Munchkin

Munchkin

Game Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Game Type: Card Game/RPG
Players: 3-5
Age Range: 10+
Play Time: 1-2 Hours

In the game of Munchkin, players create a character in the same vein as Dungeons & Dragons….but a bit more silly. Using cards drawn from a main deck, players will construct their characters using cards that grant Race, Class and Equipment and then delve through a dungeon – kicking open doors and fighting monsters to go up in level and to get treasure. The goal is to be the first player to reach level 10. Leveling up can be accomplished by defeating monsters, with random Level Up cards or by selling $1,000 worth of Gold Pieces. To achieve all this, players will undertake in some underhanded tactics like backstabbing, forging alliances and stealing from other players.

I was introduced to this Dedicated Deck-Building Game while at residency during my time with Stonecoast. I’d never played it before, and had sort of been out of the board game loop for a while, but I had a lot of fun with it. For best results, I strongly suggest playing the game with as many people as possible as it creates the most tension and the most unexpected alliances and a constant theme of change within the game, keeping it fresh and exciting. However, the game can be played with as few people as possible (and honestly, my girlfriend and I play it with just the two of us and it’s just as fun).

There are a TON of expansions to this game – including expansions featuring Conan The Barbarian (yes, and it is licensed), and smaller ones that feature characters from Penny Arcade, The Guild, Skullkickers and even Axe Cop. I haven’t delved much outside the fantasy realm with this game series, but there are also other themed sets such as Zombies, Superheroes, Space, Old West and others. You can combine all the cards you want to create the ultimate Munchkin experience, but I tend to only blend the fantasy ones together (though I’d love to combine the Space version and the Cowboy one for a Steampunk-themed deck).

This game is consistently fun, fairly cheap and there are just so many options to choose from that I can’t give it any less of a score. The possibilities are virtually endless. Give it a try, honestly.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Instructional Video On How To Play Munchkin

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Bronson (2008)

Bronson (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: March 13, 2009
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Michael Petersen (Tom Hardy) aka “Charles Bronson” is the U.K.’s most violent convict. Based on a true story, this biopic delves into the psyche of a truly twisted individual who was sent to prison for seven years after a robbery at a post office and then managed to up his sentence to over thirty years in solitary confinement due to his violent nature and poor life choices.

Nicolas Winding Refn creates a very snappy and stylized account of this man’s life, treating major points in his life as if it were performance art, while Tom Hardy bravely and brilliantly inhabits the role of Bronson completely and most convincingly with his bald head and handlebar mustache. The feel of this film, to me, was essentially Drive mixed with Warrior.

If you’re not into full frontal male nudity, however – beware…because apparently every time Bronson decided to fight someone in prison he had to get naked to do so. This resulted in a lot of fights where Tom Hardy just swings away, in more than one sense of the word. For me, it didn’t detract from the film because it seemed like a logical thing for Bronson to do and melded with the whole “performance art” theme going on.

For the most part, this film seemed like a vehicle to showcase Tom Hardy’s terrific acting, but the other actors involved played their parts well. Though the film wasn’t straight action, Hardy carried himself so kinetically that it’s hard not to keep watching and be invested and see what crazy thing he’ll do next to get himself into trouble.

This is really a beautiful film, let alone an interesting biopic. Go check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Bronson

 

Katie Made Bakery – Portland, Maine

Katie Made Bakery - Portland, Maine

Street Address: 181 Congress Street, Portland, Maine
Hours Of Operation:
Mon: Closed
Tue-Wed: 7:30am-4:30pm
Thu-Fri: 7:30am-6:00pm
Sat: 8:00am-3:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-12:00pm

I’ve become more familiar with businesses on Munjoy Hill and the surrounding neighborhood a bit more since my girlfriend started living there about a year ago. Since there are so many good places to eat, I figured I’d try some of them out and put the results down for all to see on my blog. I frequently search on the web to see if a place is highly-regarded before I seek out food there, so I figured there would be some use for my reviews of these places.

Katie Made is a little bakery situated right up near the Portland Observatory on Congress Street, mid-hill. It’s an unsuspecting little place and one might easily overlook it since parking on the hill can be spotty depending on what time of day and year one visits. However, if you’re in the area and want to try out some baked goods and maybe a little breakfast or lunch, you won’t want to miss out.

I’ve been going to Katy Made for a while now, and they’ve never given me anything resembling a bad experience. The staff consists of Katie herself, who you can see toiling with a smile in the kitchen and who even hand-delivers your food to you if she has the time, along with a cashier and another baker in back who I’ve rarely seen but who I’m sure is there quite a lot like the other two women. They are always friendly and accommodating.

The only downside to this establishment is that if you’re looking to dine in somewhere, there aren’t a lot of options open to you. The place makes use of its interior room but even doing so, there is only room for about 10-12 people maximum, less if you don’t want to sit across one of the small tables from a stranger. There are a couple of seating options available outside as well, but those are dependent mostly on weather.

For breakfast, one can get a variety of regular menu items Katie offers, including a loaded breakfast sandwich (which I always get) that comes on an english muffin with a scrambled egg patty, mushrooms, sizzling sausage, caramelized onions (though I get it without onions, myself), melted cheese and a touch of mustard. The price isn’t bad, either. The breakfast sandwich is only around $6.00 if I remember correctly, making it on level with big chains like McDonald’s but with extremely superior ingredients.

However, for this review, I went in to grab a quick bite to eat for take out lunch. When I arrived, the place wasn’t super-packed and I was waited on right away. The cashier put my purchase through with no problem – a Cuban Sandwich ($7.00) and two Strawberry-Cheese Danishes (Forgive me for not remembering the exact price, but they were around $1.50 or $2.00 each). I sat down on one of the comfortable seats near the window and waited only around 5-10 minutes for my food to be brought out by Katie herself, smiling as she handed me the foil-wrapped sandwich that was good and hot through its wrappings. I bid the women adieu and left to enjoy my sandwich.

The Cuban Sandwich came on a delicious roll that held up its integrity throughout the meal. There were tangy pickles, melty cheese and very delicious and generous strips of real cut pork. The mustard had a zip to it, but did not overwhelm the taste buds. I finished with my favorite thing at Katie Made, which are the Strawberry Cheese Danishes (I reluctantly gave one to my girlfriend). The pastry was light and fluffy with enough backbone to chew and to give it a pleasing texture. The insides were creamy and addictively delicious, the strawberry slices bursting with flavor.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Munjoy Hill area and want a really solid breakfast or lunch, or a nice pastry to accompany you for the day – hit up Katie Made Bakery. You can tell Katie and her entire staff put a lot of love into what they do.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check Out The Katie Made Bakery Web Site Here
http://katiemadebakery.com

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Otto’s Pizza – Portland, Maine

Art work on take out boxes done by Ella Trout from the Breakwater School

Art work on take out boxes done by Ella Trout from the Breakwater School

Street Address: 225 Congress Street (Munjoy Hill Neighborhood)
Hours of Operation: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am (Note: Other Locations May Be Different)

I was first introduced to Otto’s Pizza one night after I attended a show at the Port City Music Hall. I was semi-new to the Portland city night life, and one of my friends, who was more familiar with the area, texted me and told me to try Otto’s on upper Congress since they were open later than most other places in the area. I did, and I am so glad I did.

Otto’s has one passion, and it is pizza – using a host of fresh ingredients and combinations that will leave not only your hunger satisfied, but also that of your taste buds. The price is pretty average for a pizza joint, but is also cheap compared to other establishments. One can get a slice of pizza for around $3.50 if you’re not that hungry, or a 12″ pie for $10.00 and a 16″ pie for $15.00 if you’re really famished.

I was at my girlfriend’s place on Forest Ave and her brother was visiting so I decided to pay a visit to Otto’s for a late-night pizza party and also decided to use my experience there for my first ever food review on my blog. Keep in mind – I did not have a sit-down meal while there, aside from a slice I enjoyed while waiting for my pies to be baked in the oven. My review, this time, is for the take out version.

When I arrived, the lobby was semi-packed with folks waiting for their food, and all of them seemed in good spirits. Two men and a young boy waited for one of the employees to be finished with her shift at the counter and two women waited separately for their own food.

“Hi,” smiled the girl at the counter. “What can we make for you? Are you here to get a slice or some pies?”

“Actually,” I said. “I’m going to be getting two pies. The 16″ Chicken and Basil ($19) as well as a 16″ White Bean, Sausage, Herb and Chili Flake ($21).”

She rang me up for my purchase and then I also added a slice of Pepperoni pizza ($3.50) to munch on while I waited. She finished ringing up the order promptly and then warmed the slice for me and placed it on a paper plate to hand to me. “Here you go,” she said.

I took the slice and enjoyed it at a table near the wall. The waiting area is a bit drafty in cold weather and so I was glad I had my coat on. The main dining room is a much more suitable place to enjoy your meal if you’re not just stopping in for a slice, but I was only getting take out this time. The pepperoni was crispy and not too greasy. The cheese was, as usual, very springy, delicious and not too melty. The dough was just the balance needed between really crispy and really soft. I took my time enjoying the slice and after around fifteen or twenty minutes, my pizzas were finished being made.

When I arrived at my girlfriend’s place, she and her brother were happy to see me with the pies and they dived in right away. We all tried one of each slice to start. The White Bean, Sausage, Herb and Chili Flake had virtually no grease and had just the right amount of spicy finish with the mild sausage and the chili flakes to mesh really well with the creamy white sauce (you can choose red or white sauce for this particular pizza) and the delicious blend of herbs and cheese. The Chicken and Basil was delicious, with generous dobs of what seemed to be a sort of pomodoro sauce on top of the cheese along with a happy amount of fresh strips of basil. The chicken seemed to have been marinated and had a great flavor that could stand on its own. However, because the sauce is loaded with lots of olive oil and the cheese has a bit of grease, the crust’s integrity in the middle of the pie didn’t hold up as well as the White Bean’s. This didn’t detract in much of a negative way to the eating experience, however, because the flavor was so spot-on.

I’ve long been a fan of Otto’s up to this point and this visit ensured that I would definitely be back. For those of you not near Munjoy Hill, there are other locations as well in Maine and even in Massachusetts (their Cambridge/Brookline location is especially nice as it’s right near Harvard).

If you’re craving pizza and you want to enjoy a nice, solid experience – check them out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Check Out Otto’s Website Here
http://ottoportland.com/

Check Out Otto’s Website For This Location Here
http://ottoportland.com/225congress.html

Check Out Otto’s WordPress Blog Here
http://ottopizza.wordpress.com/

ottocambridge-pizza-box

Legend (1985)

Legend (1985)

Original Theatrical Release: April 18, 1986
Director: Ridley Scott

Jack (Tom Cruise) is a boy at one with the forest, embraced by the Elves and other faerie creatures. He is pure of heart and has fallen in love with a girl, Lili (Mia Sara), and has decided to let her see a Unicorn up close and personal. Lili, overcome by wonder, touches one of the horned creatures of myth and unwittingly lures it into a trap set by the forces of Darkness (Tim Curry). One unicorn is felled and its horn chopped off, plunging the world into an ice age from which it may never recover and Lili is abducted by Darkness and his minions, leaving Jack to save the world, the woman he loves and the remaining unicorn from a terrible fate.

This is one of those films that sort of just slipped through the cracks. Against films such as Willow, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and others, this movie was swallowed up and lost in the shuffle. Because of its sometimes-meandering story, it doesn’t hold up against those other films all the time. However, the visuals and the mood captured by Ridley Scott still hold up after all these years. I recently re-watched this film, since I hadn’t seen it in more than a decade, and I was extremely impressed with how almost none of it looks cheesy – even by 1980’s standards.

The acting style used by all of the actors is very Shakespearian and fits the tone of the piece well. Everyone is very dramatic and classical. Evil creatures wave their hands and belly-laugh as they take delight in that evil. Darkness, played by the very-talented Tim Curry, looks like something that stepped out of Hell. Jack, played by a very young Tom Cruise, crouches in his forest rags and does somersaults and climbs on trees. The landscape is surreal and fantastical and embodies everything fantasy – which makes sense because Ridley Scott reviewed many classical fairy tales in order to get the right feel for the film. He definitely succeeded on that front.

If anything, give this film a shot just to look at it. The story is a bit more complex than people think, so take your time to analyze all that Legend has to offer before dismissing it. Is it the most perfect fantasy film? No, not by any means – but its voice is one that should be heard.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Legend

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Original Theatrical Release: April 4, 2014
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles with the morality issues that accompany the new world he’s awakened to. He finds the United States Government takes a back seat to the power of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he wonders if he should continue the fight or step away from the underhanded dealings of his new employers. However, after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is targeted by a mysterious assassin known only as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Rogers must team up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to get to the bottom of the new assassin’s identity and motives before it’s too late.

This film was an excellent sequel to the first film, Captain America: The First Avenger and a nice follow up to events in The Avengers.

Action, action, action – there was a ton of it here and since the film wasn’t primarily set in the 1940’s, we really get to see how Cap handles modern day threats….and he sure looks cool doing it.

Anthony Mackie gives an impressive performance as Sam Wilson/Falcon, and he pretty much stole the show as far as I’m concerned. I hope he shows up for Avengers 2! He’s that cool. Sebastian Stan also impressed with his portrayal of Winter Soldier, who provides a great antagonist to Cap and his team. Scarlett Johansson, of course, sizzled as Black Widow. She’s been doing a great job in that role. And on top of all that we get to see ROBERT REDFORD in a Marvel film? What? That’s so cool! One curious omission was Hawkeye. Where the heck was he in this film? As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. I would’ve thought he’d be called in for all this governmental hullaballoo.

There was a lot of focus on Hydra in this film, so it was nice to re-touch on where they ended up in the modern world after the events in World War II.

This is a great film overall,  so go see it and make sure to stay for the extra scenes after the credits. There are a couple of teaser after-credits shorts, so make sure to stay for ’em all if you want to get all the tasty Cap morsels you can for your money. This film should tide everyone over until Guardians of the Galaxy comes out – I’m beyond excited for that movie to drop on us.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Captain America: The Winter Soldier