Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Incline Public House

In or out, it's all a hit on the hill

Dexter Walks the Rails at the Incline Public House
      We had experienced the view before.  If you haven't yet—you should.  It's one of the best vantage points in the city, laying out all of its geographic highlights.  The neighborhood runs the gamut of turn-of-the-last century homes to high-rise condos, with a new unassuming building atop the site of the

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Bridge on FX

Will this be the heir to The Shield for FX?  We hope so

The U.S.-Mexican Border
     I have high hopes for The Bridge (FX on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), which has already aired three episodes.  Set on the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso and Juarez, it plays as both an investigation of a serial killer with the implication that he is one

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Toil and Trouble

A poor script wastes the talents of Know

     When Neil saw the publicity shot for Know Theatre’s Toil and Trouble and read the blurb, he thought it might be like a hilarious show we saw by Adobe Theatre Off-Broadway years ago.  Know Theatre has produced some excellent work this

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monsters’ University

A competent family film that’s visually gorgeous, 
but tired in its storytelling 

Mike and Sully on Their Way to College
     Monsters’ University does not need a review from us since it’s made plenty of money, received a lot of attention, and has been around a few weeks already.  With a charming tone and a highly detailed visual style that are hallmarks of Pixar, it’s a good movie, but not a great one.  The plot is borrowed from Revenge of the Nerds, but it adds an extra act.  Though this leads a reversal that viewers will be hoping for, it does add about fifteen minutes.  This was about ten minutes too much and one young viewer, who’d behaved perfectly during the movie, got up and left, followed quickly by his mother.  

Dexter in the Dorm with Mike and Sully
     A major recurring theme for the Pixar movies has been the main group of characters’ search for a shared identity that will sustain them and be important for others.  In this instance, as a backstory to Monsters, Inc., we’re led through what inspired Mike and Sully to become friends and end up at Monsters, Inc.  Mike is a very poignant character, but this doesn’t have the emotional variety or depth of the Toy Story series.  The seen it before sense of the story keeps it from being as electrifying as The Incredibles, which merged a family of superheroes forced into middle-class mediocre conformity with overtones of one of the early James Bond movies without recycling its entire plot. 

     With all of the current debate over the expense and worth of a college degree, a movie whose main focus is the college milieu and culture surrounding it surprisingly suggests that the two principal characters don’t need degrees if they’re extraordinarily talented and willing to work extremely hard.  That myth has resulted in many smart people not achieving
Headmistress Hardscrabble
the success they thought was their due at eighteen or nineteen.  However, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Helen Mirren perform yeoman voice work.   

Water Splashes in The Blue Umbrella
     The short opener, The Blue Umbrella, is an updated urban version of something that feels like a children’s fable or myth.  Technically, it demonstrates Pixar working at a new level, especially in its photorealistic approach to water and metallic surfaces.  We haven’t yet seen human faces that are realistic, but they’re on their way.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Conjuring

A modest, but almost perfect, 
genre movie that genuinely scares

     The Conjuring is a classically constructed haunted house movie that opened at number one at the box office this past weekend.  That’s certainly refreshing since it doesn’t star an updated comic book hero(es) blowing stuff up against a blue screen with special effects expensive enough to pull Congress out of sequestration.  Instead, The Conjuring is a really good genre piece with four strong actors (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingstone), who should be stars and would be if this were the ‘70s, delivering realistic performances, thereby making the mayhem even creepier.  

     Based on an investigation conducted by paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren, it uses the milieu – 1971 and a secluded, dilapidated, rural farmhouse to maximum effect.  Actually, there are only two major settings – the Perron family’s haunted house and the Warren family’s home with its Occult basement/museum.  Ed Warren outlines to a college class the stages of haunting/possession and the movie follows them fully.  It helps that Wilson, who turned out to be the villain in director James Wan’s earlier sleeper Insidious, plays Ed as a sort of square Dudley Do-Right who’s protective of his wife for reasons that we’re longing to hear as the plot progresses.

Vera Farmiga and the Significant Music Box
Vera Farmiga with her Bette Davis eyes seems like her characters always have a secret; it makes her sinister (TV’s Bates Motel), sexy (Up in the Air) or extremely vulnerable (Joshua and here).  She figures out what the demon wants before I could see it being played out, which underscores Wan’s smart, elegant direction.  

Possessed Lili Taylor
     I wonder about how much was added to up the scare ante in the final scenes, but it’s wonderful that there isn’t a bunch of goofy special effects that undercut the emotional realism of the story.  The Haunting in 1963 got it right under Robert Wise’s direction, but went over the top expensively and dopily in Jan de Bont’s 1999 version.  At the beginning, some viewers sitting behind me were getting the giggles after initially being startled, but the whole cinema was silent from about the midway point to the end.  It’s more modest than The Exorcist, but it doesn’t get so phony-profound.  It doesn’t have Poltergeist’s critique of rampant suburban subdivisions desecrating the past and underlining historical ethnic cleansing, but it symbolically points out the challenges that successful families have to overcome to survive.  

Waiting for Their Questions To Be Answered
     Some questions I have about this genre are: why can only Catholic priests or substitutes drive out the demons?  Why do the demons always speak/understand Latin? Are the filmmakers saying that only Catholics have this type of power even when the witch was most likely raised a Protestant with a Puritan background?  If a viewer doesn’t believe in this type of subject but finds it engrossing, does that mean she or he is less or more vulnerable to its potential occurrence?  If the demons can move around invisibly, why do they usually smell, or leave nasty mementos of their presence when that will give them away?  Whatever the answers, The Conjuring does its job well.

I'm not sure I really care for some of the pieces in the museum.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wurst Bar in the Square

Serves a casual menu with hometown roots

The Inviting Wood-Paneled Interior
    We’d heard about The Wurst Bar and then read reviews on Cincinnati Bites and A Gravy Train with Biscuit Wheels, written by fellow bloggers.  They compared it favorably to Senate in the Gateway Quarter so we thought we’d check it out with a group some time since it’s pretty close in Mount Lookout.  The square needs a go-to restaurant besides Zip’s since Annabel’s is closed at night and Nectar is dreary 24/7.  

Wurst Bar in the
(Mt. Lookout) Square
     A couple of weeks ago we dropped by on a Saturday night.  A table was being held (they don’t actually reserve there since it’s small and busy) for another group, but the manager/co-owner was very gracious about seating us immediately.  It’s a natural wood-paneled space that wasn’t loud and, though busy, the staff didn’t seem overwhelmed.  We returned earlier this week because of how good the food was the first time (more on that later).  Neil called ahead and we thought we had a reservation, but that was when the bartender told me that they try to get tables ready for larger parties, but they don’t actually reserve.  The staff was very accommodating and had us seated by the front door within ten minutes even though the place was packed.  It was louder, though we could still hear each other, but there was something wrong either with the air conditioning or the venting because it was hotter inside than outside on a 90º evening.  Neil could see only one duct along the ceiling behind the bar.  

     There is a good selection of beers and a fine variety of mixologist-designed drinks.  I had the Red Legged Rosie.  It was akin to a Cosmopolitan in taste, but with different ingredients except for the vodka.  I thought it was very good and fairly priced.

     The food is the main deal for being there because they make all the sausages, metts, wieners, wursts, etc., and the bread for the buns.  All the meats and breads we ate were excellent on both occasions and we were able to take some food home because the portions are large, especially for those diners that have a couple of beers.  Service was attentive, quick, and very upbeat even when packed.  

Flying Pigs in a Blanket Appetizer
     The Flying Pigs in a Blanket with Beer Cheese is a real winner as an appetizer and more than enough as a main dish.  The sauce is thick with a smoky beer flavor and made us want to eat it like a heavy soup it was so good.  The puff pastry is robust enough to keep its shape around the sausage, but is springy and light in texture.  It even reheats pretty well.  

The Brewer Coat

The Brewer Coat, a wurst topped with blue cheese and garlic fries, was very good and Dale liked the four-grain roll.

Chicken Andouille
The Roonie
The chicken truffle sausage in The Roonie and the breaded Chicken Andouille were seasoned complexly and were meals in themselves.  The fried onions and Boursin cheese on The Roonie were creamy and, blessedly, not greasy while the crisp bacon wrapping on the Chicken Andouille was a creative touch to what appeared somewhat like a corn dog.   The homemade brioche and Italian rolls were excellent accompaniments.  The Hustlin’ 14 is a paean to the chili dog, Cincnnati style, but it’s big and a little messy.  The chili is very good.  If uncertain about dog and bread choices, ask the servers who are willing to steer customers to what they’ll like.  

The All-Time Wurst Burger
     The All-Time Wurst Burger is enormous (Neil and I shared it) since a cheese wurst is set between the veal and short rib meat mix, and topped with onion straws on a pretzel bun.  This was tender and robust and, fortunately, did not fall apart into a grease-meat puddle when sliced in half (unlike some other noted burgers in the region).  The Garlic Fries were the only
Ooey Gooey Mac-n-Cheese
uneven choice that were good the first time, but didn’t seem to have garlic the second time.  The Onion Brick House was a stronger side, and the Mac-n-Cheese was decidedly a match for any of the sausages.

     Wurst Bar on the Square showcases excellent food, friendly service, and a lively vibe. Hopefully, the air temperature was just a temporary bump in the road to success.

Wurst Bar in the Square on Urbanspoon

It doesn't sound like the worst place.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Stanley Tucci: Actor/Gourmand

Stanley Tucci as Flickerman in The Hunger Games
     Stanley Tucci is one of those excellent performers, a so-called ‘character’ actor because he isn’t conventionally good-looking, who has quietly given heft to some of the most charming and sinister roles of the past twenty years.  He came to prominence with his mysterious and duplicitous portrayal of

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Fosters

OMG!  What else can happen on this show?

Sherri Saum and Teri Polo
     I started watching The Fosters because Teri Polo (Meet The Parents/Fockers, etc.) plays one half of a lesbian couple raising one biological child; two adopted twins, and then they add two foster children in the pilot.  It’s an ABC Family show so it’s very inclusive in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and adolescents looking for love.  Actually, by the fourth episode two teenagers had had sex and then ‘the moms’

Monday, July 15, 2013

PNC Summer Music Series on Fountain Square

A party almost every night now through August 30th

Dexter Danced to the Beat of Mutrix
      We happily found some live music last week when Martha, Dale, and Stan were visiting from Columbus.  Stan's only request was that we find a live performance and after criss-crossing what seemed like the entire east side stopping by some stalwart places for entertainment, we came up with nothing.  We headed downtown and passed by the Horseshoe Casino where Bare Naked Ladies were

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Adriatico's Pizza

It's not just for college students anymore

The Open Terrace at Adriatico's
      When Lisa and I met there for dinner her first reaction was, "This used to be Shirley's Laundry where I deposited many a quarter".  It hasn't looked like a laundry since Adriatico's gutted

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Graeter's Ice Cream

Uphill and down, they're all around town

Dexter Enjoys a Typical Graeter's Location
      I couldn't get enough of Graeter's when I first moved to Cincinnati.  There was a store within walking distance and I made it my goal to try all of the flavors I found appealing one week at a time.  It took me a while, but I finally settled on my favorite—Black Raspberry Chip. Through the years I came to

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Music in the Movies, AS

After electronic synthesizers, 
everything changed in the movies

I Agree with Eric…Shaft is the Best!
     A few years ago, the Oscars honored some previous music winners and, at one point, Isaac Hayes was playing the theme from Shaft in the middle of a dry ice effect that practically swallowed him whole.  However, Shaft’s theme is probably the

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Betta's Italian Oven

A neighborhood joint that may be getting too uppity
     Friday night is emerging as maybe bigger than Saturday for a meal out.  There are a number of nearby neighborhood eateries that serve good food at reasonable prices in a friendly manner, but we decided to try a newer place for us with Lisa.  Both Cincinnati magazine and The Enquirer have made a big deal out of the pizza at Betta’s and since it’s only a

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Heat

Or, the tidal wave known as Melissa McCarthy 

     Promos for The Heat on TV actually made us want to see the movie.  The pairing of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy seemed inspired.  It makes for a f*****’ funny feel-good female buddy cop movie.  It has everything anyone would expect who’s seen a movie in the past sixty years:  tight-ass twerp with f*****’ slob taking down a bunch of misogynist cops, FBI agents, and f*****’ low-life perps and drug dealers; loud ethnic stereotypes (South Boston) and exotic Others (an albino to mix things up, I guess); an initially hostile relationship that deepens eventually into sisterhood since they are almost f*****’ blown away a couple of times; and tons of violence including an amateur emergency