Posts Tagged ‘Review’

La Jolla Groves

Review: La Jolla Groves

Written by Kasey Yardley on . Posted in Food

Just a few interesting facts in the world that we may not have foreseen a year ago: A 16-year-old boy named Justin Bieber is the most popular human being on earth; Conan O’Brien has a show on TBS; Jimmer Fredette and the BYU men’s basketball team are ranked No. 3 in the nation (for now); Charlie Sheen is a crack addict (Okay, you saw that one coming — Two and a Half Men is awful, by the way); and finally, the Provo culinary scene is booming with new, delicious restaurants that are worth trying.

There seems to be a throng of fresh, creative restaurants springing up all over Utah County — places like Communal, Pizzeria 712, Station 22 and Rooster, just to name a few. I recently discovered a new restaurant that made me even more proud to be a Provo-ite: La Jolla Groves. Tucked in the newly enhanced and bustling Shops at Riverwoods, La Jolla Groves is using fresh, locally-grown ingredients to prepare their insanely delicious dishes. In fact, the restaurant’s slogan is “Insanely good food, healthier ingredients” — very appropriate, if you ask me.


Review: Vetri Ristorante

Written by Kasey Yardley on . Posted in Food

I had a landmark experience in eating last week. It was one of those infrequent happenings that only come along every now and again, if you’re lucky. Like being a Boston Red Sox fan and living in Utah — you’ll probably make it up to Fenway only once or twice in your life, but the experience means everything when you finally do. Walking into Vetri in downtown Philadelphia was like that for me — like going to Fenway and smelling the freshly cut grass, except for me it was the smell of the best pasta in the country.

Marc Vetri received his training in Bergamo, Italy by some of the country’s most noted chefs. Since then, he has opened both his 40-seat restaurant Vetri in 1998 and Osteria in 2007. He’s won several awards for his culinary aptitude, including the prestigious James Beard Award for “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” in 2005. Even Chef Mario Batali is quoted, saying, “This is possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast,” which is quite the compliment, especially from a man with his own Italian restaurant in New York City.

Pizzeria 712

Review: Pizzeria 712

Written by Kasey Yardley on . Posted in Food

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to pizza. It’s just one of those foods that a lot of people are passionate about. And we all seem to know of our own place that makes “the best pizza.” Well, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite pizza places. Let’s just put it this way: whatever your favorite is, mine punches it right in the face. I’m just saying, it’s delicious.

“When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.” –Alice Waters

You’ll find this quote front and center on Pizzeria 712’s website. That’s because their food philosophy is well thought, yet simplistic. They use the very best local ingredients to create simple masterpieces. I was introduced by a good buddy a couple of years ago, I fell in love, and have been back a dozen times since.


TV: Review: Sherlock

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in TV

Confession: I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. When I was 8 years old, I found an old copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes that belonged to my father, and I spent the next few weeks plowing through it, reading every one of Conan Doyle’s original stories. These stories still hold a special place for me, and are a huge part of why I decided to study literature.

So naturally I am always interested when a new film or television adaptation of the Holmes character comes around. From the old Basil Rathbone films to the Jeremy Brett TV series to the recent Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. reimagining, I’ve seen and enjoyed dozens of adaptations over the years. When I was in London recently, I began to hear about a new Sherlock Holmes series (simply titled Sherlock) being produced by the BBC that had received rave reviews. My interest was piqued, and upon returning to the States I looked around for how I could see the series. I discovered the show had aired in the U.S. on PBS as part of their masterpiece series, and was available to view online for free through December 27th. I promptly went and watched the entire series and was really surprised by what I saw.

The twist in the story is that Sherlock removes the Holmes story from the Victorian Era and places it in modern day London. The modern day element feels completely natural, and at no point does it seem like they are being modern for the sake of being modern. Much like in the original stories, Sherlock uses whatever tools he has available to him, whether it be text messaging, modern-day forensics or Google.

While Holmes purists may hate the change of time, the fact is the Sherlock Holmes stories were never about the Victorian Era — they were about the characters. By removing Holmes and Watson from the traditional Victorian setting, the show separates itself from more recent adaptations that focused too heavily on the Victorian elements. This allows the show to place a real focus on the characters, giving them the chance to develop over the course of the series.

The acting in Sherlock is top notch. Benedict Cumberbatch (whose previous credits include the Oscar-nominated film Atonement) plays the title character, in what may be the best incarnation of Sherlock Holmes I’ve ever seen. Cumberbatch plays Holmes as a self-described “higher-functioning sociopath,” who’s intellect (and ego) is truly worthy of the Holmes of the literary canon. Watching him on-screen, you really feel like he is that smart — 30 minutes into the first episode, I realized I was just expecting Holmes to always be a step ahead of me.

Cumberbatch’s  performance emphasizes the more anti-social elements of the Holmes character, but not in the way the recent Robert Downey Jr. incarnation did. Downey’s character had an undeniable charisma, and came off as though he was choosing to be anti-social at times. In many way’s Downey’s Holmes was just an extension of Robert Downey Jr. real personality. On the other hand, Cumberbatch’s character does not choose to be anti-social — he simply does not know how to have human interaction. He is the way he is, and in this he becomes much more believable and relatable. He is not larger then life, just smarter than the rest of us.

Martin Freeman plays Dr. John Watson. Freeman has previously appeared with minor roles in a slew of films, including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Love Actually. Freeman gives the Watson character a new level of depth as a man trying to deal with post-military life. In Sherlock, Watson isn’t the unintelligent, blundering follower of other incarnations. Instead, he is shown to be a very capable and intelligent (albeit not as intelligent as Holmes) man.

Throughout the series Holmes’ trust in Watson grows and he begins to assign him important and meaningful tasks. Watson does not just tag along, but becomes a proactive player in the stories. Freeman and Cumberbatch have an undeniable chemistry, and their relationship grows and develops naturally over the course of the series. In short, Cumberbatch and Freeman deliver what is the most nuanced portrayal of the Holmes and Watson relationship that I have ever come across.

The writing is another area where the show really stands out, the dialogue is clever and demonstrates a wit rarely seen in American television. By setting the show in the modern environment and combining it with excellent writing, Sherlock feels more exciting than previous adaptations — the show moves quickly from scene to scene with fast-paced dialogue and plots. The series consists of three, 90-minute episodes, all of which are wildly entertaining. At the end of each 90 minutes, I found myself wanting more.

The short of it is, if you like Sherlock Holmes, go check out Sherlock. If you just like good TV, go check out Sherlock. The show may not be available for free online viewing anymore, but it’s certainly worth a few of your hard-earned dollars on Amazon or iTunes.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Review: Bombay House

Written by Kasey Yardley on . Posted in Food

I’m just going to say it: Great food brings me joy unlike anything else in this world. I know, I know, that’s a big, dramatic statement. Besides, it’s just food, right?

No, my friends — it isn’t just food. And if you find yourself rolling your eyes with a similar sentiment, then you should probably stop reading here. But if you’re like me and find some of life’s greatest delights through your taste buds, then read on, young foodies…

I’ve decided to make my inaugural article in this glorious online publication about one of my current food obsessions: Bombay House.

If you’ve never been, then here’s the low down: With locations in Provo and Salt Lake, Bombay House is an authentic Indian-style restaurant with all of the classic dishes, including everything from vegetarian dishes to chicken, lamb and seafood. The chicken and lamb are cooked in large tandoori ovens, which are basically clay pots that generate heat using charcoal or wood. The clay used to make these ovens is found exclusively in India and they are well-seasoned on the inside before use. They cook at a very high temperature (900oº F) and give the meat a delicious, seared-in barbecue flavor.

Review: Splice

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Film

When Splice, which opens in theaters everywhere this Friday, first screened at January’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, two of our very own writers had the dubious honor of taking it all in.

Now, six months later and with the film’s distributor ramping up a massive ad blitz, we thought it would be as good a time as any to post their initial reactions to that original cut. For those of you planning to see the film, Kristin Clift’s spoiler-free version is directly below. For those of you who couldn’t care less, scroll down for Jon Schwarzmann’s spoiler-heavy review.


Review: iPad

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Yep, I am writing this from my brand new iPad. Well, brand new in that I’ve had it a couple days. Enough time to get familiar with it, hold it, use it, learn it, cuddle it. I’ve done everything I can to put the iPad through its paces the last few days, and I’m here to bring you my full review. Note, I have been accused many times of being an Apple “fanboy” and, while I don’t deny that, I have tried my best to come at this review as objectively as possible.

The first thing you notice about the iPad is how responsive it is. It’s incredibly fast, and it’s the most responsive touch screen I’ve ever used. Rarely do I register bad touches or find that it didn’t pick up my finger. Everything you do on the device feels fast, from switching between applications to launching websites to even the simple act of switching between pages on the home screen.


FILM: Who is Roman Polanski?

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Roman Polanski has problems. He’s suffered some pretty awful things, and he’s done some pretty awful things. The man should be neither vilified nor justified, and those who do either are looking for an easy way out of a very complicated human being.

You may not know who I’m talking about, and that’s alright. But if you have any meaningful interest in film, this man merits serious consideration. Suffice it to say his most recent, The Ghost Writer, got released a couple weeks ago and I saw it, which motivated me to get a few thoughts down about the man and his films.

You’re most likely to have heard about The Pianist (2002). It won a few Oscars (including Best Actor for Adrien Brody) and immediately stood out as one of the finest Holocaust films ever made. I didn’t end up seeing this one until last year, but when I did it bowled me over. I’m not much of a crier, and at most a really good film might get a tear or two out of me. But ten minutes into this film, I was crying and I didn’t quite stop until a good while after the credits had stopped rolling. It was just one of those experiences.

Shortly thereafter I learned that it shared the same director as another powerful film I had seen a couple of years prior – Oliver Twist (2005). I should note here that Charles Dickens is (predictably) my favorite author. I don’t think anyone has ever come as close to transferring the deep brilliance of Dickens’ work to film as Polanski did with his adaptation of Twist.

Two weeks ago, I got my first taste of one of his much earlier films, from 1965, Repulsion. It is about sexual abuse, and it is one of the only films that has ever truly, deeply, lastingly frightened me. When that film was over… How can I say this? I wanted to be held.

And so it was with somewhat high expectations that I entered the theater to watch his latest. Polanski, it should be noted, is a critic’s filmmaker, which is evidenced by Ghost’s score of 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. With a score like that, and this director’s track record, I looked forward to a well-made film. Perhaps political, perhaps slow, but of a high filmic caliber.

As expected, it was cinematically superb. The composition of every shot was beautiful, the excellent cast delivered excellent performances all, and the dialogue was tight and clever. It was also, however, a bit of a mess, and here’s why. It meant to be an R-rated film, and “language” was going to get it there. But then the distributors, or whoever, probably realized that they had a deliberately slow-moving thriller on their hands (it moves sort of like real life, which can be revelatory but fails pretty roundly to be very thrilling). So they went ahead and dubbed over all the instances of the almighty F-word with vaguely less offensive words. The result was essentially an edited movie, which was weird, but very PG-13. And still very slow.

In all, I wouldn’t recommend using this as your entry into Roman Polanski’s films. It’ll probably bore you. I wasn’t bored, but I certainly wasn’t deeply affected either. But I think people should get into his films–at least one or two. The things he’s done (and you can read all about it elsewhere) are condemnable. But some of his films are so supremely worthy of our attention that to dismiss them would be irresponsible.

This becomes less of a review of The Ghost Writer, which turns out to be a mediocre film, than it is a brief contemplation of what an artist is to his art. What have we to do with a man who may very well be lost? What have we to do with his work? Are the two separable or not? And if we can receive the man’s work without also accepting the man, should we?

These are honest questions for which I do not have satisfying answers. I’m interested, for those of you who have made it to the end of this article, to hear what you have to say, especially if you are at all familiar with Polanski and his films.

FILM: Review: Paranormal Activity

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Well, this is quite certainly too late to be helpful, but here it is anyway. I know, I should have seen this earlier, and reviewed it before Halloween came and went, because now no one cares.

But oh well. Live and learn. I think this is still a pertinent conversation, because this is a very pertinent film.

I’m sure you’ve heard the hype — that it was made for, I believe, just over eleven thousand dollars, which is nothing. It’s like finding a penny in your pocket and deciding to use it to start a business.

You may have also heard about how much it’s making in the theaters. To be specific, the current total box office number, as of November 4th, is $87,847,574. Let’s be clear. That’s just shy of $90 million, which is roughly 8,000 times more the cost of making the film, or, in other words, Paranormal Activity managed to turn an 800,000 percent profit. That’s better than Napolean Dynamite or Juno. Combined. By, like, a lot.

So what is it about this film? What did they do to make it so scary? Well, I went to find out.

First of all, it’s important to note that people didn’t pay $90 million to see this film because it was made for $11,000. They went because people (a lot of people) were saying that this was the scariest film ever. That’s the way it was marketed, and word-of-mouth, always the most powerful form of advertising, supported the hype. I was actually nervous when I sat down in the theater. “Is this going to really scare me? And do I want to be, really, that scared?”

I won’t tell you much at all about the film. It was well done for what it was. It had kind of a Blair Witch/Cloverfield aesthetic about it — “This is real.” It was a couple of people with a camera, trying to capture “paranormal activity.” It deals with demonic haunting and possession, and portrays it with an impressively minimalist style. There was never a point at which I felt like the film was biting off more than its 11 grand could chew. And the film never suffered from the low-budget, “look how cool it is we’re makin’ a film!” vibe that I warily expected. These guys knew what they were doing and how to do it.

Another thing that impressed me was something else that I actually did expect, and was not disappointed by. There was no gore. None. This was practically PG stuff when it came to that. It was rated R for language, because one of the two main characters defaults on everybody’s favorite four-letter word when he gets really scared and doesn’t know what to say.

But the fact that there was no gore was, to me, extremely impressive. First of all, it cut costs for them. Secondly, it forced both the filmmakers and the audience to think deeply about what it is that actually makes us afraid. Is it carnage? No. That either excites us or makes us sick. It’s cheap. What really freaks us out is the tangibly unseen — that which affects us dramatically, but which also remains totally unknowable and unquantifiable.

For a lot of people, this film was truly terrifying. To my deep regret (and secret relief), I couldn’t get far enough out of my film student skin to really emotionally invest or suspend my disbelief. So I left thinking that it was a little slow-moving. Don’t get me wrong, there were some scenes that were extremely effective for me and my eyes were bulging a little during a couple of choice moments, but I was ultimately unafraid by the end. I hadn’t experienced any real scares.

But the fact is that it really is scaring a huge number of people. Smart people People who have got it together. And not because they’re somehow being fooled into thinking it was real, but because of where they’re coming from. This is a very personal film for a lot of people and that’s where it draws its power. If you’ve had some dark experiences, you might connect to this film in a way that ends up being pretty traumatic. And, excuse me for saying this, but that’s pretty awesome.

Jordan Petersen is a film correspondent for Rhombus. Look for his review of Jared Hess’ Gentlemen Broncos on Thursday.

MUSIC: Britney Spears: Still "Not Yet a Woman?"

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

After all these years, Britneys still not a girl, not yet a woman.

After all these years, Britney's still "not a girl, not yet a woman."

The much beleaguered Britney Spears has reason to celebrate this week: for only the third time in her career, she’ll have a song debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is called “3” and addresses the singer’s desire to participate in a threesome. Risqué, yes, but also not surprising given that other current top pop songs debate the merits of “disco sticks” (“LoveGame”), girl-on-girl action (“I Kissed a Girl”), and redeemable lechery (“Whatcha Say”).

For Spears’ song to debut on top of the charts, a lot of people have to want to listen to it, but that doesn’t mean she can pull off the extroverted sexuality as well as her slightly younger contemporaries. While the instrumentation in “3” is reasonably interesting and the lyrics seem like they should fit right in, there’s still a lot of Spears’ characteristic voice in the song.

Overall, it’s fast, fun and danceable, but that voice — especially during the breakdown in the song’s final third — still seems way too girlish to be interested in a ménage a trois. If you’re a diehard fan, that’s probably a good thing; but it left me feeling confused and slightly disconcerted that, even layered with heavy robot-voice effects, Britney sounds more like a girl about to have her first kiss than a woman who’s down with promiscuity.

To be fair, “3” suffers less from this problem than other recent Spears singles like “Womanizer” or “Circus.” In fact, with its catchy hooks, “3” is really a fair-to-middling effort from someone who has stumbled in recent years. Still, the song serves as a subtle reminder that Britney is something of a relic in today’s pop world; when she started out, ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys were pumping out fairly innocent, safe hits about teeny-bopper love.

Those artists who began in the late ’90s and have managed to stay relevant — people like Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé — have done so by maturing. They didn’t just release increasingly more marketable techno-pop songs, they actually cultivated a grown-up image. (Timberlake, for example, has shown a surprising sense of irony by starring in all those Lonely Island/SNL videos, and Beyoncé seemed downright matronly next to Taylor Swift at this year’s VMAs.)

In that environment, even a relatively strong single from Britney Spears like “3” seems outdated, mostly because it sounds like Britney Spears. If you can listen to the edgy collaborations between Jay-Z and Alicia Keys or Rihanna, or the intentionally absurd sex-pastiche of Lady Gaga, why listen to Britney when she sounds like she’s still “not a girl, not yet a woman?” Her songs have recently shown development, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into maturity or artistic progress. As someone who (to my own endless surprise) has lately developed an affinity for mainstream dance music, I can only hope that Britney Spears will take what works from “3” and figure out a way to translate it into some legitimate maturity.

Jim Dalrymple is a pop culture writer for Rhombus. He thinks more about Britney Spears than anyone else has in at least five years.