are excellent, and Shanghai River is one of them. From the outside, this restaurant is the unassuming-looking inhabitant of one end of a standard strip center. But once you get inside, you find that the decor is sumptuous and well-maintained, the tables have white tablecloths and cloth napkins, the service borders on perfect, and the food is excellent.

Try the mu shu pork appetizer and the honey walnuts…both fabulous. We recently had the wonton soup, shrimp with asparagus, Four Delicacies (scallops, shrimp, beef, chicken with chili peppers and peanuts), and shrimp and chicken with cashews, and all of the dishes were virtually perfect. Also, for the quality of the food and the ambiance, the prices are right in line.

Phone Booth (***)

Posted on April 5th, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

First, let me put those stars in context. From what I know about him from his public persona (which, granted, may not be entirely accurate), I do not like Colin Farrell. If you care to judge for yourself, check out these news stories about him on IMDB:

 

http://us.imdb.com/NNews?Farrell,%20Colin%20(I)

 

To sum up my disdain, he recently split with his wife, he also has a pregnant girlfriend, and he’s currently stepping out with a steady stream of new ladies, and sums this all up by saying:

 

“I’ve been in love three times and that’s enough for a 26-year-old. It really is. So, literally, I come into town and bang whoever I can – but I’m not mean and egotistical about it.” – Colin Farrell

 

Reportedly, he also is known to regularly frequent Scores, the famous New York strip club, and spend hours in private rooms with multiple dancers. He is, by all appearances, a sad and pathetic bad-boy Hollywood lothario.

 

But Colin Farrell fits into a very thinly populated category for me. And that category is the cross-section of “Celebrities I Find Repugnant” and “People Whose Work I Respect”. Both of those categories are small for me. Oh sure, there are a lot of celebrities I don’t necessarily care for, but there are only a few that are actually revolting. Also, there are a lot of artists whose work I enjoy and admire, but only a very few that I respect (artistically).

 

And then there is the category of Repugnant Artistes. That is one thin category. Colin Farrell joins the likes of Woody Allen, Eminem, Roman Polanski, the Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and Russell Crowe. Can you picture that dinner party? Oy.

 

But what does all this have to do with the review of “Phone Booth”? I presented all of the above information so you could put those 3 stars in perspective, because I’m sure the movie lost at least a half a star because of it.

 

******************** SPOILERS AHEAD ********************

 

I mean, Colin Farrell is in virtually every, single scene of this movie. And several times during the movie I was taken out of the story by the discordance of seeing someone I had no respect for doing such great work. But, in the end, I have to say that Colin Farrell did a fantastic job. So did Forest Whitaker as the logical cop, and Kiefer Sutherland as the mysterious, unnamed caller.

 

For those unfamiliar, the story revolves around Colin Farrell’s character (Stu), a sleazy publicist, who gets trapped in a phone booth in dowtown Manhattan by a vengeful/liberating sniper. Other than the first 5-10 minutes, the entire movie takes place on location with Stu in the phone booth, the cops outside, and the sniper unseen. It’s very tense, gripping stuff, and the writing, acting, directing, and photography are all top-notch.

Play That Funky Music

Posted on April 5th, 2003 in Music by EngineerBoy

(Note: The songs in this rant have hotlinks to pages at music sales sites (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles) that have audio samples. This does not imply endorsement of these external sites or their products, but are presented simply as a convenience for you, the reader.)

I adolesced in the ’70s, in a small, coastal Texas town. My available music selections were country (ubiquitous), rock (one fuzzy, whiny AM station from Houston), pop (2 hours a day on the local station, one station out of Victoria), and whatever records or 8-tracks I could afford to buy (or borrow from my sister). And unlike many of my peers, music was not central to my teenage years. I mean, there was music that I liked, but I didn’t live/breathe music, or worship any bands, or scrimp and save to get the money to buy tickets for concerts in far-off, exotic places like Corpus Christi and San Antonio. I listened to some music, did a little country dancing, and that was about it.

Then I went off to college, at the University of Houston. College being college, many things changed for me, including my musical tastes and perspectives. For instance, I finally matured to the point where I began to get a glimmer of an understanding of the greatness of the Beatles. I realized that I wasn’t angst-y or disaffected enough to relate to punk rock. I heard the first twangs of the nascent new-country sound, and found it repugnant. I also started getting very tired of hearing ever-more-generic disco songs.

And I also discovered something else. I found that there were some core songs and groups, labeled as disco by most, that I not only never grew tired of, but that I grew to like more and more. And as I explored this predilection, I found that while disco was the colorful, thin, wispy candy shell, the chocolate inside was nasty, groovy funk.

That Was An Epiphany
It all started one evening during my first year of college. I was in the University Center (UC, sort of a student center), and I could hear the thump-thump-thump of music being played loudly in one of the large conference halls. The beat and sound were very appealing to me, so I wandered over and found that one of the local fraternities was having a fundraising dance. I paid my $2 and went inside and found that I was the only Caucasian in the place, as far as I could see (and, being 6’5″, I could see pretty far). The dance was being put on by the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, which is a primarily African American fraternity. You may know them as the fraternity that brands (or branded, I don’t know if they still do it) their pledges on the shoulder with the Greek letter Omega.

Needless to say, I felt pretty out-of-place. I mean, I was a tall, white, 17 year old country boy come to the big city, so this was a very new experience for me, to say

Anger Management (**½)

Posted on April 1st, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

First of all, after seeing this movie I think that it would be great for its two stars (Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler) to make more movies together. This movie has an interesting story, an uneven script, workmanlike direction, and solid lead performances. In fact, Sandler and Nicholson fully inhabit their roles and play off one another with humorous edginess.

Without revealing too much, the storyline progresses a bit differently than I expected given what was shown in the trailers, but it’s not wildly different. Plus, this is a light comedy, so the story is just the framework for the humor, for the most part. The script ranges from hilarious and witty to juvenile and weak, but there’s a touch more hilarious wittiness than there is juvenile weakness, and overall I enjoyed the film.

But the weak, juvenile parts of the script make me want to know which of these is true:

1. Artless studio executives force crude, tasteless “humor” into otherwise witty, intelligent scripts because they think it adds an “edge” that will bring in some highly coveted demographic.

2. Pragmatic screenwriters know that their script won’t sell (or will be butchered by artless studio executives) if it doesn’t contain some crudeness, so they add it themselves in an attempt to control the awfulness of it.

3. Times and tastes have changed, and I’m now entering my “cantankerous old fart” phase.

My guess is that it’s a combination of all three. From my viewpoint, if you were to take out the anatomical and bodily-function “humor”, and were to make the ending just a bit more believable (I’m not asking for realistic, just as believable as the rest of the movie), this movie would have rated 3 to 3.5 stars. As it stands, though, it’s sort of a Frankenstein’s monster with parts from Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, and As Good As It Gets. And not just the good parts.