Restaurant Review: Cafe Katja (Lower East Side, NYC)

Came here with a friend on the weekend. It was packed and we would have had to wait an hours for a table, so we ate at the bar.

We ordered the aufschnitt teller (cured meat plate and spread), the pretzel, and the emmentaler sausage (came with quark dumplings and cabbage). It was all good. I don’t normally eat German/Austrian food, so it was a nice change. Heavy and a little bland though, but that’s probably true of all German/Austrian food.

Space was ok.

Service was ok.

Score: 6.2/10

Official site: http://cafekatja.com/

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Movie Review: Beasts of No Nation

As you can see from the trailer above, Beasts of No Nation seeks to be a film that takes a hard look at child soldiers in Africa. Directed by Cary Fukunaga and produced by Netflix, my expectations were high considering their recent string of hits (Fukunaga directed True Detective season one and Netflix is behind Daredevil and Orange is the New Black).

The film centers on a boy orphaned by war and chronicles his transformation into a child soldier.

It’s a sobering tale. What’s also interesting is what this film attempts to achieve. On the one hand, it is a war movie in the vein of Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, but to a far lesser extant (no one’s charging Normandy beach here). It seeks to take a look at the horror and intensity of war in this part of Africa. Where it differs is that the protagonist soldier who fights this war is a child. And that is very jarring when compared to the old soldiers of World War II.

The actors are all fairly good. Sometimes during the film I felt like the portrayals were fake and superficial, full of overacted bravado. But after further thought, this may be exactly how the participants in this war act. I’ve met criminals in real life, and they weren’t criminal masterminds or heroes doing that last job before they quit their life of crime. They were just people doing things. Those things don’t need to make sense to everyone. The characters fighting in this film often times do horrendous things for seemingly no reason. Beasts of No Nation then, as a film that is based on real events, helps to show that real life is often stranger than fiction (even though this film is fictitious, it still helps show the pointlessness of real life events).

Also worth mentioning are the performances from the children, especially the protagonist played by Abraham Attah. Directing children to put out a performance like this is impressive in any kind of theatrical context and the children here, with this kind of subject matter, were amazing.

Score: 8.0/10 A cold, hard look at a shitty situation. Worth watching. It’s horrific that this happens in the real world and that it is probably more violent and grotesque than what was portrayed in this film.

Comic Book Review: Doctor Strange #1 (2015)

I love Bachalo’s art. I’ve loved it since the Ultimate X-Men vs. the Ultimates crossover. So when I hear he is drawing a book, I am already sold. I am happy to report that this books is everything I wanted it to be, in terms of art and in terms of story.

This book is a true relaunch of the Doctor Strange character. Historically, Doctor Strange was the foremost authority of all things mystical in the Marvel Universe. His character was akin to that of Doctor Fate in the DC Comics universe. That is, Doctor Strange was a bookish, old sage of a man, a magical wizard kind of like Gandalf or Merlin. He was someone you would consult with when world ending magics were at hand.

This current incarnation of Doctor Strange is something different. He’s kind of a hipster doctor who makes house calls. The tone of the character reminds me heavily of Constantine, kind of an off color, cool dude. Doctor strange now wears a scarf not because he’s cold, but because it’s fashionable. Doctor Strange now likes hanging out in a bar versus a library. Doctor Strange also likes kissing chicks, demon chicks, but still chicks. Doctor Strange also likes fighting with swords and battle axes.

It’s an interesting take on the character and does a lot to bring him further down to earth and far more digestible for main stream audiences. It suggests a lot about what Marvel plans to do in the upcoming Doctor Strange movie. If this is the direction the film will take, I approve.

Score: 8.2/10 An interesting relaunch that keeps somethings, but changes a lot and explores a character many might not be familiar with. Bachalo’s art is great as always. A great read that I would consider buying when it comes out in trade paperback.

Comic Book Review: Secret Wars #6 (2015)

Secret Wars is great. It’s Marvel’s great comic book event this year and, thankfully, it is really great. Hickman has often times written long winded, overly complex stories and this time, I am happy to say he has not done so.

The story here has many moving parts, but all parts feel essential to the eventual conclusion. The story moves along and each plot line has just enough to keep the story moving without going into the superfluous monologues I’ve come to expect from Hickman.

Fun moments abound, from a conversation between Reed’s, the current state of the relationship between Black Panther and Namor, and the discovery of what happened to the Fantastic Four in Doom’s Battleworld. It’s all interesting developments and interesting takes on the characters.

Which leads me to the saddest bit of this book: the Fantastic Four. Most prominent in this book is the Fantastic Four’s involvement in the story. They are essential. It is my greatest fear that this will be the last Fantastic Four story, that this will be Reed’s last story. I sincerely hope that is not the case because, while I have not enjoyed most of the Fantastic Four stories, I have enjoyed Hickman’s run. It embodies what is great about the Fantastic Four: family and fantastic science fiction. Reading through Secret Wars one cannot help but feel that this is Reed Richard’s last stand. His ultimate defeat comes not from Doom, but from Disney/Marvel and their desire for money (in case you are unaware, there are rumors that Marvel is ending the Fantastic Four comic books, not for narrative reasons, but because they cannot reacquire the rights to the films and they no longer want to promote the property).

Score: 8.0/10 While many characters from the Marvel universe are present, this is a Fantastic Four story to me and it is a great one.

Comic Book Review: Invincible Iron Man #1 (2015)

Marvel Comics has destroyed and re-birthed a new Marvel universe for its comics line and the Invincible Iron Man is its part of the vanguard of new comics introducing readers to this new world.

It’s a fun issue, but incredibly rehashed. Tony makes a new armor. He is still rich. He meets a girl. And goes looking for some bad guys. The most interesting part of the issue is what he finds in Latveria and how that might relate to how the ongoing Secret Wars comic is going to end.

It’s clear from reading this that Marvel/Disney want the comic to resemble and support the movies more since the movies are the big money makers nowadays.

Score: 6.5/10 Fun, but nothing new. Iron Man is currently the most recognizable and popular property Marvel has and, while amusing, Marvel has taken no risks or new directions with the relaunch of this character.

Restaurant Review: Spot Dessert Bar (St. Mark’s, NYC

I came here with a friend after a really heavy dinner. We were pretty stuffed, but for once in our lives this place did not have a ridiculous line out front. In fact, there was no line. And this was on a Friday night. We took this as a sign from the universe to try it out. Sure enough, right after we took out seats, the line formed behind us.

The inside is cozy. If it weren’t for the enormous number of people who wanted to come in it would have been fine.

There are various drinks, but only nine desserts on the menu. Somehow, they managed to know my weakness: small menus. As I’ve written in past reviews, a small menu means to me that the restaurant is confident in what they are putting out. They know what they are good at and these few things are all they need to run a viable business. We only ordered one thing, but it was amazing.

We ordered the “Golden Toast,” which is extremely crispy, buttery toast with a very soft, warm, doughy center. It was served with a side of ice cream, cinnamon, whipped cream, and strawberries. It was lovely.

Service was fine, if not inexperienced and overworked.

Score: 7.8/10 I would love to come back and try the rest of their desserts. I looked around the room when I was there and saw nothing but happy, satisfied faces. The Spot is a great place for desserts and a date.

Official site: http://www.spotdessertbar.com/

Restaurant Review: The COOP (Flushing, NY)

The COOP is another korean fried chicken restaurant that opened in Flushing.

The interior is nice and comfortable.

The food was good. Ordered some of their chicken and truffle fries.

Service was nice.

Score: 6.6/10 Same as any other Korean fried chicken place. Which is a good thing.

Official site: http://www.thecoopnyc.com/

Movie Review: Inside Out

Inside Out is Disney Pixar’s latest film and seemingly an attempt to create a new property that returns to the studio’s former glory. You know, before the Cars movies, back when they released Toy Story, Ratatouille, Up, etc.

And it is a good movie. It’s just not a classic. It kind of just goes along the Pixar formula, if there is such a thing. They wrote a story centering on the formative years of a child and tried to rope in feelings of nostalgia, which works, but just feels rehashed sometimes. Pixar’s done this before and I’m ready for Pixar’s next, great, original property. Not more of the same.

The story centers on the anthropomorphic emotions of a little girl. They get lost in the inner workings of the girl’s mind and hilarity and adventure ensue. Meanwhile, the girl goes through things in real life and is reflected in the inner workings.

There are definitely moments that moved me, but it’s that same nostalgic twinge I’m used. Don Draper would be proud. Pixar’s golden years seem to be over as they continually return back to the nostalgia well.

A friend told me that this movie was great for explaining to children their feelings and helping children express them. That’s great and all, but I’m not a child and when I watch a movie, I want an engaging story. Up was so successful because it not only had colorful, talking animals, it also addressed the issues of aging and love which applied to the adult members of the audience.

Score: 7.5/10 Good movie. Not a classic. Good for kids, but kids will watch anything with Amy Poehler’s inflection and colors.

Restaurant Review: Lucky Cat (upper east side, NYC)

Wandered around last night with a group of ten and looking for ramen on the upper east side. Totto was full. Hide ramen upstairs was also full. Luckily we found Lucky Cat.

It was late so they had the room for us. It’s a satisfactory, if simple space.

Service was okay.

Prices were all right. Around ten bucks for plates. Skewers were around two to three bucks a piece.

We ordered a lot. We had one of their shabu shabu dishes (mountain of meat cooked in soup right at the table), some pork belly skewers, yakisoba (stir fry noodles), most of their varieties of soup ramen, and the pork belly tacos.

It was all right. Not everything was that good. I don’t recommend the Yakisoba. Ramen… is self explanatory. I place it in the same category of food as Mexican food, Italian food, curry, etc. It’s good when you want it, but it’s not complex and there isn’t a higher degree of satisfaction you can derive from such a simple dish. Pork belly tacos were pretty good, too.

Score: 6.5 Pretty good. Not everything on the menu is great. I’d stick with ramen and skewers.

Offical site: http://www.luckycatnyc.com/

Restaurant Review: Rosa Mexicano (near Union Square, NYC)

Went here over the weekend. The restaurant is advertised as fine dining Mexican food. I don’t know about fine dining, but it was good.

The space is very large. There are high ceilings, and a separate dining and bar area. I enjoyed the color scheme as well.

Sangria was all right.

Service was nice.

If you come here you must order the table side guacamole. That’s really the main point of coming here. If you don’t order that, you might as well go somewhere else… like Taco Bell or something.

We also ordered the Flautas de Pollo (roller tortillas filled with chicken, covered in salsa and cream), Costillas de Res (beef tacos that come with a side of Mexican corn), and the Pescado de Mahi Mahi (fish tacos, come with Mexican corn). Everything was really good. I hate spicy food and there was some spice in there, but still good.

Score: 6.8/10 Good place for slightly better Mexican. It’s definitely not fine dining, but still good. The interior is the most noteworthy aspect of this restaurant.

Official site: http://www.rosamexicano.com/newyorkcity/unionsquare/index.php?action=page&id=1976&group_id=1955&location_id=9