Cali-Belgique IPA – Stone Brewing Co.

Stone’s Cali-Belgique is their classic IPA fermented with Belgian yeasts, 6.9% ABV.

Reviewed in a frosted hefeweizen glass.

Appearance: Pours a bubbly, light-shaded golden orange. It produces a one-finger head that dissipates rather quickly until it is non-existent. Zero lacing occurs throughout the glass, except for a bit of residue that is left by the head.

Smell: Has a great, complex aroma consisting of sweet, fruity notes backed by hints of light bread and malts.

Taste: Very sweet on the palate, with notes of light bread and orange. The Belgian yeast is also at the forefront, and produces a soy-like taste that accentuates the initial sweetness. Transitions to a citrusy, hoppy punch that is identical to the standard Stone IPA, but is more mellow on the finish with only a slight bitterness that lingers harmoniously with the yeast. There is a slight tinge of alcohol as well, but it is not overbearing or disruptive in any way.

Mouthfeel: A medium body that leans more on the softer side. Carbonation is fairly moderate. Overall, quite a fluffy mouthfeel.

Conclusion: Stone has created a fantastic beer with the Cali-Belgique. It’s not a drastic change in recipe from their standard IPA, but the added Belgian yeasts really do make a difference, and the end result is a surprisingly balanced brew. Despite the yeast’s lighter flavors in contrast to the hop’s citrusy, bitter profile, everything meshes well in the finish and leaves you wanting a second sip. It’s deliciously drinkable! I’d say my only complaints about this beer are it’s lack of greater complexity when compared to Stone’s more ambitious IPA collaborations, and it’s rather subdued hoppiness, but regardless, the Cali-Belgique a great addition to this brewery’s already outstanding lineup.

91 out of 100

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Review: The Cabin in the Woods [No Spoilers!]

Sometimes a genre of film becomes so overused that the only possible next step for it is to delve into the realm of parody. Horror has most definitely been a casualty of such circumstance, and to a greater extent so has its sub-genres. It happened to the slasher with Scream, whose extreme subversion and comical clichés wholly brought about the genre’s death almost immediately, and it also happened to the zombie genre with Shaun of the Dead, whose quirky and dark humor overshadowed subtle jabs at the film’s more serious counterparts. The Cabin in the Woods attempts such parody with these and many of the other sub-genres of horror, but ultimately pushes past any and all boundaries.

Under the creative directing and writing of Cloverfield’s Drew Goddard and Buffy’s Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods really shines as a horror genre buster. The overt cliché of teens going away to an isolated cabin is the main focus here, as one could garner from the name, and pays homage to some of the greats – Friday the Thirteenth, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, the not very well known Cube and of course, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Yet, what makes this movie truly amazing is that it combines various other aspects of horror along with science fiction, which is used partly as a narrative mechanism to give logic to everything that happens to the teens.

Every interaction the teens engage in around the cabin activates a clichéd outcome, whether they are reading strange Latin from a diary, which raises the dead from their graves, or solving a puzzle sphere that summons a hellish creature (both of which are very Lovecraftian in essence). The film pokes fun at the very clichés that inspired it through their executions, while at the same time making obvious their stagnating presence in the horror genre. Of course, this is all supplemented by the controlling party’s knowledge of, and power over, what is going to happen to the teens. The comedic, office-buddy duo of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford really get the laughs going through their explicit expression of what evil is going to pop up next – almost in the same vein as MST3K – while at the same time giving clues to the audience as to the overarching purpose of their actions. The teens themselves add to the comedy as well through their stereotyped and role-specific characterizations, which is partly caused by the people behind everything. All of their responsive actions are reflections of what the average stupid teen would think of doing in the films that CitW pays homage to, while at the same time offering up a sort of character-revealed, meta-reflexive insight that works against these clichés and turns them into moments of pure comedy.

Goddard and Whedon obviously came into this project with the intention of raising a giant middle finger to the declining horror genre, while simultaneously revitalizing it through a unique mish-mash of its various aspects. They succeeded terrifically. The Cabin in the Woods is equal parts scary, funny, and weird with a strongly knit, yet overly fast-paced narrative that keeps your attention sharp for its whole ninety-five minutes of run time. If you’re a huge fan of horror, you’ll have no problem picking out the multitudinous references that are scattered, both obviously and subtly, throughout the film. It definitely takes a bit of knowledge regarding the horror genre to appreciate everything they attempt to convey, which may be off-putting for some, but The Cabin in the Woods is undeniably a visual treat for anyone that enjoys a well-made and detailed parody.

Trust me, go see it before any of it gets ruined for you. You’ll be happy you did.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

South Park – “Butterballs” Review

After watching the last two weeks’ South Park episodes, I’d come to the conclusion that the season was slowly beginning to fall into a downward spiral of mediocrity. So, when I learned that this week’s episode was going to cover the hot-button issue of bullying, I kept thinking to myself, “How are they going to address the topic while maintaining a strong sense of comedy and activism for the cause?” That’s when I remembered that South Park has one of the funniest, most pushed-around kids in all of television: Butters Leopold Stotch. And boy, did they take advantage of him!

The episode began with the boys having lunch at school while Cartman goes on a hilarious, albeit completely true, rant about music no longer being about love, but rather women’s ”vajayjays”. The conversation shifts to Butters though when he arrives at the table with a black eye and no lunch, the boys try to tell him that he has to tell someone about his bullying problem. Of course, Butters doesn’t want to be an Anonymous Andy, or as Cartman so greatly put it, a Cliché Conflict-Resolution Kevin, so the boys tell him that he should talk to someone he trusts, like his Grandma.

Unbeknownst to them though, the bully is actually Butters’ Grandma. The idea was definitely the greatest storyline of the episode, as this unlikely bully causes a great deal of physical and emotional pain for Butters. Not only does his Grandma berate him verbally with death threats, but she also beats the crap out of him and stabs him with forks. Butters can’t seem to find the help he’s looking for and gets extremely frustrated about the issue. He decides to take matters into his own hands. Changing into his evil, alternate persona of Professor Chaos, Butters musters up the courage to face his Grandma and tell her how it is. Although, much to his surprise and chagrin, his Grandmother is also dressed as a super villain, and “gummy bears” Butters into submission.

After experiencing torture, and bearing witness to various forms of bullying that are engaged by children and adults alike, Butters comes to a great realization about his Grandma. In what was probably one of the funniest moments of the entire season, Butters politely, and eloquently, tells his Grandma that he understands why she does what she does – because of loneliness. Butters also explains that he understands she is going to die soon. He makes it pointedly clear that he is going to live a long, happy, and healthy life, and will make sure to remind her of that fact while she’s on her deathbed. It was the ultimate guilt trip, spoken in the true blunt Butters fashion. I only wish I could say that the rest of the episode was just as fantastic.

The parallel storyline of Stan’s anti-bully music video had a few great moments but it felt much too obscure in reference and flat in presentation. I actually had to look up what video they were referencing, and found its source – a high-schooler made a music video in the same vein as Stan’s. I’m quite confused as to why Matt Stone and Trey Parker decided to use this video as it doesn’t really have any widespread recognition, only about 100,000 views and a single story shown on Fox News Texas. Even knowing of the reference now though, still doesn’t make the joke all that entertaining. Save for the few short moments of Cartman dressed up as a female singer, referencing his past lunch conversation, the reference was bland and wholly unfunny.

What was great about this storyline though – which also intertwined with Butters’ – were the bathroom-stall bully scenes. The episode alluded to the fact that bullying is a prevalent practice in more than just schools, while creating a hilarious hierarchy of people bullying those in lesser positions than them. This all comes to a climax when a movie producer enters the school bathroom and, to our surprise, is bullied by the only one with more power than him: Jesus. It was a great way to end the various stints of bathroom bullying, but I can’t help but feel more could have been drawn from these conversations, especially with Jesus – a man who preaches universal peace – being at the top of the bully food chain.

The end of the episode seemed to fall flat as well, despite the fact that it was an obvious poke at Invisible Children’s Jason Russell, and his mental breakdown from a few weeks ago. The whole thing just seemed superfluous, and really didn’t have any connection to the topic of the episode, save for the connecting factor that awareness videos were made.

Overall, I really did enjoy most of the episode and found Butters’ plight to be pure comedic gold, but most of the laughs seemed to draw more from random statements than from the theme of the episode. Bullying really is a difficult topic for South Park to handle though, considering most of their analyses of current events are critical and subversive. It seems that they had to tread carefully as not to trivialize the bullying epidemic, but then again, when has South Park ever tried not to offend people?

7 out of 10

Review: Goon [Warning: Spoilers]

There hasn’t been a good hockey movie in ages. In fact, the last one I can think of was The Mighty Ducks, and that was released about twenty years ago. So when I heard that Goon, the newest hockey comedy to come out of Canada, was making a very limited run in the U.S., I jumped at the chance to get into a screening of it.

The film, directed by Michael Dowse, stars Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a Jewish meathead with a heart of gold who feels as though he has no purpose in life. While his brother attends medical school to follow in the footsteps of their father, Doug is stuck working as a bouncer at the local bar – a job that suits his physical abilities quite nicely. Although, after attending a minor league hockey game with his perverted, sports-obsessed friend Pat (Jay Baruchel) and beating the crap out of one of the team’s players, Doug is offered a chance to play for the team.

Going from having zero knowledge about how to skate or play the game, to being the strongest defender around, Doug makes quite the name for himself and gets pushed up to the big leagues. It is here that he is tasked with rallying the team, and getting the former superstar, Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin), back to his former glory. All the while, Doug’s hockey idol Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is famous for his gritty fighting style and offensive force, gets ready to face off and beat the crap out of him in the finals before his retirement.

To be honest, the film is moderately erratic in its editing style and narrative progression, but it’s really the ride of Doug’s upward climb to stardom, and the struggles that he faces along the way, that makes this movie so great – so much so that you forget about the film’s shortcomings. Seann William Scott has always played a great “bro,” so his casting as Doug couldn’t have been more perfect. The comedy of his character really comes from his absolute stupidity, but it’s also very easy to connect with Doug and feel sympathy for him; he’s well rounded and humanistic for being so dumb. It is this good-hearted nature of Doug’s personality that brings about change for his team and the pompous Laflamme, and it’s also what ultimately gets him the girl of his dreams. Although, the real comedic star of the film is Jay Baruchel as Pat, who plays a character that is extremely unlike anything he’s ever portrayed. Instead of the being the shy super nerd that we’ve come to know and love from films such as Knocked Up and Fanboys, Baruchel plays a dirty-minded, hockey-show running prick who loves to brag that Doug is his best friend. Almost everything that Pat says is pure, laugh-out-loud comedy, and his sexually suggestive hand gestures only adds to this.

If you’re a sports fan, a lover of comedy, or just looking for a good time, I really can’t recommend Goon enough. The film is truly unique and fresh, and brings a powerful spark to the genre that, hopefully, will be revived to its former glory. I am deeply saddened that Goon did not have a wider release, as it was only shown at the NuArt in Los Angeles, but once it comes out to home video, you’d better grab a copy and put on your favorite jersey!

8.7 out of 10

South Park – “Jewpacabra” Review

As soon as I heard that Passover was during the same week as Easter, I just knew that South Park was going to tackle both holidays in their most recent episode. It’s obviously a great opportunity for a show that loves to make pointedly clear the creators’ notions of religion as ridiculous and contradictory, but everything about “Jewpacabra” just felt flat and unfocused.

The episode begins with Kyle waking up and discovering that his mom is sitting with Cartman and telling him the story of Passover. Of course, Cartman is up to no good as one can easily glean from his previous bouts of extreme antisemitism, and he uses this newly found information to go on a hunt for the elusive Jewpacabra. After spreading his lies around the town of South Park about this strange creature, Cartman brings the issue up to the local supermarket and urges them to give him funding so that he can capture the beast and save the annual Easter egg hunt from danger. With the backing that he receives, Cartman, along with Butters, attempts to capture footage of the Jewpacabra – an obvious rip on those idiotic Bigfoot hunter shows on Animal Planet. After catching what he believes to be footage of the beast, Cartman brings the tape to the “experts” at the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization where it is “proven” to be real. Cartman’s plan thus backfires on him, and the men from the supermarket chain him down at the park and use him an offering to the Jewbacabra.

The BFRO then appears and, thinking Cartman is some kind of bunny creature, shoot him with a tranquilizer gun. Cartman then has a drug-induced hallucination in which he is the first-born son of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and experiences the wrath of God’s plagues. Out of sympathy though, Kyle goes to the park, frees Cartman, and then brings him back to his bed. The next day, Cartman proclaims that he was saved by a Passover miracle and that he has converted to Judaism, but is branded a heathen by the rest of the town. He then apologizes to Kyle and understands how it feels to have one’s religion mocked. Kyle, most likely tired of Cartman’s continuous bullshit, reciprocates Cartman’s Passover greetings, and the episode ends with a Star of David branded on a shining sun.

Overall, this episode had a great deal of potential, but it didn’t really seem to go anywhere. The ideas were there, but nothing coalesced into a larger, more focused theme. Although, there were a few enjoyable moments such as Cartman becoming the victim of his own ruse and getting put in a bunny suit smeared with blood. And even though it was quite random and off-topic, Cartman’s trip to the water park offered a few chuckles. Unfortunately, nothing else was really exceptionally funny. The Jewpacabra storyline sort of fell by the wayside and never came to a climactic moment, instead transitioning to a vindictive hallucination that strangely converts Cartman to Judaism. Yet, the strangest part of the episode was the end when Kyle  and Cartman only exchange Passover greetings – the scene felt weirdly misplaced and slightly random. Unless they address Cartman’s religious conversion later in the season, it seems as if many aspects of the episode were rushed and poorly conceived. Despite these missteps, Jewpacabra is still a decent episode to watch. I expect though, that the next time South Park takes advantage of a rare opportunity to poke fun at conflicting holidays falling within the same week, they will flesh it out into something truly great.

5.5 out of 10

Ashton Kutcher to Play Steve Jobs in Biopic

According to an exclusive released by Variety earlier today, Ashton Kutcher will assume the role of Steve Jobs in the upcoming indie biopic, tentatively titled Jobs. The film is set to be directed by Joshua Michael Stern, whose previous films include Swing Vote and Neverwas, while Matt Whiteley will provide the script.

Interestingly enough, Sony Pictures is also developing a biopic of the late Steve Jobs as well, and the film will supposedly be based off of the new biography that was recently released by Walter Isaacson.

Of course, this is all hearsay at the moment (not to mention it’s April Fools – though Variety’s Jeff Sneider confirmed that this is no joke via Twitter), but we will keep you updated on any further details once they come to light.

Source: Variety.com

South Park – “Faith Hilling” Review

I have to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been doing with South Park recently. As Matthew Rhodes noted in his review of the previous episode, “Cash for Gold,” it really seems as if they are taking a more ruthless, no-holds-barred approach to the topics that they’ve been satirizing, and this week’s episode is no different. This time though, the creators are taking their absurdity to a topic which I’m quite surprised has never been focused on by them before: Memes. We’ve all seen them at some point or another while mindlessly perusing the internet during a period of boredom: LOLcats, Bachelor Frog, Philosoraptor, Courage Wolf, and Scumbag Steve, just to name a few. Then you have the other spectrum of memes – the more idiotic side – where people pose for the camera in ridiculous situations with equally ridiculous poses. Well, this week’s episode focused on the latter, and honestly, it could have been so much better.

The episode follows the boys as they deal with the constantly changing popularity of various internet memes. After Cartman “Faith Hills” (a play on Tebowing) the crowd at a CNN Republican debate (the use of actual sound bites from the candidates was particularly hilarious because they were completely out of context on everything), the boys learn that people have moved on to the next big meme fad: “Taylor Swifting,” which is exactly like a dog butt-scooting across a carpet. The boys though, are adamant about sticking with “Faith Hilling”, while everyone else is moving on to the other memes. Because of this craze, the school takes action and brings in a university professor of memes to talk to the kids about the dangers of them.

The class is shown an instructional video much to the tune of those car accident videos they show in driving school, which was probably the most hilarious part of the episode. In attempting to get pictures of their poses, the teens in the video keep getting killed by oncoming trains. This continues throughout the episode as well, with multiple reporters getting crushed while trying to see how many times they can say “Oh Long Johnson” before moving out of the way. Although, after getting into a fight with some of the other kids in town and hospitalizing them, the professor comes back and has a most fantastic moment with Butters. While going on an angry rant, the professor hands Butters a loaded gun and screams at him to stick the barrel in his mouth. The professor is then suddenly called away and doesn’t tell Butters to stop, so of course he’s just going to sit at his desk for the rest of the episode with a loaded gun in his mouth.

Now, this brings us to the major letdown of the episode. The professor is called away to examine cat memes that have been popping up online. He concludes that the cats are evolving to a level of human intelligence, and gives examples of meme evolution that dates back to ancient Egypt (The Egyptian paintings purportedly portrayed them “Donkey Dicking”). In an attempt to communicate with the cat leader, who is just a video meme from YouTube, the ambassador of people has a conversion that leads him to the ridiculous conclusion that the cats cannot live with humans, and that “the streets will run red with the blood of their children.” They could have turned this joke into a fantastic high point of comedy for the episode, but instead it just turns into a stale joke that really doesn’t lead anywhere. The cat leader becomes a member of the Republican debate and spouts the same out-of-context nonsense that the presidential candidates where doing, but then it just returns to the focus of the boy’s issues with quickly changing memes. I was hoping to see a cat takeover of some kind, or some other absolutely absurd moment, such as the Sir John Harrington appearance from the end of this season’s first episode, but that unfortunately didn’t happen.

Luckily, the episode was able to hold up a certain level of hilarity, despite its jumbled story. The recurring meme of the train killing people was just fantastic, and served as a pointed reminder of just how stupid many of the internet’s constantly changing memes are. And honestly I can’t see how anyone didn’t lose it when, after Cartman and Kyle begin to get tired of “Faith Hilling” outside of the Planned Parenthood, those d-bag  kids drive by and yell, “Go back to the 90s, f*ggots!”. Of course, the moments of Butters with the gun in his mouth were great as well, especially when he begins to fall asleep on it. Overall, this was a good episode, but when you’re dealing with memes on one of the greatest satirical comedies ever made, you’re going to set the bar of expectations really high.

7 out of 10