Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PNB's 2009 Directors Choice - overall, a gorgeous display of artistry from all parts of dance


Choregraphers: Kylian, Goecke, Caniparoli, Robbins w/Genarro
Music: Mozart, Bach and The Cramps, Glazunov and Bernstein

The Director's choice is Peter Boal's selection of premiers and repertory pieces each year. This year he chose four pieces that couldn't have been more different than each other, truly a mature pallet of dancing varieties and styles, something for everyone.

The first was Petite Mort choreographed by Jiri Kylian. A premier piece for PNB it was a daring and avant-garde piece that played with your visuals as well as toyed with sensuality. Costumes were flesh colored and minimal, often looking like nude dancers on the stage.

The lights are brought up to six men with their swords. The dance with their swords and the way the metal was obviously not as fluid as the dancers, was intriguing to watch. The entire time - the 6 women were eerily standing in the background just out of light - so you could see them just barely. The affect was chilling and made you excited to see what came next. My favorite part of the piece was probably the women and their faux black ball gowns on wheels. Amazing, humorous and beautiful imagery was created with the women dancers and these dresses.

Dancers of note in this piece - again I believe there were two casts for this piece and so I cannot speak on them all, just who I saw. I remember seeing Carrie Imler as the Nurse in "Romeo et Juliette" and loving her passion and lines and wishing we were able to see more of her dancing. I got my wish in this piece. Carrie has a few wonderful parts where she really stood out from the rest of the dancers. The realness she brings to her talent is refreshing and makes her shine that much brighter.

The second was called Mopey choreographed by Goecke. I have to admit, this piece caught me off guard, following the modern piece I had seen minutes before. This solo piece, performed by Benjamin Griffiths - was witty and real once you realized it was not a joke. I enjoyed the humor and hilarious tantrum like attitude of it all. Benjamin had amazing range with his emotions and was so physically impressive. His ability to show his strength while also showing his youth - was powerful. I went with our 13 year old and her favorite part was when The Cramps song came on - she turned to me and said "This is my most favorite part so far! Its awesome!". She pretty much summed it up.

Third piece was another PNB Premier - The world premiere of The Seasons choreographed by Val Caniparoli. Season is a co-production between Pacific Northwest Ballet and Louisville Ballet. It was a light and wonderful portrayal of the 4 seasons and the sometimes gradual change of seasons and sometimes harsh. I have to admit, out of the 4 pieces, this was my least favorite, falling flat in a few areas. Looking back I felt like the music could have been bigger, as could the costumes and set. The dancing however was lovely and near flawless. I found the various solos and duets, inspiring and artistically beautiful. I think if this was done again - I would be more satisfied by BIGGER music and better costumes.

Finally - the last piece was The West Side Story suite choreographed by Jerome Robbins. I had seen many versions of this show as a music. I was interested in how they would make it work as a dance/ballet. When the curtain went up - the first gasp was for the set! "Ohhhs" an "Ahhhhs" filled the audience. This was by far the most VISUALLY pleasing piece. Then when the dancing began the smile never left my face. The dancing was superb. Even more, that some of the dancers SANG as they danced, which blew our minds! Brought me right back to the original movie and the amazing dancing in that.

Some exceptional dancers/singers to make note of. Seth Orza - "Riff" - his singing and dancing was outstanding. I barely heard him loose his breath (which is shocking for what a workout they get!) and the singing was GOOD seeing that he is a dancer before he is a singer.
Also - Lindsi Dec - "Rita" was lovely to watch and added spice and zest to the character. The singing was GREAT as well as the lovely attitude we all know and love Rita for having. Lindsi has always stood out since I have seen her in shows for the last year - and I wondered when I would see more of her. Her legs seem to go forever and her extension left my daughter and I speechless. To say the least, she wore the part well and was incredibly entertaining.

There are only4 performances left for this production and I URGE you not to miss it. PNB offers such a great variety of ticket prices and show times, they make it very accessible during this difficult economy.

Tickets and more information can be found at their website:


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NYC's Caffe Linda - really good eats if you're in the neighborhood!

145 E 49th St
(between 3rd Ave & Lexington Ave)
New York, NY 10017
(646) 497-1818
We were in town for the weekend and staying at the Waldorf Astoria on Lexington. Looking for a place within walking distance, we set off to find a good lunch.

Just one block away we stumbled upon a sweet little cafe with outdoor seating. The only thing was, there was NO ONE eating there. Being in a restaurant family - i have been told, an empty restaurant isn't usually a GOOD restaurant. However I saw the owner was working (which is always a good sign) and that he was Italian - so I got a good vibe and we decided to try it.

We sat outside to enjoy the sun with our food. The owner was very attentive and made sure we were happy at all times.

I love any restaurant that still practices the "free snack or appetizer" rule. Whether its chips and salsa, bread sticks, bread with dipping sauce - I love it - it adds to the meal and makes you feel like the establishment cares about you rather than just money.

This restaurant had a lovely version of Bread and Butter. They had two different kinds of home made, thick crusted Italian breads - one plain and one sweet with raisins. And they served it with warm soft butter and berry jam.

For a beverage I ordered an iced tea and was so pleased with just that!

The menu was extensive however we were drawn to our favorites. My meal came with a salad - which was a wonderful mixture of Arugula, Kale, Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Cantaloupe. My only complaint was that there was TOO much arugula - which made it too bitter to each too many leaves with each bite.

Next up was each of our plates - Our daughter, Ms Sweet-tooth - ordered the French Toast. This was a beautiful homemade bread dipped in eggs and sweet spices, topped with powdered sugar and a side of fruit.

Next up was my sandwich - Mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula on homemade foccocia bread. It was so yummy and savory. HOWEVER I would have preferred WAY less arugula and some basil instead. In fact this place served SO much arugula, i wonder if the owners had it in the garden or something. For such a bitter lettuce, they used it a bit too much for my taste -but still overall such a great sand which.

Lastly was my husbands Caprese Salad. The mozzarella they used was so soft and melted in their mouth. It was buffalo and smoked, which makes all the difference in the world. Again, the ONLY complaint...no basil. However we did ask for this as a special order, as it wasn't on their menu, and didn't specify basil, however all Italians know its served with basil! However, the salad did come on a bed of....yes you guessed it - ARUGULA! Once again - not the best choice for this salad - but again it seems it was the lettuce of the day!

Overall - this restaurant was sweet, organized, fast, well managed and the food was above average and I would even say really good. Can't say great because of the few exceptions I made above. Add in convenience and cost and I would most definitely visit Caffe Linda again when in New York.

Rating: **** Really good !

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Billy Elliot - Whats better than the movie? Broadway baby....

BILLY ELLIOT - The Musical
Director: Stephen Daldry
Music: Elton John
Choreography: Peter Darling
Book and Lyrics: Lee Hall

I once read a blog by a famous celebrity that said "Once you see a show ON BROADWAY in NYC - your life will never be the same." and I thought it was very dramatic and a bit of an exaggeration, in fact I was sure of it.

Allow me to officially on the record state - I WAS 100% WRONG. It does change your life. Seeing a Tony award winning show, ON BROADWAY in New York City DOES indeed change your life.

The culmination of many blessings and well timed events made it possible for us to visit NYC on the weekend of our daughters 13th birthday. Our daughter is a dancer and adored the movie version of Billy Elliot - as did we. We loved the story of the family struggle and the boys dancing dream come true....in so many ways we were living that story. So when word got around that Elton John had adapted the story to create a musical - we swooned at the thought of ever getting to see the show one day.

As I said - the cards played in our favor and the stars aligned and it happened. It was our first Broadway show. We felt like newbies. All dressed our best and nervous tummies. The show was sold out and people were packing into the Imperial Theater like cattle.

There are 4 boys who play the part of Billy (because the shows are so physically demanding) but the boy we saw perform was Trent Kowalik. All 3 boys won the Tony for Best Actor - so I am sure they are all brilliant - but this review is about Trent's brilliance.

The show has a wonderful variety of cast and a heart tugging and tear jerking story line of a family and community in turmoil over a miner strike and a son wanting to follow his heart and his dreams during that hard time.

Its main character immediately steals your heart with his thick Geordie accent (North East of England) and his heartfelt moments with his deceased mother. His acting and singing was nothing short of sweet and lovable and his dancing was just phenomenal. We immediately fell in love with the members of his family, his friends, his dance teacher, even the girls in the core/dance class.

Elton John composed such an amazing group of songs for this show. We purchased the sound track and I still find myself getting misty eyed during certain songs. It evokes THAT MUCH just when listening in the car! The ensemble cast does such a good job of filling the songs with strength and power and also has the amazing ability to portray the unity of the community in the story. I was blown away.

There are such strong messages and such sad and heart felt moments in this show. The first time (one of many) that I started crying, I bawled. I mean ugly, messy crying. I mean almost sobbing. My husband summed up the feeling in evoked perfectly "It was incredibly overwhelming". My husband cried and held back tears and that says tons as he rarely cries.

Everytime I kept calming myself and wiping my eyes, something would happen and I would start again. I even found myself, after feeling self conscious that I was crying TOO MUCH - I found myself looking at the ceiling trying to think of VERY BORING THINGS to get my mind off how much I want to break into tears again! (I kept whispering "Baseball, Baseball, Baseball!) It was hilarious now that I look back at it!

At the end of the show - with the overwhelmingly amazing Finale - I figured I cried almost 80% of the show. It was that moving. The sets were engaging and so amazing to watch move in and out of place. The choreography was wonderful, refreshing and made you want to get up and dance. Like I said - we were in awe for the majority of the time.

Some actor/character mentions besides the brilliant and talented Trent Kowalik who played Billy Elliot....Haydn Gwynne (Ms. Wilkinson the dance teacher), Gregory Jbara (Billys Dad), David Bologna (Michael, Billy's best friend), Carole Shelley (Billy's Grandma) and Thommie Retter (Mr Braithwait - the piano teacher). This group of actors/singers carried this show. Their strength, versatility and range was so impressive and their commitment to the characters and story was just overwhelming.

My favorite moment of this show is the finale I must say. You feel so proud of the cast, so proud of Billy the character - and so touched that you were able to watch such a special show. I found myself on my feet, clapping and crying like an idiot. But then I looked around and realized and everyone else was doing the same thing.

This show is truly remarkable and was an unforgettable 1st time experience for me and my family. I know not everyone gets the chance or has the money to go to NYC to see a show on Broadway. I am so grateful that this opportunity was GIVEN to us - literally GIVEN, or we would have not been able to swing it any time soon. But I think if you could save your money to go and see ONE SHOW on Broadway. This would be it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Authentic Vietnamese food in Monroe? In real life!

Basil & Chives Vietnamese Cuisine

(360) 794-4000
114 N Lewis St
, Monroe, WA 98272

Monroe always gets excited when new restaurants come into town and establish roots. We personally were excited at the fact that we finally had a place to get PHO! The owner, a young Vietnamese woman from Seattle, a UW graduate who takes pride in the food her restaurant serves.

The ambiance is amazing, especially considering the previous residents of the building. As longtime members of this town, we knew this building as a smoke filled, old beer smelling Eagles Club. They literally cored out the space and now its a sweet smelling, wonderful and elegant Vietnamese restaurant!

The menu is not like your typical Pho stop on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Yes they have Pho, and at first the few additional dollars in cost seems excessive, but when you see the size and quality, that is quickly forgiven. Their pho is as rich and savory as I have had at Than Bros - but the presentation is better and the quantity is more as well as the side sauces seem to be more fresh.

I skipped my favorite part, the appetizers. Their fried spring rolls and their fresh rolls are just amazing. I realized something different in their spring rolls and couldn't put my finger on it. The owner (who loves greeting customers and making sure things are up to par) was happy to answer the riddle. "Sweet Potatoes". She claimed that her grandmother used sweet potatoes instead of cabbage, and that that was the key to the spring rolls not getting soggy. Also their prawn fresh rolls are HUGE and very good. I would personally add a bit more herbs (Cilantro and basil wasn't as strong as some of the Thai fresh rolls i have had) and I had to ask for another side of Peanut Sauce, because the rolls are SO big and they give you 4 of them! But besides those small details, they are one of my favorite things to order.

On this day - I was suffering from a cold, so I knew Pho is what my body needed. However, when opening the menu, we were pleased to see that they added their famous lunchtime Vietnamese sandwiches, to the dinner menu! Unable to decide, my husband and I decided to each get a rare beef Pho and share a grilled chicken sandwich.

The pho was as good as it always is, and with some extra hot sauce, was just what my sinus's needed. Now the sandwich. It was SO AMAZING. With lettuce, pickled onion, carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, mirin glazed onion and basil mayonnaise accompanying the grilled chicken on a grilled fresh baguette - it was like a party in my mouth. Even more, I suggest you eat it with the Pho - its a big meal, but OH SO GOOD.

So unlike many of the new restaurants in this town, that get popular just because they are new and slowly fade away - this place has longevity. Props to the owner who has enough young energy and vision to make it people pleasing and to make it work in this rough economy.

**In Addition, they have started doing dinner theater. Because the building had a stage for live music from when the Eagles inhabited it, they originally just built a wall and doors and planned to rent out the additional space. Now they do both - they rent it to the local theater and have created a great Dinner theater experience! More details here: http://www.basilandchivesrestaurant.com/events.html

My Rating: ***** five stars, a great and authentic addition to this small town - so come out to the digital movie theater, see a flick and get some Pho OR come and see some local theater and enjoy dinner at the same time! Either way, you must pay Basil & Chives a visit.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Public Enemies, Depp makes Dillinger Dapper and Dynamic

Public Enemies
Director: Michael Mann
Rating: R
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Stephen Dorff

John Dillinger was a criminal who robbed banks, murdered numerous times, escaped jail - but all the while, seemed to win the hearts of his community and the press.

As I watched - I too was sucked into the charm that Dillinger spread like a web to all that caught his eye. His comedy while robbing the government and his kindness when letting the man at the counter keep his money. His love for Billie Frechette (wonderfully played by Marion Cottillard) was so tender but also so stern - as he expected her to just adjust and accept his way of life. Never once hiding it from her or lying to her about it. He was such a man of the moment and expected her to be as well. And she did - she surprisingly fell into line with him and was supportive until the very end, even taking beatings from police for him, and going to jail for him.

Christian Bale plays Office Melvin Purvis. At first, his character really irritated me, mostly because of how Christian played his mannerisms and voice. But about halfway through, he grew on me - especially when he discovered Billie Frechette being beaten by the police for answers to where Dillinger was - he stopped the beatings and carried her to be cleaned up. Very sweet.

Overall - Depp is subperb. He literally morphes into the role of loving gangster Dillinger. At times I would look into the face on the screen and forget it was an actor playing a part. You really find yourself feeling SORRY for Dillinger by the end of the film, when you realize his time is almost up.

The shoot out scenes are done with a classic touch to give the feel of the era and the rest of the movie just falls perfectly into place. Go see this film for an amazing story of crime, love and passion.

Rating: **** excellent

Thursday, May 28, 2009

SIFF film - LITTLE ASHES. Easily over the heads of Pattinson fans.

Little Ashes
Director: Paul Morrison
Starring: Javier Beltran, Robert Pattinson & Matthew McNulty
Rating: R
Tagline: Love. Art. Betrayal

This is the story of the young years of the brilliant but troubled Salvador Dali. It is said that he hid this story from the early part of his life for years, for many reasons but mainly because of his marriage to Gala (Elena Ivanovna Diakonova) for 50+ years.

The movie is set during the pre-Spanish civil war when repression and political unrest plagued the country. Frederico Lorca (brilliantly played by Javier Beltran) was the well renowned poet and revolutionary who's chance meeting of Salvador Dali (well played by Robert Pattinson, best known for his roles as Sedrick Diggery in the Harry Potter series and Edward Cullen in the Twilight movie) was like an emotional roller coaster.

Dali - was more than an "eccentric" artist. The man clearly struggled with mental issues from a young age. During the movie he has strange flash backs and hears voices, but they never really explain where those are rooted from. Both being amazingly talented artists in their own right - Lorca and Dali begin to show attraction and love for each other, through their art.

I was interested to see if Robert Pattinson could pull off such a deep and complicated roll. I wasn't totally sold on his roll as the lead vampire in Twilight, however I used the writing and direction as the main problem with his acting in that film. SO I was intrigued to see if he was able to play such a different role than he had in the past. Lets put it this way - if I were to give it a percentage as to how convinced I am, I would give him a 70%. Not quite, but close.

Reason being is that both parts were SUPPOSED to be played as troubled and awkward. I am not sure if this is really how he is in real life (socially awkward, internally tortured and at times childlike) or if he just does a bang up job at those types of roles. Toward the end, when Dali became obsessed with the fame, money and sex - his role became more involved and I was impressed by the emotional tantrums and manic type attitude he took on. The love scenes between he and Beltran were also very convincing, as I wasn't sure how those would be played out.

His signature waxed and upturned mustache, regal clothing and often wearing capes and silly hats - was a lovely part of the movie as well. He would often wear outlandish outfits and play with various accents (often switching from Spanish to French to American, just to curse in different ways) and it was all done very humorously. At times you would see him playing dress up, fidding with head wraps and ties and often got Lorca to play along. If you didn't know this was part of Dali's personality, it could easily be chalked up to random silliness. But they were actually very relevant and accurate details as to his persona.

Other actors who were amazing - Beltran as I already mentioned was amazing. Sincere, emotional, sensitive, everything an inspired poet and revolutionary would be. Marina Gatell who played Beltran's love interest, Magdalena - was superb. She was so in love with him, but was so aware of where his heart was. Her pain and devotion was so touching - her character was a lovely sight on the screen as well. Matthew McNulty played Luis Bunuel - the close friend to Dali and Lorca and the one that struggled deeply when the love the two shared came into the light.

The relationship between Federico Lorca and Salvador Dali should be mentioned. At a time when Catholicism was the main religion in Spain and homosexuality wasn't spoken of, nor accepted, the movie makes this very obvious but heartfelt. You truly feel the love these men have for each other because of their art. You watch Lorca pray and struggle with his feelings and Dali just chalk it up to part of his personality.

The main thing I disliked about this film was the fact that it was all in ENGLISH with Spanish accents. In my opinion, if its set in Spain, it should have been in Spanish with subtitles. Also when Lorca recited his poetry (which was often) he would recite it in Spanish, but then they would have his voice translate it in English, over the top - which confuses the hell out of me to hear it softly in Spanish and English over top. Lorca's accent is VERY thick and sometimes difficult to understand, which made for a few confusing moments.

The twist of the movie (which i will not spoil) is hurtful but a brutal testament of the European art scene during that time and the affect it had on many lives.

Dali will forever go down in history as one of the worlds most talented surrealist painters - however this movie will give you an idea of his life as a young man and how he became the man he was later in life. The sad, troubled youth who struggled with an art he couldn't explain and a love he couldn't express. If you think about it - that kind of repression is enough to drive anyone crazy.

**Note: I did some research on Dali as I was preparing for this review - and I was surprised to find out he passed in 1989 (I was 15 years old) and read some fun and interested facts about him. When you see this movie - I suggest you go into it with an open mind. And maybe have these facts about Dali known when you go:

* He at one point considered himself GOD-LIKE
* Had a residence in the Plaza Hotel in NYC and hosted the likes of Sonny & Cher (and were startled when Cher sat down on an oddly shaped sexual vibrator left in an easy chair)
* When ever signing autographs for people, he would ALWAYS keep their pens
* During a television appearance, on the Tonight Show, Dalí carried with him a leather rhinoceros and refused to sit upon anything else.
* The unlikeliest venue for Dalí's work was the Rikers Island jail in New York City; a sketch of the Crucifixion he donated to the jail hung in the inmate dining room for 16 years before it was moved to the prison lobby for safekeeping. The drawing was stolen in March 2003 and has not been recovered.

Rating **** Go see this movie, the good heavily out weighs the bad

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pulcinella Pizzeria

10003 Rainier Ave S
(between S 68th Ave & S Cornell Ave)
Seattle, WA 98178
Neighborhood: Rainier Beach
(206) 772-6861

I am second generation Italian - and have grown up with a chain of Italian restaurants in our family - for the last 50 years. (http://www.vincesitalian.com ) My Uncle Vince Jr, who now runs the chain - has recently opened a new restaurant, not related to the Vince's chain. This is a Neopolitan wood fire pizzaria - with a wood fire oven imported straight from Naples, Italy.

Since I would obviously be biased in my review for this restaurant - I chose to take the photos, and invited two friends to guest write their opinions of the restaurant. Katelyn Hackett is the assistant editor for Sound magazine and writes about music and urban culture in the northwest. GMK is a local HIphop artist, soon to be dropping the CD "Songs for Bloggers" very soon - for more info check his website: http://gmkbrilliantreality.com/.

from left to right, GMK, Pulcinella owner Vince Mottola Jr, RA Scion (of Common Market) and Katelyn Hackett.

Katelyn Hackett writes: I was at Pulcinella's with friends, who promised me a delicious pizza no matter what I ordered---unless, they cautioned me, I ordered the tuna one. I skipped the tuna and ordered the Forcella, which involves mozzarella, ham, pepperoni and pepperoncinis along with Pulcinella's housemade tomato sauce. To start, my friend and I split a mozzarella, pomegranate vinegar, and almond salad, which was a little too acidic and could have been balanced by a touch more pomegranate or perhaps less dressing in general, but it was welcome after the antipasto to ready me for the meal's main event.


Mozzarella, pomegranate and almond salad

My Forcella was, as promised, great wood-fired pizza: chewy, light, charred crust, fresh, sweet tomato sauce, simple mozzarella, quality meats, and just the right amount of chopped pepperoncini to give the whole affair some zip. I doctored mine up with some of the spicy olive oil on the table and a dash or two of the black pepper. The pie was medium-sized, more than enough for my appetite. (Trust me on this one, I love pizza and this was the perfect size.) I also sampled a slice of my friend's fancy proscuitto and caper pie, which tasted just as fresh and delectable as my pizza did.

Pizza Forcella (Tomato, Mozzarella, Ham, Pepperoni, Pepperoncini)

Pizza Sorrento (Tomato, Mozzarella, Prosciutto, Mushrooms, Kalamata Olives, Capers, Basil)

Dessert was, at first, a sweet mascarpone, coffee liqueur, and chocolate pizza, topped with fast-melting whipped cream; sweet and delicious, but the refreshing, subtly citrused limoncello gelato set in front of me after I finished my slice of the dessert pizza was more to my taste.

Overall, I loved and can recommend the food and the company without reservation. My criticisms: the music was a little cheesy (easy to fix with a different set of cds), and the restaurant's ambience was a little impersonal without quite ascending to fancypants status (the upside-down Lakeside Tavern signage was a welcome, humorous touch). I think time and neighborhood involvement will humanize and weather the restaurant's interior to a more comfortable feel, however. It's a brand new restaurant, and it feels new. I came home pleasantly full, raving about the food to my housemate, and waving around a box of leftovers. The cold pizza, by the way, made for an excellent breakfast the next morning!

GMK writes: I have to say my experience at Pulcinella was more then grand. It's atmosphere combined with good company equal awesome. Out of all the prime choices of pizza I went with the Posillipo pizza.*Salami, fresh mozzarella and tomato. Wood fired to perfection, I thought the portions were not to much and no to little.

Pizza Posillipo (Salami, fresh mozzarella and tomato)

Pizza Chaiaia ( Tomato, Eggplant Parmigiana, Mozzarella)

I would assume that feeling full and satisfied would have been enough. At the end of it all I was served some of the best dessert I've had in 6 months. I call it a party in my mouth. What came out was Segreto di Pulcinella. It had me saying this can't be real and slowly detecting each ingredient. Cinnamon, Chocolate, Whip Cream, Vanilla.

Il Segreto di Pulcinella: (a "secret" combination of marscapone, espresso and coffee liqueur spread expertly on a pizza skin and then baked. Served right out of the wood fire oven and topped lightly with a rich chocolate sauce)

To top that off, next came this lemon iced liquor. (see photo above) Unfortunately the name skips my memory. Spoiled is what I'd have to call this dining experience. Would definitely go back, give it 5 stars and a sure recommend.

Total rating: ***** 5 stars - you must try this place!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek - "Damnit Jim!..."

Star Trek
Director: JJ Abrams
Date: May 8th 2009

I grew up with a dad that was a huge Star Trek (the original series) fan. I watched all the episodes and absorbed as much as my teen mind would accept without rejection.

I have recently gotten hooked on the comic movie phenomenon - and while this isn't comic inspired, it is sci-fi and deals with "mutant" or "alien" type life forms. I had mixed feelings as I decided whether or not to see it. Part of me was like -BAH, dorky sci-fi flick, I don't wanna see it. The other part, remembers the characters and was so intrigued about how some of my favorite actors would fit into this legendary roles.

First off - the legend begins with JJ Abrams. His direction is superb. I kept reminding myself he created one of my favorite shows....LOST. As the movie progresses, you can see his genius. Clean and wonderful shots, crisp and gorgeous scenery, but also some shots reminiscent of the original series (ie the "shaky" scenes when the ship is in turmoil) those made me laugh. But also the COMEDY. He had to have worked with the writers on this a bit, because the comedy was perfectly timed and had you laughing so often - very similar to how LOST does.

Casting. One word. Perfection. If you were familiar with ANY of the legendary characters from the original series - you will appreciate and be in utter shock at how similar they are. Zachary Quinto as Spock. He is an amazing Sylar in NBC's "Heros", so I had no doubt he would be able to portray the outwardly emotion-less, however inwardly soft Vulcan first mate. He surpassed what I thought he would do, and with surprise roll of Leonard Nemoy, (you have to see it to get it) it was like a cherry on top.

The break out performance of the movie, by far was Chris Pine as Cpt. James T. Kirk. He truly shocked me, first with his comic timing, and then with his uncanny ability to create the same cocky and flirtatious moments, as effortless and as identical to William Shatner. His sexy prowess toward all women who crossed his path was equally matched by his bad boy rebelliousness to the federation and Spock.

The supporting characters - who truly made the original series what they were - were not overlooked either. McCoy, who made the statement "Damnit Jim...." famous - was wonderfully portrayed by Karl Urban (best known for his roll in the LOTR trilogy as Eomer). Jim's side kick and buddy in Federation school as well as on the Enterprise. Zoe Saldana played Uhura - which at first you think will be the love interest for Kirk. The twist is surprising but cute and sweet to watch. She was fairly reserved in the series, and she carries the same character quite well over to the movie.

Chekov and Sulu were cast questionably for me, at first, but redeemed themselves quickly. Anton Yelchin played Chekov, his Russian accent being the funniest part of most of his scenes. John Cho (best known for his lead role in Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle) was a great Sulu, and actually he could have had more scenes, as I remember Sulu being more prominent. Lastly but certainly not least, Scotty. I remember this character as always slightly drunk, cracking jokes and making you giggle at the perfect times. Played brilliantly by Simon Pegg (best known for his lead role in Shaun of the Dead). My only complaint is that he was introduced so late in the movie, we really didn't have a chance to enjoy his character.

Lastly - the graphics. The graphics in the original series were nothing more than small ship models on strings. I remember them being comical they were so bad. Thats what made these graphics that much better. The Romulan ship was just thousands on jagged knife looking things - it was fresh. The Enterprise was just as I remembered it, only better. Overall, the graphics werent STUNNING, but they were impressive none the less.

The ending was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Just tears of joy when you experience something that has come full circle. When they show a new beginning, with old reminders and words....truly an enjoyable journey.

Rating: ***** the best movie i have seen in a while and most definitely in my top 10 of all time

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Shack - a Spiritual Journey (A Book Review)

The Shack
by: William P. Young

I learned about this book on Twitter, of all places. This is surprising mainly because of the amount of religious people I am surrounded with; I am surprised it was never recommended before.

I watched “Mskutcher” aka Demi Moore – talk about her journey through the book on Twitter, and it intrigued me to read it. On that note, I need to mention that anyone who has had a loss of someone close to them, and even specifically if they were murdered – this is going to be difficult however incredibly helpful and healing in the long run.

This book has 252 pages. Compared to other books I read, this is considered “short”. So I thought – cool, I will read this in 2-3 days easily. 3 weeks later, I am finally done with it. Did it take so long because it was boring? Was it drawn out? NO, the opposite, it was almost too much for me to handle at times. I had to take it in pieces and take breaks when things got “too real”. That’s how intense this book is.

The main character of the book is Mack. A man who has had a terrible loss and, like many of us, questions his faith and many things about his life, because of this loss. I find Mack’s feelings, thoughts and responses to be very typical to the every day person’s struggle. Never was there a question unanswered, that if I were in his position, I would want the answer to.

About 1/3 of the way through the book, I had a major red flag. The word Jesus, then the Trinity. I almost quit. Then I remember Demi (I love how that sounds like we chat regularly) talked about how she didn’t have a specific Faith she followed, but was spiritual, and that this book didn’t intrude on that.

So I kept going. It immediately took a different turn. Young has the amazing ability to keep you comfortable while talking about a usually taboo subject. His way of making your heart HURT for Mack and his family in one moment, shed tears over the horrifying circumstances of their loss and then laugh and smiles at the feelings of love and family Mack learns in the Shack.

Young touches on many Christian topics that you may or may not agree with, however its done in a way that its easily accepted and you find yourself caring more about the well being of the character, that you get the main idea being about growth rather than it being preachy.

Towards the end of the book I had to take a break. I couldn’t tell where it was all leading to, however I did know it was going to be hard for me to handle. I lost my only brother less than 2 years ago, very tragically and suddenly – so this book helped me deal with loss and my anger with God. I went into it thinking it would be a good read and it became much more than that. I wasn’t quite ready for what William Young had for me at the end of this journey.

After about a week, I couldn’t stand it, and had to find out how Mack’s spiritual journey ended. I knew it would be hard. I bawled. It was so real but at the same time, so Unreal. Do I believe this is a FACTUAL book? Do I think this really HAPPENED to someone? I realized at the end, that didn’t matter.

April 20st until May 2nd marks a religious holiday for me, The Festival of Ridvan. It commemorates the commencement of my Faith and signifies renewal, the birth of a new Light and the celebration of all things made new. This was a perfect time to finish this book, as it helped bring me out of the darkness of Winter. Spring and Ridvan has brought new growth, new maturity and new light.

Be firm in your Faith (or lack of) and don’t ever feel as though this book is trying to preach to you. If you are firm in your Faith or belief and see it as a story of a way to deal with a horrible adversity and a way to find God during a tragedy – it’s a wonderful 252 page read…

Rating: **** (better than the average thriller movie)

To follow me on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/MAbeo

Friday, April 17, 2009

Benjarong Thai - amazing food and service like family

Benjarong Thai Restaurant
19480 State Route 2
Monroe, WA 98272

I would consider myself a connoisseur of Thai food - having been to many different restaurants and tried tons of dishes.

This restaurant is in our town - however even if I lived 20-30 miles away, I would drive to them.

I wouldn't say we are "regulars" but we go maybe once every 2-4 months. The way the staff remembers things, you would think we were there every week. They know our names, they remember our favorite things on their menu and if we haven't been in for a while, they worry. Its precious.

I decided it was time to give them the credit they deserve, when we realized it was how they treated all their customers, and its what makes them special.

I started with a Mango smoothie. It was served in a a tall chilled glass and was SO amazing.

Then came the appetizers - Fresh Rolls and a mixed appetizer plate. The fresh rolls are VERY well made amnd tasty. The mixed appetizer plate has chicken skewers with peanut sauce, spring rolls, fried prawns and little crab and cream cheese bites in philo - just amazing.

Then came my main course. I usually have either Pad Thai or Showering Rama. Tonight was Pad Thai. Their noddles are always done perfectly, never mushy or overdone.

Dinner overall was fabulous. Too stuffed for dessert, we asked for our check. The owner came out and gave us "Tofu fresh rolls to go, because we know how much you like them!" - free! It was a sweet way to end the evening and they walked us to the door, thanking us until they saw us next time.

Rating: ***** stars Amazing food and service - this place is worth the drive!