Friday, May 31, 2013

National Macaroon Day

May 31 is National Macaroon Day, so Happy Macaroon Day!

What better way to celebrate than with a stop in NoDa at Amelie's to try a macaroon for the first time?

I stopped by earlier this week because I knew there was a large selection to choose from. I'd always looked at the cookies in their display case and wondered what they tasted like.

I was always a little hesitant to try them. Something about the name -- "macaroon" -- reminds me of something that should taste like a nut. Almonds, walnuts. It's strange, I know, but I'm not the biggest fan of nuts, so I didn't want to have a cookie that tasted like one.

Upon closer inspection a few weeks ago (there was a long line at Amelie's, so I was right in front of the cookies for about a minute and a half), it didn't look like they were made of nuts at all.

Instead the macaroons looked a lot like a whoopie pie, except not as soft. There were a wide selection of pastel-colored macaroons at Amelie's, but I went with a Lavender macaroon, a Cinnamon macaroon and a Strawberry macaroon.

I tried the Lavender first. I was kind of surprised. The shell parts of the cookie weren't fluffy soft, but they weren't hard and brittle either. The semi-hard crust breaks into little pieces with every bite, leading the way to the soft, somewhat gooey center. The center was like a Starburst that's been left in a car on a hot day.

The Lavender cookie kind of tasted like a burger. No lie!

While I was eating it, I couldn’t help but think, “this tastes like one of those burger slider,” one of those miniature hamburgers you can order as an appetizer at restaurants.

The Strawberry cookie tasted pretty similar to a strawberry cupcake in cookie form. There was a very light strawberry flavor there.

The Cinnamon was my favorite by far! It definitely had a cinnamon taste to it, but the center of that cookie had some chocolate in it. The chocolate won the battle over the taste buds though. The cinnamon ended up being an accompanying flavor to that chocolate center.

Overall, they weren't too bad.

I don't know that I'd buy them again -- especially if they cost almost $1.50 a piece. Sorry, but I'll take a donut for that price.

Related Content:
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Charlotte Cupcakes: Kai's Kookies and More
Pumpkin cookies-turned-cake

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Oscar Mayer's Bacon Hot Dogs - reviewed.

The minute that Oscar Mayer announced they’d released a bacon-flavored hot dog, I knew I had to get me some.

During a Wal-Mart stop last week I found them. I took them home. I made them. I ate them. I was disappointed.

They weren’t bad, but, yeah, I was a little disappointed.

I put what should have been complete awesomeness into the microwave when I got home.

It started popping at about 45 seconds, so I took it out, put some ketchup on a bun and had myself a meal.

One of my friends who had already tried them said he didn’t taste the bacon flavor. After having a few bites, I could see what he meant.

The hot dog didn’t taste like a regular hot dog. There was something a little off about it. I guess maybe it did have the vague taste of overcooked, crispy bacon, but it wasn’t very distinguishable.

It didn't taste the way I was hoping it would have.

I wasn’t ready to give up on these hot dogs just yet though.

I got out the frying pan, threw some I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and some garlic oil into the pan, and then fried up a second hot dog.

I put some basil on top too, to add a little flavor to it.

With the addition of butter and basil, the second hot dog did taste different, but still not like you'd expect an Oscar Mayer Bacon Dog to taste like.

If you want a true bacon dog, your best bet is probably wrapping some bacon around regular hot dog.

It was a good idea on Oscar Mayer's part, but it's back to the Ballpark beef franks for me.

Related Content:
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Pumpkin cookies-turned-cake

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The top 10 coolest looking villains

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I was a Star Wars guy.

Before the 2009 Star Trek, I was not that familiar with the Star Trek universe.

I remember seeing bits and pieces of a few episodes of The Next Generation back in the ‘90s – and then again when they were in a constant repeat cycle on SpikeTV in 2003 and 2004.

Outside of that, I didn’t know too much though.

That’s why I enjoyed seeing Kahn in the new Star Trek movie. He was a completely fresh character for me.

That being said, he wasn’t the most impressive looking villain of all time. He was pretty much an emo Star fleet member – dressed in all black, wearing a leather coat at times as well.

Who was the coolest looking villain, you ask? I have a top 10 list below. Let the countdown begin!


Thor’s younger brother is a wimp by comparison, but Loki still manages to look pretty cool with his gold, curved, antler-like helmet and his green cape.

He looks like a king from another world – so job well done with that character, Stan Lee.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness - reviewed.

Whenever I think of 2009’s Star Trek, I think about the scene where Captain Kirk’s parents are killed and he’s sent on a course to Earth – Superman style – in a small vessel. I was awestruck that such an emotionally powerful scene happened so quick into the movie. It was something I just didn’t see coming.

It’s because of the tone set by that very first scene that one doesn’t know what to expect when watching Star Trek: Into Darkness.

J.J. Abrams isn’t afraid to kill off a character – even those you aren’t expecting anything to happen to. He makes that clear with Star Trek: Into Darkness. That’s not to say that there’s a plethora of death in the new Star Trek movie, but it’s not one of those movies where you know that everybody is going to come out alive and well by the end of the 123 minutes.

I was wondering, at the beginning of each scene, if the majority of Captain Kirk’s Star fleet were going to get out of their predicaments alive. That takes your emotions on one heck of a roller coaster ride, which makes for one heck of a good movie.

I try not to give away too much of the main plot in these reviews – especially if it’s a movie that hasn’t been released on DVD yet (though I will say that the Enterprise takes quite a beating). Not being able to go into the detail of the movie makes this review tricky. Star Trek: Into Darkness is one of those movies that you want to dissect, piece by piece, with your friends as soon as the credits are finished rolling. It’s a movie that leaves you racking your brain, trying to remember all the cool elements, knowing that you’re sure to leave one out because there are too many to stay in the short-term memory bank.

That paragraph wasn’t even written by a hardcore Trekkie, so that should give you an idea as to how good the movie was. I saw one review that talked about how Star Trek: Into Darkness wasn’t exactly true to the Star Trek franchise. I didn’t read the article, but, maybe some Trekkies will have that same opinion. As a Star Wars fan, I was really impressed by what Abrams did with Into Darkness and I hope he brings the thorough storytelling to the new Star Wars series.

The story was very well written. There aren’t any plot holes that come to mind, fresh off seeing Into Darkness. I always enjoy movies that aren’t black and white – when there are characters with different motives that don’t always line up with the motives of other characters in the movie. That was definitely the case with this Star Trek sequel.

This movie explores Kirk’s issue with obeying rules, take another step in telling the story of Kirk and Spock’s friendship, progresses Uhura and Spock’s relationship, and furthers the characters of the other crew members as well.

What struck me is that it really was an ensemble movie, with each character getting a good piece of screen time. George Takei made it no secret that William Shatner went out of his way to make sure he was the center of attention in the original Star Trek TV show and movies. He would have probably enjoyed jumping forward into time and working on the set of the new Star Trek movies instead. Captain Kirk, Spock and Uhura are still the three main characters, but the lesser-known characters like Sulu, Bones and somewhat steal the show with their one-liners and comedic timing.

Abrams found a great supporting cast, helping to add levity in certain spots, but not at the expense of the movie. I love super hero movies, but a major pet peeve of mine is when the heroes of the movie stop to make chit-chat or have a romantic kiss in the middle of a fight-for-your-life situation. It’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah. You love each other. People are getting blasted up here though. Do that later!’

Into Darkness allows those conversations to take place, but they happen in real time. They get interrupted and the kiss doesn’t last for 10 seconds. It’s a quick peck and they are on their way.

All of the original cast members of 2009’s Star Trek return to the Enterprise for this one. There’s also a few new faces, like Dr. Carol Marcus (Alicia Eve). I thought I had her character pegged when she was first introduced, but was surprised by her role more than once. She and James Kirk seemed to have a little bit of chemistry. I guess she would qualify as his “love interest,” but Into Darkness isn’t a movie where you’ll see love scenes in candlelit bedrooms. They’re too busy saving the world, which brings up another positive about the movie.

The overall objective for the crew of the Enterprise is to stop the destruction of the Earth. It’s not the same all-too-standard ‘aliens invading Earth in the middle of New York City’ plot though. Most of the battles happen, appropriately enough, in space and on distant planets.

We are taken to a few different planets during the course of Into Darkness and each one had a different look, with a different color scheme. Visually, I think Into Darkness trumps Star Trek.

While we are comparing films, the main villain of this movie – John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) – trumps Nero. Eric Bana did a good job in the role of Nero and I don’t have any real complaints about him, but I found Cumberbatch to be much more compelling. His story unfolded progressively throughout the movie.

Trekkies may know the background of that character, but I didn’t, so I was happily surprised at how much I disliked the guy by the end of the movie.

I don’t know if there will be a third movie in the series, especially with J.J. Abrams now in charge of Star Wars.

If there is a third movie, I don’t know if it will be as good as these first two were.

However, the door seems to be left open for more Star Trek movies, especially one featuring the Klingons, if nothing else.

Let’s hope something is worked out for another movie because the franchise is too good to call quits on now.

Related Content:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - reviewed.
Star Wars: Episode II - reviewed.
Iron Man 3 - reviewed.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - reviewed.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation - reviewed.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Is it time for the Monday Night Wars – 2K13?

January 2010: TNA Impact went live against Monday Night Raw. RVD debuted. Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were part of that show. Jeff Hardy returned to TNA. It was supposed to be a huge show in TNA’s history. They didn’t prove to be much of a threat to WWE’s ratings, but TNA did garner 3 million viewers for the opening hour of Impact. They dropped to 2.2 million by the end of the show, while Raw reached 5.6 million viewers.

It was an experiment. While it wasn't a complete failure, it wasn't a huge success.

It was clear: TNA wasn't ready to challenge WWE in a new version of the Monday Night Wars, despite many people hoping that was the case.

I think now may be the right time for TNA to take another chance.

Since 2010 TNA hasn't made a lot of progress with their ratings. The most recent edition of Impact got just a 1.07 -- that's the highest Impact rating sine April.

However, a general consensus amongst the Internet wrestling community is that TNA has made some good strides in improving their product.

Perhaps even more importantly, WWE is more stale than ever -- possibly at a lower point than they were in the mid-90s, when Hulk Hogan originally left the company and Bret Hart became the man to beat in the WWF.

Last week, WWE scored a 2.96 cable rating. That's still almost 2 million more viewers than Impact had, but keep in mind, this was a post-PPV show. Those shows usually have WWE fans tuning in to find out what happened.

Taking a look at the ratings WWE pulls in these days is downright scary, especially if you're a fan from the Attitude era. I started watching wrestling in 1997 and continued watching for the next 15 years. Take a look at the ratings from 1999:
May 30, 1999
Raw: 6.25
Nitro: 3.27

A year later they did just as well, while Nitro was obviously losing viewers.
May 28, 2000
Raw: 6.35
Nitro: 2.95

It's been a downward spiral ever since.
May 31, 2010 - Raw: 3.2
May 28, 2012 - Raw: 2.7

Raw has pretty much maintained a 3.0 rating for the last several years -- but that's half of the viewers they had in 1999! I know it's tough for any TV show to maintain interest and stay on top when it comes to ratings (take a look at one-time TV juggernaut American Idol this year), but to lose half your audience should be an indication that you're doing something wrong.

While the ratings haven't changed dramatically for WWE or TNA since January 2010, the perceptions sure have.

TNA made the step a lot of people were waiting for: taking Impact on the road, live one week and taped the next. Austin Aries and Bobby Roode both became TNA World Champions. Bully Ray has become an entertaining TNA Heavyweight Champion. Brooke Hogan being part of the storyline is even bearable.

The Knockouts, while pretty much entirely consisting of ex-WWE Divas, produce matches that are 10x the quality the WWE Divas produce. They at least pretend to care about their tag team division. TNA could stand to build up a new big star (Matt Morgan, maybe, or finally Samoa Joe?), but overall there seems to be a new bit of focus for the company.

WWE, on the other hand, is trying to maintain the perception that they are doing just as well as before.

In some ways they are doing better. WWE added Superstars on WGN, Main Event on the Ion network, and Saturday Morning Slam on the CW Network. Meanwhile, Total Divas was just announced for a summer season on E!.

WWE programming hasn't been so readily available since 1999, when they had more than five shows on television each week.

WWE has truly become an entertainment juggernaut, which is part of the reason it’s such a horrible product these days.

They spend so much time with Make-A-Wish and Be A Star, making straight-to-DVD movies, providing 5-minute segments on YouTube and trying to emulate pop culture that the actual content of their shows is bland and the writing is inconsistent week-to-week.

Adding to that, they have failed to create new stars.

RVD, MVP, Carlito and Shelton Benjamin were all victims of this. They were held down because someone backstage didn't like them or didn't feel they were ready. The problem is: the fans were behind them.

Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro are going through the same thing now -- being pushed one week and being held back the next. At least they have made recent appearances on Raw though. JTG and Alex Riley are Superstars regulars.

Even Zack Ryder, who got over huge on his own, is being held back.

Instead of pushing someone who is fresh and capable, WWE is relying on part-timers like Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Triple H and The Rock in order to boost their PPV buys. Four or five part-time guys can't keep business going strong by making a few appearances each year.

So they rely on the workhorse. Cena may just be a real-life Superman, as he's always ready to return from injury ahead of schedule and he's granting Make-A-Wish wishes left and right. He's still incredibly stale though. His act is worn out. Fans are being vocal about this, both at live shows and in online communities.

Even when WWE does give the ball to someone like Dolph Ziggler, they're not actually letting him run with it. He was given the World Title (a few years too late), but he was still being jobbed out.

TNA could potentially strike while the iron is hot here and go head-to-head against WWE. I doubt many people believe they'll actually be a threat to WWE, but if there's any time to try, it's when WWE is at a seemingly all-time low.

Even if it's just one live show, testing the waters again, it's worth a shot, especially if TNA takes this opportunity to build up some new stars. Spending millions of dollars on hiring someone like Goldberg won't do them any good.

Hire a few people from the independent scene. Mike Bennett and Maria aren't the best workers, but they seem to be TV ready. TNA and Bennett could both benefit from a 2-year contract.

I'm not an advocate of a TNA roster that's full of former WWE superstars, but MVP and Shelton Benjamin added to the tag team division would do a world of good. John Morrison coming in as a singles star would be a great signing as well.

By giving some new talent a shot, along with some talent that was held back, TNA could do something WWE has severely neglected to do in recent years: give fans wrestling television they want to see.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fast 6 rules the box office

Well so much for my prediction. Last week I predicted that Fast 6 would have a tough time getting number one at the box office since it was facing competition like Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Into Darkness (both opened earlier in May) along with The Hangover III, which opened Thursday.

It's time for me to eat crow though.

Fast 6 ruled the box office, with $98.5 million in the U.S. and more than $250 million worldwide.

So about those roles The Rock wants in Star Wars and Transformers, along with a possible role in a Marvel movie?? I think some movie studio executives may be ringing his phone, texting his mobile, sending PMs on Twitter and knocking on The Rock's door.

Related Content:
2013 - The Year of The Rock?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation - reviewed.
Iron Man 3 - reviewed.
Hollywood's Best Espionage Agents

Charlotte Cupcakes: Kai's Kookies and More

Making a trip along South Boulevard this week, I noticed a large cupcake sign sitting on the side of the road.

I figured I’d better stop and check it out.

Sure enough, there’s a small dessert shop called Kai’s Kookies and More. There are some small tables with two chairs each inside.

While there are cookies and brownies and bars and other goodies, cupcakes certainly seem to be a staple of the shop. There’s an entire list of flavors. Not all the flavors are available every day though. I immediately noticed a strawberry cupcake that Strawberry Shortcake herself would have probably had in her house. They were supposed to have a Marble Cupcake and an Oreo Cookie Cupcake that day, but they were already out, so I settled for a Red Velvet instead.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Five of TV's Hottest Babes

It seems everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus topping Maxim's Hottest 100 list.

Everyone else is talking about Kellie Pickler's great looks, tight body and fancy outfits on Dancing with the Stars. I can't argue with anyone on either of those.

Miley does look hot and Kellie looks to be in the best shape of her life -- a common theme, it seems, for anyone who joins Dancing with the Stars and lasts a considerable amount of time.

Being so tone and fit, no doubt, has to do with the fact that Kellie made it to the finals of the Dancing with the Stars competition.

While Cyrus and Pickler are two of today's TV hotties, there's a slew of other TV babes who aren't forgotten. They're all much older than me, but thanks to the beauty of reruns and TV shows on DVD, I've become quite familiar with them. Here's the top five classic TV babes:

Barbara Eden

I watched reruns of I Dream of Jeannie when I was a kid. She's the first woman I remember catching my attention. The silky pink outfit, the little vest, the blonde hair and the cat-like eyes. Very sexy indeed and probably way ahead of her time in that sense.

Charlotte Cupcakes: Two On Earth Bakery

After spending a few weeks north of Charlotte, I decided to go south this week: to Pineville.

I went to Two On Earth Bakery & Cafe. It's on Main Street in Pineville. There are only one or two parking spots in front of the store, but thankfully there's an entire lot of free parking right across the street by the Pineville Town Hall.

The shop had some seating inside, so if you wanted to cozy it up for the afternoon with a good book in Pineville, this would probably be a good place to go.

Two On Earth is a bakery, not a cupcake shop, so the cupcake selection wasn't massive. One of them had coconut on it, so I immediately passed on that one. That left just a couple of choices.

Red Velvet

Even in the most basic bakeries, there's usually a Red Velvet option. That was the case at Two On Earth. Since I've been doing these reviews I've found that Red Velvet cupcakes are either very tasty or very bland. Two On Earth's version was pretty good.

Friday, May 17, 2013

TV Shows That Should Come Back

As all of the TV networks announce their new Fall lineups, one show has yet to be mentioned: Girl Meets World, the spin-off series of Boy Meets World.

ABC lineup | CBS lineup | NBC lineup | FOX lineup | TNT lineup

When the Girl Meets World pilot was shot, it got me thinking about some of the other shows that could still have a little life left in them, whether they are brought back in their original form or as a spin-off.

Sister, Sister (1994 - 1999)

Tia and Tamera Mowry haven't done too bad since Sister, Sister went off the air in 1999. They've done a series of projects (mostly together, playing twins) for Lifetime and the Disney Channel, but surely they wouldn't complain about a new run of Sister, Sister, if successful.

We could catch up with the twins in 2013, now as grown women -- perhaps with children of their own.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

2013 - The Year of The Rock?

In Chinese culture it may be the year of the snake, but globally, it seems to be the year of The Rock.

Years ago (feels like a loooong time now that I'm at the elderly age of 27), when I first started watching pro wrestling, The Rock was just starting to break out on his own.

I started watching in 1997, less than a year after Rocky Maivia debuted.  He was supposed to be a fan favorite, but when fans weren't reacting favorably, the World Wrestling Federation made him a heel (or villain). That's when he showed some personality and became very popular -- a household name in fact.

Still, predicting that he would one day be a box office draw for major motion pictures would have gotten a lot of laughs. Yet that's exactly what happened. I figured he'd do well in the action genre, but I had no idea that he'd end up being all of the place.

On May 24 he'll be in Fast 6. That will be the fourth movie he's been in this year. He's signed on to be in Hercules and Journey to the Center of the Earth 3. Then there's The Hero -- the reality TV show that will debut on TNT June 6.

On top of all the movies and the TV show, Rock had a run as the WWE Champion, headlining Wrestlemania against John Cena. Making movies and wrestling in matches. The man is an android!

I'm not sure if the momentum will continue next year, but right now certainly seems to be The Rock's time to shine.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A List of American Idol Judge Possibilities

There were rumblings that Nicki Minaj may not be back for another season of American Idol, but it turns out that AI original, Randy Jackson, won't be returning next season.

As American Idol struggles to stay relevant and remain on top of the ratings battle, they've pretty much resorted to musical chairs with their judges. First Paula ABdul was out. Then Kara Dioguardi and Ellen DeGeneres were in.

Then Ellen was out. Then Kara was out. Then Simon was out while J'Lo and Steven Tyler were in. After a very boring season with Lopez and Tyler as judges, they switched it up, signing on the level-headed Keith Urban along with the feisty Nicki Minaj and "the Diva" Mariah Carey.

That's a lot of switching around. With so many judges swapping spots, leaving and coming on board, it kind of takes the attention away from the aspiring singers. This is supposed to be the search for the next big music superstar -- so why so much focus on the judges?

If Minaj ends up leaving as well, then some of the tension won't be lingering around.

Now could be a good time to give the show an overhaul and try to refocus again. The next judge shouldn't be someone who is going to be there for a hot minute in order to promote their next album, perfume line or live tour. It should be someone who genuinely wants to help mentor a future superstar. Someone who has an opinion and doesn't think 'everyone is great' like Lopez and Tyler did. Rather than a contentious judge who stirs the pot, the new judge needs to be someone who can get along with the rest of the panel.

So who would be a good choice to fill the available seat? Here's a list of my top candidates:

Kelly Clarkson

Never before has a former American Idol winner returned to the show as a judge. The original American Idol would be a great addition to the fold. She could hopefully provide some inspiration to the show's contestants -- giving them a glimpse of how far they could go.

Clarkson has avoided much of the drama, drugs and other troubles that seem to come with fame. Instead she focuses on her music and entertaining her fans.

Clarkson's bubbly personality suggests she would get along well with the other judges. Meanwhile, there aren't many people more qualified than her to tell the contestants what it takes to win American Idol.

In most cases, it irritates me when someone who is actively promoting a product of some sort is a judge on one of these music shows. Like I said before, the show seems to become more about them than the contestants. In Kelly Clarkson's case, however, I would make an exception.

Phil Collins

Phil Collins knows how to write pop music. He has seven number one hits to his name. That’s just his solo career, not factoring hits from his time in Genesis.

He retired from music, so it's not as though he'll be using American Idol to promote any upcoming projects.

Given his own unique sound, I don't think Collins would favor hopefuls who sound generic. Given his lengthy career, I also figure Collins won't settle for choosing someone who doesn't have their heart and soul invested into the competition and the future afterward.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Charlotte Cupcakes: FuManChu Cupcakes

Finally! This week I snagged myself a FuManChu cupcake. Unlike some other cupcakes in Charlotte, there are some very original flavors at FuManChu -- several of which include alcohol.

It's a business started up by a man in Charlotte. His website says he's trying to open up shop someplace. I stumbled upon the site last year, when it said a shop would be opening in December. Plans fell through apparently because the shop is still in the works.

That means the only way to get a FuManChu cupcake is to pick it up from one of the bars that sells them. Each Tuesday and Thursday they are available at a bar or restaurant in NoDa, on North Davidson Street.

I tried to pick one up a couple of month's ago, but the bar they were being sold at was closed because there was some kind of small group theatre production happening. I tried the following Thursday, but Mr. FuManChu was sick, so there were no cupcakes available that day.

Needless to say, I was happy to see a tweet mentioning that they'd be available at Salud Beer Shop at Davidson and E. 36th Street. After work, I stopped by to pick one up.

They do charge for parking there, but only if you're staying to dine. When I told the parking attendant I was there to pick up a cupcake, he had no problems letting me in.

The cupcakes were enclosed in an upside down plastic cup, like some of the other mobile cupcake sellers use.

There was only one flavor available that night, so I didn't have any troubles deciding which cupcake to buy. I really didn't care because, after weeks of waiting, I finally had a FuManChu Cupcake.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Just Give Me A Reason" goes #1

Congrats to Pink and Nate Ruess on the success of "Just Give Me A Reason."

It was dethroned by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us," but Pink and Ruess' collaboration was number one for three weeks in a row.

Time for a little bragging now.

When I reviewed The Truth About Love, I pointed out that "Just Give Me A Reason" was a song worth some serious radio play:

"Just Give Me A Reason – It’s an incredible song – exactly what you’d expect in a collaboration between Nate Ruess, the lead vocalist of fun., and Pink. I didn’t even know Nate Ruess’ name before I Googled it to write this review, but I knew, right off, that it was ‘the guy from fun.’ when I heard him chime in on this track. I’m hoping this one hits the radio because I think it’d do really well. Let’s hope those in charge strike while the iron is hot and fun. is popular. Once again, it's something totally different from what Pink usually delivers."

Nice to see that it happened. After listening to Pink for so long and seeing other, less talented singers outshine her, I'm thrilled to see her achieve such success and even more thrilled to hear her on the radio during every drive to work in the morning.

Download on iTunes

Related Content:
Pink: The Truth About Love Tour - reviewed.
The Top 7 - Pink's Best Performances
P!nk: The Truth About Love - reviewed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Top 5 Superhero Gadgeteers

As if he doesn’t have enough advanced weaponry, Tony Stark created a lot of new weapons for his arsenal – thanks to the high level of stress that kept him up for nights on end.

The coolest of them was probably the sensors he installed into his arms and legs.

When he put his arms out, it triggered the Iron Man suit parts, which came flying across great distances and assembled together on Tony Stark’s body.

He also rigged up a way to make the Iron Man suit maneuver without a body being inside of it. All Tony had to do was wear his headpiece and he could control the suit from a different location.

Iron Man may be the king of super-cool technology, but there are a few other super heroes who have a pretty wide arsenal of weapons, machines and gadgets:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Movie trailers: Star Trek, Fast 6, The Wolverine, Thor and more!

I reviewed Iron Man 3 yesterday, but one thing I didn’t mention was the fact that the previews leading up to the actual movie were almost as entertaining as the movie itself. It was basically 10 minutes of fast-paced action movie previews.

Star Trek: Into Darkness
Watch the trailer

I was anxious to see Star Trek before I saw the preview, but even moreso now that I have. It looks like Captain Kirk is really going to have his hands full with this new villain. Like with other trilogies and multi-film movies, there’s usually a darker movie – one where the super hero faces very threatening foes and not everyone makes it out of the film alive. The Dark Knight was that movie in the Dark Knight trilogy. Iron Man 3 was that movie in the Iron Man series. Spider-Man 3 was that movie in the Spidey movies starring Tobey Maguire. Into Darkness looks to be aptly named, as there are shots of crew members jumping off large buildings, falling towards the ground below. It will be interesting to see Kirk, Spock and company survive their latest challenge.

Fast 6
Watch the trailer

Way back in 2001, I watched the first Fast and the Furious and thought it was crap – wasn’t impressed whatsoever. Between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, there was a lot of bad acting in that movie. However, Fast 6 – starring The Rock – looks to be watchable.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Iron Man 3 - reviewed.

Can we talk Iron Man 3?

I was told by a friend of mine on Twitter that Iron Man 3 stopped being cool on Sunday. True, I was not one of the many people who saw it opening weekend, but better late than never right?

The third installment in the Iron Man series (and the sequel to The Avengers) was definitely very cool!

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had high hopes after the first two Iron Man movies, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers. Marvel has been on a role the past few years, so I was hoping they’d deliver a kick-ass movie in order to keep that momentum going.

Based on the one trailer I saw for Iron Man 3, it seemed that Tony Stark faced a threat like never before. The preview I saw showed some of the Iron Man suits getting blown up.

Iron Man 3 almost immediately started with that very same image.

It wasn’t all explosions though. In fact, perhaps more than in the previous Iron Man appearances, this movie had a back-story, characters with different allegiances and goals, and some unexpected turns along the way.

Speaking of characters, I was pleased to see that Happy (Tony Stark’s bodyguard from the first two movies) had a larger role in this one.

He’s not just there for a few laughs.

This time Happy is an important character in the plot development.

He still delivers some humorous moments though.

Then there’s The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). He essentially plays an Osama bin Laden-like character.

It was a little eerie in all honesty. Although Kingsley did a great job in his portrayal, I think the eeriness was mostly due to some good editing.

Throughout the movie, there were a series of PSA-style terror videos that talked about bringing terrorism to America. They used images of war throughout those videos. The Mandarain was also shown (using handheld, grainy video) assassinating victims.

If it sounds like this Iron Man was a little darker, it was. Tony Stark wasn’t just dealing with keeping Pepper Potts safe and fighting off the new round of foes. He was dealing with anxiety attacks after the events that unfolded in The Avengers.

I was really impressed by that. Never before has any movie studio been able to tell individual stories, while simultaneously setting the stage for future movies and remembering the details (large and small) of the previous movies.

Star Wars didn’t even do that and it was supposed to be a six-part series.

There was also a nice balance of new and old in Iron Man 3.

This sequel was filled with all kinds of innovative technology. Tony Stark has new weapons and gadgetry in his arsenal.

There are lots of new fight sequences too. A lot of those sequences involved Tony Stark, outside of the Iron Man suit, too.

None of those scenes left me amazed, but I don’t have any complaints either. After all, I don’t think the nearly-50-year-old Robert Downey Jr. will ever be a bona-fide action star.

He’s done a great job as Iron Man, with the help of computer animation, and as Sherlock Holmes, with some slow-motion film effects, but I don’t think he’d be able to secure a spot in The Expendables 3 with his fighting skills.

Director Shane Black evolved the Iron Man series with the fancy, new gadgets and thought out fight scenarios, but he kept the same sarcastic lines that makes the big-screen version of Iron Man one of the most comedic super heroes there is.

Only in Iron Man could you get a reference to A Christmas Story and a nod to the PBS hit Downton Abbey.

It really is the ideal role for Downey because he delivers the portrayal of Tony Stark flawlessly.

After being left out of The Avengers, Don Cheadle returns to the fold as War Machine.

Scratch that – he’s renamed “The Iron Patriot,” complete with a spangled paint job.

It’s something you’d expect out of a Captain America/Iron Man mash up.

This new look and new name gives Stark a lot of material for jokes throughout the movie.

The only real setback in this movie was the addition of Guy Pearce.

He wasn’t nearly as good a villain as Sam Rockwell was in Iron Man 2.

His entire performance was kind of generic.

Years from now, when people look back on this period of awesome live-action Marvel movies, he’s not a character people will be talking about.

I guess Pearce gets the job done, but I wasn’t impressed.

Stan Lee made another cameo, which was nice. Not his best cameo, but better than his sighting in The Avengers.

I have to wonder if there will be an Iron Man 4. I haven’t read up on what the possibility is of that happening, but after watching this movie, I got the vibe that there may not be.

A variety of footage from the first three movies was used during the ending credits. It was very similar to the montage at the end of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, except that some of the actors in the first two Iron Man movies weren’t shown. In Breaking Dawn, all of the actors from the entire Twilight series were shown during the credits.

There was an appropriate conclusion at the end of Iron Man 3, so if it is the end of the individual Iron Man movies, it’s not a bad ending.

Don’t fret though. Tony Stark will be back in the second Avengers movie. In fact, Marvel wanted people to know that because, after the credits (and extra scene), they had a message to share.

In large white font, against an entirely black screen, they flat out said: “Tony Stark will be back.”

Whether or not Tony Stark will be played by Downey remains to be seen.

Obviously, I haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World or Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, but after seeing Iron Man 3, Disney and Marvel already have my ticket for The Avengers 2.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hollywood's Best Espionage Agents

Jack Reacher is available on DVD today. It's one of the few recent DVD releases I'm intrigued by. Tom Cruise is not my favorite actor, by any means, but he does a decent job in certain roles. It seems this could be one of them.

The Jack Reacher character is the main reason I may have to make it a Redbox Tuesday tomorrow.

Reacher is a character from a book series by British author Lee Child (real name: Jim Grant).

Here's the back story: Reacher served 13 years in the Military Police, but eventually became part of the 110th Special Investigations Unit. He's no longer with that group though. Now, as an ex-military investigator, he gets roped into a plot that requires his military skills to get out alive. Sounds like it could be a decent action movie.

Will it be a one-time role for Cruise or will the movie turn into a trilogy or series? There are apparently several Jack Reacher books out there already. I'm sure some could be adapted to movies as well.

Of course the real question is: how does Jack Reacher compare to some of Hollywood's other skilled espionage agents?

Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible series)

The first Mission Impossible was released in 1996, making it one of the earlier modern day espionage movies. There's all kinds of fast-paced, innovative action scenes in all four of the movies.

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, an ever-resilient and impressive member of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) -- part of the CIA. Whether he's riding on a motorcycle, using his side mirror to aim his bullets at the enemies behind him, or whether he's scaling the top of a skyscraper overseas, Hunt usually finds himself in some precarious positions. Somehow he always manages to overcome the odds and return for a welcomed sequel.

Jason Bourne (the 'Bourne' series)

While Ethan Hunt was impressive, Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) took it to the next level in 2002 with The Bourne Identity. He wasn't just a well-trained agent. He's a CIA assassin suffering from amnesia. Despite the memory loss, he still maintained his espionage skills.

Eventually the CIA -- once Bourne's employer -- becomes Bourne's enemy, so he's forced to take on the vast resources of the CIA by himself.

Even though Matt Damon wasn't part of The Bourne Legacy, a spin-off from the original Bourne trilogy, Jason Bourne was referenced and was apparently still on the loose. Being able to avoid capture by the CIA for four films is no easy feat.

Evelyn Salt (Salt, 2010)

One of my favorite performances Angelina Jolie delivered in the past several years was in Salt, the underrated flick about a Central Intelligence Agency spy who is accused of being a double-agent for Russia.

The movie follows as Salt tries to clear her name and keep her family safe. The plot has more twists and turns than a back road in Georgia. That's why the movie is so much fun -- it keeps you guessing.  Salt's quick reflexes and thinking result in her escaping several seemingly inescapable situations.

James Bond (the James Bond movies)

I'm not sure it will ever get better than .007. James Bond (played by numerous actors) pretty much defines espionage movies. Whether he was played by Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery or even Pierce Brosnan, he was always a suave, espionage expert.

Daniel Craig's version of James Bond got that much better because it was more of a serious action film than some of the previous incarnations.

He's a believably tough (yet not invincible) agent. You've got to think that with so many incarnations already, no matter what changes the James Bond character goes through, he'll always remain at the top of the heap.

Who's your favorite secret agent?  Go ahead and vote on the poll in the right hand column of the page.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Charlotte Cupcakes - The Bakery Shoppe

This week I went to The Bakery Shoppe in Huntersville.

I called ahead because I didn’t know if they had cupcakes there. They said they’d just put about two dozen cupcakes out 15 minutes before, so I was in luck.

I used the GPS to get to there, but there’s a series of mini-malls in the same parking lot. There is no sign on the building – just one on the window – so the shop doesn’t jump right out at you.

Basically, if you’re going to The Bakery Shoppe – look for Showmars and then go South, across the driveway.

It’s a quaint shop inside, with some tables to sit at and a couple of large armchairs that look like a nice spot to relax if you have a smart phone to keep you entertained or some reading to do.

There’s a wide variety of pastries, cookies and cakes in The Bakery Shoppe, but not a wide variety of cupcakes.

Although the shop spruces up their cupcakes and offers a variety for events, there were only two different flavors in the case, so it made my selection easy enough.

Chocolate Cupcake

The first cupcake I tried was a chocolate cupcake, topped with chocolate frosting and some sprinkles. The frosting was spread nicely on top, but it was heavier on one side of the cupcake – so much so that once I took the wrapper off, the cupcake fell onto its side.

The cupcake was very moist and didn’t taste too bad, but when I had a bite of cupcake and frosting together, it was not very good.

It was like two different flavors of chocolate that didn’t mix together at all. The cupcake was a dark chocolate, while the frosting tasted more like the generic stuff you’d find in a grocery store. Betty Crocker’s chocolate frosting probably tasted better.

It’s too bad because the cupcake was decent, but the frosting ruined it.

White Cupcake

The white cupcake had white frosting on top and the same sprinkles the chocolate cupcake had. The frosting wasn’t packed on this one like it was on the chocolate. It didn’t look as nice though. It was a little sloppy looking.

If it were a person, you’d have guessed this little cupcake was still recovering from a rough night at the bar. I didn’t care about the presentation, however, because I didn’t get it for any kind of event.

I got the cupcake to eat as a mid-morning snack. If I were a hobbit, it would have made a very nice second breakfast.

To my surprise, there was a lemon flavor in the cupcake. I’m honestly not quite sure if the lemon taste came from the cupcake or the frosting (there was no sign at the store saying what kind of cupcake it was), but either way it worked.

Unlike the chocolate cupcake, the flavors worked together to create a very appetizing treat.

The positives: the burst of lemon flavor in every bite of the white cupcake

The negatives: the chocolate cupcake really was the worst part of this cupcake experience. The different chocolate flavors didn’t mesh at all. I would've liked to have had more of a selection to choose from in the actual store as well.

Cost: $1.55 a cupcake at The Bakery Shoppe, so on the cheaper side if you're looking for a cupcake in the Charlotte area.

The Bakery Shoppe
9606 Sherrill Estates Road
Huntersville NC
Phone: 704-987-8225
For hours of operation go to:

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Flight - reviewed.

I had wondered why Flight didn’t do better at the box office.

It seemed like it had a decent enough plot – a pilot saving a crew in dire situation.

Turns out it’s no hero movie. After watching it, I can understand why it didn’t do well at the box office. It isn't exactly the kind of movie a family would go to.

Although the story wasn’t at all similar, it kind of reminded me of something along the lines of Girl Interrupted. There were a couple moments that made me laugh, but overall it was a slow and fairly depressing movie.

It started with Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) in a hotel room with a flight attendant, who goes full frontal for the camera.

As Whitaker and his lady friend make their way to their flight (despite being hungover and coked up), the movie shifts focus to a red-headed druggie (Kelly Reilly). She and Whitaker eventually cross paths, but they don't know each other at this point in the movie.

I assume someone with decision-making authority wanted to give us more of an insight to who this red-headed druggie is before she meets Whitaker. It wasn't needed though. In fact, it was kind of confusing.

It made me wonder: 'Why are we being shown this woman getting high when she's clearly not going to be on the flight?' Shifting the point of view wasn't needed.

After Whitaker makes his amazing plane maneuvering (saving several people's lives in the process, despite crashing the plane), the movie really becomes a documentary about alcohol.

That would have been fine if that's what I wanted to watch. I like to be entertained by movies though

If I wanted to watch a documentary on substance abuse, I'd watch one.

Throughout the movie, Whitaker, the union rep. and the lawyer for the union (Don Cheadle) all try -- at all costs -- to avoid taking any kind of responsibility for the crash. I'm sure there's some insight there as to what actually happens whenever there's a plane crash. There again, if I wanted to watch a documentary on sleazy lawyers and dishonest pilots, I'd watch it.

Maybe it's my own fault for not knowing what I was getting into, but even if I had known, I don't think I would have liked the movie.

The plot made sense, but I didn't care about it. There was nobody in the film who I sympathized with or connected to. I blame the writing for that.

Flight wasn't a nonsensical movie. All the editing choices (outside of the introduction to the red-headed druggie) made sense. It didn't leave me entertained or more well-rounded having watched it though.

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