11.28.2014

Theories on Theories



You know you're reaching Oscar bait season when the biopics roll around! So who has the honor of being the subject of the latest biopic du jour to be buzzed about? The answer would be Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything. The trailer presented an elegant film, so how did the actual film measure up? The results are very admirable...just not very embraceable.


One thing that's helpful to know when seeing the film about the courtship and marriage of Stephen Hawking to Jane Wilde is that it's actually an adaptation of Jane's book...not Stephen's. So if you go in thinking you're gonna understand the depths of Stephen Hawking's scientific theories and who he is down at the core, it's just not gonna happen. It's too bad they didn't just set the film completely from her point of view. I think it would have given the film a bit more honesty in knowing whose lens we're seeing these events through...and it would have set it apart from the typical biopic. As it is, the film keeps you at arms length from knowing these people. We see their lives and the difficulty of a man deteriorating from ALS, along with a wife who has to deal with the effects of her husband's unexpectedly longer life...but we never actually KNOW them. We simply are observers. Luckily the observations are extremely well acted...which is the real reason to see this film.

The film itself may not be Oscar worthy...but Eddie Redmayne's performance most definitely is. He really becomes Stephen Hawking and it is quite incredible to see. He inhabits his physical transformation so well, you really believe it's happening to him. Besides the physical, he also knows how to play the emotional when his depression hits. It is no doubt one of the best performances of the year. Felicity Jones as the other lead is solid... but never really blows you away like you'd wish.


But despite the things that lack here and there, that doesn't mean The Theory of Everything doesn't have its moments of greatness. In addition to Redmayne's performance, the film boasts some fantastic cinematography and a beautifully poignant ending. In the end, it's a good movie that could have been great. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

11.21.2014

Mock....Yeah. Ing....Yeah.

Once upon a time, a seemingly simple decision was made. A decision that would later determine the fate of film adaptations of young adult novels for the foreseeable future. What was the decision you ask? When the final Harry Potter book came out many wondered how a book of such volume could be adapted properly into a feature film. So far the other Potter films had been able to do it (though some Potter enthusiasts might argue at the expense of the stories' true spirit;) but many claimed the only way the last story could be done justice would be to split the final book into two films. What a preposterous idea to leave your audience in the middle of a story! Yet studios also saw this as their chance to extend the franchise. After all, might as well keep the Harry Potter series alive for as long as they could right? This decision and its predictable success (since the die hard fans aren't going anywhere until the story is finished..) inspired studios to do the same of every possible last installment in a series whether it was necessary or not. So that brings us to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

Now I'm not saying whether or not I agree with the choice in the case of Harry Potter and how that decision impacted other films....but part 1 of Deathly Hallows definitely held its own as an installment. But the plot of Mockingjay Part 1 on the other hand, is very obviously stretched thin. It is quite clear from a story telling standpoint that this film as a standalone piece fails because it's all setup no payoff. One might argue that the great installments in classic trilogies leave their audience hanging (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back or Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers...) but they would be forgetting just how much was actually accomplished....and accomplished in a satisfying way. Herein lies the problem with Mockingjay Part 1: not much really happens. At least not much that couldn't have been explained in a good 20-30 minutes or so.

I thought the first Hunger Games was pretty well average, but Catching Fire really surprised me and left me excited for where the story would head next. Unfortunately though it didn't really go anywhere too exciting. Most of the plot really consisted of Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss whining about Peeta's safety and obsessing over his every move. I heard the name Peeta uttered so frequently, that by the end of the film I found myself really craving a gyro. I'll be honest...it's been really hard to comprehend any of her thought processes concerning these two guys, and it's basically exhausting to even try. And I have to say the intended inspiring acts of bravery she was meant to inspire people with, were the most preposterous... [SPOILER highlight to read] Oh oops everyone at the hospital I visited to inspire died...but at least we made a good propaganda tv spot out of it. [/end SPOILER] Inspiring stuff.

All complaining and disappointment aside...it's not a bad film....just not a very exciting one. The last two films give you edge on your seat moments...but nothing major or shocking happens almost the whole time (I did say almost...) The last film worked hard to set Hunger Games apart from any other teeny bopper film series, and you can see how the work is continuing on here, but sadly it doesn't match the heights of its predecessor in terms of action, intrigue or surprise. Still, this is a franchise you can seriously...and seeing where the story takes you is fun! It just would have been nicer to see the story not in separate parts. Sadly I think this is the weakest of the franchise. Oh. But I will say it had a lot of fantastic cat humor. Best part of the movie hands down. EMILY SCORE: 6.5/10....7 when I feel generous.

11.20.2014

Dinner & A Movie: Takashi

Tonight's edition of Dinner & A Movie takes place at a restaurant that is often dubbed by many as "the best place to get sushi in Utah." That's all fine and good.... unless you're not really a sushi person. GASP! The cardinal foodie sin right? Well it's true. I don't like raw things wrapped in seaweed. So for all you sushi lovers out there, it only seemed right to take someone who could better represent your interests. As such, I will give you the sushi-less options, while my sister Laurie will address the food Takashi is famous for.

PRICE: 
$ = 5-10 avg. per entree 
$$ = 10-15 avg. per entree 
$$$ = 15-20 avg. per entree 
$$$$ = 20-30 avg. per entree 
$$$$$ = $30+ and above per entree.

Takashi is $$$


RATINGS: 1 star = Poor, 2 stars = fair, 3 stars = good, 4 stars = very good, and 5 stars = AMAZING. 

THE AMBIANCE

Takashi can be found right next door to the Melting Pot in Salt Lake City. To be more specific, you can find it at 18 W Market St, Salt Lake City. It's tucked into the city in a small side street off Main, and when you come upon it, you can't help but feel you stumbled onto a great secret. The exterior of the building is inviting with beautiful architecture and windows showing you the charming lantern lights that await you when you walk inside. They practically cover the ceiling when you look up...and it's lovely. But that's not the only thing hanging from the ceiling; right over the sushi bar is a giant fish to remind everyone what they're here to eat. I found the ambiance to be very hip, fun & modern...if not a little loud and crowded. But such is the feel of a hopping sushi bar right? It would be nice to have a bit more space...but the abundance of the lantern lights was too charming for me to ignore. SCORE: 4

THE SERVICE

So far I have yet to give any restaurant a glowing review in this category, but thankfully that changes now! The service at Takashi was terrific! With my restaurants thus far, I've had a lot to nitpick...but with Takashi I had absolutely no complaints, which is even more impressive considering how busy they were! My water glass was never less than halfway full (or halfway empty for you pessimists out there...) yet we were never forced into pointless small talk with an uninterested waiter. He was attentive enough without interrupting private conversations. But the best thing was that our food came promptly and constantly! And they were accommodating enough to offer a menu item that my sister described that wasn't currently on their menu. That earns a perfect score in my book! SCORE: 5



THE FOOD

Here is where Laurie's expertise is gonna be more valuable than mine to those looking to enjoy this restaurant's speciality. But for the non-sushi lover listen up! Unfortunately I feel like my experience at Takashi was inconclusive...I'm simply gonna have to explore more of the alternative menu items before I can commit to loving really loving the restaurant as a whole. Though I don't care for sushi, I do really like Japanese food....particularly my go to dish of chicken katsu. Laurie suggested that maybe katsu is the junk food meal of Japanese cuisine, and that this place was too high class for it. How frightfully rude is that?! (Even if it might be true...) In any event, I had to adjust to not having my signature Japanese favorite there...and I had to be a bit more adventurous than usual. At Laurie's suggestion, I ordered the green papaya salad, we shared an order of vegetable tempura (another one of my staples for Japanese cuisine) and for my main course I got the pork ribs. The flavors of the papaya salad were delicious! But...not really what I was expecting. It had that healthy crunch that as a lover of junk kinda took some getting used to. The tempura was perfect...but it's not like you can come to a restaurant only for the tempura right? The dessert, which was a mango mousse was very good! I only wish I had more of it to eat! But I was full enough not to care too much. 


As for my main course... while the sauce it swam in was tasty, it definitely was too difficult to eat with chopsticks (my bad for not asking for a fork..) Also, as a rib it was intentionally, although unfortunately charred. I'm not a huge fan of charring meats, so I was a bit disappointed. I wanted to taste the softness of the meat and the wonderful flavor of the sauce...not so much the char flavor which kind of overpowered the dish. So I'm gonna be generous and give the food an overall 4, though for me my entree probably was just a 3. Unfortunately Takashi's menu isn't online for me to copy and paste the direct descriptions of each menu item we ordered. But you can find pictures of the menu on urbanspoon HERE. So if you're discouraged I wasn't in love with the food...if you're a sushi fanatic you're good to go. I just have to try out a couple more things before I can commit to loving Takashi.

SCORE: 4



So Takashi met all 3 criteria, but for me personally was weakest on the most important of the 3...being the food. However, since the ambience & service were so good I'm more than willing to try again to see if there's something there that I'd just love. After all the starters & salads were quite yummy. But now to hear from our resident sushi expert..

LAURIE SAYS My evening at Takashi was not my first dining experience there. When Emily won her loot I called first dibs on Takashi because it is SO GOOD. Not just so good. It is THE BEST sushi in Salt Lake City. In fact, I dare to say its some of the best sushi I've ever had. Since Emily is not a sushi afficianado, take her rating in context. Ordering anything other than sushi here is like ordering Chicken at a seafood restaurant. So hands down I would rate their food as a 5/5. We each got the miso soup (a staple, and tasty, although it could have used some tofu) the delectable green papaya salad (shredded green papaya, carrots and cilantro with crushed peanuts in a chili dressing- tart, sweet and spicy, very refreshing) And we shred an order of veggie tempura. I loved it all, but the main star was the sushi. I ordered the Strawberry Fields roll and a dragon roll. The strawberry fields roll is so unique, complex and delicious-it is unlike anything I have ever eaten. Each visit to Takashi I have ordered this because it is the type of food you never forget. It is amazing! The last time I went to Takashi, which was years ago, I ordered a roll called the Snow White. It wasn't on the menu, but the server said they'd make it for me. I so wish I had ordered it. The Dragon roll was yummy, but pretty standard. The Snow White, is like the Strawberry Field- completely unique to Takashi and unlike anything you've ever eaten. It has salmon, mint, basil and coconut. Oh It is divine. If you are a sushi fan- I can't reccoment Takashi enough. Excellent service, fun and hip ambience, and most importantly mouth watering sushi. Can't wait to go back and get that Snow White roll!

So there you have it! Laurie agreed on my scores for ambiance & service...but she gives it a 5 for food and calls it the perfect sushi experience.


& A MOVIE. Laurie's stay home suggestion was a good rewatch of the 80's classic The Karate Kid. Who doesn't love Mr. Miyagi? Well apparently me since I'm responsible for his death by refusing to watch this movie the night before he died (according to my siblings.) So right my wrongs and pair these two together! If you're looking for a night out...a movie from a franchise you may have heard of hits theaters tomorrow.... unless you've been living in a cave that is. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the hot ticket for blockbuster lovers. Look for my review tomorrow!

11.11.2014

Dinner & A Movie: Bistro 222

It's time for another restaurant review! You didn't think I was gonna stop writing them did you?? Today's dining adventure takes place in the stylish Bistro 222, which can be found on Main Street in Downtown Salt Lake City (at...you guessed it: 222 South.) Will I finally have experienced a restaurant to hit the trifecta of TASTE, AMBIANCE & SERVICE? Or is Bistro 222 a total dud? The answer can be found below, so read on!

PRICE: 
$ = 5-10 avg. per entree 
$$ = 10-15 avg. per entree 
$$$ = 15-20 avg. per entree 
$$$$ = 20-30 avg. per entree 
$$$$$ = $30+ and above per entree.


Bistro 222 is $$$$


RATINGS: 1 star = Poor, 2 stars = fair, 3 stars = good, 4 stars = very good, and 5 stars = AMAZING. 


THE AMBIANCE


Bistro 222 is a sleek and stylish little place to grab a bite to eat. The decor is fresh and modern...very pleasing to the eye. The restaurant which is all glass windows, looks out upon the nicest street in SLC (that's Main Street to the unaffiliated...) and you can people watch if your date is boring! The lighting isn't too dark and the seating (other than the high chairs which we were unfortunately given...) is spaced out enough and comfortable. The music was pleasant, and overall we found the noise level to be just right.  On a Monday night, it was sadly pretty much empty (there was one other table besides us.) But that at least made for a quiet, relaxing dine. 

RATING: 4







THE SERVICE


Seeing as how we were almost the only people at the restaurant our server should give us his full attention right? Not when he seems to be the only one running the show I guess. And as the only people there, you certainly wouldn't seat them at the high table! Whose first choice is that?? He certainly wasn't rude, like other places I've been on the D'O'R tour (cough Christopher's cough,) and I understand he probably was busy....but for being some of the only people there we should be treated like royalty haha. He was just okay. 

RATING: 3.5



THE FOOD


And now we come to the star of the show! Every bite of food I ate from this restaurant was pure nirvana. For appetizers we ordered the Moroccan lamb meatballs (desribed with these words in the menu: pickled fennel, olive oil, yogurt,) and the truffle herb fries (fresh-cut fries, parmesan fresh herb aioli.) I might have licked the plate clean for those fries if the waiter hadn't taken it from me so soon. I truly loved both (especially that aioli sauce that accompanied the fries.) Then for our main courses, I went with the gnocchi (local winter squash, fresh sage house-cured crispy pancetta touch of cream,while Caitlin ordered the roast chicken (cabernet jus, lardon cioppoline, roasted potato.) Oh my goodness both of these were so amazingly flavorful and delicious! I'd pretty much give up my first born for the recipe of the sauce the roast chicken was in. I only wish we'd saved enough room (and monies on our certificate) for dessert. No matter. I definitely plan to return. And now for my bold rating....yeah I'm saying it. RATING: 5!



So yeah. For me, this an almost perfect trifecta! Great ambiance, good service and some truly memorable food...Bistro 222 gets the Emily stamp of approval. Full menu HERE.

But did my dining companion agree?

CAITLIN SAYS:  Sooooo good. I could not get over how flavorful the food was. I especially loved the truffle fries. It was a unique flavor that I'd never had in a fry. The meatballs weren't my favorite but I definitely appreciated the sauce. Once again, it was packed with flavor and unlike anything I'd ever had. Emily got the gnocchi and I was jealous because that's my favorite thing of all time but after my chicken dish arrived, there was no jealousy to be found. The chicken was moist and the sauce....OMG. I loved it. I loved Emily's gnocchi but it was almost too rich for me. The food was stellar. The ambiance was great, very hip. We were the only ones in the restaurant so the service should have been extraordinary but was just average. I would definitely go again and try their desserts. I can only imagine how rich and tasty they would be...

& A MOVIE. Hmm. I wish there was a perfect movie out in theaters that would go well with a perfect dining experience. Oh wait there is. It's called Interstellar and I wrote about it the other day HERE. But if you hate masterpieces or something go out and see Big Hero 6. For a night in after your dine you can do Ratatouille (please note, I reserve the right to use Ratatouille again when reviewing French restaurants..) eating the flavors here I just felt like Remy the rat discovering food for the first time! Or if you just want something from a Redbox, I'd go with The Fault in Our Stars and compare your two dining experiences.


11.05.2014

Strikingly Stellar

Wow what a ride! I haven't experienced a movie like that since....well Inception. Because this film was made by the very same director, Christopher Nolan, and was the first original work since that film (since The Dark Knight Rises is of course based off a very popular superhero, even if they did write the story,) my expectations were sky high. Such expectations can be a blessing or a curse, the latter being true of my initial response with Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. So where would Interstellar fall in the pantheon of great Nolan films? Would it be as mind blowing as Inception? Or perhaps a little more understated like The Prestige? Or maybe it'd be like the intellectual puzzle of Memento. Or would this be the Lady in the Water or Cars type film that marks the first major misstep in an otherwise strong collection of work? Every trailer I saw for Interstellar, I was left kind of underwhelmed. All of the trailers for Nolan's other films were masterpieces by themselves....did they have so little faith in Interstellar? And then at one point I realized they seemed to be holding something back. Little did I know they were holding EVERYTHING back. Everything and the kitchen sink to be exact. The aspirations of storytelling in a visual medium don't get much more lofty than this.



I want to tell you as little as possible about the story. The world's situation is bleak and Matthew McConaughey is sent to find a suitable planet to move mankind to. End synopsis. Trust me, the less you worry about the plot's specifics and the more you allow this film to surprise you the better. Interstellar has the power to grab ahold of your attention and never let go. Sure some of it doesn't make complete sense...but no matter. Sometimes you gotta love something with your heart and not think so much about it with your head, right filmmakers? Am I being too much of a fangirl if I say it makes Gravity look like it was made by preschoolers?

Like Inception, I found myself being blown away by the spectacle, though not necessarily understanding all that was transpiring. Interstellar demands multiple viewings to grasp all its complexities. This movie had many elements to it that reminded me of other movies...I already mentioned Inception, but there were also shades of the storytelling in Signs (ah vintage Shyamalan in his glory days,) and a similar feel to another largely forgotten McConaughey space film: Contact. And hey, why not throw in some 2001: A Space Odyssey in there as well. Well whatever movies inspired the Nolan brothers they sure blended them together into something truly spectacular that still somehow felt completely original and new. You could easily look at this film with a skeptics eye if you wanted to, but I urge you not to. Allow yourself to experience one of the greatest cinematic adventures of this century (eat your heart out Avatar) and SEE THIS MOVIE. Preferably on as big of a screen as possible. Chris Nolan, I can't wait to see what you have in store for the world next. EMILY RATING: 10/10



EMILY CAUTIONARY NOTE: Please do not blame me for filling you with high expectations and then you hating the movie (or hating me as much as Murph hates her dad.) I am just one girl's opinion. Just tell yourself it looks like garbage and Emily doesn't know what she's talking about, see the movie yourself and form your own opinion!