Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bunchie's Dinner Theater: Cheesy Baked Ravioli

This is a recipe I clipped out of a newspaper back in the 1990s. I've made it many times and it always seems to work. Over the years I've tweaked it quite a bit, adding veggies, removing some fatty stuff it didn't need and figuring out more economical ways to make it. It's a bit of work but well worth it.

To make it vegetarian, simply omit the chicken and replace with whatever vegetables you like. The dish is fancy and impressive enough for guests, and filing and comforting enough for a casual supper. Empty nesters should be able to get three or four meals out of this, and it gets better as it sits for a few days.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (24-oz.) package frozen cheese ravioli
4 cups chopped fresh broccoli or cauliflower or combination
4 cups chopped chicken breast
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Cup Panko bread crumbs (you may substitute crushed crackers)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup dried parsley


1. Cook ravioli according to package directions, drain.

2. Sauté chicken breast until done.

3. Cook broccoli and/or cauliflower to desired doneness (I like to steam them over the pasta water). If you like your vegetables crunchy omit this step.

 4. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a Dutch oven or high sided sauté pan over medium-high heat; add onion, pepper and garlic and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender.

5. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in broth, milk, sour cream and white wine. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.

6. Remove from heat; add 1 cup cheese, salt, pepper and basil, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in ravioli, broccoli and chicken. Spoon into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

7. Stir together 1/2 cup grated cheese, bread crumbs and butter. Sprinkle over casserole. Top with mozzarella and parsley. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TCM for November 2015

TCM brings us a cornucopia of goodies in November. Rarely seen artistic triumphs like I Am Cuba and the Apu Trilogy sit cheek by jowl with such silliness as Duck Soup and Polyester. My picks below. All times Eastern. Full schedule HERE.

1 Sunday

Everyone should see King Vidor's The Crowd

12:00 AM
In this silent film, an office worker deals with the simple joys and tragedies of married life.
BW-93 mins,

2:00 AM
Five friends struggle to escape the boredom of their provincial hometown in Italy.
BW-108 mins,

4:00 AM
A deeply disturbed young man subject to seizures decides to murder members of his dysfunctional family.
BW-109 mins, Le

2 Monday

"I'm fighting for this woman's honor. Which is more than she ever did."
11:30 PM
When he's named dictator of Freedonia, a con artist declares war on the neighboring kingdom.
BW-69 mins, CC,

1:00 AM
A Jewish barber takes the place of a war-hungry dictator.
BW-125 mins, CC,

3 Tuesday

6:30 PM
Robert Mitchum appears on The Dick Cavett Show in an interview that originally aired on April 29, 1971.
C-66 mins, CC

7 Saturday

2:00 AM
A talent-challenged girl tries to promote herself to stardom in New York's waning punk music world.
C-89 mins,

8 Sunday

Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina in La Strada

2:00 AM
A traveling strongman buys a peasant girl to be his wife and co-star.
BW-108 mins,

4:00 AM
A black American GI decides to remain in Italy than return to a racially divided United States and falls in love with an Italian girl.
BW-88 mins,

11 Wednesday

8:00 PM
A bogus preacher marries an outlaw's widow in search of the man's hidden loot.
BW-93 mins, CC,

9:45 PM
An ambitious Southern boy tries to set himself up as a street preacher.
C-106 mins, Letterbox Format
11:45 PM
A young girl grows up fast when her lawyer father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman.

12 Thursday

Kalatozov and Urusevsky's visual masterpiece I Am Cuba on the 12th.

9:15 PM
A study on the transition of Cuba to a post-revolutionary society.
BW-141 mins,

14 Saturday

2:15 AM
A scientist turns his African-American bodyguard into a superhero to fight bigotry.
C-102 mins,

4:15 AM
Three martial arts experts take on a racist group out to destroy the African-American race.
C-89 mins,

15 Sunday

2:00 AM
A streetwalker dreams of a better life.
BW-118 mins,

4:15 AM
St. Francis of Assisi sends his followers into the world to spread God's word.
BW-87 mins,
16 Monday

8:00 PM
When the Clantons steal his family's cattle and kill his brother, Wyatt Earp signs on as sheriff of Tombstone and vows to bring them in.
BW-97 mins, CC,

18 Wednesday

Brando struggles to remain in the closet in Reflections in a Golden Eye.

8:00 PM
A military officer becomes obsessed with an enlisted man.
C-109 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM
Two vagrants try to outrun the police after committing a savage crime in this real-life shocker.
BW-135 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

21 Saturday

4:15 AM
This short social guidance film offers advice covering anger management.
BW-11 mins,

4:15 AM
Troubled teens turn to vandalism for emotional release in this short film.
BW-17 mins,

4:15 AM

In this short film, San Francisco gang members turn their lives around working on community service projects.
Dir: David Myers Cast:  Stanley Mosk ,
BW-22 mins,

4:15 AM
In this short film, a young boy is arrested for breaking a window, and must decide between turning in his accomplices or taking the blame himself.
C-11 mins,

4:15 AM
In this short film, a police officer tries to prevent a gang war by bringing the rival groups together over dinner.
C-27 mins,

4:15 AM
In this educational short film about coping with "unruly individuals," a student attempts to cause problems for others around him.
Dir: Herk Harvey Cast:  Bret Waller ,
BW-12 mins,

22 Sunday

12:45 AM
An orphaned child becomes the focus of a war between Norway and Lapland.
BW-147 mins,

Fellini's wild and wonderful Juliet of the Spirits

3:30 AM
An aging housewife seeks direction when she catches her husband in an affair.
C-137 mins,

23 Monday

8:00 PM
Political pundits mistake an illiterate gardener for a media genius and turn him into a national hero.
C-130 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

10:15 PM
A veteran returns home to deal with family secrets and small-town scandals.
C-136 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

25 Wednesday

1:00 AM
A poacher has to elude the Texas Rangers and the mob after stealing drug money.
C-122 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

3:15 AM
Two aging gunslingers sign on to transport gold from a remote mining town.
C-94 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

27 Friday

5:30 PM
An advertising man is mistaken for a spy, triggering a deadly cross-country chase.
C-136 mins, CC,

There's  a spot of bother with a hydra in Jason and the Argonauts
8:00 PM
The legendary hero enlists the help of the gods to steal the golden fleece.
C-104 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM
A World War I U-boat takes a wrong turn and discovers a lost world of dinosaurs and cavemen.
C-91 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

28 Saturday

2:15 PM
A young tough guy and his teen-aged girlfriend take off on a killing spree.
C-94 mins, CC,

10:30 PM
A retired Army scout protects a woman from her son's vicious Native father.
C-109 mins,

12:30 AM
A high school student falls in love, for the first time, with a World War II bride.
C-104 mins, Letterbox Format

John Waters' Polyester on the 28th. Don't forget your scratch -n-sniff card.

2:15 AM
An oppressed housewife struggles to get her life back on track.
C-86 mins,

3:45 AM
A short industrial film that seeks to help working men and their wives deal with life's little problems.
C-13 mins,

30 Monday

8:00 PM
BW-12 mins,

A Satyajit Ray festival on the 30th.

8:00 PM
A mother struggles to raise her family in an impoverished village in India.
BW-126 mins,

10:30 PM
When her son leaves for school, an Indian woman fights between pride and feeling abandoned.
BW-110 mins,

12:30 AM
An aspiring writer abandons his family after his wife dies in childbirth.
BW-105 mins,

2:30 AM
Documentary cameras capture the great Indian director at work and as he discusses his career.
BW-131 mins,

5:00 AM
An aristocrat is too proud to curb his extravagant lifestyle even though his riches are turning into debts.
BW-99 mins,

Monday, October 26, 2015

Match Point Turns 10

As the 21st century began, Woody Allen was looking like a spent force. The prolific filmmaker was reeling from a series of unremarkable comedic flops (Melinda and Melinda, anyone?), not to mention a decade of disastrous P.R., nasty legal battles and seriously icky personal revelations. In 2005, Allen righted the ship by doing what he does best - reinvent himself - with the release of Match Point. Having made his name as a cutting edge satirist of NYC’s affluent neurotic class, Allen threw the film world a major curve ball with this dramatic and old fashioned adultery noir set in London.

Match Point is the story of a failed tennis pro (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who parlays his part-time job at a fashionable London athletic club into a lucrative career in business thanks to a romance with the boss’s daughter (Emily Mortimer). But underneath his amazingly good fortune churns a restless soul, and Rhys Meyers’ wandering eye soon finds a visiting American buxom blonde (Scarlett Johansson) with allures he cannot resist. Throwing caution to the wind, they begin a secret passionate affair that eventually gets way out of hand, forcing Rhys Meyers to contemplate the unthinkable or say goodbye to his new, comfortable lifestyle.

Allen has always had a knack for casting actors who would soon become household names, and Match Point is replete with such talents. Along with Rhys Meyers, Mortimer and Johansson, the film also features Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton and Game of Thrones’ Paul Kaye in supporting roles. Woody has also been known to pay homage to his favorite directors but here he seems to be celebrating an entire genre. Poor boy marries boss’s daughter - and promptly screws up his life - is an idea that’s been around as long as cinema, with von Sternberg’s An American Tragedy (1931) and Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top (1959) just two of countless examples. Match Point is an excellent addition to the canon; its clever script, perfect pacing and superb performances striking a winning volley with critics and audiences alike. Match Point was the first Woody Allen film to make a profit in the United States since Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and it put the fading career of a filmmaking legend back on track.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Origins: Alien vs. Predator

Before they were big stars, Alien and Predator were just two struggling actors sharing an apartment in East Hollywood. In this recently discovered home video, we see the origin of their long running feud:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Juliet of the Spirits Turns 50

Celebrating its golden anniversary, Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits remains one of the esteemed director’s most fanciful and entertaining films; its sparkling joys untarnished by the passage of time. The film stars Fellini’s muse - and wife of 50 years - the elfin Giulietta Masina as a naive young housewife with seemingly every advantage the world has to offer: a luxurious country estate, two servants at her beck and call and a hard-working, successful husband (Mario Pisu). But Masina’s domestic bliss is soon shattered when she begins to suspect him of having a affair with a mysterious woman named Gabriella. Heartbroken, Giuletta begins a bizarre, appropriately Fellini-esque quest for clues. Her journey morphs into a voyage of self discovery, as she revisits formative moments from her past, asserts her independence and becomes friends with a highly eccentric neighbor (Sandra Milo) who may or may not be a flesh and blood incarnation of Satan.

Juliet of the Spirits marked Fellini’s first production in color - full blown, three strip Technicolor to be precise - but the director showed no signs of being intimidated by this new format. The film is a visual feast, rendering Fellini’s trademark baroque splendor in stunning swirls of eye popping hues. The story proceeds as a series of narrative set pieces, each becoming ever more elaborate and surreal. Hooded nuns solemnly affix wings to the backs of small children, an extravagant treehouse built for all manner of debauchery and the emotional baggage of Giuletta’s past piled onto a makeshift garbage truck are but a few of the film’s unforgettable images. Nino Rota’s original score is no slouch either. Charted for jazz ensemble, the cheesy tones of a combo organ evoke just the right flavor of 1960’s cool.

Clearly, Juliet of the Spirits is one of Italy’s first feminist films from a modern perspective. While Fellini made several films with Masina - and in all of them she faces significant obstacles - this is the first to loudly proclaim that a woman doesn’t necessarily need a husband to find happiness and, in some cases, she may be better off without one. Regrettably, as of yet there is no official Blu-ray available of Juliet of the Spirits. The Criterion DVD on offer from Netflix is 13 years old, and while it looks very good, one can only imagine the wealth of detail that would be unleashed by current transfer technology. Let’s hope this oversight is corrected in the near future.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Recently Viewed: October 2015

Barbecue (2014) ✭✭✭
Netflix WI

Barbecue is a brisk, feather-weight French comedic drama that feels much like a middle-age version of The Big Chill. The great Lambert Wilson stars as a buttoned up business executive who has long lived an obsessively healthy lifestyle, only to suffer a heart attack at age 50. Having lost faith in the advice of experts, Wilson decides to indulge in the sensual pleasures he has denied himself all these years, while a group of his friends look on and shake their heads in amusement. Amid beautiful Provencal scenery, Barbecue survives a few lapses into silliness to deliver a breezy entertainment that goes great with a little wine and cheese. 

Could This be Love? (2007)✭✭✭½
Amazon Prime

Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Bonnaire shine in this well made and well paced French rom-com. With these two actors how could you go wrong?

The Minister (2011) ✭✭✭

Olivier Gourmet as a corrupt politician suffering from bad dreams and an even worse reality. It was OK, but I like him better as a good guy.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Museum Hours (2012) ★★★★

The heavy gray shies of Vienna in the dead of winter form an impressionistic backdrop to Museum Hours, now showing on NFLX WI. This dreamy, zen-like film concerns a Canadian woman (Mary Margaret O'Hara) who has come to Austria to attend a gravely ill relative. In between hospital visits, she hangs out at the Kunsthistorisches, Vienna’s premier art museum. There she meets a kindly, middle aged museum guard (Bobby Sommer) who at one time was a sort of minor league rock star, but has now resigned himself to quiet days of watching over Rembrandts and Bruegals. The pair slowly form a sweet and genial friendship, with Sommer acting as a combination tour guide and personal confessor.

Museum Hours is the antithesis of a popcorn movie, offering instead an introspective buffet of nourishment for the soul. The film broadly captures - indeed celebrates - the otherworldly silence that permeates so many public spaces in Europe. While Americans often find it unnerving, this reverent hush is key to the Northern European sensibility. as ancient, historical streets and alleys form a museum without walls. On the surface, not much really happens in Museum Hours and large swaths of the film seem unrelated to the main story. Eventually viewers will realize that director Jem Cohen - whose background is in documentaries - really isn’t interested in advancing a narrative. His goal is to capture the existential; the fleeting moments, perceptions and interactions that define what it means to be human. A significant amount of the film is devoted to reaction shots of tourists as they mill about the museum and regard the grandeur before them; reactions that run the gamut from awestruck, to bored, to utterly dumbfounded.

Cohen’s expedition into this blissful state of gentility is not without liabilities - one gets the feeling a good ten minutes could have been excised with no ill effects - but that’s picking at nits; kind of like going to a great restaurant and complaining that the portions are too big. Through its tender revelry of art, compassion and basic decency Museum Hours shows us the very best of humanity, washed clean of all the things our politicians, religious leaders and media tell us to fear and dread. Is it possible for jaded, weary mankind to return to a state of innocence? Museum Hours makes a strong case for the affirmative, at least to those open to its harmonious and tranquil tableau. You may even derive a glimmer of genuine hope for this crazy world.