Wednesday, September 2, 2015         

Features Stories

It really is time for all of us to get over our hesitation about turkey burgers. Though cooks get nervous about the patties coming up dry and flavorless, there really is no reason to worry.

Anne Marie Price taught herself mosaic art, creating intricate designs and portraits with cut pieces of stained glass. Recently she began balancing her usual large projects with smaller ones: She turns her mosaic touch to smooth stones that she picks up on beachcombing and mountain hikes near her Huntington Beach, Calif., home.

Ah, late August — that most beautiful time of the year for parents: School is back in session. Emphasis on the word "back."

"The task of understanding the past is never-ending," Susanna Moore observes late in "Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii," her fascinating account of the "short 120 years from the arrival of Captain Cook in 1777 to the annexation of the Islands in 1898 by the United States."

Noah Baumbach's "Mistress America" advertises itself as a screwball comedy. But this smart, fast-paced film is not really the zany, lighter-than-air divertissement that the term usually conjures.

The plot in the South Korean martial-arts period piece "Memories of the Sword" may verge on the incomprehensible but, boy, is it gorgeous.

Even for freewheeling 1970s San Francisco, Minnie Goetze isn't your typical 15-year-old. An aspiring cartoonist, Minnie (the magnetic Bel Powley in what is rightly being lauded as the breakout performance of the year) roams the city with minimal supervision from her party-girl mother (Kristen Wiig), drinking, doing drugs and failing at school.

Part electronic dance music tutorial and part love letter to Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, "We Are Your Friends" is a surprisingly accessible and sweet story of a group of friends standing on the cusp of adulthood with big ambition and little direction.

Long before Laverne Cox made the cover of Time magazine as a “transgender tipping point,” and long before Caitlyn Jenner made global headlines as a former Olympian transitioning from male to female at age 65, there was Candis Cayne.

A difficult-to-quantify but quite vocal group of people can't fathom how a woman could willingly go home with a man and then not engage in consensual sex with that man.

Wild weather has become more common with climate change, the experts say, and homeowners can prepare for natural disasters by making home inventories — detailed lists of household belongings and their approximate value.

The idea of the high-tech, emotionless super-soldier is so popular in movies, it's practically a convention. The "Terminator" and "Bourne" franchises, and even last year's animated "Big Hero 6," imagine characters programmed to kill and the would-be world destroyers who want to control them.

Horror sequel "Sinister 2" is a very strange movie. Of course, it's a horror film, so strange, ghostly and sinister events are expected. Yet this is a horror film that doesn't quite know what it is.

"There's an unhappy paradox about literary biographies," David Foster Wallace observed in the New York Times Book Review in 2004, in reference to "Borges: A Life."

The likably awkward chemistry of Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg remains intact in “American Ultra,” a violent stoner action-comedy that’s half “Pineapple Express,” half “The Bourne Identity,” and not as good as either.

Usually, there are two big problems with stuffed peppers: the peppers and the stuffing. Bland, bland, bland.

Samuel Kim’s mother often spiked the family’s white rice with amaranth, barley, quinoa and other whole grains to boost its nutritional value.

Though some might find it hard to conceptualize “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” as a cartoon, animation turns out to be a nifty way to visualize this collection of world-famous poems about spiritual enlightenment.

The shotgun blast of fury that first emanated from South Central Los Angeles in 1988 still packs a punch.

The latest cinematic Rube Goldberg machine from Guy Ritchie, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” sure is pretty to look at.

It’s summer and your grill is in overdrive. At the start of the season, you were probably content to cook up perfectly seared but otherwise unadorned steaks, chops and portobello mushrooms. But at this point you may be feeling like dressing them up a bit. Flavored butters do the trick beautifully.

If you’ve been out to eat at any trendy restaurant during the past five years or watched any food competition, you’ve heard of umami, a pleasant savory flavor resulting from the interaction of certain amino acids with receptors on the tongue.

Sloppy, fatty, savory, starchy and delicious. Do you really need any other reasons to make this utterly satisfying and summery grilled sausage and potato dish?

TV watchers, meet the five channels you selected to add to the Today section’s prime-time program grid: NHK World, Smithsonian, Nat Geo Wild, Science and History 2. As a bonus, we found room to add a sixth favorite: Ovation.

For many parents, back-to-school time means back to packing lunch for the kids. And that means it's time to revisit that old lunchbox mainstay, the peanut butter sandwich.

Using children's books as inspiration for bedrooms and playrooms is one way to introduce a child to literature. It also can be just a fun, imaginative way to decorate.

“Fantastic” is a strange name to claim for oneself. Pretty egomaniacal, really. It implies a certain level of pizzazz, of genius, of flash-bang razzle dazzle.

Woody Allen, apparently, has something to confide. Year after year, movie after movie, he comes back to a select few themes and ideas over and over again.

"The Gift" is old-fashioned in the way it conjures up scares. It's filled with creepy characters who are one emotional jolt from going over the edge, scares that come more through psychological twists and more plot curves than in a Major League Baseball game.

Early on in “Ricki and the Flash,” Ricki (Meryl Streep) gets a call that disarms her before she’s even decided to pick it up.

For many years I was hooked on Thai red curry paste, a thick, unctuous seasoning that packs a little heat and a lot of savory deliciousness. It’s great whisked into vinaigrettes and marinades, smeared straight up onto steaks and chicken, blended into meatloaf and burgers, even pureed into hummus.

After more than 16 years and nearly 2,600 telecasts, Jon Stewart can feel proud of his scads of Emmys and his pair of Peabody Awards, his cultural gravitas (he hung with the Prez, both on and off the air!), even his reprobate status at Fox News. • 10 highlights of "The Daily Show" • 'The Daily show' alums

"A LEGO Brickumentary" is exactly what the title suggests, a documentary about the LEGO company and the little brick building toys that have been in the world since the late 1950s.

The force of will — not nature, but human will — that we call Tom Cruise gets a serious workout in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” and it’s an impressive thing to witness.

There was a time when a lunchbox was just that, a box into which your parents packed your lunch. For many years they were metal and came emblazoned with your favorite cartoon or movie characters, as well as a matching thermos.

Not long after the panicky protagonist of “A Hard Day” avoids hitting a dog with his car on a dark highway — only to run over some guy, stuff the guy’s corpse into the trunk and be comically waylaid at a sobriety checkpoint by some Keystone clowns — you may wonder how long writer-director Kim Seong-hun can keep this Rube Goldberg machine going.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about a well-executed high school film that hits all the right John Hughes-inspired sweet spots

Claude Chabrol is dead, but there’s Anne Fontaine to take his place, as a French director who is prolific, reliable and always accessible, and whose work is like an ideal hybrid between French and American influences.

A flurry of haymakers in the form of boxing movie cliches, “Southpaw” was conceived as a loose remake of “The Champ” — Wallace Beery in 1931, Jon Voight in 1979 — tailored for Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem.

“Pixels” had promise. The combination of director Chris Columbus — whose credits include the high-energy comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire” and the action-heavy “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” — with classic 1980s video games seemed like a match made in arcade heaven.

For kids of all ages, one big thing helps soften the blow of summer turning into fall: fresh and fun back-to-school gear.

The best thing about "Ant-Man" is that, for much of its running time, it doesn't seem like a Marvel Comics superhero movie. The worst thing about it is that it eventually does. Sooner or later, men in skintight suits are shown doing battle, probably to save humanity or something like that.

If you've seen "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy, you're already aware that the movie nails its first big laugh — the sneezing-assassin joke — within moments of the opening credits.

Over the past decade, Bill Condon has been directing big, splashy movies such as "Dreamgirls," not to mention two entries in the "Twilight" series. Yet "Mr. Holmes" feels more like the real Bill Condon, the one who gave us "Gods and Monsters" and "Kinsey."

"Northern Limit Line" is a throwback to the days of Hollywood's heroic and patriotic World War II films — except that it takes place in 2002.

In movies, true-life family stories tend to come so drenched in despair or smothered in treacle that it's a surprise anyone gets out intact.

More than 100 vintage surfboards and memorabilia representing 50 years of surfing history will be up for bid Saturday in the first major surf-related auction in Hawaii in four years.

Sidekicks rarely shine when thrust into the spotlight, but what about a few hundred of them? The Minions, having been the best part of the two previous "Despicable Me" movies, have swarmed the screen in "Minions."

In June 2011, Amy Winehouse performed in Serbia for what would be her final concert. By then Winehouse's struggles with drugs and alcohol had made her a punch line for late-night hosts and a choice target for gossip rags and relentless paparazzi.

"Self/less," if you couldn't tell from the preposterous title, is a deeply silly movie that takes itself very, very seriously. The premise is interesting enough: A dying man (Ben Kingsley) undergoes a procedure to save his mind by ditching his failing body for a shiny new model (Ryan Reynolds).

The bar for modern horror has been set so low that by now any movie better than terrible seems worthy of praise. Such is the case of "The Gallows," a movie that has two good ideas. It needed three.

"Testament of Youth," James Kent's stately screen adaptation of British author Vera Brittain's 1933 World War I memoir, evokes the march of history with a balance and restraint exhibited by few movies with such grand ambitions.

Bland meets bold in "The Overnight," a comedy that coyly dips its toe and a few other body parts in the new sexual revolution.

There’s an early scene in “Magic Mike XXL” that hints at what this much-ballyhooed sequel woulda, coulda, shoulda been. Mike Lane, played by the well nigh irresistible Channing Tatum, is alone in his furniture workshop.

Touching and wise, cute and occasionally cloying, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a dramedy that taps into both real teen angst and behavior, and our fantasies of what we hope teens are thinking and feeling and doing.

"Aloft" sets up a compelling mystery — how could a loving mother abandon her son? — and then, frustratingly, refuses to solve it.

"Semper fidelis," the Romans used to purr into their dogs' ears, long before the Marine Corps adopted the Latin for "Always faithful" as their motto.

"Ted 2” asks a question that we never needed, or particularly wanted, to know the answer to: Is Ted, the magical, foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear, a person in the eyes of the law?

A critic enjoys celebrating great theater. Just as a playwright, the actors and everyone else involved with producing a show want it to be a magical and memorable experience for the audience, a critic simply wants a play to do something peculiar, something worth writing about.

"Dope" is the most daring comedy of the summer, a funny film that hunts for laughs in the everyday menaces that face black teens growing up in the corner of Los Angeles named Inglewood, in the neighborhood its residents call "The Bottom."

There are few better ways right now to spend 80 movie minutes than to see "Iris," a delightful eye-opener about life, love, statement eyeglasses, bracelets the size of tricycle tires and the art of making the grandest of entrances.

French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent earns a "Gandhi" length, disjointed and arty film biography in "Saint Laurent," a patience-testing period piece that skips through the designer's glory years, catches up with him near the addled end and fails to deliver details of his greatest trauma.

"Inside Out," the latest Pixar punch to the heart, navigates the labyrinth of a young girl's mind in an antic, candy-colored romp through childhood memory to arrive, finally, gloriously, at epiphany.

To the lengthening list of well-mannered films aimed at moviegoers who have reached an age when, to quote Shakespeare, "the heyday in the blood is tame," add "I'll See You in My Dreams," a modest, quietly touching portrait of an older woman radiantly embodied by Blythe Danner.

"When Marnie Was There," the delicate, evocative new Japanese animated film from Studio Ghibli, does not fall neatly into any conventional narrative category. But that doesn't get in the way of it being visually spectacular.

To those who weren't around at the time, it's hard to convey the excitement of the first "Jurassic Park" in 1993.

The novelty alone makes "Beyond the Mask," a rare faith-based film pitched as a swashbuckling action picture set during the American Revolution, worth a look.

The best advice to those who choose to spend 97 minutes of their lives on "Insidious: Chapter 3": Bring earplugs. And maybe make better choices.

Brian Wilson's life is too big for a movie. The story of the brilliant and troubled co-founder of The Beach Boys barely lends itself to a coherent linear narrative, let alone a single film.

Writer-director Paul Feig and his "Bridesmaids" muse, Melissa McCarthy, flip the script and ditch the fat jokes for their latest. And "Spy," a bloody-minded spy spoof, is all the richer for it.

Next time you sit down for a cup of tea, take in the aromatic steam while it's brewing. The smoky flavor of hojicha, a drink made from green tea that's been smoked over charcoal, might suggest the aroma of a woodsy campfire

Have you ever noticed how tough it is to sweeten your favorite iced beverage using regular granulated white sugar? You can stir and stir, but the sugar tends not to dissolve and you're left with a barely sweetened drink.

The summer Obon season perpetuates the Buddhist tradition of honoring family ancestors, who are said to return to the mortal world to visit relatives during this Festival of Lanterns.

A young woman’s promise to her grandmother came one step closer to reality on Saturday as Jeanné Kapela, 20, was crowned Miss Hawaii 2015 at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Disaster movies, which pre-date the zeitgeist’s fascination with a world falling apart around us, are always great measures of the state of the Hollywood art of special effects.

Echoes of the hilarious ineptitude of Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run” and the historic kookiness of “Forrest Gump” turn up throughout “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” starring Sweden’s beloved comic actor Robert Gustafsson. It’s a hoot and a half.

Hawaii is supposedly the most recently inhabited place on Earth, the last place on the planet that human beings could discover. Hawaiian historian Herb Kane liked to say that everyone in Hawaii came from somewhere else — including Hawaiians.

Whether or not you’re grappling with guilt after reading recent articles about labor practices and working conditions at nail salons, knowing how to do your own manicure and pedicure is a useful skill.

Most people reach for prepared salad dressings because on busy weeknights they just can't handle the thought of whipping up one more thing. Because after cooking a main course and some sides and tossing together a salad, who has the time and energy to make a dressing?

Veterinarians are beginning to preach the gospel of gardening — primarily how organic fruits and vegetables can be used to improve the health of family pets. Everything from carrots to leafy vegetables and fruit can be added to the cat or dog dish. That saves money on pet food, too.

Keali‘i Reichel won in five categories, including Favorite Entertainer, Popular Hawaiian Album, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.

Why is the allure of the bad boy so powerful that even some of the most secure of females can’t seem to resist? Apparently, it has ever been, as we see in the film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s prescient novel “Far from the Madding Crowd.”

In the mid-1960s, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were working low-level jobs at the Shepperton film studios outside London. Infected by the restlessness of the times and by their own youthful ambition, they came up with an inspired idea for a movie.

Tomorrowland” is Brad Bird’s jeremiad against the dystopia that is modern culture, with its yen for zombie apocalypses, environmental catastrophes and the 24 hours of fear telecast by cable news.

It’s infrequent and particularly satisfying when the remake of an especially memorable film equals or exceeds the experience of the original.

Kokedama is sometimes called "poor man's bonsai," and the two do share some features: They're both small displays of plants and moss. But "lazy person's bonsai" might be a better description.

The movie of the summer thunders in on 22 armor-spiked wheels, because an 18-wheeler just wouldn't do on "Fury Road."

It is best to just let yourself get lost in the "Clouds of Sils Maria" for a little while. Beautiful as they build then snake through the Engadin Valley in the Swiss Alps, they become maddening as they cloak the emotions and ambitions of a middle-aged actress and a rising young star.

"Where Hope Grows" is a sometimes moving and generally watchable melodrama about a drunken ex-ballplayer who finds purpose and a friend back in his hometown.

There's nothing like a cappella, especially when accompanied by musical instruments. That's the case in "Pitch Perfect 2," and although that makes the a cappella not exactly authentic, the movie compensates with a fullness of sound as well as spirit, plus an off-kilter sense of humor that keeps the laughs coming. As of today, this is the most delightful movie out there.

When a request came in for a recipe for a pumpkin crunch dessert, I thought, “Finally, an easy one.” Even after I got to the caveat — a pumpkin crunch that does not use a boxed cake mix, please — I thought, “How hard could that be?”

The problem with "The D Train" isn't the performances. Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn and Jeffrey Tambor are wonderful in their respective roles.

Except for one family member, the Carbones, a clan of goat-herding gangsters in Francesco Munzi's film "Black Souls," belong to the 'Ndrangheta, Calabria's mafia, based in the rocky climes of southern Italy.

With 130 million albums sold, the Backstreet Boys are the best-selling boy band in history — not counting the Beatles, of course. But as member AJ McLean wonders, "What do you do when you're a full-grown man in a boy band?"

"The Salt of the Earth," Wim Wenders' new documentary about the life and work of the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, elegantly inhabits a moral and aesthetic paradox.

Our post-"Bridesmaids" love affair with Kristen Wiig has been tested a few times in the choices she's made since, but never more so than with "Welcome to Me."

"Hot Pursuit" has all the trappings of a buddy comedy except that whole comedy part. The pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, like the recent Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy "Get Hard," is predicated on the distance between the two in height and culture.

An elegant and captivating piece of corporate promotion in the guise of a documentary, Frederic Tcheng's "Dior and I" unfolds like an episode of "Project Runway" with better clothes and bigger budgets, or perhaps a Christopher Guest movie without a sense of humor.

It would be silly to pretend that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" isn't good at what it does, that it's not proficient at delivering superhero thrills for those who crave them most.

I’ll be back,” the line Arnold Schwarzenegger first uttered more than 30 years ago in that indelible manly monotone, belongs to the Terminator, of course. But it also might as well be the official slogan of the summer movie season.

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