The Next Food Network Star: Halfway Home

It’s hard to believe, the current season of “The Next Food Network Star” is half over. We started out with ten contestants, and now five have been eliminated. In last night’s Episode 5, as usual, the remaining six last night had two challenges. The first was to open a box that had six ingredients, and to make a dish using those ingredients in 45 minutes. Then, they had to talk about the dishes on camera in one minute. But wait, there’s more. The coach in this case was Iron Chef Cat Cora, who told them that instead of talking about their own dish, they had to describe the dish of the person next to them. Talk about a curveball.

The pairings were Shane and Kelsey; Lisa and Jennifer; and Adam and Aaron. These would also be the teams for the second challenge, which was to recreate a dish assigned to them that typically takes a long time to prepare, and transforming that dish to a 45-minute weeknight meal along with two side dishes. Wow, that is some serious pressure. The dishes were Coq Au Vin, Beef Wellington and Turducken. Yikes. And the judges were the usual judges along with the editorial staff of Bon Appetit Magazine. Yikes again.

With that, here is how each contestant fared in both challenges Read the rest of this entry »


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This very Parisian suspense comedy-drama was a sensation on the American art house scene during the early 1980s and helped launch a wave of more stylish, genre-oriented, French directors, action-meister Luc Besson included. (It also earned its own palindrome: “Avid was I, ere I saw Diva.”) It’s still fun, and very sexy in a demure, PG-13 way, if also kind of silly and lackadaisical.

Based on a novel by the pseudonymous Delacorta, writer-director Jean-Jacque Beiniex’s feature debut tells the story of a twentyish, scooter-driving postman (Frédéric Andréi) obsessed with a beautiful African-American opera singer (real opera star Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez) who, for artistic and philosophical reasons, refuses to allow herself to be recorded. The young man sneaks a high-end recorder into a performance and, after meeting his idol, steals her dress. He soon finds himself pursued by Asian audio pirates, but also by local assassins seeking an incriminating cassette. At the same time, he pursues a light flirtation/friendship with a larcenous Vietnamese teen orphan (Thuy An Luu) – and, shyly, but a lot more earnestly, romances the diva. He’s definitely one lucky celebrity stalker. Among other bits of good fortune, his less famous, underage gal-pal is under the possibly fatherly, possibly not-so fatherly, protection of a mysterious former Special Forces type (Richard Bohringer), who proves to be helpful in his tight spot.

“Diva” is really not about story but primarily about style, music (lots of opera, so be warned), and only then about its characters. While it doesn’t impress me today the way it did when I was the same age as its young postman, it’s still a nifty bauble with one really great foot/scooter chase through the Paris metro and lots of beauty — though buyers should be aware that the Lionsgate/Meridian Collection DVD has taken some hits for its technical quality. The print could probably be better.

Click to buy “Diva”


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Finishing the Game

Fans of Bruce Lee might find a movie like “Finishing the Game” a little insulting, but considering the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine the real-life events occurred that much differently. After the shocking death of the martial arts star left his final project (“Game of Death”) unfinished, Hollywood producers set out on a worldwide search to find his replacement. Shot in the style of a mockumentary, “Finishing the Game” tells the behind-the-scenes story of five such candidates: Breeze Loo (Roger Fan), a successful B-movie action star; Cole Kim (Sung Kang), an aspiring actor managed by his girlfriend; Troy Poon (Dustin Nguyen), former star of the hit show “Golden Gate Guns”; Tarrick Tyler (McCaleb Burnett), a half-Caucasian, half-Asian equal rights activist; and Raja (Mousa Kraish), a doctor-turned-stunt double.

Though the laughs don’t come quite as frequent as you’d imagine a concept like this would serve up, “Finishing the Game” is an entertaining addition to director Justin Lin’s eclectic résumé. The reason it works as well as it does is because Lin has compiled a talented cast of Asian-American actors (most of which he’s worked with before) that are all on the same page. Sung Kang, specifically, delivers some of the film’s best moments (despite being given one of the weaker roles), while Dustin Nguyen’s parody of himself is worthy of a few giggles. Cameos by Leonard Nam (as the director’s dream replacement for Lee) and James Franco (as Nguyen’s suicidal co-star) are welcome surprises, while Roger Fan’s performance as the flashy and overconfident Breeze Loo (a melting pot of all those Bruce Lee knockoffs from the late 70s) steals the show.

Click to buy “Finishing the Game”


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Holy Blu-Ray, Batman!

There are some movies that beg to be viewed in glorious high definition, but “Batman: The Movie” isn’t one of them. It isn’t for lack of trying, however. The special edition Blu-ray release of the 1966 cult classic looks amazing when compared to its DVD counterpart, and it even includes an exclusive extra that tracks the film’s location shooting via an onscreen map. As some people may have noticed with Paramount’s recent release of “Face/Off,” however, HD video transfer isn’t always a good thing. Fishing line can be spotted during Batman’s early run-in with the shark, and Cesar Romero’s under-the-makeup mustache is more evident than ever.

Of course, that only makes watching “Batman: The Movie” even more fun, and so in honor of its grand debut on Blu-ray, here’s a look back at some of the film’s more ridiculous moments. And when you’re done, head on over to for your chance to win your own copy!

Commissioner Gordon: It could be any one of them. But which one? Which ones?
Batman: Pretty fishy what happened to me on that ladder…
Commissioner Gordon: You mean where there’s a fish there could be a Penguin?
Robin: But wait! It happened at sea… Sea. C for Catwoman!
Batman: That exploding shark was pulling my leg…
Commissioner Gordon: The Joker!
Chief O’Hara: All adds up to a sinister riddle… Riddle-r. Riddler!
Commissioner Gordon: A thought strikes me… So dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance…
Batman: The four of them… Their forces combined…
Robin: Holy nightmare!

Robin: That crazy missile! It wrote two more riddles before it blew up!
Batman: What goes up white and comes down yellow and white?
Robin: An egg!
Batman: How do you divide seventeen apples among sixteen people?”
Robin: Make apple sauce!
Batman: Apples into applesauce… A unification into one smooth mixture. An egg… Nature’s perfect container. The container of all our hopes for the future.
Robin: A unification and a container of hope? United World Organization!
Batman: Precisely, Robin! And there’s a special meeting of the Security Council today. If what I fear is true…
Robin: Wow! Let’s commandeer a taxi!
Batman: No, Robin. Not at this time of day. Luckily, we’re in tip-top condition. It’ll be faster if we run. Let’s go!

Batman: Listen to these riddles. Tell me if you interrupt them as I do. One: What has yellow skin and writes?
Robin: A ballpoint banana!
Batman: Right. Two: What people are always in a hurry?
Robin: Rushing people… Russians!
Batman: Right again. Now what would you say that means?
Robin: Banana… Russian? I’ve got it. Someone Russian is going to slip on a banana and break their neck!
Batman: Precisely, Robin! The only possible meaning.

Batman: Look at this pair of joking riddles.
Chief O’Hara: What does a turkey do when he flies upside down?
Robin: He gobbles up!
Chief O’Hara: Of course.
Batman: And number two…
Commissioner Gordon: What weighs six ounces, sits in a tree, and is very dangerous?
Robin: A sparrow with a machine gun!
Commissioner Gordon: Yes, of course.


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Hell’s Kitchen: Family Time

Last night’s “Hell’s Kitchen” featured the remaining three chefs–Corey, Christina and Petrozza–battling to reach the final showdown. To kick things off, their families were invited in to have lunch with them as Ramsay cooked for them himself. What a treat, right? Well, Christina was the only one who was smart enough to realize she should pay attention. So she analyzed the dish, which was a venison dish with white bean puree and some kind of wine sauce. The challenge, of course, was for them to re-create the dish using ingredients in the kitchen, in 45 minutes.

Not surprisingly, Christina won the challenge, though Petrozza and Corey put in quite an effort. Christina’s reward was to spend more time with her family and Ramsay as they dined at a few of the hot spots in Los Angeles. Corey and Petrozza, meanwhile, had to scrub glassed behind the bar.

For the dinner service, each contestant was asked to take turns “at the pass,” meaning they had to bark orders the way Ramsay does each night to everyone else in the kitchen. None of the three were particularly convincing doing this, but were not horrible, either. As always for this challenge, Ramsay had the sous chefs mess up a few of the dishes to see if the chefs would catch the mistakes. Only Christina did.

And while each contestant did a fairly good job last night, they each made their share of mistakes. Ramsay knows it gets tough at this point to send someone home, but he had to ask each one to nominate someone else for elimination. Corey chose Christina, Christina chose Corey, and Petrozza chose Christina. Ramsey announced the Petrozza was the first to reach the finals, and then he chose Christina as his challenger, sending Corey home.

I think Ramsay may already have it in his mind that Christina will be the executive chef at his new restaurant. But Petrozza is a fighter and he’s really hung in there. Not to mention he must really know something about running a kitchen.

So there you have it….next week we have the battle for the championship–the 47-year-old kitchen veteran against the 25-year-old up-and-comer. Should be interesting, but either one will be a good choice for Chef Ramsay. See you all next Wednesday!


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