Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Format: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Written by: Terry Rossio & Ted Elliott

Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally

Studio: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review by: Sarah Jones

If there was ever a pirate who could escape any situation, it would be Captain Jack Sparrow. Although he acts silly, Sparrow seems to stumble into the right situations at the right time to find the treasure or escape capture. However, this movie begins with Sparrow in custody by the English. Of course, he escapes and starts on his journey for the Fountain of Youth aboard Captain Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

As the new lovely lady in the Pirates’ world, Penelope Cruz features as Blackbeard’s daughter, Angelica, with whom Sparrow once had a romantic relationship with. To add more drama, Blackbeard and crew are not the only ones seeking the fountain. Barbossa, who makes a return from previous movies in the series, and the Spanish are both on the hunt for the fountain for their own reasons. (more…)


#4 L.A. Noire (PS3, 360, PC)

Publisher: Rockstar Games – Developer: Team Bondi, Rockstar Leeds

Our Review

Every year, Pads & Panels list of top games is dominated not only by quality titles but also by a special few that try their damndest to reinvent what we can expect from mainstream games. It’s no surprise that Rockstar Games has found itself perennially among those special few. This year’s offering from the publisher is L.A. Noire. In addition to a ridiculously detailed recreation of 1940s Los Angeles and a plot worthy of its name, L.A. Noire works to reinvent what we can expect from gaming by pioneering facial technology that allowed its creators to add in-depth, emotional interrogations to what might have otherwise been a simple third-person action title. The DLC support for the title cannot be ignored, but even without it, L.A. Noire would stand out as one of the year’s absolute best. (more…)


Best of 2011 – Sarah’s Music Pick

Adele – 21 (Columbia)

There is one album this year that seemed to keep finding its way back into my CD player and staying there for long periods of time. That album is Adele’s sophomore release, titled 21. The inspiration behind her bestselling songs, which she pens herself, was a bad breakup with her boyfriend. The songs show some raw emotion and are completely relatable to anyone who has ever experienced heartbreak. From the anger-filled fast-paced songs to the mournful and emotional ballads, Adele gets it just right with this collection. (more…)


Title: The Help

Format: Blu-ray Combo Pack

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Screenplay by: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard

Studio: Dreamworks

Rating: ★★★★½

Review by: Sarah Jones

Similar to the popular saying that a person should walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging them, The Help offers insight into the lives of maids in the early 1960s. These women aren’t just any women; they are black and living in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. They are cleaning houses and raising children for white families, and this movie showcases their triumphs and heartbreaks.

Skeeter Phelan is a recent college graduate who moves back to her hometown with hopes of becoming a serious journalist and author. Her first job is to write a housekeeping column for the Jackson Journal, but as she has never done her own housekeeping, she enlists the help of her friend Hilly’s maid, Aibileen. Soon, the project evolves into an idea for a book about the experiences of local maids, even though it is very dangerous. Once the book is published, it becomes a sensational hit, but there is still a lot of risk for the women involved.



Title: Hey, Arnold!: Season 1

Format: DVD

Studio: Shout! Factory

Rating: ★★★★★

Review by: Sarah Jones

In viewing favorite shows and movies from childhood that are remembered so fondly, there is always a fear that they won’t live up to the hype of an adolescent memory. Maybe the jokes won’t be as funny, the situations not as believable or the animation not as stimulating as they all once were. However, Hey, Arnold! still delivers on all accounts. (more…)


Title: Red Riding Hood

Format: Digital

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

Written by: David Johnson

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Julie Christie

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Review by: Sarah Kumley

Teen books (and movies) these days are often about one of three things: vampires, werewolves or forbidden love. Although Red Riding Hood is a reimagining of the well-known fairy tale, it still manages to contain two of the three criteria to snag teenagers’ attention. Throw in a love triangle and attractive leads and the package is complete to draw in a crowd. There is sufficient tension throughout the movie and the sets look like a medieval village, but the story is mostly predictable and unforgettable. (more…)


Product: Bioplastic Phone Cover

Company: Bioserie

MSRP: $34.95

Review by: Sarah Kumley

Getting an expensive mobile device often leads to another purchase: protection for it. Often covers, screen films and carrying cases are bought to protect iPods, iPads and iPhones. Getting tired of one cover and purchasing a new one often means that the old cover is thrown out and ends up in a landfill. However, with Bioserie’s new Bioplastic Covers, when one is done with the case it is recyclable or compostable. It would also have a much smaller impact on the environment if it did happen to be taken to a landfill.

The covers that Bioserie is producing are the first in the world to be made entirely from plants rather than petrochemicals. Corn grown in the USA is used to create the biopolymer Ingeo, a renewable resource, unlike the oil and natural gases used to make regular plastic covers. Because of this, Bioserie covers contribute less greenhouse gases when they are produced and do not pollute the environment when discarded. Don’t take that to mean that these covers are flimsy or ugly. They are still incredibly lightweight, durable, functional and stylish. They are even washable (with cold water and mild soap) if they get dirty. Bioserie offers a variety of colors and also has printed styles available for the iPhone 4. (more…)


Chicago Foodcast

Episode 5: “The Best EFFEN Episode”

Interviews with Jim Beam Global Spirits Master Mixologist Bobby “G” Gleason and Chicago mixlogists

Running Time: 48:20

Chicago Foodcast

Episode Description: Episode 5 of Chicago Foodcast is “The Best EFFEN Episode,” as Archie and Bill head to the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago for a big EFFEN bash, EFFEN vodka that is. The episode features discussion on top Chicago mixologists competing to make the tastiest concoctions with EFFEN, EFFEN Black Cherry and EFFEN Cucumber. Bill also sits down for an interview with Jim Beam Global Spirits Master Mixologist Bobby “G” Gleason, as well as three of Chicago’s top mixologists and bartenders. Sarah Kumley joins the guys for the episode, and brings Mike’s Hard Strawberry Lemonade for “Happy Hour.” She also displays her cupcake enthusiasm by making a batch of cupcakes from ThinkGeek’s new Zombie Cupcakes recipe book. On “Hey Fatty! Whatcha been eatin?” the trio talks Bleeding Heart Bakery, Park Grill, Meatyballs Mobile, SkrineChops and Owen & Engine.

Music on the episode – Al Duvall’s “The Day Bartender” (more…)


Title: One Week

Format: DVD

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Written and Directed by: Michael McGowan

Starring: Joshua Jackson, Liane Balaban, Campbell Scott

Studio: IFC Films

Film: Rating: ★★★★☆

DVD Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Review by: Sarah Kumley

The Film

One Week is a film about schoolteacher Ben Tyler, who upon finding out that he has an aggressive form of cancer decides to drop everything and go west in search of an adventure of a lifetime. Only a few months before the wedding, he leaves his fiancé, Samantha, at home, purchases a motorcycle and takes off. Along the way, Ben meets people that give him some insight into himself and he changes some of them as well. He also has an affinity for oversized roadside sculptures and visits many on his trip, taking snapshots along the way.

What is inspiring about One Week is that Ben is not only moved by the people he encounters, but by the beauty of the world around him as well. This movie makes one think about their own mortality and evaluate if they are living the life they want. If confronted with horrible odds as Ben was, what would someone do with their remaining time? (more…)


Title: Rango: The World

Platform: PC

Developer: Funtactix

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review by: Sarah Kumley

Rango is a family-friendly movie released earlier this year, about a chameleon who finds himself in an old west town called Dirt. To prolong the fun of the movie, parents and children can also play an online game, Rango: The World, which takes place in Dirt one year after the movie ends. In the game, players walk around the town and talk to different characters to receive missions. Players gain points and can advance their levels by completing these missions. If a player stops in the middle of a mission, the journal keeps track of all the steps needed to complete it.

Players move around the world by clicking on the ground in the direction they want to go. To enter a building or move to the next section of buildings, the player must click on an arrow on the ground. In much the same fashion, to talk to characters throughout Dirt, players click on them and select what they would like to discuss from a list that pops up. Players may also find artifacts along the way. These can be collected by the player but do cause them to lose some energy points, which can be regained later. (more…)