TV Binge: House of Lies [Season 2, 2013]

Earlier this week, I wrote about the first season of House of Lies.  If you missed it, you can check it out HERE!

Due to not enough backlog and just real life being busy, I decided to bump this post up a little. It also means I can continue watching House of Lies Season 3. Yay! House of Lies seriously took me by surprise and it just is really funny to watch despite all the business stuff in it.  Let’s hope that Season 2 holds up the greatness of the first season!:)

House of Lies
[Season 2, 2013]

House of Lies

Creator: Matthew Carnahan

Cast: Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson, Donis Leonard Jr., Glynn Turman, Dawn Olivieri, Jenny Slate, Larenz Tate, Bess Armstrong

The second season of House of Lies picks up a (few?) week(s) after the incident that destroyed the deal that was going have MetroCapital take over Galweather, the business consultant company that Marty and The Pod works for.  However, danger is still close.  The incident caused the company to be taken over by a very reputable business woman, Julianna Hofschrager, played by Bess Armstrong. Julianne has an agenda to turn the business around and with a new management comes its own worries.  Marty and The Pod get sent out to take care of a huge client in Las Vegas and the difference of the first season and this one is that the second season focuses around landing this casino deal and working it out throughout most of the season.

House of Lies

 Having one case along with a few other little ones on the side is a good decision.  It adds a little different pacing to the story. Now, we can actually see the characters develop more. On one hand, we get a closer look at Marty and his family especially as he patches up things with his son and deals with his brother that crashes at his place.  On the other hand, not so much him but Jeannie is dealing with the memories of how things left off in Season 1 and wondering about the feelings she might have.  However, this time around, we get a much deeper look into Doug’s character and something like how he becomes more independent along with Clyde.  A new member is added onto their team. The new member is part of Marty’s past. Also, Jenny Slate joins the show as Doug’s girlfriend and her character is rather complex as well but one I like a lot! We need some more ladies on the show with depth.  Although, in a quirky and sly way, Bess Armstrong is also fantastic as Julianne Hofschrager.

House of Lies

One of the most unpredictable bits of Season 2 is really in not truly knowing who to trust or how much we do know the characters.  Everyone seems to have their own story and at this point, we only have skimmed the surface so when things happen out of the ordinary, it becomes a surprise. Its also the series where the characters are more independent.  They have more outside influence and each are trying to embrace whatever suppressed feelings they have to secure their future.  The Pod is more and more dangerous because both Marty and Jeannie seem to have their dangers and it seems like a time bomb waiting to explode.  The feeling of uneasiness is always present however House of Lies is quite masterful at keeping a certain humor constantly in the forefront.  That is the part I enjoy and appreciate the most.

Plus, Season 2 ended with a guest role for Adam Brody and well, this was before blogging days but my high school days was very much being in love with The O.C. so his small part here was the cherry on top.  However, we can’t discount some of the other guest roles that occurred and maybe even some of them I suspect might reappear in future seasons.

House of Lies

Overall, Season 2 of House of Lies was a lot better than the first season.  It develops each of the characters better and gets more personal.  The story has a continuity and danger.  The new characters add some complexity but maintains the humor it had in the first season.  Don Cheadle is still incredibly charismatic even in his very flawed character while Kristen Bell is absolutely fantastic.  Jenny Slate is one of my favorite additions to the show and I can’t wait to see how her character develops. Its a lot of fun to watch and Season 3 is heading into a completely different direction and I’m excited to start it up!

Are you a fan of House of Lies? How about Don Cheadle and/or Kristen Bell?

Time for Season 3! I’ll be back with the next TV Binge soon!:)

Baking: Cherry-Cranberry Crumb Bars

Spring cooking date with my friend! Remember my road trip buddy that I hang out with for movies and baking dates? Well, we only had one baking date before Christmas last year where we made this and this. We’re back this time for the long Victoria’s Day weekend and with cherries and eggs, I went over to her place and we did some research and ended up making some Cherry-Cranberry Crumb Bars.

Cherry-Cranberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from: Blueberry Crumb Bars from Smitten Kitchen

Cherry Cranberry Crumb Bars

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted flour
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
*zest and juice of one lime
4 cups *fresh cherries & cranberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 tsp cornstarch

  1. Preheat over to 375F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup white sugar, 3 cups flour and baking powder. Mix in salt and lime zest. Use a fork to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half the dough into the prepared pan.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the cherries and cranberries. Sprinkle the fruit mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the fruit layer.
  4. Bake in preheated over for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Cherry-Cranberry Crumb Bar

There were no substitutions for anything here. Although this one is already modified to how we made it.  There was only two ingredients from the original recipe that we’ve changed.  The first is that we made cherry and cranberry instead of blueberry and the other is that we used lime zest and juice instead of lemon.

The last time I made crumb bars was in 2012! Almost four years ago! That’s crazy! Last time was good but the pan was too small so the levels didn’t work out well in that sense.  However, these crumb bars were rather tart, probably because of the cranberries.  I personally love it like this more.  The pan we used was perfect and had a great texture in layers.  The fruity bits balanced well with the crumb on the top and when it cooled, it became firm enough to actually feel like a bar and didn’t fall apart.

This recipe is rather easy to do.  Of course, it would be less time consuming if you used blueberries.  We had a bit more prep time just because we had to pit the cherries.  Now, I am thinking of redoing the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Bars I did four years ago but using the right sized pan and making it the perfect fit for this time of year, especially when my rhubarb plant is fabulously ready for harvesting!:)

What flavor do you like crumb bars or just granola bars or whatnot? 

Book Review: Bitter Fruits (Eden’s Fall #1)

Next up is another book from my Kindle that I had found a good while back.  This one is called Bitter Fruits and is the first in a series called Eden’s Fall. Bitter Fruits is an adult paranormal romance.  Although it features college students and vampires, there is quite a bit of erotic scenes that its hard to categorize it as a young adult novel, in my opinion.

Let’s check it out!:)

Bitter Fruits
(Eden’s Fall #1)

By: Sarah Daltry

Bitter Fruits

A vampire-themed masquerade party isn’t really her scene, but Nora is sick of frat parties and bars. When she meets Alec, the appeal suddenly becomes clear. It’s obvious that they’ve been struck by the same intense mutual attraction, but Alec keeps his distance. Intrigued despite herself, Nora pushes a little deeper — and discovers Alec’s unimaginable secret…  Nora is not afraid of following Alec into the darkness, but the choice is soon taken from her. Someone is hunting her — someone tied to the secret and desperate to see it play out. But when Nora finally meets her aggressor, she finds herself hopelessly drawn to him. She needs to make a choice between the two men, but can she save them both, knowing one is destined to die? – Goodreads

 I honestly don’t even know where to start with Bitter Fruits.  Its not a bad novel and actually if you cut out a lot of the college girl angsty moments and take out the whole very similar to TV series version of The Vampire Diaries sort of story of trying to love both brothers at the same time and being torn apart, its decent. It may seem like I’m contradicting myself here since I’m a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries and this is right up my alley. I guess what doesn’t work so well here is that Nora, our main character, treats the two boys in terms of meat.  Like their bodies and physical traits is what draws her to them. Maybe its something more and its just instinctive like they are just right for her and she can’t explain it other than that. I said it in previous reviews and I say it again: Physical traits are great but that is not what makes ladies jump on them literally or turn them into indecisive sexual beings that betray their original lover. Let’s stop this point before I hit further in the spoiler territory.

Despite all that I said above, Bitter Fruits has a good idea brewing under all the sex and love story. It rotates around these mythological creatures that actually aren’t exactly vampires and despise being called that. It pulls in some mythological investigations.  While I’m not very well-versed or know mythology to a deep extent, its fun to have that connection pulled in where it links up with the story of Adam and Eve and our main characters here, Alec and Caleb are actually the original Abel and Cain and because of their issues has caused them to be cursed and its for this exact reason they would like to break it but of course, its not that easy especially when Lilith is also in the picture. The imagination behind this, although reminisces a lot of TV series in the past few years still manages to add a fresh twist to it that intrigued me quite a bit. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of these parts.

Deal is, I wish there was more mythological breaking curses going on than the first part which is just Nora wanting to have sex with Alec who resists because he doesn’t want to drag her in until they do.  Then Caleb comes along and she just can’t resist him and more sex happens because he’s even more perfect for her but she doesn’t want to betray Alec even if she already did. She goes back to having sex with Alec and then Caleb or maybe thats what it feels like.  With all the steamy action going on, I kind of lost track.

Sometimes, less is more.  The plot of the curse and what dangers these characters should be much more than the love story and incredible amounts of sex because that is what build characters and develops them into something more. Nora, Alec and Caleb lacked that development to make me want to care about them.  I just wish they would stop having sex, think about their choices and take care of the important stuff more. There’s something here but its hidden behind a lot of dragged out overused bits.

Netflix A-Z: Zipper (2015)

Its the last movie of Round 2 of Netflix A-Z!

Our Z selection is Zipper! My husband got to choose between the few choices, most notably Zipper and Z for Zachariah and he chose this one. I think both weren’t quite so appealing  but this one maybe seemed to have more of an edge.  I don’t know is mindset behind it. Mostly I don’t even give that much thought to my Netflix A-Z! Its the point that I’m exploring movies that had intrigued me and ended up on my list and the random times its not, its just giving a chance to something new. Why not, right?

Enough rambling, let’s check this out!:)

Zipper (2015)

Zipper 2015

Director (and co-writer): More Stephens

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Lena Headey, Ray Winstone, Richard Dreyfuss, John Cho, Dianna Agron

A family man has it all until he risks losing everything due to his inability to fight off his obsessive temptation for other women.-IMDB

A few things to address before we begin.  IMDB’s summary is kind of part right.  We’re looking at a family man but also a man striving for some political power with a lot of potential of success, currently as a federal prosecutor. This is a political (sexual/erotic?) thriller. Now that we know what we’re meant to be seeing, let’s continue.

Its not hard to say that Zipper has one very fantastic pro and that is its cast. Patrick Wilson, Lena Headey, Richard Dreyfuss, Ray Winstone, John Cho and  Dianna Agron, even though she gets on the cover of the poster (not the one I chose here) but has a very small role: they are all decent actors and actresses and make up for the depth the characters should carry.

This is also where I start talking about cons.  First of all, don’t go and believe that this is anything like Gone Girl or that its a thriller.  Its neither of those things even if it tries to be the latter. I’m a huge fan of Gone Girl so maybe my love might skew how I feel towards that statement but without any comparison, since I never thought to compare the two, Zipper lacks a story or maybe it lacks simply a good pacing for the story it wants to tell or even feels like it might have lost direction of where it wanted to go with all this.

Zipper

Thing is, I’m not bothered by sexual content or anything like that.  The deal is with Zipper is that in the first 20 minutes (maybe shorter, I didn’t check the time), there was a lot of watching Patrick Wilson’s character Sam Ellis masturbate. Like, you know, the back of him of course because we need to have some class here.  This isn’t pornographic material especially with the cast, although we do  some naked ladies like Lena Headey and some of the escorts he encounters. It would be nice to know what the movie was trying to get.  Because the ending is even worse especially when Sam Ellis himself doesn’t know why he did all that stuff but I guess it refers back to a speech he has during the movie about finding yourself because you can never change who you are or something like that. What makes me a little more frustrated is that there are some complex characters here.  There is a hint of its existence but the story is not put together well enough to give it time to be more.

Zipper

While I’m not a fan of political thrillers, the political portion of this wasn’t actually a lot other than the fact that Sam Ellis tried really hard to live in this alternate reality as Bob Fisher who was paying all these escorts but hoping he wouldn’t be noticed.  I think that is ridiculous personally but I can accept what they were trying to do and understand it. The political portion was really dealing with people and trying to avoid people caught up.  Once the second part of the movie starts off with investigations of the escort agency he was a client of and all that bit, it picks up a decent pace but doesn’t last long enough for it to have an impact.  Its where I feel the movie could have spent more time on and chopped a bunch of the beginning away since it didn’t make me connect with his character more but rather just felt dragged out.

Zipper

Overall, Zipper was a disappointment especially with the cast that it had.  The cast did fine in their roles as limited as the story was. The standout most probably will have to go to Patrick Wilson. The story could’ve been structured a little differently with focuses more on the second half than the first’s pacing and it might have been better.

End of Round 2 of Netflix A-Z!
A little break while I construct the next round which may possibly be indie themed!
Do you have any other suggestions or recommendations on Netflix?

TV Binge: House of Lies [Season 1, 2012]

Wow! Now, this TV Binge has been sitting in backlog for a little while but I’ve been holding back watching Season 2 because I haven’t been able to find a spot to schedule this in. Still, its time to get this done so that I can continue with this series! I know its an older-ish series but I need a dose of Kristen Bell and this one is rated rather well.

Let’s check it out!:)

House of Lies [Season 1, 2012]

House of Lies

Creator: Matthew Carnahan

Cast: Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson, Dawn Olivieri, Donis Leonard Jr., Glynn Turman, Griffin Dunne, Richard Schiff, Greg Germann, Michael Rady

A subversive, scathing look at a self-loathing management consultant from a top-tier firm. Marty, a highly successful, cutthroat consultant is never above using any means (or anyone) necessary to get his clients the information they want.-IMDB

 Its taken me a long time to get to writing up this TV Binge.  I actually have finished Season 2 at this point because I just couldn’t resist and I guess I needed some extra ideas on what to write.  Thing is, I love House of Lies. I started this series up because of Kristen Bell and I’m sticking with it because its fun and quirky and hilarious.  Its unforgiving and smart.  The characters, especially the entire team jives well together while staying incredibly competitive. In the world of business consultants, its a game of survival and how well you can sell your ideas (that are pretty much the better way of saying BS) and only the best get out alive and thriving.

house of lies

Season one builds a nice foundation for the series.  Every episode is a new case that the four person team consisting of Marty (Don Cheadle), Jeannie (Kristen Bell), Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson). Marty is technically the leader of the team and our host to figuring out what business consultants are all about. Marty talks to the audience a lot.  This is one factor that I like a lot about this.  It helps me feel involved with the show and the story and maybe even with the extremely flawed and controversial character like Marty.  The deal with seeing the full cast here mostly in the work environment and always interacting with each other but not exactly knowing each other outside of the job is that it causes some questions about the characters.  It makes someone like Marty, who is the male main character to be much more complex. The same applies for Jeannie, played by Kristen Bell.  I love Kristen Bell, especially because of her role as Veronica Mars but I like Jeannie a lot because she is also a very flawed person.  She’s ambitious and does what she needs to make things happen but she also has certain part of her nature that she can’t ignore.  It feels a little like Jeannie has a hard time embracing who she is deep down.

house of lies

The other two guys in Marty’s team is Clyde and Doug.  Clyde is kind of like the asshole of the group.  He talks trash and makes fun of Doug a lot.  He likes to woo women a lot also and his character, while not exactly having a lot, adds a tad of fun and BS.  On the other hand, Doug is the brain of the group.  He analyzes the numbers and he’s really good at what he does except he isn’t so good at the social part of the job.  He is more behind the scenes and a buffer.  Many times, his awkwardness is what makes him entertaining to watch.

House of Lies

The best part of the series is not only getting to know these characters but also the background story.  While business consultants are on the road a lot, there are few tangents going on here.  One is the family tangent which is the limited behind the scenes for everyone else but we get a good view of Marty and his relationship with his ex-wife and his son and his father. There are things he can do better but also other things that he is dealing with.  When his work intertwines with his personal after an encounter unexpectedly at the beginning of the season that triggers a little later into a relationship, this is when he actually offends the client/company management played by Greg Germann and ends up having this bank MetroCapital want to acquire the current consultant company that he works at to kick him out. The whole scenario and the encounters of Greg (same first name in the series) is absolutely hilarious because he absolutely has an issue and it just makes for a lot of funny and awkward moments.

Overall, the first season of House of Lies is a lot of fun and a really good foundation.  We learn a lot about the characters as they develop.  Although Clyde and Doug sit in the background a lot in The Pod (what they call their team), Marty and Jeannie do get a good look at their stories as their character develops.  The situation with MetroCapital adds danger to the scene and gives the show continuity.  At the end of Season One, I was itching to watch season 2 which I have already as I’m writing this now. I just couldn’t resist. That post is coming up really soon!:)

Have you seen House of Lies? What do you think of it?

Podcast: The Random Chat Show Reviews Ghost in the Shell!

This week’s The Random Chat Show features a widely discussed movie that is getting a reboot. Ghost in the Shell is our featured film.  We talk about the 1995 sci-fi animated film and dive a little into the topic of Scarlett Johansson being in this when there are some choices we would have preferred. Join us and see how you do in this week’s sci-fi animated film trivia!

Hope you enjoy!:)

 

 

House of Cards by Ilana Waters

House of Cards has been sitting in my Kindle for a while. As I work through the list and only in my 2013 free Kindle downloads, House of Cards was the next one and I remember downloading it because it had the same name as the TV series but the plot was totally not.  To be honest, at this point, I wasn’t even reading the summary again.  From the cover, it looked YA paranormal (aka vampires) so hey, I did read the whole Sookie Stackhouse so this is right up my alley. I do love me some vampires.

Let’s check it out!

House of Cards
by: Ilana Waters

House of Cards

Eighteen-year-old Sherry has just begun her newly independent life in Paris when she is kidnapped by a group of vampires. They hold her hostage in the House of Cadamon, their catacomb lair beneath the city, ruled with an iron fist by a leader known as “the Master.” The only thing keeping Sherry alive is her ability to tell vampire fortunes through tarot cards, a task she is forced to perform night after night. She finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a four-hundred-year-old reluctant blood drinker who is as much a prisoner of Cadamon as she is. –Goodreads

It turns out my deductions are correct, mostly because the cover of the book was positioning the book well. Very nice cover, by the way! I like it quite a bit.  While I want to rate a book and sometime even pick up books by their attractive covers, we can’t exactly do that.  It means nothing to the story itself. House of Cards is an average YA paranormal vampire romance. There were some good ideas, like using tarot cards and fortune telling to indirectly weave in the vampires in House of Cadamon and even reveal their temperament, especially that of “the Master”. I liked the beautiful setting of Paris and “the Master” having a hold on them and having the freedom but not actually having it so it wasn’t just set underground in the catacombs where House of Cadamon was located.

The story is simple.  Its at times a good thing and at times, not so good.  For one, its not a long book but in the middle, it dragged out quite a bit as they built the relationship between Sherry and Lucas.  I have nothing against romance.  In fact, I like reading them.  As I was reading House of Cards, I couldn’t help but feel like Lucas and Sherry had the Bella and Edward sort of vibe and I only know it from that one time I watched 70% of New Moon. If you’ve followed my last few reviews of these ebook adventures, I stepped into this one hoping for that it wouldn’t have these steamy sex scenes and then this was all reluctant and craving it all.  The point is: Sherry is in this House of Cadamon and I can’t imagine being seventeen year old, on my own, being captured and having been revealed that vampires actually exist and while there was fear, it quickly subsided and became like something totally different.  But that is the thing, House of Cards isn’t aimed or made for me so its hard for me to relate in a realistic way and for that, I couldn’t engage into Sherry’s character.

However, the main issue here isn’t even that.  I think its the fact that the writing style is not done well.  We are looking at everything from Sherry’s perspective but yet its in a third person point of view however, the actions are insinuate towards a first person. Then, deductions and events happen and it would feel awkward to read.

Don’t get me wrong though. House of Cards may not be geared towards me, even if I read a good bit of YA paranormal novels but while it takes time and drags on a little at parts, the ideas here are good.  I can understand the appeal of the book and it actually changes from my normal views of YA books.  I would’ve preferred a first person perspective and maybe a little more romance action.  I don’t mean sex but just kissing or more of that than just desires floating all over the place and feeling like it didn’t really amount to much after all that wait time. If YA and vampire stories appeal to you, its worth a read.