Sunday, January 27, 2013

Charlotte Cupcakes - Sunflour Bakery

After trying store-bought cupcakes from Target and Wal-Mart last week, I went the opposite direction this week – literally and figuratively.

I made a stop at Sunflour Bakery, off The Plaza.

It’s a bakery that is dedicated “to creating fresh baked goods every day from scratch with ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible.”

“At Sunflour, our products are real food made without artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, or dough conditioners so that you can trace the food back to its basic ingredients and origins.”

I stopped Saturday afternoon – less than 10 minutes before closing time. They have new winter hours. Despite me stopping in at a point when they were probably cleaning up, the staff gave me a friendly greeting.

I didn’t have a lot of time to look around, but thankfully I took a look at their Facebook page ahead of time. I knew they had a Rolo cupcake – a dark chocolate cake filled with house made caramel and topped with dark chocolate buttercream.

I did a quick look and saw a caramel cupcake as well. It’s not listed on their website, but it was an option the day I stopped. With caramel drizzled over the top, who could resist getting that?

I ordered the caramel cupcake and was set to get the Rolo cupcake when I saw another – this one was with pink frosting. There wasn’t a label in front, so I asked the clerk what it was.

He told me it was a new cupcake they were experimenting with – a Strawberry Shortcake cupcake. Well, I figured I’d be a good guinea pig, so I left the Rolo behind and went with the shortcake.

I ate the caramel cupcake first. Wow! Talk about the perfect blend of ingredients! I don’t know if I’ve had a cupcake before that melded the tastes so seamlessly. It tasted fresh and sweet. It wasn’t overkill though. Sometimes you can feel the cavities forming because the frosting on certain cupcakes is so sweet. This one wasn’t like that. The caramel drizzle on top was like the cherry on a sundae. It rounded off a great combination of flavors. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was.

The Strawberry shortcake cupcake wasn’t as good as the caramel. It was stiff. Although, perhaps that’s to be expected since I bought the cupcake 10 minutes from closing time. Or maybe it was the natural ingredients. Overall it tasted good. The strawberry frosting was delicious, if not a little too sweet. Not a bad cupcake, but it paled in comparison to the caramel flavored cupcake.

The positives: the caramel cupcake was incredible!

The negatives: the Strawberry shortcake was a little tougher than I was expecting.

Cost: This one is a little more expensive. $3.00 for one cupcake isn’t terribly cheap, but the caramel cupcake is well worth a stop at least once in a while.

Sunflour Bakery
2001 E 7th St.
Charlotte, NC 28204

Related Content:
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Charlotte Cupcakes - Nona's Sweets

Monday, January 21, 2013

Charlotte Cupcakes – Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe Gourmet Cupcakes

Though they aren’t native to Charlotte, Wal-Mart and Target both carry Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe Gourmet Cupcakes.

They look like something you’d find in the display case of a bakery, rather than in a four-pack on a shelf at a big box store.

Therefore, it qualifies as a candidate on my quest for Charlotte’s best-tasting cupcake.

Plus, it’s an excuse to have something sweet.

Other than their holiday specials, Kimberley’s has four different flavors to choose from:
-Triple chocolate, filled with rich chocolate fudge
-Vanilla bean, filled with sweet vanilla cream
-Lemon Ice, filled with tangy lemon curd
-Red Velvet, filled with real cream cheese

As a faithful fan of anything red velvet, I went with that option.

It was a tasty treat, but there were a couple of downfalls with this cupcake.

First, it was tough to get it out of the plastic case and wrapper without becoming a frosting-fingered mess. There was just too much frosting on the top.

Come to think of it, that was the same problem I had when eating it. There was just too much frosting. It wasn’t needed since it was already filled with cream cheese. The cupcake, the cream cheese, and the frosting made for a successful combination.

The frosting didn't taste like it was freshly made, but given that it came from a package, I can't complain too much. I guess these could be likened to a fast food version of a red velvet cupcake. It fills the need, but it's not going to surpass a real bakery.

If it weren’t for the excessive frosting, I can’t say I’d have any complaints. I can’t say it was amazing, but it was good. I’m still enticed to try the triple chocolate and the vanilla bean cupcakes, so that says something. It may just mean that I’m a cupcake addict, but it says something.

The positives: The cupcake didn't fall apart on me. Both the cupcake and the frosting had good taste to them.

The negatives: there was just too much frosting for the cupcake!

Cost: at four cupcakes for about 4 dollars, it's probably the cheapest deal you'll find in Charlotte.

Here are at least two locations you can find Kimberley's cupcakes:
Walmart Supercenter
9820 Callabridge Court
Charlotte, NC 28216

Target Superstore
9841 Northlake Centre Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28216

Related Content:
Charlotte Cupcakes - Nona's Sweets

Thursday, January 17, 2013

WWE women's division - dead or reinvigorated?

It was reported on Monday that Eve Torres – the Divas Champion at that time – was leaving the WWE.

Sure enough, later that night, Kaitlyn won the Diva’s Championship in Eve’s last match.

She’s not the first Diva in recent years to call it quits. Michelle McCool left in 2010. Maryse left shortly thereafter. This year Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix, and even Maxine, mostly known for her role on NXT, asked for their releases.

Many people on Lords of Pain weren’t heartbroken about Eve’s departure. After all, she was bland for most of her time in the company. She was athletic, but also very robotic at times. While she did evolve into a decent in-ring competitor, it took years for her to get to that point. Some people on the Captured-Beauty Message Board were disappointed that Eve left.

I’m happy though. She posted a video on Tout thanking her fans. She's a classy lady, no doubt.

Nothing personal, but it was the likes of Eve, Kelly Kelly and The Bella Twins that brought the level of the women’s division down. There were almost no expectations of a good match.

Sadly, there weren’t a lot of good matches out of the diva’s division. They were a good reason to take a bathroom break for the fans in attendance and a good reason to change the channel for the fans watching at home.

After Lita, Trish, Jacqueline, Victoria, Jazz, Molly Holly, Ivory and Gail Kim worked so hard to raise the level of the division in 2003 and 2004, Kelly Kelly, The Bellas and Eve resorted to booty-popping, stinkfaces, and very basic wrestling moves.

To those saying that the diva’s division is dead after all of the recent departures, I beg to differ. For the first time in a long time, I think the outlook is promising. Take a look at the potential:

A.J. Lee – she’s leading the new generation of Divas. She started of 2012 on the arm of Daniel Bryan but quickly became a superstar in her own right, participating in main event story lines involving CM Punk, John Cena, and now Dolph Zigler. She didn’t see a lot of in-ring competition in 2012 due to becoming the General Manager, but I have a feeling she’ll be a lot more involved in 2013, especially after her friend-turned-foe Kaitlyn won the Diva’s Title.

Alicia Fox – one of the last ones left from the brigade of models that was hired by WWE. While she can be sloppy and loose with her limbs at times, Alicia is probably the most athletic of the models that WWE signed. She’s tall, muscular, and flexible. Her mic work isn’t the best, but I think she would step up her game if she were part of the title picture again.

Kaitlyn – the current Diva’s champion is a great combination of strength, beauty and quirkiness. She’s got a sense of humor and it’s very apparent, just by watching her walk down the ramp. Kaitlyn won NXT in 2010, despite being very green at the time. These days she’s a solid in-ring competitor. Last year she was passed the torch, defeating both Natalya and the departing Beth Phoenix.

Layla – after returning from a knee injury this past year, Layla proved that she could be seen as a legitimate wrestler. I’m not sure how much she’ll improve from her on out, but she showcased a lot of new moves last year. She’s established, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

If she quits evolving, then she could run into the situation where she’s basically forgotten. If she continues to improve, I think she could have another couple of runs with the Diva’s Title, despite already being a two-time champion.

Naomi – quite possibly the most athletic Diva the WWE has ever had, but they continue to use her as a dancer. We saw a glimpse of what she could do against Eve at TLC. I don’t think that will be the last time we’ll see her compete.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see her competing as much as she should be competing.

Natalya – probably the most talented and underrated Diva on the roster. The first ever third generation Diva is unfortunately paired up with The Great Khali and Hornswoggle right now. I’m hoping she’ll soon be out of this pairing as randomly as she was placed in it.

I don’t have much faith that Natalya will get another push on her own, but I hope she’ll be able to feud with the future Diva’s Champions.

Tamina – she’s the best heel they’ve got right now, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her be Kaitlyn’s first feud. Tamina, to her credit, seems to enjoy playing a no-nonsense heel. It sets her apart from the other women, so I’m all for that.

With Jimmy Snuka in her lineage, she has a bit of automatic credibility. The new look that she’s developed suits her well. I’d like to see her become even more aggressive in her matches, but even if she doesn’t, she’s better than most of the women wrestlers WWE has used in recent years.

Paige – she’s a second-generation wrestler that’s been wrestling for almost a decade now. She’s young, she's already over with the NXT fans and I have no doubt she’ll be able to do the same once she gets to WWE.

Paige has a unique look and she has wrestling talent. She's hot in a semi-Goth sort of way. I think she’ll end up being a huge asset to the women’s division in the future.

Sahsa Banks – who knew Snoop Dogg’s cousin could wrestle? She’s young, but she already wrestles like she’s been doing it for years. She’s spunky, spry and confident. I think Sasha could easily be a babyface in WWE. After seeing just two matches of hers in NXT, I’m convinced she’s ready for a call up to the main roster.

Lords of Pain reports that WWE management is high on her, so that will hopefully mean good things for her.

Audrey Marie – this girl tries way too hard. She’s lost – still trying to find a character – but she has turned into an okay wrestler. I have a feeling she’ll be a heel. If not, she’ll be the next Eve – generic and boring as a face. Let’s hope WWE learned from their mistakes of trying to shove Eve and Michelle McCool down our throats as faces.

Emma – trained by Lance Storm, it’s too soon to tell whether the Australia-born Emma will be useful in the division. She’s got somewhat awkward body movements based on what I’ve seen, but she does seem competent in the ring. With the right gimmick, she could be good, but I don't think she'll be getting called up from developmental in the immediate future.

Yes, Aksana and Rosa are floating around too. While Aksana could have some limited use as a wrestler in WWE, I think the ship has sailed on Rosa. Use her as a manager, but let’s forget about any notion of becoming an actual wrestler. Jobber fodder is always an option, but Rosa even seems to mess that up. Aksana could possibly win the title -- with the right story line -- but don't look for her to set the division on fire with her matches.

All WWE has to do to really get the ball is re-sign Kharma. Then they could turn the women’s division into a bankable asset once again. All the ingredients are there. WWE just has to be smart enough to make it work.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pitbull: Global Warming - reviewed.

Whatever magic Pitbull had over the past few years, it’s not present on his Global Warming album.

He used to be different. He was unique when he first got mainstream radio play in the U.S. His Spanish accent, his signature phrases (lots of ayeeee's and dale's), and the fun vibe that infectiously spread threw the speakers.

It’s all there on Global Warming, but so are the same stories he rapped about before. There’s only so many times you can hear Pitbull rap about making money, getting ladies (having one night stands and threesomes) and overcoming the odds before it becomes borderline gloating.

He’d have you believe he’s got a lot of street credibility, rapping about his experiences selling drugs (but never expounding past a lyric or two), yet he throws out a line like this:
“I break down companies with all my peeps.”

That’ll up the cred for sho’.

He’d better get some new material because his act is tired and worn out. Truthfully it was getting that way before Global Warming, but now it’s like an overcooked Thanksgiving turkey.

It gets to the point that you start feeling sorry for the guy. Despite racking up the SkyMiles and having the finest of things life can offer, Mr. Worldwide’s world doesn’t consist of anything more than that.

It’s alright for a track or two, but an entire album of songs (and radio release after radio release) is just annoying.

Pitbull has proven that he can be entertaining, but on his own album, you're left wanting more of the numerous people he collaborated with -- not Pit. His collaborators aren't enough to save the album though.

Here’s the track-by-track review:

Global Warming (feat. Sensato)
Starting off with music from the Macarena, Pitbull starts off Global Warming by complaining about fake thug rappers and then goes off into how he’s got money and it’s all about billionaires. “Welcome to the new school.”

Don’t Stop The Party (feat. TJR)
When I heard this song on the radio for the first time I kept waiting for the hook. Where was the main chorus?

When I figured out that it had already come and gone, I was disappointed with it. It’s just not the most catchy song in the world.

“I’m out for the Benji’s, Franki’s, C-Notes/Just cuz you ain’t me, don’t hate me/As a matter of fact, you should thank me/Even if you don’t, you’re welcome, young kids.”

The lyrics give a bit of insight as to how big Pitbull’s ego may be. I didn’t mind it on his previous songs. I don’t even necessarily mind it on this track.

It’s when you add this song with the rest of them on the album that it becomes too much.

Feel This Moment (feat. Christina Aguilera)
Christina picks up where she left on Lotus, in full comeback mode. She made this song a good listen.

Pitbull, who improved just about every song he was on in 2010, brings this one down. More of the same nonsense about money and how awesome Pitbull is:

“I make dollars/I mean billions/I’m a genius/I mean brilliance.”

The song utilizes the recognizable synth riff from a-ha's "Take On Me." That may be the best part of the song, outside of Christina's parts.

Back In Time
This one, used as the theme song for Men In Black III, is probably the best song on the album. While it’s not a bad song, it’s not Pitbull’s best. That should give you an indication of what to expect from the rest of the songs.

Hope We Meet Again (feat. Chris Brown)
Say what you want about Chris Brown, but he can produce a good song -- and he's not too shabby when it comes to singing.

Pitbull’s bits on the track – once again about defying the odds and finding success (borderline gloating) – had nothing to do with what Chris Brown’s lyrics were about.

Brown, whose lyrics seem to focus on a young lady, sings: "This is the night we won't forget/Whatever happens in the end/I just hope we meet again."

Pitbull raps: "One thing's for certain, two things for sure/Iheartradio, I close show/My life's like broadway/No camera welcome to the show"

Party Ain’t Over (feat. Usher and Afrojack)
Reporting live from Rio de Janeiro this time, Pitbull joins forces with Usher and Afrojack.

"DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" was fine. After Pitbull appeared on the track, which was on Usher's album, Versus, you had to know Usher would be returning the favor, appearing on Pitbull's album.

Unfortunately he doesn't return the favor very well. It's an alright club beat, but even then it leaves a lot to be desired. The party is definitely over for "Party Ain't Over."

Drinks For You Ladies (Ladies Anthem) (feat. Jennifer Lopez)
I thought "Don’t Stop The Party" was boring, but this one makes that one seem like AC/DC's "Back In Black." Jennifer Lopez’s best songs are long gone, so she does this track no favors.

Have Some Fun (feat. The Wanted and Afrojack)
Somehow even a track featuring The Wanted on this album wasn’t very good.
On this track Pitbull was, “Reporting live from the UK.”

This time around Pitbull borrow's from Sheryl Crow's "All I Want To Do."

The Wanted sings: "All I want to do is have some fun/I got a feeling I'm not the only one."

It's not bad, but it feels uninspired.

Outta Nowhere (feat. Danny Mercer)
This is one of the few bright spots on the album. Danny had some impressive vocals, hitting a few high notes.

Then Pitbull delivers some more of the same.

“I live the fast life/going nowhere fast/I see my past life/and politely pass.”

Thankfully he switches out of that mode after those couple of lines. He raps about some of the same material he’s rapped about before, but he delivers it with more conviction on this track than he has on the rest of the album.

Tchu Tschu Tscha (feat. Enrique Iglasias)
"You can try, you can try to fight, but you’re gonna say yeah, yeah, yeah.”

This one is about picking a girl and getting with her.

“We ain’t here for a long time/we’re here for a good time/so take a sip of that Voli and unwind/and let me fuck you blind.”

This one is raunchy and repetitive in terms of the lyrics. There are some decent beats here, but not enough to make the song worth listening to more than once or twice.

Last Night (feat. Havana Brown and Afrojack)
Another one with a decent start. There was some interesting music and some pleasant vocals (thanks to Havana Brown) but it leaves you waiting for the hook.

The lyrics are more stereotypical rapper crap:
“I can’t remember her name/But that ass I remember fo so’!”

I’m Off That
By far the worst track on the album.

Pitbull explains the new lingo he's trying to introduce into pop culture at the beginning of the track:

"Now it’s real simple/If you off that, means you don’t mess with it/But if you love that, that means you mess with it."

For those who care, here's what he's loves and what he's off.

Off that: Skateboarding, label execs, A&R’s, poppin’ bottles, VIP, making it rain, being broke, hanging on the block, weed, Stop-Cop-Go, ducking DT’s, studio gansta’s, Internet gangsta’s, she kiss n’ tell, she Instagram, owning money, dirty Money, clean Money, cognanyek, champagne, communism, dictators, Kick-riders, Plastic women, Stuck up women, Real wives, Bad business, Can’t keep your word, Never on time, Lamburgini’s, Ferrari’s, Mazaradis’

Loves: DJ’s, BT’s, PT’s, Pink Pony, Scarlett’s, Tootsie’s, Bad bitches, More the merrier, getting money, freedom, Foely (shocking), freaky women, haters, private flights

With much of the country still trying to recover financially, Pitbull is singing about being over maseratis. Out of touch, arrogant, or being real? Regardless, it’s a shame he didn’t put this on his Facebook profile instead of wasting three minutes and 18 seconds on his album with it.

Echa Pa’lla (Manos Pa’rriba) (feat. Papayo)
As you can probably guess by the title, this track is in Spanish. It’s got some Spanish flare to it, so it’s a nice change of pace. Part of what probably made it better is that I didn’t understand the words, so there wasn't anymore bragging about money, cars, women and everything else loose and fast.

Everybody Fucks (feat. Akon and David Rush)
Forget about it being wrong and give into your inhibitions. That's essentially what the song is about -- or what the title says.

"Let your body decide what it does."

It's nice to hear Akon's presence on a song again, but overall, 'meh.' This one will probably hit the radio at some point (obviously edited).

Get It Started (feat. Shakira)
By this point in the album, I was greatly relieved to hear Shakira’s voice start this track off. It’s been a while since I’ve heard something from her.

Then we get the same thing Pitbull gave on the first track – lyrics about how worldly he is:
“Two passports, two cities, two countries, one day, now that’s worldwide/If you think it’s a game, let’s play”

There’s of course a Voli reference on this one:
“Now there’s Voli everywhere I land.”

11:59 (feat. Vein)
I guess this is supposed to be the club-stomper on the album, but even this one isn’t that exciting. This was my introduction to Vein. He’s actually a lot of fun on this track. His whistling and his lyrics (assuming he’s the one who wrote them) weren’t half bad.

“Everybody rise, I want to make a toast to me tonight
It’s 11:59 and I can’t wait til the clock strikes tonight
So I can jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump
I just want to jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump
Everybody jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump
I just want to jump, jump, jump, jump, jump, jump”

Okay, so they’re simplistic and repetitious, to the point of headache-inducing, but the rest of the song is good. Vein’s contribution makes this track worth whatever it’s worth.

And that’s a wrap. I think this album would make anybody re-think their stance on illegal downloading if they paid full price for it.

Unfortunately all his signature sounds come off as stale and overdone rather than purposefully done.

Maybe I’m being a little too harsh because I was so blown away by Bruno Mars’ ability to keep his signature style without compromising his ability to innovate on Unorthodox Jukebox.

By comparison, Pitbull comes off as a one trick pony that simply isn’t capable of evolving.

Top tracks:
Hope We Meet Again (feat. Chris Brown)
Outta Nowhere (feat. Danny Mercer)
Feel This Moment (feat. Christina Aguilera)
Get It Started (feat. Shakira)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

10 Super Hero and Villain Portrayals That Could've Been Better

I already talked about the best portrayals of super heroes and villains on the big screen.

Today, let’s take a look at some of the portrayals that didn’t make either of those lists. These heroes and villains weren’t bad, but they could have been better.

10. Sienna Miller as The Baroness (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, 2009)

This one almost worked really well.

Visually, Miller's transformation into The Baroness was pretty much impeccable. The look was updated enough to not avoid being too cartoonish in the movie, but The Baroness' trademark features were still present -- the glasses, the catsuit, and the dark hair.

There didn't seem to be any attempt at The Baroness' accent though. I was disappointed in that. It didn't have to be perfect, but at least some kind of accent would have been appreciated. The producers, looking for a love story, I suppose, also provided us with a romantic history between The Baroness and Duke.

9. Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull (Captain America, 2011)

Just like with The Baroness, The Red Skull looked as good as he could have. The special effects or the rubber mask or whatever they used to make Weaving look like The Red Skull worked supremely well. It looked like the comic literally came to life.

The reason Weaving is on the list is because of his performance. It didn't leave me scared of The Red Skull or thinking he was a real threat. He wasn't bad -- make no mistake -- but he was kind of unmemorable. I was probably more interested in Dr. Arnim Zola than I was in The Red Skull. That's not very good for the movie's main villain.

8. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (Batman Returns, 1992)

Some people may be surprised by Michelle Pfeiffer making this list.

I think it could've been better though.

Catwoman has always had a certain mystery to her. She was sly and devious.

Pfeiifer, doing back flips in that latex suit, was more in your face than anything else. She was also a little crazier than the comic book version. She would probably have felt right at home in a white jacket.

I will say that Pfeiffer was very appropriate as Tim Burton’s version of Catwoman, but I think Anne Hathaway and, to some extent, even Halle Berry were more of the traditional Catwoman.

7. Kelsey Grammar as Beast (X3: The Last Stand, 2006)

I think Kelsey Grammar was actually cast very well.

He's got a similar voice to Beast. He's even got a similar chin.

It wasn't Grammar that I took issue with. It was the horrible, fake looking, blue fur that lands this spot. They got the color pretty much correct, but it looked like something you'd find for cheap in a cheap Halloween shop, not like something you'd expect from a big budget movie.

I'll cut them a little slack since a big, blue fur ball probably isn't the easiest thing to make look realistic.

6. Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2008)

Liev Schreiber was a much better Sabretooth than his predecessor in the original X-Men movie.

That being said, some things were lacking. Neither movie depicted Sabretooth the way he was in the comics. I guess his outfit was somewhat cheesy, but I liked it. He's a mutant. He doesn't have to fit in with everyone else, especially as a villain. Give him a crazy, super villain outfit.

The claws that Schreiber sported weren't nearly as impressive or threatening as the Sabretooth from the comics. Schreiber was more like a version of Sabretooth than the real thing come to life.

5. Brandon Routh as Superman (Superman Returns, 2003)

I didn't think Routh was bad in this role.

He definitely looked the part. He didn't have the acting chops that Christopher Reeve did though.

Routh played Superman, rather than Clark Kent and Superman. That's one super hero who has distinct differences between his super hero self and his secret identity. It would've been nice if they were presented as two different characters. A wider range of emotion -- especially in terms of facial expressions -- would've been nice too.

Why didn't Routh work as Superman? Maybe it was just too big a role for the relative newcomer to handle. However, we'll never know if he would have grown into the role he wasn't even a consideration for a possible sequel.

4. Chris O’Donnell as Robin (Batman Forever, 1997)

I remember a lot of people crapping all over Chris O'Donnell being cast as Robin. I was one of them.

Having just recently watched Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, he did an alright job. He was agile and young enough to play a convincing super hero. The nippled suit, the corny scripts and horrible sets may be more to blame for Batman and Robin's box office failure than O'Donnell himself.

Although it is probably a good thing that a Robin spin-off never happened since O'Donnell wasn't the most spectacular boy wonder there ever was.

3. Halle Berry as Storm (X-Men, 2000)

Halle Berry was probably the most logical choice to play Storm.

She's a black actress and she's a big name. However, I think they could have done better.

While Berry wasn't offensive in the role, she wasn't that good either. She didn't embody the character the way Hugh Jackman did with Wolverine. Instead, it felt like Berry was playing the character of Storm.

There didn't appear to be any attempt to mimic the very distinct voice that Storm had in the animated series. Her facial expressions were usually blank, void of any emotion.

Berry worked, but the character wasn't portrayed as well as it could have been.

2. Channing Tatum as Duke (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, 2009)

He may be People's Sexiest Man Alive, but he's not the best G.I. Joe.

Tatum will reprise his role as "Duke" in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie, but that doesn't mean he's very good at it.

I think Rise of Cobra was probably the only movie I've pretty much, more or less, basically enjoyed a Channing Tatum movie, but it was because it was a G.I. Joe movie -- not because Tatum's performance was noteworthy.

I don't think he was entirely bad in the role. For the most part, he looked like Duke. Although it's never good when the cartoon version of a character comes off as more intimidating than the live action version.

1. Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow (Batman Begins, 2005)

I'll get right to the problem on this one: it's the mask.

Talk about gimmicky and horrible! It looked like it was made out of a potato sack. It just didn't work.

What made it worse was that Cillian Murphy was wearing a nice business suit. Then he puts on this horrible looking mask. It was like a little kid playing dress up in the Halloween aisle at the department store.

Had they given him an outfit of some sort, maybe the mask would have worked better. As it was, though, it left a lot to be desired.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Charlotte Cupcakes - Nona's Sweets

The search for Charlotte's best cupcake is on!

I was doing some Googling the other day, looking for someplace to get a cupcake, and realized just how many cupcake shops there are in Charlotte. There's quite a selection to choose from.

Where to go? Which one is the best? Those are the questions I intend to answer. Each week I'll go to a new bakery and test out a new cupcake (it's a rough job indeed).

So, without further ado, let’s get to the cupcakes!

First up: Nona’s Sweets Bakery and Cafe

I’ve driven by Nona’s, located in the University area, several times.

I’d never stopped before though. From the outside it looks like Nona's has a decent amount of store space, but I wasn’t expecting such a large selection of sweets when I walked in.

They’ve got cupcakes, cookies, whoopee pies, chocolates, fudge, caramels, cake and mini-cheesecakes, among other delicious looking treats.

I was literally like a kid in a candy shop – or in this case an adult in a candy shop.

I was there to get cupcakes though, so I focused on that.

Nona’s promotes itself as the 'home of the naked cupcake.' In other words, once you decide which flavor cupcake you want, you can also choose the flavor of frosting to go on top of it.

There were available samples of the strawberry cupcake with the strawberry buttercream frosting. That one was too good to pass up, so I got a full cupcake.

I had to get another one though. They had a Snickerdoodle cupcake. I love the cookies, so I figured the cupcake would probably be good too. Next I had to decide which kind of frosting to get. I went with the caramel since that’s one of my favorite ingredients in just about anything sweet.

The strawberry cupcake was every bit as amazing as the free sample. Each bite was filled with a burst of strawberry goodness! It tasted just like a wedding cake. The strawberry frosting wasn’t overkill, which kind of surprised me. The frosting was stacked high, but the frosting-to-cupcake ratio was equated properly. Sometimes you get too much frosting and it overpowers the cupcake. That wasn't the case here.

There were no actual strawberry bits in the cupcake, which was a major plus for me. I’ve never been a fan of that. I was worried, at first, that the cupcake wouldn't hold together while I was eating it, but that wasn't the case.

It was soft, but it didn’t crumble when I cut it with a fork.

Same thing with the Snickerdoodle.

Just like the cookie, it was filled with cinnamon. It wasn’t an amazing cupcake though. I think the reason it wasn’t as amazing as the strawberry is because the caramel frosting didn’t work very well with the Snickerdoodle cupcake.

I had a bite of the cupcake without the frosting and it was very tasty. With the caramel frosting, it was fine -- wasn't bad -- but also wasn't that good.

Bad choice on my part.

Overall my trip to Nona's was definitely worthwhile. I’m anxious to go back and try the orange cupcake that I passed on -- and probably another strawberry one!

The positives: The strawberry frosting on the strawberry cupcake was the best strawberry cupcake I can remember eating.

The negatives: the buttercream caramel frosting didn’t go very well with the Snickerdoodle cupcake.

Cost: each cupcake is $2.75. Add $0.25 more for the frosting.

Nona’s Sweets Bakery and CafĂ©
9331 J.W. Clay Blvd - Unit B
Charlotte, NC, 28262
Phone: 704-717-6144

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Dennis the Menace Discovery

I recently made a very interesting discovery. It’s not quite at the level of sliced bread, but darn close.

Let me set it up first though.

I recently watched Home Alone, just like I do every Christmas. One of my gifts this year was the Dennis the Menace DVD.

That’s how I made the discovery.

I was watching Dennis the Menace – the scene with the – and noticed two familiar faces.

Bill Erwin and Billie Bird played the married couple in this scene. Now if you’re like me, those names probably don’t ring a bell.

What if I mention the movie Home Alone – specifically the scene in the airport with the mother?

Yep. The same two actors.

That’s two movies that Erwin and Bird co-starred in where they played a married couple.

And – there’s another Home Alone connection. Devin Ratray – who will probably always be most famous for playing Kevin McAllister’s older brother, Buzz, in Home Alone is also in Dennis the Menace.

He plays the babysitter’s boyfriend.

Well there you have it. One notch below sliced bread.

Friday, January 11, 2013

10 Best Super Hero Portrayals on the Big Screen

After blogging about the best super villains come to life, I figured it only appropriate to come up with a list of the best super heroes come to life.

Just like with the villains, some of my choices were made for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the weaponry that makes a character. Other times it’s the costume. Sometimes it’s the physical Whatever the reason, the end result was successful.

10. Rachel Nichols as Scarlett (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, 2010)

I had to Google Rachel Nichols to write this blog post. I haven't seen her in anything before or since G.I. Joe.

Turns out she's been in quite a few movies -- just nothing I've seen. She's proof that sometimes it's best to pick an actress that isn't as well known to play a role rather than going to the A-listers.

She didn't set the world on fire with her portrayal, but she looked the part and captured the essence of the talented and confident (yet not arrogant) Scarlett. The only thing that would have made Scarlett better in Rise of Cobra is if the color scheme of her outfit matched the comic books and animated series. Take a look at this fan-made alteration. Just a few tweaks and she would have looked more like the traditional Scarlett -- shame they didn't do that.

9. Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012)

Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker/Spidey is a geek. He’s a little awkward. Overall, he's a great contemporary version of Spidey.

Even though the Spider-Man story didn't need to be rebooted so soon, The Amazing Spider-Man successfully modernized the character. This Spider-Man is the most relatable version I’ve seen.

I'm not sure why, but Garfield brought something to the role that I wasn't expecting and hadn't seen before. Garfield is the perfect Peter Parker/Spider-Man of the 2010s.

8. Patrick Stewart as Professor X (X-Men, 2000)

Captain Picard as Professor X? For some reason, it's not something I would have thought of.

I'm not sure why. It makes a lot of sense. He had the overall look (although his head wasn't quite the right shape), he was the right age, and he had the acting ability. It's a no-brainer when you think about it.

Stewart wasn't quite the Professor X I enjoyed from the animated series (I think it's because he didn't have a very similar voice), but he was a good choice for the big screen adaptation.

7. Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man, 2002)

If Andrew Garfield is a geeky version of Peter Parker, then Tobey Maguire is the nerdy version.

If you put Maguire's Peter Parker and Garfield's Peter Parker in the same high school, it's Maguire's version that would probably be picked on, while Garfield would get by under the radar.

Even though he wasn’t as cool as Garfield’s version, he was much more similar to the Peter Parker and Spider-Man that I remember from the animated series that aired on FOX each weekend morning. Maguire had the look and he delivered Spider-Man's often sarcastic lines. He nailed the role in three movies.

6. Michael Keaton as Batman (Batman, 1989)

Michael Keaton helped make Batman cool in 1989.

A very different take from the Batman that Adam West made famous in the late 1960s, Tim Burton made Bruce Wayne a brooding, conflicted soul. Keaton played that character to a T.

He was more aggressive, less cartoonish, and didn't have much to say. Those aspects all worked together to make one of the best portrayals there's been. Keaton always gets first or second place in the 'Who played the best Batman' polls. When it comes to playing the darker side of Batman, Michael Keaton was the original.

5. Ray Park as Snake Eyes (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, 2010)

This big screen adaptation was an easy one in terms of acting ability. Snake Eyes doesn’t speak. He could be played by anyone.

Ray Park was the man under the costume. No offense to Mr. Park, but it was the costume that made that character so awesome to see on the big screen. They nailed it in terms of duplicating his gear from the comic books and animated series.

The slots in his visor are even angled the same way. This character adaptation was definitely a 10/10.

4. Chris Hemsworth as Thor (Thor, 2011)

Chris Hemsworth was an unknown to me before I saw him in Thor.

I'm not sure where the casting folks found him, but I'm glad they did. He's got the look and the acting talent to play a convincing Thor. I don't know that he'll ever win an Oscar, but he's got more acting chops than your typical Hollywood muscle head.

His accent adds a little something to the Thor character as well.

3. Christopher Reeve as Superman (Superman, 1978)

We'll see what can bring to the role, but he certainly has big shoes to fill.

The four Superman movies that began in 1978 are dated now. There's some cheesiness in the lines and the special effects look -- well, like they're from 1978. That being said, they're still entertaining movies -- mostly because of Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve's acting.

Unlike any other actor who has played Superman so far, Christopher Reeve was able to actually play two different characters – Clark Kent and Superman.

Superman, like He-Man, has always been one of those characters without a mask -- and therefore you have to conveniently overlook the fact that nobody is able to put two and two together, figuring out that Clark Kent is Superman.

Reeve's mannerisms as Clark Kent were actually very different than when he was Superman. His tone of voice changed. He stuttered at times. There's a reason he went on to play Superman in three additional movies. He owned that role.

2. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (X-Men, 2000)

Jackman is the only actor to appear in every X-Men movie, whether it be as a lead star or making a cameo.

Not only will he star in the upcoming film, The Wolverine, but he'll also make some kind of appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past. That's a testament to how well he fits the role of Wolverine. Jackman brings to the role. Jackman's version of Wolverine is every bit as sarcastic as the Wolverine from the comics and the 90's animated series. He's every bit as stubborn and brave. Every bit as frustrating and entertaining.

His classic blue, yellow and black outfit wasn't used for the X-Men movies, but it would be kind of hard to make Wolverine look intimidating wearing that anywhere other than a cartoon or comic book.

The only problem with Jackman as Wolverine is that he’s taller than the character is typically portrayed. A minor complaint that is outweighed by all the positives that Jackman brings to the role.

1. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (Iron Man, 2008)

If there's anyone on this list who has owned a role, it's Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man.

Downey really put Iron Man on the map. Before the initial movie in 2008, Iron Man was a cool super hero, but Batman, Spider-Man and Superman got all the love.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Iron Man crack a few favorite lists with the next generation.

Iron Man is fully covered by his armor, so, just like with Spider-Man, it's pretty easy to make the comic book look come to life. Add some special effects and you have an Iron Man that looks like he stepped right off the pages of Marvel.

You add a bunch of special effects and you have a legit looking Iron Man.

Therefore I have to credit Downey for helping make Iron Man a popular mainstream super hero.

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8 picks to play Wonder Woman
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