Tuesday, May 30, 2017

June 2017 Movie Preview

            After covering the Saints offseason and providing a restaurant guide to Newark, Delaware, let’s shift back to one of our favorite subjects to cover on the blog: movies! With June comes more summer movies. So let’s take a look at some of the upcoming movies this June and give a verdict on whether they’re worth your time.

June 2
Wonder Woman: This is the first movie since the beginning of the superhero movie era that is directed by a woman and features a female superhero. Alamo Drafthouse recently announced all-female screenings of Wonder Woman to raise awareness about this glaring problem. In response, a bunch of whiny men complained about discrimination. So Alamo Drafthouse added additional all-female screenings. That’s the kind of activism we can all get behind. Throw in a talented cast (Gal Gadot and Chris Pine) and a talented director (Patty Jenkins), this may be the first DC universe film that won’t leave you bored with its bland color palette and interminable running time. Go see it. 

June 9
The Mummy: This revival of the forgettable 2000s era franchise tosses aside Brendan Fraser in favor of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe. Why? Well, we’re not really sure. The trailer features generic world destroying action and some vaguely threatening dialogue about ancient evil and the threat it poses to the world. Also, the trailer highlights the destruction of London via some kind of sandstorm. London gets destroyed in every one of these type of movies. Stop destroying London! Pick somewhere else! And pick another movie on June 9. Maybe Wonder Woman again? 

June 16
Cars 3: Remember Cars? It was a perfectly pleasant movie about talking cars that played to Pixar’s strengths of turning inanimate objects into something you care about. Then came Cars 2. While supposedly a parody of spy movies, the film failed to recapture anything remotely funny about the original movie. It remains Pixar’s lowest rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Now years later, everyone’s back for a third time around because… the cars are having mid-life crises? Even though it’s Pixar, it’s probably best to wait and see. Unless you have kids, in that case, you’ll see this movie a dozen times. 

Rough Night: A comedy for adults starring Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, and Ilana Glazer (from Broad City) about a bachelorette party gone bad. Hollywood seems to be slowly learning the lesson of Bridesmaids—people will go see a funny movie starring funny women. There’s only about one of these movies a year, they cost about $50 million to make and earn well over $150 million. (Bridesmaids made almost $290 million on $32.5 million budget.) Yet studios are only slowly catching on, mostly because they’re all focused on launching the next movie franchise (Six more Power Rangers movies!) rather than making movies that people will like. This looks like a movie good for couples and younger people.

June 23
Transformers: The Last Knight: It’s getting to the point where there’s nothing new to make fun of about these movies. The action scenes are incoherent. They’re full of racist and/or sexist stereotypes. The humor is juvenile at best. Yet they make hundreds of millions of dollars because people like watching robots blow stuff up. The trailer shows Transformers fighting Nazis, serving as members of King Arthur’s Round Table, and a bunch of other nonsense justified by Anthony Hopkins (!) as a Transformers’ historian. Hard pass.

June 30
Despicable Me 3: All I know about these movies is that they gave birth to those annoying Minions’ memes. And for that, there is no forgiveness. The third installment in this series involves a twin brother and a bunch of jokes aimed for a children’s audience. As with Cars 3, if you’re a parent, you’ll see this movie. If you’re not, why bother? It’s summer, go outside. Go for a swim. Go to the beach. Or maybe go see Wonder Woman again.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Newark, Delaware Restaurant Guide

            The folks at DGA travel a lot. As a result, we eat out a lot. Occasionally on the blog we offer restaurant reviews of places we’ve eaten at across the country—whether it be in California, New Orleans, Boston, or even the Atlanta airport (busiest airport in the world!). Today, we wanted to focus not on a major city or airport, but rather a place we’ve spent a lot of time over the years, Delaware. Yes, Delaware. If you know anything about corporations, taxes, or litigation, Delaware’s importance far outstrips its size. Today, we’ll focus on the Newark (New-ark, pronounced differently than the similarly named place in New Jersey) area: home of the University of Delaware, chemical companies, and an array of tasty restaurants. As a college town, Newark has a lot of restaurants that you’d expect: there’s a Chipotle, Panera, mediocre pizza (Grotto’s), and other fast casual staples. But we wanted to point out the places that are actually worth your time and money.

Two Stones Pub: Located just south of downtown Newark, Two Stones is tucked into a small strip mall near a Subway and a Sherwin-Williams paint store. It offers an impressive local and craft beer selection to go along with a tasty array of pub-fare. They brew beers in-house as well. Standout appetizers include the crispy Brussels sprouts with a sriracha mayo and warm braided pretzels accompanied by queso blanco and a honey-whole grain beer mustard. For entrees, Two Stones offers fish, pulled pork, and chorizo tacos. They also feature a Foie Gras burger with goat gouda cheese, bacon, and a fig jam. Two Stones is the kind of place to go after a long day when you want a tasty beer and some comfort food to go along with it.

Stone Balloon Winehouse: Located on Main Street, Stone Balloon Winehouse began its life as a music venue before transitioning into one of the nicer restaurants in downtown Newark. With a price point geared towards adults and not the ravenous hordes of college students, Stone Balloon has a quieter, more adult vibe. The menu now features American-fare like Calamari, Beef and Bacon Lollipops, and Oven-Roasted Meatballs. Entrees include ribeye steak, short ribs, chicken, salmon and a variety of pastas.

Iron Hill Brewery: With 12 locations including one on Main Street in Newark, Iron Hill brews its beer on-site. At any given time, they’ll have about fifteen different beers on-tap with something to please any kind of beer lover. They also have an extensive menu of American-pub food. There’s pizzas, burgers, pastas, sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, and a variety of entrees. Iron Hill is the place to go if you have a good size group and you want everyone to order something they’ll like.

Taverna: A relative newcomer to the downtown Newark restaurant scene, Taverna is a casual restaurant featuring homemade pastas, pizzas cooked in a coal fired oven, and a rotating selection of specials. Appetizers include veal meatballs, whipped ricotta cheese, and clams and mussels. Entrees include a range of pastas, short ribs, shrimp, and gnocchi. Like Stone Balloon, Taverna is better suited for smaller groups looking for something a bit more specific than the broader menu you’d find at Iron Hill.

HomeGrown Café: HomeGrown Café is the place to go if you’re looking for something with a lot of vegan or vegetarian options. This downtown Newark staple features small places and appetizers like cauliflower wings, hummus, stuffed avocado, and entrees like kale and quinoa. They also have a large number of vegan or vegetarian soups, salads, and rice bowls.

Interior of Brew Haha! 

Banh Mi Boy: While Banh Mi Boy is an order at the counter restaurant, it is worth your time if you need a quick and absurdly cheap bite to eat. Located at the end of Main Street, the menu is small with a soup, some dumplings, and then five different sandwich choices. You can’t go wrong with the original Banh Mi with ham, pork, homemade pate, and pickled vegetables topped with jalapeno and cilantro. 

Brew HaHa!: Popular with college students, grad students, professors, and basically anyone who likes coffee or tea, Brew Haha! is the spot for a wide range of locally brewed coffees and teas. They also have breakfast pastries, sandwiches, salads, soups, and a variety of other tasty beverages. Brew HaHa! is a nice alternative to Starbucks and has a fun and welcoming atmosphere where you can grab your coffee to go or sit and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

National World War II Museum

            During World War II, New Orleans was home to the construction of the “Higgins Boat,” the amphibious landing craft used by the Allies in the European and Pacific theaters. Designed by boat-builder Andrew Higgins at his company’s headquarters in New Orleans, the boat safely ferried soldiers from offshore vessels to their landing sites in Normandy, Italy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and elsewhere. Thanks to the efforts of Stephen Ambrose, a University of New Orleans history professor and author of popular histories of World War II like D-Day and Band of Brothers, the D-Day Museum opened on June 6, 2000. While initially designed to honor the Normandy landings and the legacy of the Higgins Boat, the museum expanded its focus to include the whole of American involvement in World War II and soon changed its name to the National World War II Museum.

            Since its opening in 2000, the World War II Museum has become a popular tourist attraction with almost seven hundred thousand visitors in 2016. The original heart of the museum is the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, which tells the story of the invasions of Normandy, Iwo Jima, and the other dozens of amphibious landings of World War II.

A Higgins Boat on display 

Thanks to its growing popularity and an aggressive fundraising effort, the World War II Museum has undergone significant expansion since its opening. In 2009, the museum opened the Solomon Victory Theater, Stage Door Canteen, and American Sector restaurant. The Solomon Victory Theater also has daily showings of the museum’s awarding winning film, Beyond All Boundaries. Narrated by Tom Hanks, the film is a 4D exploration of World War II. Additionally, the museum hosts numerous celebrations, events, and lectures from curators and other museum employees. The Stage Door Canteen is decorated in the style of a 1940s dance hall and features performances by local musical groups that play jazz, swing, and other World War 2 era music.

The Solomon Victory Theater 

In 2011, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion opened. It currently houses a patrol-torpedo boat, PT-305, as well as other large-scale artifacts.

The pre-restoration PT-305 

The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, opened in 2013, features a number of World War II-era aircraft including a B-17E Flying Fortress bomber, a B-25J Mitchell bomber, an SBD-3 Dauntless, a TBF Avenger, a P-51C Mustang, and a Corsair F4U-4.  

A B-17 bomber 

The Campaigns of Courage Pavilion has exhibitions dedicated to each major theater of the war. The Road to Berlin opened in December 2014 followed by the Road to Tokyo in 2015. The final phase of the expansion will be the Liberation Pavilion, dedicated to exploring the legacy of World War II.  

The Road to Berlin

As a result of all of the expansions since its opening, the Museum now has five different buildings all adjacent to one another between Camp and Magazine Streets. Located in the Central Business District, the World War II museum is a bit of a walk from the French Quarter, so we’d recommend driving or taking public transportation. If you’re coming to New Orleans, be prepared to spend a few hours there. The Museum has something for everyone—including a full-service restaurant because it’s New Orleans—and it’s well worth your time honoring and remembering those who fought to defend the U.S. and the world from tyranny.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

            May is the unofficial beginning of the summer movie season. Marvel Studios and Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the quintessential summer movie. It’s fun, funny, and most importantly knows that the key to a good summer blockbuster is simple—be entertaining.

            Unlike the other Marvel seemingly endless parade of Marvel franchise movies that solely exist to set up the next installment, the Guardians Vol. 2 succeeds as a stand-alone film. While the plot of the film has universe-wide implications, writer/director James Gunn keeps things relatable and personal. There’s the snarky Star-Lord, played by goofball Chris Pratt, who meets his father for the first time. Each of the other Guardians has some issues to work through. Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) has to decide if he wants to go through life as a jerk, knowing that everyone hates him. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) has a burgeoning crush on an alien woman. He’s also the film’s comedic MVP, both for his reactions and his one-liners. Gamora and Nebula (Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillam) are sisters trying to work through their relationship, while also wanting to kill one another. Everyone has to look after Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) who can still only say “I am Groot” and has the intelligence of a small child. Unlike the other Marvel movies where the characters barely grow or have discernable conflicts with one another, Gunn’s writing has infused life into a robotic raccoon, a talking tree, and two different green hued aliens.

           Gunn has also given Guardians Vol. 2 a distinct visual style. Far too many of the other Marvel movies shy away from the stories’ comic book influences and instead favor a color palette of tans and grays. Gunn, on the other hand, populates the Guardians corner of the universe with a playful use of bold colors. Yondu, one of the villains of the previous movie, takes out his revenge on his disloyal crew as a gold-accented arrow whistles across the screen in a humorous blending of color and sound. Gunn has presented the stars, planets, and other space ephemera in the colors from a Skittles bag. He also fills the screen with golden palaces, vibrant looking deserts, and a snowy pirate outpost populated by Sylvester Stallone and Ving Rhames. There’s a sequence where Rocket lays traps for a group of pirates and relishes in tormenting them in various ways. Gunn stages a videogame-esque chase scene through an asteroid field. One group of the film’s villains are portrayed in exquisite gold space pods.

           The movie, however, relies on its soundtrack a bit too much at times. The film’s strong opening sequence features Baby Groot dancing to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while the Guardians fight a multi-tentacled space monster just out of focus in the background. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” begins at the appropriate moment in the film’s climatic fight scene. Other uses of the soundtrack are  too heavy-handed. Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” plays at an entirely obvious moment. Star-Lord and his father offer some rather clunky analysis of Looking Glass’ “Brandy.” Even quoting the song extensively as they explore each other’s motivations. Looking Glass probably didn’t put in as much effort to write the song as Gunn did to deconstruct it. Part of the fun of Guardians is Gunn’s affection for 70s and 80s pop culture, but the film suffers when it relies on it too much.

            The plot that anchors the movie isn’t particularly noteworthy or dramatic. We know that the Guardians will save the day and the group will head off to their next adventure. Gunn, however, instills such fun and personality in the film that you walk of the theater thoroughly entertained. And that’s what really matters from a summer blockbuster.