Friday, June 17, 2016

The Revenant



In the 1820s, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his half-Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) act as guides for fur trappers led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). After the party is attacked by hostile Ree, tensions rise between Glass and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a trapper with strong anti-Indian sentiments. Not long thereafter, Glass is attacked by a bear and seriously wounded. Though Henry leaves Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to watch over him, they instead leave him for dead. However, the iron-willed Glass isn’t vanquished yet and swears revenge. To get it, he will have to travel through territory patrolled by rival French trappers and a Ree chief who will kill anyone in order to find his missing daughter.

Thanks to an unfounded rumor, many will only know The Revenant as “that movie where Leo was raped by a bear.” There is no bear-rape here, but there is plenty else that makes The Revenant stand out. Alejandro Inarritu (of Birdman and Babel fame) directed this adaptation of Michael Punke’s novel, itself loosely based on a true story. In the spirit of Cormac McCarthy’s Western novels, it’s a harsh, violent film yet one that pairs its gore with an elegiac view of nature, here in the form of Emmanuel Lubezki’s sharp cinematography. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s haunting score is an appropriate complement.

Those who have a frame of reference beyond the bear incident may also know of The Revenant as the film that finally netted DiCaprio an Academy Award. That selection rightly raised some eyebrows (this is not DiCaprio’s best work and Matt Damon or Michael B. Jordan were just as worthy), but it is not without merit. While he doesn’t have much dialogue, DiCaprio underwent a Christian Bale-like physical transformation and ably conveyed Glass’s determination and sense of anguish. Hardy favorably called to mind Josh Brolin’s villainous turn in True Grit while Poulter plays Bridger (a future frontier legend) as both na├»ve and capable. Gleeson, on the other hand, seems miscast: his father, Brendan, would have exerted the experience and authority needed for this role.

Despite the talent involved on both sides of the camera, there is no ignoring the idea that The Revenant simply doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The plot is that of a simple revenge tale, the notion that the frontier was an uncompromising land of moral grayness has been explored before, and even the characters’ deeper motivations – grieving over lost family – seem perfunctory here. Given Babel’s nonlinear approach and Birdman’s all-around strangeness, The Revenant’s straightforwardness will strike some as a waste of creative capability.

It may not be novel and it certainly isn’t for the squeamish, but The Revenant does provide enough stylistic flair and acting oomph to justify its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. This is the kind of movie that you can appreciate while still wishing that it offered more.

8/10

Dame's Chicken & Waffles


Located at 301 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Downtown Greensboro, Dame’s Chicken & Waffles specializes in chicken and waffles for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. Beer and wine are available, as is limited outdoor seating.

For many, chicken and waffles is comfort food. Here, it’s an art form. True, there are a few other offerings (shrimp and grits and salads among them), but your best bet is to go with what is on the sign. Chicken comes in cutlet, wing, and drumstick form while waffle choices include classic, sweet potato, gingerbread, blueberry, and there are plenty of shmears (flavored butters) to go with them. While you can order a la carte, the pre-made combinations present plenty of tasty options. For our first visit, my wife and I opted for the Frizzled Fowl (panko-crusted chicken cutlet, classic waffle, blueberry shmear, and plum sauce with almonds) and the Buff Brahmas (two cutlets with a whiskey cream sauce, a classic waffle, and a peach & apricot shmear).

The food was generously portioned and phenomenally tasty. Both cutlets had a thin, crispy coating and juicy, well-seasoned meat while the plate-sized waffles underneath were fluffy without being limp. The flavors also played well off of one another as the saltiness of the chicken and the plum sauce balanced the sweetness provided by shmears and syrups/drizzles. Among the sides, the mac and cheese was very cheesy and nicely laced with black pepper while the grits were creamy albeit quite thin.

The service and atmosphere here are definite plusses as well. The lunch counter and dark brown trim call to mind a classic Southern eatery. Our food arrived relatively quickly, and our server, Dianah, proved to be quite helpful. When we couldn’t decide on a side, she gave us bite-sized samples of all of them.

Of course, it would be too much to ask for all of this to be really affordable as well, and Dame’s is not. Most of the chicken and waffle combinations run in the $10-$15 range, which is not bad considering the quality and quantity (you will have leftovers) of the food, but higher than some who have had the dish (in its simpler form) elsewhere may be willing to go.

With great food and service in a comfortable environment, Dame’s is a no-brainer for anyone in the area who is at least curious to try (let alone craving) chicken and waffles. Now if only they were open for breakfast.

8.5/10

Dame's Chicken & Waffles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spotted Dog


Located at 111 East Main Street in downtown Carrboro, Spotted Dog serves appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and a few entrees for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The establishment has full ABC permits and outdoor seating. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options are available, and there is a late night menu on Fridays and Saturdays.

Spotted Dog is a place that wouldn’t really make sense outside of Carrboro (or, perhaps, Asheville). The name evokes a well-worn neighborhood bar, and while this is a bar with the requisite wood and brick, it’s well-maintained and adorned with local art. No, the dog theme is literal: nearly everything on the menu has a canine connotation. In addition, there is a strong vegan-friendly bent. Add to that the building’s triangular shape, and if nothing else, the Spotted Dog stands out.

But there is more than just novel design/branding here: the menu selection gives some separation from the pack as well. You can find everything from seafood (crab cakes, fish and chips) to Mexican and Asian-influenced specials to classic sandwiches in both meat and meatless iterations. For our first visit, my wife and I went with the radical rooben (tempeh, avocado, and the usual Reuben accoutrements), the Carolina crab cake sandwich, and an order of puppy ciao (a Mediterranean artichoke/olive/spinach/cheese dip). The dip was tasty, and several layers of flavor came though at once. My crab cake sandwich didn’t skimp on the crab, and the hint of bourbon made for an interesting twist. While my wife enjoyed the rooben (it wasn’t a greasy mess, as Reubens sometimes are), I found the tempeh a poor facsimile for corned beef. All told, the food was considerably better than average bar fare.



Unfortunately, while the staff were friendly, service at Spotted Dog was quite slow. Fellow patrons were few and far between when we visited on a Saturday afternoon, yet we wouldn’t have guessed from the wait times. Pricing here is a bit mystifying as well. A crab cake sandwich and a side for $9.50 was certainly affordable, as were several other menu options. But the vegan rendition of the crab cake is actually more expensive than the real deal, and some of the lunch features ($13.50 for vegan pozole verde, $13.95 for fish tacos) are definitely a stretch.

Spotted Dog is intriguingly funky, and chances are, you will find something worth trying here. Whether you are willing to wait for it, on the other hand, is another story.

7.75/10

Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato