This morning organizers behind the Kanrocksas music festival announced the final lineup of the show, adding the final national acts and a DJ tent for those with the itch to bump and grind. (Note: If the itch is literal, please seek a doctor, as it's probably contagious.)
Those added to the show, which will take place Aug. 5-6 at the Kansas Speedway, include Cage The Elephant, Bassnectar, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Ween, Ellie Goulding, Best Coast, OK Go, The Black Angels, Beats Antique, John Digweed, Kerli and The Joy Formidable.
In addition to this lineup, single-day tickets were also announced. They will go on sale tomorrow (May 25) and are $89.50 until June 3, where they will bump up to $99 even. The tickets will stay at $99 until July 9, when the price will increase again to $109. On the days of the show, single-day passes will run you an even $120. At the same time, two-day passes will stay at $179 until the day of the show, which will put them at an astonishing $225. Procrastinators, consider yourself warned.
As for the daily lineups, the promoters managed to mix newer bands with older, more experienced festival acts. That said, I'm personally more excited for Saturday. It's light on hip-hop, which is disappointing, but is the more straightforward rock 'n' day of the show.
The Flaming Lips
Fitz & The Tantrums
The Joy Formidable
The Black Keys
A Perfect Circle
Cage The Elephant
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
The Black Angels
The order of the DJ acts was yet to be solidified for Friday.
Sound Tribe Sector 9
So there it is, in all its (semi)finalized glory. Which day looks better, in your opinion? Are there any acts you're particularly excited by? Let us know in the comments.
Updated: Diplo and Switch's Major Lazer has been added to Friday's lineup.
Fans of local and national music, concertgoers, budding critics and insomniacs:
I need your help.
I'm looking for new people to step in and cover concerts, write music reviews and show previews and alert us to early warnings. I'm enlisting, you, the community, to get this done.
With that in mind, I present the Off The Record music blog.
Rather than pin an entire community on the interests of a single person, multiple people will write for Off The Record, making room for different types of music and showcases to be given proper treatment by people who have an interest or experience in the genre(s) of music they're writing about. After all, it doesn't make sense to have someone well versed in hip-hop to review country or someone with a love for bluegrass cover a DJ show.
I don't have a set number of people I want writing for this blog –– you could be a regular, write occasionally or write a one-off story and disappear into the night, never to be heard from again.
For compensation, I can offer access to shows and review copies of albums. I can also offer press access to events like SXSW, on the condition that you, write for us while you're there. And if any of you out there are students looking for an internship, I'd be happy to sign off on credit for that as well, though it will have to be unpaid.
This is an opportunity to write about your community, pad a resume and see some of the best Lawrence has to offer while talking to some interesting people in the process, all for free.
Send any questions and clips to trevan@Lawrence.com, subject line: Music Reviews.
The final three categories are here and with them come the conclusion to Best of Lawrence 2011 –– online at least. We'll have the winners in print from Tuesday to Thursday, if you want a hard copy. This competition could not have happened without the fantastic feedback and support from the Lawrence community and the cooperation of the proprietors of the winning establishments. We learned a few lessons while compiling this, lessons we'll use to make Best of Lawrence 2012 even better. Thanks to the community that helped us shape this project and to everyone who voted. Now, without further ado ...
Best Pizza: Rudy’s Pizzeria
Mounds of cheese, a list of toppings so long it looks like a salad bar, sauce spiked with red wine and crust so dense it begs to be savored rather than inhaled — these ingredients helped make Rudy’s Pizzeria your choice for Best Pizza.
Opened in 1990 by Chad and July Glazer, for more than 20 years the restaurant has been a spot for meals in a hurry or sit-down fellowship with friends and family. Pizza lovers can buy it here by the slice or a full pizza, and weekday specials make it possible to enjoy a few slices on a Kansas University game night without breaking the bank.
That salad bar long list of ingredients? It includes hard-to-find toppings like shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, roasted garlic and even steak. And for those of you who like to fold over your pizza while you eat it to keep the toppings intact, know that you can get the same pizza done as a Rudy’s famous “Pocket Za” — a pocket pizza that comes in sizes ranging from personal to large.
Address: 704 Mass.
Phone number: 749-0055
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
Owners/Proprietors: Chad and July Glazer
Honorable mentions: Pies in the sky.
Papa Keno’s Pizzeria, 1035 Mass.
Wheat State Pizza, 711 W. 23rd St.
Pyramid Pizza, 1029 Mass.
Best Place for a Date: Pachamama’s
It’s named for an Incan goddess, and any lady lucky enough to go on a date there will easily feel like one.
The decor is modern yet inviting, and anything but sparse. The lighting is dim and flattering, and when seated at a table, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only couple in the room.
Chef and proprietor Ken Baker’s “new American market”-style menu is seasonal, meaning it is constantly using beautiful presentation to showcase the freshest in produce and high-quality proteins. The restaurant is passionate about supporting local farmers and will often use locally grown produce. And Pachamama’s large selection of wines and menu of mouth-watering desserts make it easy to create a full-bodied special night out.
Address: 800 N.H.
Phone Number: 841-0990
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Ken Baker
Honorable mentions: Table for two.
Teller’s, 746 Mass.
Liberty Hall, 644 Mass.
715, 715 Mass.
Best Overall Restaurant: Free State Brewery
The menu is as expansive as the history trolley station where the restaurant is housed. It’s a got a little bit of something for everyone: A burger for Mr. Meat and Potatoes, its famous Cheddar Ale Soup or a handful of hearty salads for someone looking for a lighter lunch, and curries, fish tacos and pulled pork specials for those looking for even more.
With a new American menu presided over by executive chef Rick Martin, Free State Brewery won Best Overall Restaurant by a landslide — garnering nearly 30 percent of the vote in a packed category.
The atmosphere is on par with the menu, alternately giving diners the feel of a tavern, fancy restaurant and a packed social club. It’s a place where it’s easy to run into friends, get to know your waiters and never get tired of the menu or feel like you’ve stepped into the same old, same old.
Address: 636 Mass.
Phone number: 843-4555
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl
Honorable mentions: Would-be kings.
Pachamama’s, 800 N.H.
715, 715 Mass.
Zen Zero, 811 Mass.
Alright, the home stretch has arrived. The Burger Stand at the Casbah ran away with Best Burger, which won't be a surprise to the more than 1,500 people who voted for the establishment.
Free State was challenged by younger establishments such as the Replay Lounge and Red Lyon Tavern, but Lawrence staple emerged victorious with a respectable majority.
But the real race to watch was Best Hair Cut, which found the more traditional Downtown Barbershop running side-by-side with Green Room Salon for most of the poll. Eventually Downtown Barbershop pulled ahead, but only barely –– 33 votes separated first from second. Final three: Pizza, Place for a Date and Overall Restaurant.
Best Burger: Burger Stand at the Casbah
Lawrence quickly became one of the best places in the state — and country, for that matter — to find a burger. The trouble, today, is deciding where to go.
You voted the Burger Stand at the Casbah as the city’s best burger. This summer, the Burger Stand took its talents to the Casbah after tantalizing Lawrence with its smoke burger and truffle fries at Dempsey’s. Dempsey’s still has its name in the discussion of Lawrence’s top burger joints while the Burger Stand’s staples (plus several new items) can be had.
While the Kobe beef burger is plenty for the most devout carnivores, vegetarian options such as the romesco burger or falafel burger add to the menu’s diversity and, we must say, are as delicious as anything else on the menu.
Grab a beer and take in some karaoke or jazz each week. A late night burger, dog and fry menu is also available after 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Address: 803 Mass.
Phone number: 856-0543
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Owner/Proprietors: Robert and Molly Krause, Simon and Codi Bates
Opened: 2009 at Dempsey’s, 2010 at current location
Honorable mentions: You can haz these too.
Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries, 2040 W. 33rd St.
Local Burger, 714 Vt.
Best Bar: Free State Brewery
The tag line is as fitting as it is well known in Lawrence, “Because without beer, things do not seem to go as well.”
And without Free State Brewery’s bar, a lot of things for Lawrence beer lovers would not go so well. With its fabulous selection of made-right-there brews, expansive menu and proximity to big flat-screen TVs, Free State Brewery is the bar to go to in town. A long list of regulars will attest to that.
Fitting too, that the when Free State opened in 1989, it was the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years. The brewery currently has 10 locally made beers on tap, giving bar patrons a hefty homemade selection.
Address: 636 Mass.
Phone number: 843-4555
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl
Honorable mentions: Stuck with the tab.
Replay Lounge, 946 Mass.
Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Mass.
The Sandbar,17 E. Eighth St.
Best Hair Cut: Downtown Barbershop
With its extended hours, fast service and array of sports memorabilia, the Downtown Barbershop beat out a number of bells-and-whistles salons to win Best Hair Cut.
Owner Jon Amyx has been cutting hair for 35 years, following his late grandfather, Cecil, late father, Tom, and older brother, Mike, into the family business. He opened his own shop in 1987.
Address: 824 Mass.
Phone number: 843-8000
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Owner: Jon Amyx
Honorable mentions: [Your choice of haircut pun.]
Green Room Salon, 924 1/2 Mass.
Amyx Barbershop, 842 1/2 Mass.
Z Hair Academy, 2429 Iowa.
If you're reading this and you haven't had lunch yet, you might want to grab a snack before proceeding because the next three winners represent the best Asian, Latin American and Italian food the city has to offer. Next up: Burger, Bar and Haircut.
Best Latin American Food: La Parrilla
The first restaurant opened by local culinary whiz kids Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan (who also own Zen Zero and Genovese), this newly renovated spot is the place to go for Latin American cuisine.
Not for those looking for run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex, patrons can expect baskets of warm tortilla chips served with addictive house salsa, pitchers of Brazilian lemonade, cheap-but-generous rice bowls, favorites like quesadillas and enchiladas, and daily specials. In fact, it’s easy to take a date here and not spend more than $20 while still getting great food and drink both in quality and quantity.
In Spanish, the restaurant’s name means “the grill” but for anyone who dines there, it is so much more.
Address: 814 Mass.
Phone number: 841-1100
Hours: Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Owners/Proprietors: Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan
Honorable mentions: También deliciosa.
El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant, 1819 W. 23rd St.; 804 Iowa; 1520 Wakarusa Drive
Esquina, 801 Mass.
Cielito Lindo Mexican Restaurant, 815 N.H.
Best Italian Food: Paisano’s Ristorante
Paisano’s has been a Lawrence tradition for more than two decades.
Great for a filling lunch break, dinner dates or even special occasions like weddings, the restaurant carries everything from your basic noodle dishes — hello, pasta primavera! — to less common cuisine like 15-layer lasagna, tortellini and salmon, and steak pizzaiola.
Entrees are served with pasta, salad and breadsticks, and any pasta can be topped off with Sicilian meatballs, garlic rosemary chicken or portobello mushrooms, meaning it’s next to impossible to leave the place hungry.
Address: 2112 W. 25th St.
Phone number: 838-3500
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Owners/Proprietors: Steve and Debbie Butland
Honorable mentions: Viva Italia.
Genovese, 941 Mass.
715, 715 Mass.
Teller’s, 746 Mass.
Best Asian Food: Zen Zero
The second restaurant owned by the aforementioned Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan, Zen Zero melds cultures and flavors in its extensive pan-Asian menu.
Though it’s conceptualized as a “noodle shop,” noodles only make up a portion of the menu, which is chock-full of salads, soups, curries, stir fries and desserts such as green tea ice cream. Those noodle-lovers looking for a great pad thai made to their liking need look no further. The pad thai sauce is a perfect blend of sweet, sour, spicy and tangy and the noodles are plentiful. Takeout is a snap, though in-house diners can enjoy complimentary addictive shrimp puffs with hot sauce while they wait.
Address: 811 Mass.
Phone number: 832-0001
Hours: Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Owners/Proprietors: Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan
Honorable mentions: No chopsticks required.
Encore Cafe, 1007 Mass.
Yokohama, 811 N.H.; 1730 W. 23rd St.
Jade Garden, 1410 Kasold Drive
This batch features our only multi-award winner, our only blue collar category (more of those next year, promise) and a place to dance that is literally underground.
Freestate proprietor Chuck Magerl thanked the community for voting his business the Best Vegetarian or Vegan Dining Option in town, a win that is a little surprising considering some of the businesses traditionally associated with veggie options. That's the democratic process for you.
Full service gas station and auto repair shop Westside 66 & Carwash edged out Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics by less than 50 votes. Winning awards like these is nothing new to the business. Their shop's interior has plenty of past Best-of certificates hung on the wall.
Finally, we have the best place to dance. You voted the Eighth Street Taproom the best place to get down. While the Taproom may look unassuming during the daytime, on band nights and weekends, it's a different story. Next up: Latin American, Italian and Asian.
Best Vegetarian or Vegan Dining Options: Free State Brewery
A brewery may not seem like the best place in the world to take a vegetarian, but somehow executive chef Rick Martin manages to make vegetarians at ease at Free State.
There are more options than just the restaurant’s well-regarded black bean burger for vegheads. Seven of nine of the restaurant’s appetizers are vegetarian, as are three of four salads, four of 11 sandwiches and three of nine regular entrees. For vegans, things are a bit more difficult, but the kitchen is open to removing nonvegan products, like eggs and cheese, from dishes.
Address: 636 Mass.
Phone number: 843-4555
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl
Honorable mentions: No dilemma here.
India Palace, 129 E. 10th St.
The Burger Stand, 803 Mass.
The Merc, 901 Iowa.
Best Place for Auto Repairs: Westside 66 & Carwash
Owner Richard Haig bought the Westside 66 & Carwash in 1985 and says that customer loyalty is high for the shop, which is located at Schwarz Road and Sixth Street.
Address: 2815 W. Sixth St.
Phone Number: 843-1878
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Owner: Richard Haig
Honorable mentions: Yeah, we can fix that.
Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics, 2858 Four Wheel Drive
Slimmer Automotive Service, 2030 E. 23rd st.
Best Place to Dance: Eighth Street Taproom
Over the last few years the Eighth Street Taproom, 801 N.H., has become one of the best dance spots in Lawrence, due in no small part to the bar’s affinity for booking unique local acts. In a single week, a postpunk DJ, snuff jazz, funk and soul records, and good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll can all be consumed in the Taproom’s basement. If you need a breather, head upstairs for a game of pool or grab a drink at one of its two bars.
Variety is indeed the spice of life and in this case, it helped the Taproom stand apart. Lawrence likes to party, this much we knew going into this contest.
Billed as the home of the ginger smash, the Taproom also boasts a reputable selection of mixed drinks and has both cheap and high-end beers on hand.
Be sure to stake out a spot as the dance floor can get packed early.
Address: 801 N.H.
Phone number: 841-6918
Hours: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day
Owner/Proprietor: Jeremy Sidener
Honorable mentions: Looks like we’re at capacity.
Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass.
The Cave, 1200 Oread Ave.
Abe & Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth st.
Of all the categories in this year's Best-of, few were as contentious, as heated as the race for store cat. The top three finishers were all within 305 votes of each other and the quest to get the favorite cat elected went social, spreading to Facebook and Twitter.
But in the end, it was Sunflower Bike and Outdoor's Stanley who walked away with the prestigious title.
In non-cat categories Chipotle won Best Meal in a Hurry by a commanding margin. The employees were so excited when they heard the announcement that giving them directions proved ineffective, resulting in the heartfelt, four second thank you video seen here.
Finally, Live Music Venue, a perennially tough category, was won by Liberty Hall, which saw a great mix of genres and musicians make their way through Lawrence. Up next: Vegetarian/Vegan Options, Auto Repairs and Place to Dance.
Best Meal in a Hurry: Chipotle Mexican Grill
It’s fast, satisfying, comes in its own convenient foil wrapper, and can meet your daily calorie allotment, if you go for broke during the ordering process — yes, the giant Chipotle burrito is the epitome of today’s grab-and-go.
The burrito is the king of the national chain’s make-it-in-front-of-you menu, but myriad ingredient choices ensure no two burritos are the same. Patrons can choose from vegetable and meat options, and add or skip several salsas and extras like guacamole, sour cream and fajita-style veggies.
For those who aren’t feeling like a burrito, there are also tacos, bowls (a tortilla-less burrito) and salad options that are just as quick.
Addresses: 911 Mass., 4000 W. Sixth St.
Phone numbers: 843-8800, 843-1510
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Opened: 1999, 2004
Honorable mentions: Speed eaters.
Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, 922 Mass.; 1447 W. 23rd St.; 601 Kasold drive, 1201 Oread Ave.
Esquina, 801 Mass.
The Pita Pit, 1011 Mass.
Best Store Cat: Sunflower Outdoor & Bike
Stanley is a lion among men.
The tan longhair male cat, who is shaved in a fashion that makes him look more like a miniature Simba than house cat, beat out other beloved felines, including Alice of The Dusty Bookshelf and Love Garden Sounds’ three cats, for our top store cat prize.
Stanley has been roaming the sporting goods store for nearly a decade after being adopted from the Lawrence Humane Society. His favorite spots are on the counter or in a tent he has set up in the display window.
His calm demeanor and formerly rough life — he has missing teeth and BBs in his body from his time before Sunflower — have earned him a devoted following. He’s got his own Facebook page and customers can purchase goods covered with his likeness.
Address: 804 Mass.
Phone number: 843-5000
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Owners/Proprietors: Dan and Karla Hughes
Honorable mentions: Highly contested.
Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Mass.
Love Garden Sounds, 822 Mass.
The Toy Store, 936 Mass.
Best Live Music Venue: Liberty Hall
The live music scene in Lawrence is an active one with a wide array of options for places to catch a show. You chose the historic Liberty Hall as your favorite place for live music in Lawrence.
With a history dating back to the 19th century, Liberty Hall has seen about every genre of music take its stage. Local, national and global acts have made a point to visit Liberty. The stage is spacious and the seating areas provides the perfect opportunity to take in the unique atmosphere. And when no live acts are performing, the place doubles as a movie theater.
The venue managers are quick to point out that promoters played a big part in the venue’s success. In the last year alone, Liberty Hall has seen performances from Ray Davies, Jonsi, moe., Quixotic, LunaFest, Sara Bareilles and Joshua Radin, to name a few.
Address: 644 Mass.
Phone number: 749-1972
Owner/Proprietors: Dave and Susan Millstein
Opened: 1986 in its present capacity
Honorable mentions: These go to 11.
Bottleneck, 737 N.H.
Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Mass.
Granada, 1020 Mass.
It's a hard time for bookstores as evidenced by the recent Borders bankruptcy. No matter how you feel about chain stores, the loss of a business leaves a significant mark on the community in the form of jobs lost. With that in mind, its refreshing to see Lawrencians vote for The Dusty Bookshelf.
Likewise, Sylas & Maddy's won for best dessert, something anyone who's gotten to the bottom of a waffle cone can attest to. Also, Aladdin's Cafe won for best Middle Eastern Food, which should come as no surprise to someone who has sampled the food, atmosphere and the exotic groceries. Up next: Meal in a Hurry, Store Cat and Live Music Venue.
Best Bookstore: Dusty Bookshelf
The green loveseat. Alice the cat. Shelf upon shelf of books. You gave The Dusty Bookshelf the nod for best bookstore in Lawrence. The Dusty Bookshelf might just be the coolest thing Lawrence and Manhattan have in common.
The Dusty Bookshelf opened in Manhattan in 1985. The Lawrence location opened in 1996.
The store’s often so stocked — it claims to offer more than 70,000 titles of books exclusively from the community — that rows of books are continued from shelves to lines on the floor.
The staff will even stay in touch if what you’re looking for isn’t on hand when you’re there. Mass market paperbacks are half-off and visitors are welcome to bring books to sell.
For the serious bibliophile, The Dusty Bookshelf also buys scholarly libraries and sells rare, collectible texts online and in the store.
And, yes, postcards and T-shirts with Alice on them can be had, too.
Address: 708 Mass.
Phone number: 749-4643
Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m.
Owner/Proprietors: Diane Meredith
Honorable mentions: Read state.
Border’s, 700 N.H.
Half Price Books, 1519 W. 23rd St.
The Raven, 8 E. Seventh St.
Best Dessert Or Pastry: Sylas & Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream
A locally owned favorite, this ice cream shop is way more than just plain vanilla.
Here, diners are faced with a plethora of fun and creative choices, including Gold Dust, Da Bomb, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Blue Moon. Descriptions on each refrigerator display case let you know what exactly is in some of the more creative flavors and big, house-made waffle cones can hold more than one flavor if you can’t decide.
Not your typical ice cream parlor, this one has a roving band of flavors that are as wild as anything a kid might dream up on a sugar high — and it takes a chalkboard to keep all the day’s offerings straight. About half of the regular flavors just aren’t something you’d find in the store. The aforementioned Blue Moon flavor — a blue ice cream dotted with mini-sized rainbow chocolate chips. Unusual, yes? Worth every bite ... er, lick? We’ll put it this way: ordering it or any of the other treats here won’t leave you blue in the slightest.
Address: 1014 Mass.
Phone number: 832-8323
Hours: Monday-Thursday, noon to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, noon to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Jim and Cindy England
Honorable mentions: Just. Dessert.
Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt.
Muncher’s Bakery, 925 Iowa.
3 Spoons Yogurt, 732 Mass.
Best Middle Eastern Food: Aladdin’s Cafe
Two words: Rose Lemonade.
The mixture of lemon, saffron and rose water has a following, but anyone who’s been to Aladdin’s Cafe knows the food — a mixture of dishes from all parts of the Mediterranean — is to die for as well. There are fantastic hummus and baba ghanoush, numerous falafel combinations, gyros and kabobs. For dessert, there’s everything from a rose water-spiked rice pudding to cheesecake to tiramisu.
Beyond the tiramisu, Aladdin’s Cafe offers extras including a small Mediterranean grocery and a full-scale hookah lounge. These perks were enough to set it apart from the competition, making it your choice for Best Middle Eastern Food.
Aladdin’s Cafe in Lawrence is a family buiness, owned and managed by Mohamed Iskandrani. Iskandrani’s brother Mazen runs the cafe’s second location in Kansas City’s Westport area.
Address: 1021 Mass.
Phone number: 832-1100
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Mohamed Iskandrani
Honorable mentions: Close, but not quite.
Mediterranean Market & Cafe, 3300 W. Bob Billings Parkway
The Lebanese Flower
Two of the next three winners are integral in how people start their day: coffee and breakfast. Both categories were highly contested and both stayed local. The third one, on the other hand is a national chain that set itself apart from the pack through its affordable goods and wide range of brands. Up next: Bookstore, dessert and Middle Eastern food.
Best Coffee: La Prima Tazza
Situated on a hallowed strip of Mass. Street, between Liberty Hall and Free State Brewery, La Prima Tazza now owns the distinction of Best Coffee in Lawrence — not that it didn’t already claim to be the town’s best. Colombian, Costa Rican, Ethiopian and Nicaraguan beans are among a half-dozen estate coffees available for bulk purchase. The shop also offers just as many house blends.
For those just looking for a quick cup, the options are vast. French-pressed brews share residence on the menu with concoctions such as the exclusive Mole Mocha, a spicy take on the traditional chocolatey blend.
When the temperature finally rises, iced drinks such as the Grasshopper (mint and chocolate) and Moroccan (exotic spices and chocolate) make for a fine summer option. And who can beat the location? Whether you’re looking for a nightcap after a show or needing to shake a Wheat State Golden-induced buzz, La Prima Tazza’s a few steps — or shuffles — away.
Address: 638 Mass.
Phone number: 832-2233
Hours: Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 11p.m.; Friday & Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Owner/Proprietors: Dave and Susan Millstein, Sarah Richardson
Honorable mentions: Roast ’em if you got ’em.
Z’s Divine Espresso, 1800 E. 23rd St. and 10 E. Ninth St.
Milton’s Coffee, 920 Mass.
Starbucks, 647 Mass.
Best Breakfast or Brunch: Milton’s Coffee
Want something truly special for breakfast? Try out Milton’s French toast — thick slices dipped in a brandy-spiked mixture and cooked until perfectly golden on the outside and moist on the inside.
This breakfast spot might not be very big, but if you can get a table, it’s easy to relax with one of the coffee bar’s fine drinks and a big stack of honey buttermilk pancakes or the aforementioned French toast. Not one for carbs? The traditional eggs menu includes eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and eggs, and huevos rancheros.
Address: 920 Mass.
Phone number: 832-2330
(Breakfast) Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: David Lewis
Honorable mentions: Give me all of your bacon and eggs.
First Watch Restaurant, 2540 Iowa.
Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt.
Mirth, 745 N.H.
Best Apparel Store: Kohl’s
It’s got everything from cookwares to luggage to toys, but Kohl’s is the place to go for apparel in Lawrence. With deep discounts and nationally recognized brands, deal-seekers stretch their bucks at the department chain, which came to Lawrence 13 years ago.
Address: 3240 Iowa
Phone number: 842-6133
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Honorable mentions: Still look sharp.
Weaver’s, 901 Mass.
Urban Outfitters, 1013 Mass.
Wild Man Vintage, 939 Mass.
The ballots have been counted and the awards have been distributed. Today we can officially reveal the winners of Best of Lawrence 2011. The community response was huge for the inaugural Best of Lawrence of the new decade. We'll be rolling out new winners hourly, today, so check back often.
To start, we have four categories, two highly contested, two not so much.
Best New Restaurant: 715
Massachusetts Street has seen its fair share of new restaurants in the past few years, but this year there’s one newbie that stands out the most to Lawrence.com visitors: 715.
Executive chef Michael Beard trained in Italy and has slipped the old-world skills he learned into elevating traditional dishes with special touches such as homemade pork products. What’s more, many of the dishes are prepared with locally sourced and handmade ingredients.
Address: 715 Mass.
Phone number: 856-7150
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to midnight
Owners/proprietors: Michael Beard and Matt Hyde
Honorable mentions: Defeat never tasted so good.
Esquina, 801 Mass.
Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt.
Noodles & Co., 8 W. Eighth St.
Best Gluten-Free Options: The Merc
For those who can’t tolerate gluten, the protein that appears in grains like wheat, barley and rye, eating can be a minefield.
Making it a little easier is The Merc, which carries gluten-free baked goods, processed items and deli items. The variety of all-things-gluten-free is stunning and includes locally made gluten-free packaged foods and gluten-free books by local authors.
The Merc’s cooking class schedule even regularly includes ones aimed at teaching gluten-free cooking and baking techniques to those who are gluten-sensitive or knows someone who is. And there must be quite the number of folks in Lawrence who have gluten sensitivity because the “Gluten-Free Options” category was added this year after a grass-roots campaign on Twitter.
Address: 901 Iowa
Phone Number: 843-8544
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Owner: It has a member-owner co-op format, with shoppers buying shares.
Honorable mentions: Goodbye, gluten.
Local Burger, 714 Vt.
Ingredient, 947 Mass.
Zen Zero, 811 Mass.
Best Wi-Fi Hotspot: Mirth Café
We live in a wireless world. That statement is as much a truth as it is a cliché. And when it comes to where to log on and unwind, The Mirth Café got Lawrence’s vote as the town’s Best Wi-Fi Hotspot.
A down-to-earth wait staff, bottomless cups of awesome Venezuelan coffee, a strong menu and relaxing environment contribute to a fine place to get some work done.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mirth regularly offers a diverse rotation of menu specials while artwork from local artists is usually on display.
While it might be a little counterproductive if you’ve got a to-do list, patrons 21 and older are welcome to bring their own bottle of wine.
And if that’s Facebook on your browser instead of homework or spreadsheets, we’re sure no one will mind.
Address: 745 N.H.
Phone number: 841-3282
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Owner/Proprietor: Robert Wilson
Honorable mentions: It’s all in the network.
Java Break, 17 E. Seventh St.
Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.
Border’s, 700 N.H.
Best Place to Watch a Game: Johnny’s Tavern
Big TVs, a great list of drinks and famously good burgers make Johnny’s Tavern the place to watch a big Kansas University basketball game in Lawrence.
Johnny’s Tavern opened in 1953 in North Lawrence and has since expanded into the Kansas City market and out west to its second Lawrence location, on Wakarusa. In 1978, friends and Johnny’s lovers Rick Renfro and Doug Hassig bought the business and added a grill, meaning Johnny’s famous burgers were born.
Each of the six locations is a bit different, but what is definitely consistent is that the crowds flock to the sports bar anytime the Jayhawks are playing. A visitor can easily tell from the rise and fall of the patrons voices just how the game is going — a peek at the score is unneeded.
These days, bar-goers have more than burgers to enjoy, with Johnny’s adding an expanded menu along with its newer locations. Vistors can cheer on the Jayhawks while dining on fare such as salads, wraps and pizza.
Addresses: 401 N. Second St., 721 Wakarusa drive
Phone numbers: 842-0377, 843-0704
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Owners/Proprietors: Rick Renfro, Doug Hassig and others
Opened: 1953, 2009
Honorable mentions: Game on.
Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, 1012 Mass.
23rd Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway
Set ’em Up Jacks, 1800 E. 23rd St.
In the wake of recent budget cuts, fundraisers and benefits for arts programs have become even more valuable. Tonight, Theatre Lawrence hosts a benefit called Dueling Divas, which features nine local talents attempting to out-perform one another in the name of a good cause.
The women competing are as follows: Annette Cook, Barbara Ballard, Genee, Figuieras, Kim Murphee, Susan Ralston, Kim Scarbrough, Sarah Young, Patty McGrew and our own Boomer Girl contributor, Cathy Hamilton. Attendees vote for a specific diva or even multiple divas by pledging a dollar to Theatre Lawrence. Voting multiple times for your favorite contestant is encouraged and at the end of the night, the diva with the most votes wears the prestigious Diva Crown.
Tickets to the performance are $50 per person or $65 for premium seating. All tickets guarantee heavy hor d'oeuvres, free drinks before the show and yes, access to a chocolate fountain. If those tickets are too rich for your blood, but you still want to vote for your favorite performer, you can do so any time by visiting this link. And if you're asking yourself, "Why would I vote early for a performance I haven't seen yet," then you're missing the point.
Have safe and happy Valentine's Day weekend everyone.
It's no secret that Eric Melin and I love the Academy Awards. Yesterday we finished taping our Oscar preview for 49 News in Topeka and we talk about the Oscars in this week's podcast, namely focusing on the people who were snubbed.
Rather than wait until it gets closer to the award ceremony, I thought I'd share my current picks for the 12 categories I find most interesting. Stay tuned because soon we'll be issuing our own 2011 Academy Awards You Pick 'Em Extravaganza that will allow you to pick your winners and if win some movie passes in the process. We'll be launching that contest later in February, but in the meantime, here's how I picked. Keep in mind, these are the movies I think will win, not necessarily the movies I want to win.
"The King's Speech"
David Fincher, "The Social Network"
Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Best Supporting Actress
Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
Best Animated Feature
"Toy Story 3"
Roger Deakins, "True Grit"
"Exit Through The Gift Shop"
Angus Wall and Kurt Baxter, "The Social Network"
Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"
Christopher Nolan, "Inception"
And there you have it. Eric Melin's picks are quite similar to mine. We differ on Original Screenplay (He favors "The King's Speech.") and Best Picture ("The Social Network"). Stay tuned for our contest starting next week and you could net yourself some movie passes to the Southwind 12.
It's the time of year for holiday shows, arts bazaars, crafts and good cheer, but December also brings us several opportunities to give back, help out, and show a little pride in our community in the process. Lawrence.com has been highlighting some of the events and projects in our area that feature local artists and artisans using their natural talents to support community charities and non-profits.
One such event this week is the Americana Music Academy's holiday show. Currently, the academy is running on empty with no money remaining for scholarships, music therapy, or any of the other services the non-profit provides. Volunteers at the academy are hoping that proceeds generated from the show will be enough to replenish their scholarship fund.
"It's really important that these kids who are getting started with their music are given the opportunity to continue, without feeling like they're not going to be able to do it. That's one of the reasons we do what we do with scholarships, so that students can continue their education, " Americana representative Diane Gillenwater said.
Planned for Friday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., this year's holiday show has a Celtic theme with Irish and Scottish holiday music joining traditional holiday standards. Local musicians including Cindy Novelo, Scott Richardson and Scott Trichenor will perform with Topeka group Pastense providing sing-a-long carols at the program's conclusion.
For the show's finale, a choir of Kazoo players will blow through "The Hallelujah Chorus" as lead by Americana Music Academy board president K.C. Compton. Everyone in attendance is given a kazoo and audience is participation is encouraged.
"I think the Americana is important because creating music with other people creates community and also, I know that if you learn to play an instrument or sing, that becomes a part of you for the rest of your life," Compton said.
The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday tickets are $10. Or you can make a direct donation here.
Tonight’s entry comes at the behest of my Mr. Eric Melin, who assured me that 1994’s “Clifford” would be the kind of cult romp practically made for Insomniac Movie Theater. And boy, is it ever.
“Clifford” features the dynamite comedy duo of Martin Short and Charles Grodin, the former enjoying the last bit of comedic magnetism before slipping into temporary obscurity, the latter enjoying the sweet success of the Beethoven franchise before disappearing into long-term obscurity.
Short plays the titular character, first as a geriatric priest, and then, more famously, as prepubescent boy despite being 44 years old at the time of movie’s release. The premise is simple enough: Short’s Clifford is a terrible child who desperately wants to go to Dinosaur World, a dinosaur theme park. His uncle, played by Grodin, wants to prove to his fiance Sarah (Mary Steenburgen) that he’s ready for children, so he offers to look after Clifford for a week while his parents are in Hawaii.
But wackiness ensues, as it’s known to do in movies like this, but in “Clifford” wackiness takes a much different form. Clifford is a sociopath; a calculating, mercilessly vengeful little bastard that stops at nothing to get what he wants. And when his uncle postpones their trip to Dinosaur World, Clifford snaps.
During the movie’s remaining hour, Clifford gets his uncle arrested, tricks him into travelling to San Francisco, destroys his life’s work, and most devious of all, convinces his fiance that he molested Clifford, or rather, allowed a biker gang to do so.
On paper, the movie has all the trappings of a fantastic black comedy in the same vein as Peter Berg’s “Very Bad Things,” but despite the movie’s best efforts, it can’t escape the comedic vacuum of Short’s gimmickry. The script and director Paul Flaherty bend over backwards to incorporate all of Short’s well-worn foolishness: he awkwardly dances, he does over-reaching impressions, constant pratfalls –– essentially everything he’d been doing since his SCTV days (where Flaherty was a director). Take for instance this scene:
Despite scenes like that, there are some genuine laughs in “Clifford,” mostly because of Grodin, who may only be capable of one kind of character, but he plays that character remarkably well. And cheap shots aside, Short and Grodin do work well together, when Grodin is commanding the scene and Short is reacting. This scene perfectly displays both Short’s ham-handedness and Grodin’s timing and ability as a straight man.
In terms of legendarily weird movies, “Clifford” is required viewing, if only for the fact that Short plays a character at least 40 years younger than his age at the time of filming and every actor is required to pretend that the idea isn’t preposterous. That alone is worth the price of admission –– or in this case, a Netflix stream. But past that is a movie that is largely wasted potential. It’s understandable why the movie didn’t go darker. Short had an image at the time of being a goofy character actor that starred in goofy, but family-friendly movies. Grodin was coming off the Beethoven sequel and was two years away from his CNBC talk show.
That said, had “Clifford” gone further, maybe it would have more to say for itself than a middle-aged, preteen protagonist. At least Grodin’s funny.
Insomniac Movie Theater: The Thing
As keeping with horror remake month and the rules set out by the insomniac blog that all movies must be on Netflix Instant, late-night television, or from my personal collection, I got to rewatch one of the all-time great horror movies on a technicality.
Less of a remake and more of a total overhaul, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is a remake of “The Thing from Another World” the same way that Martin Campbell’s “Casino Royale” is a distant, distant cousin to the 1966 original. This is the sum total of commonality the two films share: Scientists at an arctic research base discover an alien life-form that means them harm.
But while the original was a schlocky monster movie in the same vein as the Universal classics of the era, Carpenter wisely focused on the isolation and paranoia that begins to creep in as a group of men are slowly picked off by an alien that emulates organic lifeforms, assuming the form of the research station’s crew in the process.
Of course, Ennio Morricone’s minimalist soundtrack compliments the sparse landscapes and close-quarters that the crew inhabit perfectly and in the process raise Carpenter’s already high sense of danger and vacancy.
And inhabiting this lonely environment of eminent doom is a perfectly cast set of character actors, who all fill their roles perfectly, giving believable performances without ever trying to outdo one another. The cast is lead by Carpenter favorite Kurt Russell, but also features great work from Donald Moffat, Keith David, and, yes, Wilford Brimley. Russell is given staring credit as RJ MacReady, but he shares screen time with the rest of the cast to the point that the title is almost inaccurate.
As MacReady, Russell demonstrates that he is capable of a metered performance in the hands of Carpenter, who often had him playing one extreme (Snake Plissken) or another (Jack Burton). MacReady is the best kind of action hero, in that he’s unpredictable and uncertain. He reacts to the events that unfold in front of him indistinctly and because of that sometimes he saves lives and other times people die.
The real star of “The Thing” is the creature itself. Roy Arbogast who has worked on special effects milestones such as “Jaws,” “The Return of The Jedi,” and “The Fugitive” leads a crew that did a lot with a little, using a combination of complicated puppets and mechanical creatures and old school camera tricks including reverse photography. The first appearance of the creature is still as creepy as it was 28 years ago.
But if there’s any one scene that defines “The Thing” it’s the blood-jump scene, as it epitomizes everything the movie does right. In the scene MacReady has established that he’s in charge, fending off the remainder of the crew with a blow torch and forcing them all to tie themselves up. But MacReady has a plan. He takes blood from each of the survivors, collecting it in a Petri dish and then explains that while the blood is just blood in a human, in the creature, it’s living tissue that will react to stimuli. He then heats up a copper wire and prods each sample of blood.
The anticipation, MacReady’s instincts, the uncertainty and unpredictability, and the sudden, but earned scare, all go a long way in creating a memorable scene and defining the movie as a whole. “The Thing” may technically be a remake, but if all remakes were this good, then Hollywood might not need inflated ticket prices to stay in the black. And I might not cringe every time I see a trailer for “Valentine’s Day,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or any other horror movie that was made once and now gets to be made again with even more gimmicks attached.
64 million people a year suffer from insomnia and every so often, I am one of them. But rather than use the extra time I've been given during an insomniac episode to be productive — balance my checkbook, study for the LSAT or exercise — I instead fool myself into thinking the time isn't my own and can therefore waste it without guilt.
Netflix instant queue is the perfect response to this mentality as it gives me access to countless B and C movies all of which I willingly watch while everyone else is fast asleep. Enter Insomniac Movie Theater, where I subject myself to some of the worst, campiest and outright terrible movies the world has to offer ... and the occasional cult classic.
The inaugural Insomniac Movie Theater deserves a truly infamous movie--one that's so transcendentally awful that it actually becomes entertaining. It single-handedly killed the career of Barry Pepper and relegated John Travolta to the occasional supporting role and object of self-parody. That's right rat-brains, it's the multi-Razzie-award-winning trainwreck, "Battlefield Earth."
"Battlefield Earth" is like a unicorn--a shitty, shitty unicorn. You hear stories about it, you completely doubt its existence and then once you've actually seen it, it's so surreal, you think you imagined it. There's so much wrong with this movie it's hard to know where to begin. Even the character names are horrible.
Barry Pepper plays Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (see!), a member of a small, caveman-like tribe of humans in the year 3000. When his father dies, he leaves his tribe in search of what lies beyond his desolate home. During his travels he meets Carlo, played by Kim Coates (Tig from "Sons of Anarchy") and an armada of giant, dreadlocked aliens collectively known as Psychlos. They are led by Travolta's scene-chewing Terl.
Terl despises humans and Earth and when he gets the bad news that he has to stay there for another 50 cycles (with endless options for renewal), he snaps and decides to start training humans to use alien technology so that they can secretly mine gold for him. That's the plot. Right there. "Battlefield Earth" basically boils down to a giant gold heist.
And how does Jonnie Goodboy (seriously?) and the rest of the gang react to this? Well, once they learn how to use alien technology, they meet up with some other cavemen, learn to fly harriers, and kill the alien insurrection in one fell swoop.
If "Battlefield Earth" is memorable for anything, it's Travolta's scene-chewing and director Roger Christian's love of slow motion and squibs.
Here's how I imagine the conversation between Christian and Travolta regarding his character Terl:
Christian: You play Terl. He's a world weary leader, fed up with the bureaucracy of his superiors. Finally he resorts to betraying his comrades. How do you want to play the character?
Travolta: Like a flamboyant high-school drama teacher.
Seriously, Travolta's overdramatic verbal flourishes, such as when he says "top of my class" in the first clip becomes a running gag. By the movie's conclusion, it's hard not to find him oddly endearing, if only because he's the king of the turd mountain that is the movie.
On a production level, the movie is hilarious as it features some of the worst greenscreen and scaling effects ever committed to film. When we get to see the planet Psychlo, visually, it's on par with one of the Action Pack made-for-TV movies from the mid 90s.
And the writing, oh, the writing. There's so much cheesy dialog that our own Eric Melin came up with a drinking game for watching "Battlefield Earth." Here are the rules:
- Drink whenever anyone says "rat-brain."
- Drink whenever anyone says "leverage."
- Drink whenever anyone says "man-animal."
- Drink whenever anyone says "blow the dome."
- Drink whenever anyone says "Psychlo."
I would also add:
- Drink whenever anyone yells "No!"
I should point out here that if you were to follow these instructions to the letter you will die of alcohol poisoning within the movie's first hour.
Until "I Know Who Killed Me" (starring Lindsay Lohan) earned eight Golden Raspberries, "Battlefield Earth" was tied with "Showgirls" for the most dishonors by a single film. In 2000, it won worst director, worst actor, worst supporting actor, worst supporting actress, worst screen couple, worst screenplay and worst picture.
You would think that having the rest of the decade as a buffer for other horrible films to replace or at least match the scorn critics had for it. "Battlefield Earth" won Worst "Drama" of Our First 25 Years and Worst Picture of the Decade awards from the Razzies. Screenwriter J.D. Shapiro even publicly apologized for it.
There are some movies like "Blade Runner" or "Alien" that are initially poorly received, but after enough time passes finds its audience and is eventually rightfully appreciated. "Battlefield Earth" is not one of those movies. It is laughable, though. Then again, so is "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
See more Insomniac Movie Theater entries along with other movie reviews and daily features at scene-stealers.com.
Liam Neesan leads an elite commando unit found guilty of a crime they didn’t commit in “The A-Team,” the testosterone-fueled reboot of the 80s television series of the same name.
Writer/director Joe Carnahan wisely avoids a self-serious tone that would have made a movie about four living action figures unintentionally funny and instead fills “The A-Team” with enough self-awareness and confidence for two movies. While “The A-Team” edges dangerously close to smug territory, there’s enough seriousness during the tensely directed action segments to keep the characters and the movie on the right side of the line.
The indestructibility and unflappable confidence of the characters serves as a nod, not just to the original series, but 80s action movies as a whole. No one ever legitimately worried about whether Hanibal and the boys were going to escape whatever life-threatening situation they found themselves in, just like no one ever worried about whether Sylvester Stallone was going to make it out of “Rocky IV” or if Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to survive “The Running Man.”
Instead, the focus is appropriately placed on the team’s ridiculous plans and the surgical execution that goes into seeing them through. It’s unfair (not to mention too easy) to compare “The A-Team” to “The Losers,” but the action, scale, and scope of The A-Team’s exploits stand head and shoulders above anything that happened in that other buddy movie about four soldiers wrongfully accused.
At its best moments, “The A-Team” looks like a big budget G.I. Joe playset, where anything can happen. Characters defy the laws of physics on a regular basis and the ludicrously impossible become common, accepted, and ultimately, entertaining.
These action scenes work all the better because of the cast, which really couldn’t be more spot-on. Neesan gives Hannibal the appropriate level of mentor/father figure qualities, while maintaining the physical presence necessary to be a believable team leader. Bradly Cooper proves that he should do more action movies. He manages to balance the pretty boy routine with some more deliberate moments. Sharlto Copley steals several scenes as Murdock, but manages to avoid chewing too much scenery. Unsurprisingly, the weakest link is the only non-actor, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, who spends the entire movie doing his best Mr. T impression.
Casting a non-actor as B.A. Baracus makes Carnahan’s decision to center much of the subplot on the Mohawk-sporting asskicker all the more puzzling. Yes, the subplot is ancillary to the main story, but Baracus’s struggle with pacifism becomes increasingly laughable as the movie goes on and watching Jackson try to act his way through his character’s internal conflict is even funnier.
Not to be outdone, Cooper gets his own subplot with token lady Jessica Biel, but they’re both better actors and therefore slightly more tolerable. But only slightly. Carnahan’s decision to try and deepen the two most superficial members in the team’s roster is more distraction than anything.
When “The A-Team” sticks to ridiculous action and winking self-assurance, the movie works, but when it begins to add unnecessary plot twists or deepen characters, namely Baracus, the movie starts to lose its grip. There’s a time and a place for characterization –– it’s called winter and drama. Summer action movies, especially ones based on a three-season, family-friendly television show from 27 years ago, can get away with being shallow and direct, as long as they’re exciting.
For the most part, “The A-Team” is exciting. It’s over-the-top, requires zero investment and manages to top itself on a regular basis. And given the lukewarm summer releases so far, that’ll do.
Well, ABC's sprawling Sci-Fi/Fantasy/bait-and-switch series Lost is over. And while I won't use cliches like "end of an era," in a way, I hope that it is. I hope that with Lost's conclusion network TV dramas regain their sanity and place focus more on grounded plotlines and believable characters.
Once again, Spoiler Alert
Lost's finale consisted of two storylines. The first took place on the island as Jack assumed his role as the new protector and set out on his plan to kill Smocke while Miles, Richard and Frank got the plane in flying condition.
Meanwhile in Bizarro World, Hurley and Desmond continued their mission of waking up the candidates, as they planned a final rendezvous at an undisclosed location.
While the on-island plot was urgent and involved some long overdue conflict between Smocke and the rest of the candidates, the events in Bizzaro World were far more evocative or emotionally manipulative, I can't tell which. As each candidate was reminded of their other life, the audience was treated with a flashback montage that distilled the essence of each character. And while that may have been an overt bit of fan service, it was still satisfying to be reminded of just how far the show has come.
The more resonant epiphanies tended to involve couples. Jin and Sun's self-realization was genuinely moving, as Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim successfully conveyed experiencing an entire life over the course of a few seconds. Likewise, Sawyer and Juliet's moment was long-overdue.
On the island, Jack's plan to stop Smocke worked, but left the island in peril and himself mortally wounded. His final scene with Kate and Sawyer was touching and his moment with Hurley hit hard, too.
But here's the problem with the finale: the final scene.
First off, the one positive: the contrast of the candidates joyously greeting each other, while Jack stumbled to his death and smiled as he saw the plane full of his friends fly home. That was powerful.
But it was completely negated by the final scene between Christian and Jack where we learn that the candidates have gathered in some ethereal place where everyone gets what they want and the decisions, suffering and emotional weight they (and thereby the audience) have accumulated over the last six seasons, is utterly meaningless.
Yes, you could interpret that as a philosophical statement about death and rebirth, a recurring theme in the show. Or you could see it as lazy writing and one last metaphysical cheap shot to give the audience a point to debate.
While the entire show was exquisitely produced and acted, it wasn't quite the swan song it could have been.
"Not leaving. Moving on."
No more predictions to make for future episodes, but I can always speculate on the future of the actors' careers.
Matthew Fox: With only one project even in development, according to IMDB, Fox will probably be off the radar for awhile. He's a fine dramatic actor, but his film choices have been less than stellar.
Fox has said outright that he's done with TV. When his bank account starts to get light, we'll see how serious that statement really is.
Josh Holloway: Holloway wants to do movies. He told Movieline recently he's giving it two years and then going back to TV, if the silver screen doesn't work out. Holloway kicked himself for missing out on a chance to cameo as Gambit in X-Men: The Last Stand.
It'd be great to see Holloway get hooked up with a director that would know how to use his inherent likability and good ole boy charm. Maybe Lost creator J.J. Abrams or Robert Rodriguez, two directors that have a way of making movies fun, even when they're not always great.
Naveen Andrews: Andrews got a great bit part in Rodriguez's underrated "Planet Terror." It'd be great to see him bring his vulnerability and temper to another movie character. Maybe a director like Alfonso Cuaron could make use of him.
Or he'll end up on 24 as a hero/villain within two years.
Evangeline Lilly: Lilly is starring in "Real Steel" a movie IMDB describes as, "A boxing drama set in the near-future where 2,000-pound robots that look like humans do battle." In other words, it's "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots: The Movie."
Like Fox, Lilly's also said no more TV. It looks like she won't be returning to her Live Links roots anytime soon.
Terry O'Quinn: O'Quinn wants to do another show with Michael Emerson for ABC about hitmen that live in the suburbs. Past that, who knows. O'Quinn's been a bit character in movies, but it looks like he's ready to settle into something more regular.
Michael Emerson: See above.
Jorge Garcia: Garcia has roots in comedy, so it'd be good to see him return to that. His role on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was memorable enough to get him his part on "Lost," in the first place.
Daniel Dae Kim: A cast member with multiple projects in the works! Kim is already cast in the TV remake of "Hawaii Five-O" as Detective Chin Ho Kelly. He's also in the upcoming Matt Damon Sci-Fi movie "The Adjustment Bureau," which is based on a Philip K. Dick story.
Yunjin Kim: The show's other Kim is actually quite famous in her native South Korea, so she can always get work back home. In the meantime, she's got a role in "The Unconditional," a movie in preproduction with scant details.
Nestor Carbonell: Smokey-eyed Carbonell is the voice of Leeu in "Noah's Ark: The New Beginning." His other show on CBS got cancelled during its first season, so he's probably waiting on Christopher Nolan to finish the Batman 3 script. Maybe he can reprise his role as the mayor.
And that's it for Lost
But there's always Breaking Bad, Treme, The Tudors and Party Down...
Since the show's pilot, then the most expensive in network history, Lost has been a constant source of dramatic expectations and emotional payouts. And because the show's creators have admittedly not always known where the series was going, Lost has been frustrating on more than one occasion.
Despite all of the unexplained moments (Walt's prominence in early seasons/The three-toed statue) and botched moments (Libby's death), Lost is the most ambitious show on television –- not the best mind you, but definitely the most ambitious. How else could you classify a show that began with a plane crash and has now arrived at a fundamental battle between good and evil? (Other than lazy writing, if you got fed up with the show early.)
The Season six finale finds the central characters in a similar position to all of the previous season finales. That is, separated and fragmented. The key difference here being that they are separated across timelines, rather than just spatial distance.
The show may be ending, but that doesn't mean story is going to get any more narrow in the moments leading up to the finale. I was really hoping for some more answers, maybe a clear-cut objective or endgame for alterna-Desmond or an explanation into how the island can be destroyed, but like Allison Janney's character said in the excellent pseudo-origin story, "Across The Sea," every answer leads to another question.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead...if you're not caught up to the pre-finale episode
Here's what we know: Jack has volunteered to replace Jacob as the island's protector. Smocke not only wants to leave the island, but now wants to use Desmond to destroy it.
Meanwhile in Bizzaro World, Desmond, who has been not only aware of the sideways timeline, but can apparently show it to people through direct intervention, has positioned himself with all of the core candidates. He has arranged for all of them to attend Pierre Chang's benefit at a museum. Bizzaro-Hurley also seems to be onboard with Desmond's plan, though we never saw his epiphany moment take place.
The death toll up to this point: Last episode, Smocke killed Zoe and Ben killed Widmore. They join Jin, Sun, Sayid, Juliet, Ilana, Bram and pretty much all of The Others and Widmore's support crew as characters who died horrible deaths this season.
My two cents: Jack has been the heir apparent to protect the island all along, first in his role as a reluctant leader after the crash and then as a broken man once he and the rest of The Oceanic Six actually escaped. Whether he will end up being the protector or a last-minute plot twist will change that, is unknown — but as it stands, it's a good choice, dramatically speaking.
In Bizzarro World, the character's don't actually seem that unhappy, just bored. It's really telling that the horrible fate they have to suffer is being normal. Locke is with his fiance and resolved about his handicap. Jack has a son. Kate still sucks.
What the finale needs to do to be considered a success: I won't ask for something as ridiculous as closure, though it would be nice. But one thing the show has always done right is create character-defining moments.
Remember how amazing it was when Boone died and Locke pounded on The Hatch in the rain until the light came on? Or when Charlie did one last thankless noble deed by scrawling "Not Penny's boat" on his hand? Or when Jack told Kate they had to go back? Or when Sawyer knelt in the rain with a gun to his head while his friends watched helplessly? These are the moments people will always remember when they think of the show and while this season's had a few of them, the finale needs to create that sense of urgency and poignancy for the show as whole.
And while that may be asking a lot for a two-and-a-half hour network drama, I and the legions of fans have given six years of our lives to this show. We've endured smoke monsters, body doubles, ghosts, Dharma sharks, criticism from Battlestar Galactica elitists, obvious errors in continuity and a pair of creators that have openly admitted they had no idea where the show was going on multiple occasions.
In other words, we fucking deserve it.
Predictions: On the island, Smocke, Ben and Jack will both try to get to Desmond for different reasons. Richard Alpert will make a dramatic appearance to sacrifice himself and save the day. Smocke will kill Kate because she's not a candidate. Hurley will survive, Sawyer won't.
In Bizzaro World, all of the candidates will attend the party and the timelines will merge. Alterna-Sawyer will have that Dutch date with Juliet she foreshadowed in the season six premiere. Those who watch the Jimmy Kimmel Aloha to Lost episode will be shocked to learn that despite more than a decade on television, Kimmel still has no personality.
Mandatory viral video: Let's get this over with.