Friday, December 31, 2010

My Teef Hurt

So, I had my teeth pulled today. Two wisdom on my right side, so I can honestly say that I've lost some wisdom over the holiday break. Double dumbass on me though for getting this done on NEW YEARS EVE. Now, I can't drink any swill from the trough of life that is boxed wine from ShopRite.


Here's a picture of some lunatic with teeth in his hand. Enjoy.

(Image courtesy of

Auditions Today: Super Hero

(Picture take from

Roger licks my palm and it starts to glow neon green.

“That’s pretty weak if that’s all you’ve got,” I say, wiping my hand on the side of my jeans, “Can’t you do anything else besides that? I mean, Captain Zeto’s in there. A little hand coloring isn’t going to get you into the League.”

Roger rolls his tongue in his mouth like he’s swishing around mouthwash and he spits on the street. In seconds, the ground begins to dissolve until there’s a hole in it the size of silver dollar.

“I could make it even bigger,” Roger says, smiling with green bubbles popping in-between his teeth, “but I’m saving the best for when I’m inside.”

“I’ll bet,” I say, wiping my hand on my jeans even harder now.

A red guy wearing overalls in front of us with a flaming horn in the middle of his head scoffs at this, shaking his head.

“Your friend’s right,” he says, his red horn glowing, “Those guys in der don’t want some punk who can spit acid. They ain’t lookin’ for anybody like you.”

“And who the hell are you?” Roger asks, his cheeks bulging like a bullfrog. I put my hand against my friend’s chest and I make him back up. Whoever this unicorn looking fellow is, he sure doesn’t know my friend, Roger. Even though I’ve never seen Roger’s powers before today (His mom has always been adamant that he kept them a secret, partly out of embarrassment, and partly for his own good), I’ve known him long enough to know that he has a short temper, powers or not. If this guy’s not careful, he might end up with half his face burned off.

(Image taken from

“Me? I’m Reggie da Rhino,” he says, “And I’m gettin’ that spot in der.”

“My ass, you are,” Roger says, puffing out his chest, “And what’s your special power supposed to be anyway? Jumping over rainbows? You look like a jerk with that thing.”

“You better take that back, boy,” “Reggie da Rhino” says, pounding his fist into his hand.

“Make me,” Roger says.

“Oh, please,” somebody chimes in behind us (Phew, I didn’t want to have to break that up).
Behind us stands a man with silver hair wearing a cape and a letter J on his chest. His arms are crossed and his chin is up in the air like a Yale graduate.

“Do you honestly think that the League wants hotheads like you in their ranks?” he asks, his eyes glowing white and the air getting cool around us, “They’re looking for experience in there, not two ruffians who would likely get them on the 6:00 News for blowing up an orphanage.”

The line shuffles forward, and we unconsciously shuffle with it. The three super powered beings still stare each other down.

“You don’t look so tough,” Roger says, moving me aside, “Is that all you can do anyway? Change the weather? That’s like Storm in the X-Men, and she’s a girl. You’ve got girl powers.”

“Yeah,” Da Rhino says, slapping Roger on the shoulder like they’re best friends now, “You got girl powers.”

“I will not stoop to your level,” the silver haired man says, shutting his eyes, “Just you wait and see. You’ll be turned out of there faster than the Flash running a mile.”

“Pfft, the Flash sucks,” Roger says, the line moving up again.

“Yeah, Flash sucks,” Rhino says.

“Flash is pretty lame,” I say.

“And you are?” the white haired man asks, his eyes opening up again, “You don’t even look like you have any powers.”

“I, uh,” I stutter, my heart racing.

“He doesn’t,” Roger says, stepping in front of me, “You got a problem with that?”

“Yeah, you got a problem?” Da Rhino says, now my best friend, too, suddenly.

“Hmff, the three of you aren’t worth the trouble,” he says, and he closes his eyes again, the weather turning back to normal.

“You’re up,” a man wearing a referee shirt says to Da Rhino, and he turns around.

“Hey, wish me luck, guys,” he says to us, running into the tent with his horn glowing.

There’s the sound of an explosion inside and a bright light. But seconds later, he walks back out with his head down.

“Biggest mistake dey ever made in their lives,” he says, not looking at either of us. Behind us, we hear the silver haired man chuckle.

“You’re up,” the referee says.

“Can I bring my friend in with me?” Roger asks, “For moral support.”

“As long as you’re not a team,” he says, “The League is only looking for one new member.”

“He doesn’t even have any powers,” Roger says, “He’s normal.”

He looks me over and then points back with his thumb and we both enter the hot tent together. I start sweating immediately.

We walk down a long hallway and find the three of them—Captain Zeto, Ms. Wonderful, and Yellow Blazer—sitting at a long table together.

“What do you have to offer us?” Ms. Wonderful asks, stifling a yawn.

“This!” Roger says, and he shoots a thick blast of green slime across the room, burning a hole in their tent about the size of a trampoline.

“Is that it?” Yellow Blazer asks, shooting a beam at the tent and patching it right back up,


“Next?” Roger shouts, “Next!? But that was incredible! You’ve never seen a hole that big from this far away and you know you haven’t!”

“It was pedestrian street magic at best,” Captain Zeto says, “Next.”

“Come on, Roger, these guys are idiots. Let’s go.”

“Wait a minute, we haven’t seen your powers yet,” Ms. Marvel says, pointing at me.

“Who me?” I ask, “Oh, I don’t have any powers.”

All of their eyes light up at once, and they whisper to each other.

“You’re in,” Captain Zeto finally announces, “You’re just what we’re looking for. Someone who won’t show us up. Welcome to the League!”

Thursday, December 30, 2010

You Know What I Hate? People Who Completely Stop When They Need To Make A Turn

(Image taken from

People are idiots. I hate them. I them a lot. Sometimes, when I drive, people are also on the road, and it pisses me off because most people can't drive. Let me explain.

A lot of times, there are these people on the road who are old. They drive about forty miles below the speed limit, and always look so confused when I pass them by screaming at them. Worst of all, though is when they stop completely to make a turn and just sit there, judging whether their lives would be better off if they turned onto Van Houten St at three miles an hour rather than twenty. Come on, man, hurry up. You're going to make me late for typing on my blog about how much I hate you.

Haven't any of these geezers ever played Mario Kart before? You break WHILE you turn. You don't stop completely.


Is that so hard? Gawd!

Santa Clause Ain't Coming To Town (1000 Word short story)

Image from

“Santa, where are you going with that shotgun?” Rudolph, with his nose so bright, asks.

“To handle some business,” Old Saint Nick says, lowering his sunglasses, and hopping onto his hover sled.

The motor goes VROOM, VROOM, VROOM, and Santa kicks it into overdrive. No need for the reindeer for this mission. This time, it’s personal.

The last time that bootleg, dollar store Santa imitator said he was the real Saint Nick, he revealed what was in his stocking to the kids. When Santa found out, he held him by the ankle over Niagra Falls and warned him that if he ever pulled a stunt like that again, then he would blow him to smithereens. And Santa wasn’t one to not keep his promises.

But Hoo boy, has that creep done it this time. It was Tinton the elf who spotted him while at a Build-A-Bear in New Jersey. He was in the process of making a doll for his nephew when he saw him, Travis the Pervert, as he’s known at the Riverside mall, up to his old antics again.

Wearing the beard, the red jacket and no pants at all, he ran through the mall screaming, “Santa loves you all, and to all a good night!” at the top of his lungs. It took three rent-a-cops on segways an entire hour to apprehend him. Sure, he was sent to jail, but how many children went home that day crying and telling their mommy’s that they didn’t want Santa Clause to come to their house. They’d rather celebrate Chanukah or Kwanzaa this year; anything but Christmas.

Santa slams on the peddle and soars into the night sky, the stars getting in his face. He brushes them out of his way and types in the address to the Jefferson County Jail on his GPS. That’s where the phony’s being held. When the exact location comes up on his screen, he steers in that direction and shoots past state after state, each one looking like a dull brown square from this high up. He soars until he sees the gray roof of the jail, and its walls are decked out with green and red Christmas lights. Even criminals need to get into the Christmas spirit, he supposes.

He parks his sled in the snow, clicks on the cloaking device, and pulls out his shotgun, cocking it and twirling it by the trigger before he shoves it down his backside, ready for action.

He kicks open the door and walks to the front desk, not even removing his sunglasses.

(Image taken from

“Is there a Travis the Pervert in this jail?” He asks the woman at the front desk, who’s reading an issue of People Magazine with his face on it.

“Who’s looking for h—” she begins before she sees him. She nearly jumps out of her seat, throwing her magazine across the room.

“You’re…!” She says, putting her hands to her mouth.

“That’s right,” Santa says, and he lowers his sunglasses and winks at her. And in that wink, there’s a twinkle in his eye.

“Oh, my God, I love you!” She screams, and Santa puts his hands together and bows his head humbly.

“Thank you. But as to the…”

“Oh, yes, he’s here,” she says, nearly shaking with rage now, “Oh, Santa, he was trying to tarnish your image. Please make him pay.”

“Oh, I will” Santa says, cracking his neck, “Believe me, I will. What cell number is he in?”
“Fourteen,” she says, already reaching for the key on her desk, “Please make him suffer, Santa. For the kids.”

And Santa nods to this, turning without saying another word.

He enters the door to the cells and walks down the cold hallway, his breath clearly visible. Maniacs begin screaming at him at first, but when they see who it is, they all get very quiet and tiptoe to the back of their cells, knowing not to mess with a pissed off St. Nick. He starts to whistle, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” but switches the lyrics of “White,” to “Red,” in his mind. When he gets to cell number 14, Travis lets out a scream, hiding in the corner and shivering like a cold child.

“Please, Santa, don’t do it! I had a reason! A Reason!” He shouts, and Santa lowers the shotgun from the man’s chest to his kneecaps.

“Speak now, or forever hold your peace, scumbag,” Santa says with one eye shut and the other aiming.

“It’s because of the Easter bunny!” Travis shouts, rushing to his cell bars and grabbing them, his face only inches away from Santa, who doesn’t flinch.

“What’s that you say? The Easter bunny? What about him? He’s one of my nearest and dearest friends.”

“He’s trying to sabotage you, Santa. It’s all over his YouTube channel.”

“You lie!”

“No, it’s true, Santa. Everybody knows that you never have time to check your Facebook account this time of year, so I knew I couldn’t just message you. But I had to get you down here some way. He wants to make Easter bigger than Christmas.”

“Bull,” Santa says, spitting on the ground, “Easter sucks. Nobody cares about Easter. Why should I believe you?”

“Because, during my strip search, I managed to sneak this in,” and he reaches into his butt, pulling out a dirty cell phone, “They barely even check you at the county jails.”

Santa cringes and he backs away, but he watches on, seeing what the man has to show him.
He watches on in horror as he sees the Easter Bunny doing the MC Hammer dance on the screen and offering free eReaders to anybody who shuns Christmas this year and turns over to Easter.

Before the video ends, Santa is already rushing back down the hall, ready to pay the Easter Bunny a visit.

With Santa gone, Travis goes on Facebook and updates his status to say: “Just saved Christmas. You’re welcome, world.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Five Classic rock Songs that you would Never Know the Name of if you Just Listened to the Chorus

Choruses. Aren’t they wonderful? Besides being really catchy, they allow you to know exactly what the song’s called without having to Shazam it or ask a friend to Shazam it since you haven’t gotten a new phone in the past seven years.

But sometimes, musicians are dicks. Instead of repeatedly saying “Poker Face” over and over again until your brain shuts down and you fart in your sleep, they write songs that actually have meaning to them. Sometimes, we actually have to type in the lyrics of said songs on Google just to know what the hell they’re actually called, as you wouldn’t know from just the chorus alone. Here are five songs from Classic rock radio that have absolutely nothing to do with the chorus at all.

1.What the song is really called: “The Ballad of John and Yoko” by The Beatles

In 1969, people would buy pretty much anything by the Beatles, even a song about John Lennon and Yoko Ono getting married and having a sleep over together. Would you believe that this song was actually number one on the charts when it came out, even though it’s not about holding hands or tripping out on LSD? Of course it did. The lost recordings of John Lennon taking a dump (on record) still haven’t been located yet, but when they are, expect big things for 2011. Big things

What you thought it was called: “They’re gonna crucify me”

After the whole, “We’re bigger than Jesus,” comment made by John, it only makes sense that you’d think he was responding to the whole incident through song. If you don’t know about that incident, it went a little like this. John was doing an interview one day and he was talking about how The Beatles, at the time, were more important to the youth of England than Jesus Christ. Well, that sounds about right. It was a pivotal time in English history. One where for about twenty seconds, people actually at first believed that John was right and were actually ready to throw out all their Jesus memorabilia and follow the church of Lennon, only eventually to decide that burning all their albums of Rubber Soul would be a better solution of pleasing their original God. To each their own.

2.What the song is really called: “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” by Bruce Springsteen

The forming of a band is an important occasion, and is it any wonder that the Boss would make a song dedicated about such an event? No, no it’s not. But the fact that even he has no idea why he gave the song that title is a little baffling. That is until, of course, you realize that this is Bruce Springsteen we’re talking about here, and this is a man who can make “Santa Clause is coming to town” sound like he’s summoning the devil from the depths of hell.

What you thought it was called: “Tell the Devil to Freeze Hell”

“Tell the Devil to Freeze Hell,” is such a great name for a song that you actually manage to tune out the fact that the Boss actually is saying the title of the song over and over again. So much so that the lyrics about “Bad Scooter” (BS-Bruce Springsteen, get it?) actually make you think he’s really talking about the devil rising from the ground and taking vengeance on the world for the events seen in the epic poem, Paradise Lost. Upon further interest, you decide to listen to the song backwards and manage to hear Bruce saying what sounds very much like, “Hail Satan, our lord and Prince.” And you get to thinking that the Boss is actually an anagram for Sobsthe, a demon you once had a dream about after watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose. No? Well, you just don’t have a good imagination then.

3.What the song is really called: “Black Dog,” by Led Zeppelin

Referencing a song about a black Labrador Retriever that used to walk around the Headley Grange studio where the group was recording at the time is pretty messed up for two reasons. One, nobody but the group saw that dog, so nobody but the group would understand what the title actually means, and two, it causes this writer to scribe an article about a song that basically sounds like Robert Plant making O faces on record.

What you thought this song was called: ?

Everybody I’ve talked to who doesn’t own every album by Led Zeppelin always has a different opinion on what the song is called. Those who know nothing about the group and don’t know that Jimmy Page would never allow a song to be called something as stupid as this have thought the song was called: Ahh, Ha, ah ha,” being that that’s the nearest thing to a chorus this song has. Others who know the band at least a little bit more and know that the group sometimes has some abstract lyrics and thoughts (Listen to “All of My Love.” Seriously, what the hell is he talking about?), have thought that the song was called something like, “Hey Mama,” since it sounds bluesy enough to be a Led Zeppelin title. I mean, it definitely sounds better than, “Ahh, Ha, ah ha.” But those who do know the group quite well will simply tell you, “It’s called ‘Black Dog,’ idiot. It was ranked #294 on the Rolling Stones top 500 songs ever recorded. Who the hell cares why it’s called that? It is what it is, so shut up.”

Nobody ever said Led Zeppelin fans were nice.

4. What the song is really called: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie

It’s said that after Bowie saw 2001: A Space Odyssey stoned off his mind, he wrote this song. It’s very famous and was even played during the moon landing in Britain and also during a scene in Mr. Deeds where Adam Sandler looked like he was going to swallow the whole audience. “Space Oddity,” you see, is a play on the words “Space Odyssey,” so it’s funny in that it’s a pun, and everybody loves puns. Also, it means the song is not in fact a deep and introspective look at a stranded man lost in space named Major Tom, but rather, some song that a high man wrote after he saw a movie that warrants being high just to sit through the entirety of. So for all you youngsters out there who don’t know a thing about Ziggy Stardust, know this. He was never really as deep as you thought he was. He was just a man who liked to say he lived out in outer space and sometimes slept in bed with Mick Jagger. In many ways, he was Adam Lambert before Adam Lambert was a twinkle in some man’s eye. But with talent.

What you thought it was called: “Ground Control to Major Tom”

Being that Bowie practically called himself an alien from another planet, this title doesn’t sound so far off. Especially since the title has to do with space anyway. But just think of that title up above for a moment, and then, think of how much better it sounds than “Space Oddity.” I mean, seriously, in what way shouldn’t the song be called “Major Tom”? If there was ever a song in the history of songs that has the wrong title attached to it, it’s…not this one, but the next one. But “Space Oddity”? Really? This is the same genius who wrote “Heroes.” Couldn’t he come up with something better than “Space Oddity”? Like, I don’t know, “Ground Control to Major Tom”? It doesn’t make any sense.

5.What the Song is really called: “Baba ‘O Riley” by The Who

Combining the song’s philosophical influence in Meher Baba, and the musical influence of Terry Riley, “Baba ‘O Reily” is the ultimate, “We could care less if you know what the song is called. Just listen to that intro. Whoooooo wee, that’ll get stuck in your head.”

What you thought it was called: “Teenage Wasteland”

Besides the fact that the words are said over and over again, the lyrics jibe with the idea as well. “I don’t need to fight” rhymed with “To prove I’m right,” definitely sounds like Robert Daltrey is referencing the Vietnam War and making a protest record. Coming out in 1972, the song would have definitely been relevant to the era and it certainly fits the zeitgeist. But you know what you don’t think of when hearing this song? Meher Baba and Terry Riley. In fact, are you still thinking about them now? No? Then good. The song is still called “Teenage Wasteland,” then. Don’t believe what I just said in this article, and don’t even research it. Because that only leads to problems. That said, “Teenage Wasteland” is a really great song.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: The A-Team

There are two kinds of people who went to see The A-Team last summer: those who loved the show, and those who had never seen it before but knew that Mr. T was in it, and also, that he pitied quite the fool. And even though I was born the same year the show premiered and have had access to the internet to watch it over the years, count me in the latter category. That being said, for a casual action nut who wasn’t head-over-heels for the show, The A-Team, in hindsight, was the greatest balls-to-the-walls action movie of the summer. I don’t know how the fans of the show felt about it, but I hear that they hated it. And all I can ask is, “How?” From the clips I’ve seen of the show, both it and the movie look like they were meant to be live-action cartoons. And how could you possibly go wrong with that?

The Movie: Four stars

Last summer, two big action movies came out. Both were supposed to cater to those who grew up in the '80s and liked explosions and the shirtless men who caused said explosions. One was The A-Team, which, for all its ridiculousness and action, didn’t seem to quite find the audience that it deserved. The other was The Expendables, which found quite the audience but didn’t really deserve it at all. What separates the two is that one is fun and features a tank shooting itself to safety while plummeting out of the sky. The other features Detective Sergeant Angel Juan Marcos Batista from Dexter as a general (here pronounced “Hen-er-al”) and also, as Katey Rich pointed out, Mickey Rourke crying in a mirror. The line of quality is clear here: The A-Team was good, and The Expendables was not so good, even if it did include Arnie, Sly, and Bruce in a scene together for, like, two minutes.

But why was The A-Team so good, you ask? Well, that’s easy -- Big. Stupid. Action. While The Expendables was definitely big and stupid, it wasn’t a capital Big or a capital Stupid. Instead, it relied on its cast to carry it through, which really didn’t amount to much more than Randy Couture talking about his cauliflower ear and Stallone trying to romance a woman. But The A-Team just doesn’t give a shit about all that character jazz, which is why fans of the show may not have liked it so much. That’s not to say that The A-Team doesn’t have excellent interaction with the characters, as it does. Liam Neeson, with a cigar in his mouth and a grizzled voice, is pretty much the equivalent of Indiana Jones badassery (I’m sorry, but he is). And the way he works with that guy from District 9 (Sharlto Copley), that guy from The Hangover (Bradley Cooper), and that guy who smashed Chuck Liddell’s face in (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) is just classic. A lot of the great elements from the show (or so I’m told from the special features), such as B.A. being afraid to fly, are here and done to perfection. You can tell that these characters really care about each other, because they don’t force B.A. to get on the planes. They trick him instead. It’s all to comical effect, and it makes all the characters pretty likeable.

But enough with the characters and more with the Big and Stupid action. The A-Team is in every way an action fan’s wet dream. Are there ridiculous sequences that make you shake your head and say, “That can’t happen”? Yep. How about a touch of humor to go along with the gunfire? Yep again. Even the double cross of those who were once trusted is in here, making this a very by-the-numbers action film, but one that keeps knocking you on your ass so much that you hardly even notice or care about it. And while the CG can get pretty bad sometimes, watching, as I mentioned earlier, a tank shooting its way into a lake from 20,000 feet is something that has to be seen to be appreciated. Don’t mind the egghead haters who say, “That’s stupid,” while pushing up their glasses and explaining how physics works. If you like to shut your brain off when you watch action movies, then this is the movie for you. This isn’t the thinking-man’s action film. Go watch the Bourne series for that. This movie is for the “Yeah, buildings go boom!” kind of fans out there, and if you’re not one of them, then stay the hell away from this. But for all others, THERE IS NO PLAN B! The A-Team is frigging awesome.

The Disc: Three stars

Just because there are a lot of special features on this disc, that doesn’t actually make them good. Included on this Blu-Ray are both the theatrical version and an all-new extended cut with scenes not seen in the theater. But like most DVDs that include this feature, most of the time you just sit there and wonder which scenes were actually added, as nothing really feels new or different enough to warrant watching the movie twice. Besides what sounds like the F-bomb dropped a few more times, there’s not really anything to see. So that sucks. Also included is “The Devil’s in the Details: Inside the Action with Joe Carnahan,” which features the director doing his commentary while also showing you details about some of the weapons used and revealing which A-Team member was in charge of each mission. I like the idea, but I think it could have been executed more effectively. Maybe more in the vein of a pop-up video kind of thing where we learn facts about certain scenes while the director is talking. That would have been cool. But this seems a little forced. Not a fan.

What array of special features would be complete without deleted scenes? Unfortunately, these deleted scenes are especially worthless, as there’s nothing that they add to the movie at all. I was shocked at how little was actually taken out of the film. As good as it was, I actually think there were other scenes that should have been left on the cutting-room floor that made it into the movie. “Character Chronicles” is a tepid look into the characters, with Sharlto Copley being the only one worth watching. The gag reel is actually funny (and loaded with swears), and there’s also a “Plan of Attack” featurette that shows all the hard work that went into the making of this film. Overall, there’s quite a bit here to watch after the movie, but most of it is pretty bland. They shouldn’t be the reason you pick this Blu-Ray up.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eating out in Long Valley: Long Valley Pub and Brewery

You know what goes well with German food? Beer. And if you're looking for some of the best beer (and food) in town, go no farther than the Long Valley Pub & Brewery. It's a great stop if your palate is in the mood for anything Deutschland.

"'The Best of the Wurst' is probably our best seller," says Brad Lowmaster, general manager. He's referring to a knockwurst, bratwurst and weisswurst combo served with sauerkraut, German potato salad and whole-grain mustard. "It's one of the main German entrees that goes well with the restaurant."

The building, which was once a barn, has been in the same spot since 1771, so it's historic. It also happens to serve some excellent burgers.

"We'll have busy Saturdays and Sundays where we'll sell hundreds of burgers to go along with our main German entrees," Lowmaster says.

There are three types of burgers here: regular, Kobe beef and bison, any of which can be used to make the most popular burger here, the Cajun Bleu.

"It's a burger that comes with bleu cheese and chipotle mayo," Lowmaster says. "That one sells very well. Anybody can get any particular burger set up anyway they want it."

And if you're familiar with Long Valley Pub & Brewery, you'll notice a few extras added to the menu.

"We have different salads," Lowmaster says. "We have an orchard salad and a grilled vegetable Focaccia. We brought back a few things that were on an old menu."

The reason for this change is that a chef from the restaurant's past has returned, and with him come some of his specialties.

"He's brought back the Buffalo chicken sandwich, for instance," Lowmaster says. "And he changed up some of the appetizers. We have more choices as far as chili goes. He also put a spinach dip on the menu."

If you're a really big fan of the food here and would like to share it with a large party, that can be arranged as well.

"We have a lot of holiday parties set up for the next couple of weeks," Lowmaster says. "We have a catering menu that gives a few more options than we'd normally have on our regular menu."

Such as?

"There are a lot more pasta dishes," Lowmaster says, "like chicken entrees. They're items that are better for a buffet instead of just ordering individually."

But let us not forget the aforementioned beer: Beer is one of the specialties here, too. This holiday season brings two great beers, both of which are sure to get you salivating.

"We'll have Celebration Ale that will be up for Christmas," Lowmaster says. "And we'll also have an oatmeal stout beer."

WHERE: 1 Fairmount Road, Long Valley
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-876-1122
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday (bar closes at midnight); 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (bar closes 1 a.m.); 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday (bar closes 11 p.m.); happy hour 4 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
CUISINE: German food, burgers, pasta and great beer. Does life get any better?
LIQUOR: Full bar
PAYMENT: Major credit cards accepted
THE SCENE: This old barn has a lot of new tricks, including a new outside area that will be put to great use when spring returns
ATMOSPHERE: With great beer and local bands playing on Fridays, this is the place to be
DRESS: Casual
PARKING: Large lot
MANAGER: Brad Lowmaster

Know of a restaurant you'd like to read about in MCW This Week? E-mail us at

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Splatterhouse

If there’s one thing I can distinctly remember from my childhood, it was playing Splatterhouse 3 on the Genesis and decapitating this freak and then, after lopping off its head, killing it again and making it erupt into a seizure. It was freaking disgusting. But you know what, that was Splatterhouse, man, which is a series that was notorious for being not only violent but also creatively morbid. For every 4x4 to a monster’s melon, there was a demon vomiting in the background. It was sick, it was twisted, and it was beautiful.

And so here we are with a surprising update, which is filled with swear words, heavy metal and blood by the buttloads. Is it a worthy successor to the series? Well, yes and no.

The story once again follows Rick and the Terror Mask, which turns him into a muscle-bound wrecking machine. In previous installments, due to the limited capabilities of the systems they were on, the mask was just there to look cool on Rick’s face. But in this game, it actually talks to you—Over and over and over again. I’m not saying that I dislike it, because I don’t. It can be both comical and sinister in its commentary as you impale a creature on a spike, but it just won’t shut up. I wish there was an option where I could turn it off whenever I pleased, as sometimes, I just didn’t want to hear it squawk and curse at me and just wanted to hear the atmospheric sounds in the background.

That being said, without it, I definitely think this game would be a poor man’s God of War, as everything from filling a vial of blood to unlock new moves, to the repetitious combos are definitely inspired by the Ghost of Sparta. It’s pretty much impossible not to make that comparison, really, as Rick even does quick time sequences and can roll out of the way of enemy attacks when he feels like it. Seriously, even though the roll is designated to the R trigger, I sometimes tried to roll about with the right bumper by accident. And all this did was swing the camera around all over the place (The R bumper is the camera, you see), which made me dizzy as all hell. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to imitate God of War, then go full on. Don’t put the camera on the right bumper. That’s where the roll technique should be. It worked with GoW, and it would have worked here. Gawd.

But back to that story. Rick and the Terror Mask reunite to go save Rick’s girlfriend, Jennifer, from the nefarious, Dr. West, who…oh, who really cares? Even though it was written by comic writer, Gordon Rennie, who scribed some Judge Dredd stories, it’s still piss poor and boring. I mean, seriously, how far can you go with a story like this? Why does every game these days have to have a story attached to it in the first place? Rick going to save his girlfriend from monsters was fine back in the original game in 1988, and it would be fine today as long as the gameplay was excellent, so why waste the effort? In fact, this is more of a remake than anything anyway, so just stick with the original story without explaining everything. At least the game gives you the option to skip the videos if you don’t want to see the story, which is appreciated.

And speaking of the original game, you can find it in here after you pass a certain point. The second and third games are in here as well. Honestly, I started with the third title in the series, so I’m not really nostalgic for the older two. They’re side-scrollers, whereas the third game has you clearing out rooms and searching throughout the mansion for Jennifer and your child. If you played the first two games and loved them, then you’ll be in for a treat, but for someone who never played them until I played this game, they’re not all that special. Splatterhouse 3 still holds up though, and I would love to say that it’s worth the price of admission, but sixty bucks sure is a lot to pay for a Sega Genesis game that really looks and sounds its age. Still, it’s a nice added bonus and a fun little extra. I’m glad they included them on the disc. They make for a nice history lesson.

What really tears it for me with this new Splatterhouse though is that it’s monotonous as all hell. Sure, it gets much better once you’re leaping through portals and what not, and the 2D sections, which are reminiscent of the original two games, are a fun way to break up the punch, punch, grab, eviscerate, moments, but the game just doesn’t hold up in the long run. After awhile, it just gets really boring, and where God of War 3 stunned you with its boss battles, the boss battles in this game are lame. Not once did I feel in awe of them, no matter how big they were. Also, you fight many of the same baddies over and over again. There’s little to no variety here. I didn’t get much pleasure out of breaking their skulls with my fists, especially when you really only have two attacks with a jab technique and a heavier blow, which you can charge.

But anybody who knows at least a modicum about Splatterhouse knows that the fun lies in the weapons, and the game rewards you for sticking around by giving you a chainsaw and a shotgun later in. Even after slaughtering some of the same enemies over and over again, I found a cheap thrill in blowing them away or chopping them up with the chainsaw. It’s the little things, really; the little things.

The graphics, when in the dark, look like shit, but once you’re in the light, it looks pretty good, with shadows running off the walls and the blood spillage looking more impressive. I have no complaints with the graphics…when they’re in the light. But I do have a problem with the music. Though I know they were trying to go for a really heavy, guitar blasting soundtrack, I really miss the spooky tunes of the third game. Especially when this game under-utilizes a great band like Mastodon for the soundtrack. (Man, how many different soundtracks do I have to hear “Blood and Thunder” on? Sheesh).

Overall, though, while not a great game by any stretch of the word, it’s a fairly competent title that may get boring after awhile but is alright in short spurts. Should you buy it? Only if you’re a hardcore fan of the series. If not, then you can get your blood by the bucket loads elsewhere. This Splatterhouse doesn’t need to be unlocked.

Players: 1
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
ESRB: Mature
Rating: Three stars

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Eating out in Long Valley: Valley Restaurant and Pub

Pic by John Bell from the Daily Record

Variety is the spice of life, and if you're looking for great variety at a good price (and some alcohol on the side), you've found the right location in the Valley Restaurant and Pub in Long Valley. It has so many great selections on the menu that multiple trips are warranted to try them all.

"We often thought of taking some items off the menu to kind of shrink it a little bit," says Tim Janiszewski, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Tammy. "But people seem to like the variety and everything on the menu, so there's not one particular item we feel we can take off where somebody wouldn't want it."

Included on this popular menu are a variety of items that fit pretty much every taste.

"Our customers order everything from prime rib to Italian, to seafood over pasta, so it runs the gamut," Janiszewski says. "Beef, chicken and seafood."

Long Valley Restaurant and Pub also has an impressive salad menu, including such favorites as Buffalo chicken salad, chicken fajita salad and grilled shrimp or chicken spinach salad.

The menu changes mid-week, making the restaurant actually two places in one.

"The Mexican menu is offered only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays," Janiszewski says. "It's in addition to our regular menu, so you can still get our regular menu, too (on those nights)."

If you're a fan of the food and want to have it delivered, that also can be arranged.

"We do a lot of catering," Janiszewski says. "Catering is a big thing, especially around the holidays. Any kind of a party, banquet, pasta parties can be catered to. We have a lot of that going on."

That being said, you really should take a trip into the Restaurant and Pub. Outside of its extended patio, which will return when the weather gets warm again, there's also a beautiful, luscious mural of a bridge hanging inside that spans almost an entire wall.

"It just naturally goes with Long Valley," Janiszewski says of the massive wall painting facing tables in the back of the building. "I think it kind of depicts the center of Long Valley, so we kind of wanted that bridge. The artists took an angle shot of it and got down there by the river, behind what used to be the old general store, and took the picture for reference."

Other reasons to come to Long Valley Restaurant and Pub include the many events that take place at the end of the week.

"We offer various entertainment on weekends," Janiszewski says. "Bands and karaoke. There's karaoke every Saturday night."

WHERE: 59 E. Mill Road, Long Valley
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-876-0111
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
CUISINE: Italian/Mexican/American
LIQUOR: Full bar
PAYMENT: All major credit cards accepted
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $3.29 to $8.99; salad, $5.99 to $9.79; pasta specialties, $7.29 to $13.59; burgers and sandwiches, $6.79 to $10.29
RESERVATIONS: Suggested for weekends
DRESS: Casual
THE SCENE: A fun environment with a restaurant and bar for meals, plus the occasional sporting event on TV
ATMOSPHERE: A pleasant environment with a huge mural on the inside that pays tribute to the beauty of Long Valley. It's a great find
PARKING: Strip center parking lot shared with a bank and other stores and offices
OWNERS: Tim and Tammy Janiszewski

Know of a restaurant you'd like to read about in MCW This Week? E-mail us at

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Knight and Day

Love him or loathe him, Tom Cruise has been in some of the most iconic movies of the past 30 years. Whether he was flying with Goose, playing a vampire with Brad Pitt, or even going on impossible missions, Cruise has proven to be a box office star time and time again. But after his whole couch-jumping/Scientology-is-the-answer antics, people kind of fell out of love with the man. All the same, he’s always let his movies do the talking, and for the most part, his movies have been pretty damn good. So, is Knight and Day worthy of the Cruise standard? All I have to say is a resounding yes, yes, and yes, as the movie is pretty damn awesome. You should definitely give it a watch.

The Movie: Four stars

Let me be the first to say that I hate Tom Cruise. From his love of Scientology to his obnoxious squinty stares into the camera, just about everything about the man makes me want to break a bottle over his head. But before all you Cruise fans out there get all uppity about my comments, let me be the first to also say that the man usually makes pretty good movies. I don’t know why, but I just can’t turn the channel whenever Days of Thunder or Cocktail is on. Honestly, the man doesn’t make bad movies.

Still, after the whole "Tom Cruise is crazy" fiasco, most people don’t even want to see a Tom Cruise vehicle anymore, even if it does feature the ultra-hot Cameron Diaz. And to those people, all I have to say is that you’re missing out, as Knight and Day is as great a Tom Cruise movie as you’re likely going to get. It’s got enough comedy for you to at least chuckle a little bit, and enough outrageous stunts to make you ask, “Wait, how’d they do that?”

That being said, the story, while enjoyable, is entirely forgettable. This movie came out in what I like to think of as the summer of spy thrillers, as both Salt and The Killers also came out around the same time. The story centers around a woman named June Havens (Diaz) who just so happens to get involved in a plot involving bad guys who want to obtain a battery that can pretty much generate perpetual energy. The holder of this battery is Roy Miller (Cruise), your typical action hero who can do pretty much anything. And by anything, I mean anything, as piloting a plane, holding onto the roof of a car, and riding a motorcycle through stampeding bulls are all par for the course for Mr. Miller. Of course, these senses no doubt make for some great action sequences, and that’s what carries this movie through -- the action. Director James Mangold never allows you to get bored, because there’s always something new and exciting coming around the corner. One minute, Havens is looking all googly eyed at Miller, and the next, boom, something explodes. Another minute, Havens is talking to some dude on a train, and blammo, he turns out to be an assassin. If one were to read the script to this movie, they’d probably find out that half the page is dialogue while the other half is just “rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat” written over and over again all the way to the bottom. That’s what this movie is: talking, followed by violence.

Thankfully, the talking is pretty enjoyable, and Cruise and Diaz make a good team. She might not seem like it at first, but as the movie progresses, you totally buy into the idea of Diaz being the type of woman who could actually be scared shitless one minute and then, seconds later, drive a car 100 miles per hour into a hairpin turn. She just seems like that kind of girl, and the casting director definitely did a good job pairing her up with Cruise. They have good chemistry together.

It’s not all good in explosion land, though. The title, which I’ve always planned on using with my kindergarten friend, Kenneth Day, in mind (Get it? Rich Knight? Kenneth Day? Knight and Day? Aww, who asked you?) doesn’t seem justified at all. We find out along the way just who this “Knight” character is (and would I be spoiling anything if I told you it was Tom Cruise?), but it all comes off as cheap and unnecessary. Why did they give it that title? It stinks. Also, as much as I like Peter Sarsgaard, making yourself look tough for an entire movie doesn’t make you an interesting character, I’m afraid. But it’s not his fault, as he is entirely underutilized, just like every other character in this movie who doesn’t have the last name of Cruise or Diaz.

Still, this is a much better than average action-comedy with a lot of feel good energy and panache. If you like fast-paced films (and even if you hate Tom Cruise, like I do), you’ll really like this movie. Definitely give it a watch. It’s worth it, Scientology-minded actor notwithstanding.

The Disc: Three and a half stars

Do you think this movie comes on enough formats? This DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Copy pretty much fits any medium you can think of, sans the dead-as-a-doornail VHS format. So, you have no excuse if you don’t have a Blu-Ray player to watch this movie. You can still see it on your computer or your DVD player if that’s all you’ve got available.

Aside from the variety of options, though, you also get the “Wilder Knights and Crazier Days,” featurette. I know the film did terribly at the box office, but this special feature shows just how hard the cast had to work on this film, especially Tom Cruise, who’s still doing most of his own stunts. This includes jumping off of a building and riding a motorcycle through running bulls. Seriously, as much as I dislike the man, you gotta love his work ethic. The man’s a braver than Jason Statham; would he ever drive a motorcycle through raging bulls? I think not!

You also get to watch Cruise awkwardly stand beside the Black Eyed Peas as they unveil the song “Someday” from the Knight and Day soundtrack to the public, and man, is it painful to watch. Most of the audience attendants, looking to party, instead look confused when the dull song comes on. It was more cringe-worthy than watching the original version of The Office. (Well, maybe not that cringe-worthy).

Some viral videos and a trailer round out the rest of the special features, which are pretty good given the variety of options you have to watch them on.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Tribute to David Lynch in Only Three Minutes

This is my directorial debut if you haven't seen it already. It's a tribute to David Lynch. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Question: Why is Jason Statham's Male Pattern Baldness Considered Sexy But Mine is Considered Pathetic?

The Skinny: Jason Statham, star of The Transporter and, well, The Transporter 2 (Isn't there a third Transporter movie as well?) is a balding man. And yet, women salivate over him. You, star of, you haven't been to the gym in four months even though you have a year's membership, are also balding, but women laugh at your comb over and make fun of your Zubaz pants. What's the deal?

The Answer: Even though Jason Statham plays the same exact character in every single movie he's in, he's at least IN movies, meaning, women are automatically attracted to him. His greatest achievements in life may have been him driving a car while crashing into another car, but that's still more impressive to most women than your ability to scratch your gut and fart at the same time. So, my advice to you is to star in movies. Maybe start small, in like, some low budget Guy Ritchie film before he met Madonna. And then, rise to fame showing off how much better your abs look than Jet Li or Sly Stallone's. Whatever way you go, as long as you're in movies, you can be completely hairless and women will still want you. Hell, you can probably even be morbidly obese (Jonah Hill), two feet tall (Danny DeVito) or worship aliens (Tom Cruise) and women will still want you. As long as you can put, "Movie star" on your business card, women will be your sperm harvester. So find the nearest starving director and start getting into acting, pronto. That receding hairline isn't going to go away anytime soon. So get searching!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eating out in the Chesters: Grace Cafe and Aztek Nights

For good food, good vibes and a restaurant that transforms when the clock hits 3 p.m., look no further than Mama's Grace Cafe, tucked deep in the heart of Chester at 52 Main St. Rear.

"Like it says on our menu, we're the coolest place in town," says co-owner Steve Berstler, who shares the place with his partner, Sarah Borda.

What makes Mama's Grace so cool is that it's literally two restaurants in one. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends, it's the colorful and good-vibrations-filled Mama's Grace Cafe, which serves great breakfasts and lunches for the health conscious and anyone who just want to forget the calories and enjoy a hearty meal.

"We have 60 items, and it's a healthy or not menu," Berstler says. "Burgers or tofu — and everything in between."

But when that clock hits 3 p.m., it becomes an enticing, Mexican-themed restaurant, Aztek Nights, which — if you count the authentic Mexican and the Tex Mex options — makes this friendly place more like three restaurants in one, instead of two.

"It's a Mexican restaurant, and we serve Mexican food from our native countries," says Alex Mejia, who runs the shop with his wife, Diana. "A lot of our stuff is imported from Mexico that you can't find in the United States, like certain herbs and spices. And we have fresh cactus."


"It's like flaxseed," Mejia says. "That's where flax seed comes from. So instead of getting the flaxseed, you're getting the actual vegetable. That's what it is, a vegetable."

Skeptical, I tried it and found that it's actually very tasty, especially when paired with onions and cheese. Co-owner Steve Berstler agrees.

"I eat that all the time," Berstler says. "When I first started eating, you guys were putting it with my food, and now I want it all the time. And it's very good for digestion. It's a healthy item."

Also worth tasting are the carnitas, which offer a good portion of roasted pork, beans and rice, and some tortillas to wrap them up in — all for a good price.

"We keep our meals under $20 because it's tough out there for people to dine out with a lot of family," Mejia says. "So all our dishes are less than $20."

With enchiladas, tacos and flan, Aztek Nights features many of the items — authentically Mexican and Tex Mex style — you might not find on many other menus. But there's one item in particular that might be hard to find elsewhere.

"We have Mexican soups," Diana Mejia says. "And a lot of people have been asking for something that is called Menudo. It's very famous in Mexico and it's very good for the hangover. So a lot of customers (who) have been to Mexico come in on Saturday and they say, 'Do you have Menudo?' and we were like, no, but now, we're making it."

Co-owner Sarah Borda gets a kick out of this and adds, "It's BYOB here, so you can drink and then have Menudo."

You'll also find "safe" items such as burgers and chicken fingers for the kids in case they aren't up to the many flavorful options offered on the menu.

But as impressive and different as Aztek Nights sounds, let's not forget that Mama's Grace has some interesting items on its menu, too, especially in the soup department.

"We have a variety of soups," Berstler says. "We have our world-famous three bean vegetable chili, chicken tortilla, chicken and rice, chicken and noodle, a very, very veggie, and (even) North African Spice soup.

"The North African Spice soup is a bunch of different vegetables," Berstler says. "Chick peas."

"Carrots," Borda chimes in. "Carrots," Berstler agrees. "Celery, tomatoes, onions, potatoes."

"But what makes it so unique are the spices," Borda says.

"Yeah, the spices," Berslter agrees. "There's saffron, turmeric and cinnamon, all mixed together. It's delicious."

Along with their eclectic and delicious combined menus, the owners are pitching in toward a good cause.

"The Wishing Wall is something special both restaurants are doing right now," Borda says. "This is to benefit the Chester Food Pantry. Every year we do a benefit for them, and this year, everybody gets to buy a wish for a dollar. And you can slap it up on the wall."

"All the money — 100 percent — goes to the Chester Food Pantry," Berstler says.

One of Borda's favorite things about now sharing the restaurant with with the Mejia family is that they're serving the people of Chester as a team.

"We have two families serving the families in the area, and it's nice to mix the cultures," Borda says. "When people find out we have this collaboration going, they're like, 'Wow, what a great idea,' especially in these economic times."

ADDRESS: 52 Main St. Rear, Chester
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-879-5044
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends
CUISINE: Mama's Grace Cafe: Breakfast burritos, grilled sandwiches, soups, salads; Aztek Nights: Quesadillas, Mexican sandwiches, tacos
PRICE RANGE: Egg platters, $9; daily soups, $5.50; quesadillas, $6.99; carnitas, $16.99
PAYMENT: Cash, Visa, Mastercard
DRESS: Casual
THE SCENE: Large enough for parties but small enough to be comfy, Mama's Grace has an excellent layout.
ATMOSPHERE: This cheerful restaurant is as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the belly, as artwork and an array of colorful tables and chairs fill the nice-sized space.
PARKING: In the lot
OWNERS: Steve Berstler and Sarah Borda

Know of a restaurant you'd like to read about in MCW This Week? E-mail us at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Michael Jackson: The Experience

I think one of the greatest discoveries that I’ve ever made was when I found out that you could play Wii Sports while sitting down on your fat ass. The first thing I remember thinking back then was, “Gee whiz, Nintendo sure did screw up this time. Who’s going to actually be able to lose weight with this thing when you can be just as lazy as ever? They might as well have just given me a regular controller." Not so with Michael Jackson: The Experience for the Wii, though. In addition to party gamers and hardcore MJ fans, this game will appeal to people who want to lose weight. It uses Wii-mote sensors better than any other game I've played.

Now note, when I said the three groups that this game is intended for, I never mentioned casual MJ fans. Being one myself, I found that I lost enthusiasm for the game by about the time I reached the boring "Earth Song." That's about the time I wiped off my sweaty brow and called it quits. Also, I think I’d rather play the old Sega Genesis game, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker than subject myself to another round of being surreptitiously filmed by my girlfriend’s sister. She couldn’t stop laughing at my terrible interpretation of "Thriller."

But, if you are in the three categories that I mentioned above, then this title is the game of your diamond sparkled dreams. It’s a great party game that will burn those calories off and will also allow you to do all the moves you grew up loving when you were younger and didn’t mind grabbing your crotch in public just to imitate your favorite musician. It’s really a game that I find myself not too impressed with myself but can definitely see a lot of people loving.

As I mentioned earlier, the Wii-mote is really effective with this game. I imagine that this is what the X-Box Kinect is like only with a hand accessory. Holding the Wii-mote in one hand, all you have to do is imitate Michael or one of his back-up dancers’ moves and you’ll be hoisting your arms up and attempting to lean forward without falling on your face in no time. It really is just a pick up and play kind of game. So much so, in fact, that it doesn’t even really have an option to teach you how to play. There’s a dance school mode, but all that is is actual videos of people replicating Michael’s moves rather than an actual step-by-step tutorial. The short learning curve is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing in that you can just start moving along with Michael and don’t have to spend a great deal of time informing your friends how to play. But it’s a bad thing because there really doesn’t seem any way that this game increases in difficulty if you’re playing it by yourself. Sure, some songs like “Thriller" might be more difficult than others, but the steeper difficulty isn’t that much steeper at all. I got a pretty good score on "Thriller" without really even trying that much all because I already knew the dance steps for the song.

Again, this both makes the game endearing, and also a little boring. It’s endearing in that I like the fact that I can do well on certain songs because I already know them, but boring in that, what’s the point of continuing to play it if I already did well on the most popular songs? While the track listing is pretty generous with his most popular tracks, that still doesn’t mean I want to dance to “In the Closet” from his “Dangerous” album, or “Speed Demon” from “Bad.” Again, this is where being a hardcore MJ fan really pays off here. But for a casual fan like myself, it’s all kind of blah.

Multiplayer mode is fun if not exhausting. In single player mode, the better you do on a song, the more stars you acquire, which enable you to buy videos of how to do some of MJ’s tougher moves. In Multiplayer mode though, you take on different roles as either a background dancer or MJ himself. It says four people can play the game all at once on the box, but after just playing with one other person, I found this might be a bit difficult if you don’t have a lot of space in your place, as having just two in the same small room can get a bit hectic. You’ll find yourself bumping into each other sometimes. Also, as mentioned earlier, this game will destroy you when it comes to cardio. After only about two songs, I was sweating like a hog, and I’m actually in pretty decent shape. If you don’t mind dripping and sweating next to three others, then go ahead. But I find that this is purely a game you play at a party when all you intend to do is play this game. If not, you’ll find that your party will be smelling like MJ’s backstage, which may not appeal to everyone.

Overall, I applaud Ubisoft for making a game that the hardcore fans of MJ can really appreciate. In making it so easy to pick up and play, though, they kind of eliminated the challenge. You’re pretty much unable to really lose at this game. If you’re one of the three types of people I mentioned earlier in this review, then give this one more star. If not, then leave it as is. It’s a decent game, but it’s not for everyone.

Players: 1-4
Platform(s): Wii
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft Paris
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB: Everyone

Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Ever since I picked up a Sega Master System controller when I was a wee lad, I’ve been a hardcore fan of gaming. Super Hang-On beget Super Mario Bros. beget Sonic the Hedgehog beget Super Mario World and so on and so forth. Over the years, graphics got better and better, and each new title made me sit up and take notice. The 16-bit era contained quite a few gorgeous gems at the time, but nothing, and I mean nothing, made me actually have to lift my glasses and rub my eyes like Donkey Kong Country, which looked like no other game that came before it on the consoles. Seriously, if you weren’t there in 1994, you wouldn’t understand, but this game was a looker beyond lookers, and just about everybody and their second cousins had to stand in awe of the title. It looked amazing. But how did it play? Well, that was the best part of all, you see, as it was one of the most addictive side-scrollers anybody had ever touched, and it was by Rare, which was a company that was on a hot streak with their other big title, Killer Instinct at the time.

Flash forward well over a decade later, and the original Donkey Kong Country still looks good given the SNES’ limitations. Back then, the SNES was at the top of the graphical heap, but today, the Nintendo Wii, is known for anything but its graphical power. So when it was announced that a new Donkey Kong Country was going to be released for the system, the first thing I thought when I saw the colorful, but unimpressive graphics, was that it better still have that addictive gameplay that the series is known for if it’s going to be worth a damn. Well, after a great deal of playtime with the game, I have to say that not only is Donkey Kong Country Returns addictive, but it’s also one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played in my entire life. And the graphics, when actually in motion, aren’t too bad too boot.

Not since the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater have I played a game where the words, “One more time,” were uttered with such frequency and with such reckless abandonment of the truth. Every time I missed a jump or got slammed by an octopus tentacle, I kept saying, “One more time,” no matter how many times I died. While the stages in the original DK Country trilogy were fun, I wouldn’t use the word variety when describing them—hop and bop stage, swimming stage, mine cart stage, repeat. But every level of this game provides something new and exciting to the player. Whether it’s riding on a whale and using its blow hole to shoot yourself skyward over obstacles, or it’s a flaming barrel that you have to pilot above and below explosions, or even a barrel blasting experience where you go hurdling in both the background and the foreground to topple rocks, every single stage provides something new to keep you going. And to think, this game isn’t even made by Rare, but instead, by Retro Studios, which is probably best known for taking the Metroid series to new heights with the Metroid Prime trilogy. Honestly, and some of you might think this is blasphemy, but I think Retro Studios should now be known as the company that makes series’ even better than the originators themselves. They’re seriously that good. And I’m going to go the length to say that this is the best DK Country game by far, the original being a classic, notwithstanding.

What sets this title apart from the original three on the SNES is actually what made the original three so excellent in the first place, and that’s the actual platforming. The original had a sturdy foundation of left to right exploration with a few secret paths here or there. But DKCR is brimming with different paths to take, as the background, foreground, underground, and sky, are all fair game for exploration this time, as the levels are completely sprawling. This is a game that rewards looking everywhere, with the completist in me wanting to collect every puzzle piece and letter that the game has to offer. I seriously spend great deals of time on these levels, just to find everything there is. This exploration aspect alone is enough to keep me addicted, but again, it’s the sheer platforming that makes it superior to any other iteration in the series, as every level has a different feel to it that you have to adjust to, meaning you won’t just breeze on by, especially in the later levels where the difficulty becomes insane.

What I also find interesting in this game is its two-player functionality, which seriously makes this game an entirely different experience. While New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii’s co-op play was nuts, with people either mad dashing for power ups or helping each other out, in DKCR, it totally changes the dynamics of this title. In single player mode, you can no longer switch monkeys on the fly, but instead, acquire Diddy Kong who sits on your back and can help you hover about to make safer landings. But in two-player mode, somebody else can control Diddy, and he’s a completely different character when played by an actual human being. It seriously changes the entire landscape and makes you want to play the game through twice, once on your own, and once with another player.

The presentation is also really unique. I know I said before that the graphics are unimpressive, but what they lack in graphical prowess, they make up for in creative design. This is a really colorful game, and it utilizes that rainbow effect to make it stand out from the pack of dull looking games today. One impressive level has nothing but DK’s silhouette with his red tie the only thing showing on his body as the calm orange background paints the entire level in shadows. It’s really beautiful. Another level atop ruins, has a lush jungle background that is all the more impressive when you actually shoot yourself into the background from a barrel. It’s great.

The controls are actually fun as well. I usually complain about how Nintendo sometimes force feeds the Wii mote to you when a standard controller would do just fine, but the nunchuku, WIi-mote combination works quite well, with this working just as easily as holding a controller with two hands. I’m still not too fond of holding the controller like a regular NES controller, but it’s an option that also works. It doesn’t hurt the game at all.

I seriously can’t find anything to nitpick about in this game. Sure, the story can be told to you in one sentence (These weird tiki gods hypnotize the animals in DK’s jungle and steal his bananas, the end), but when has DK ever needed a sturdy storyline to back up his exploits on a Nintendo system? The fact that Kranky Kong, who is the only Kong besides Diddy to actually make a return from the original series, is so funny is reason alone not to care that the story is so cut and dry. Seriously, Nintendo has always had its first party characters to make it worth owning the Wii, and DKCR is no exception. Pick this game up. It’s the best game on the system, since, well, Super Mario Galaxy 2. And that’s saying quite a bit, as that game was legendary.

Players: 1-2
Platform(s): Wii
Developer: Retro Studios, Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB: Everyone
Rating: Five stars

Friday, November 26, 2010

Question: Why Are Men Attracted to Women With Exotic Hair Colors Like Blue, Green, and Purple?

The Skinny: Though blond and red heads definitely drive most men wild, what drives many men even more wild is women with exotic, never appearing in genetics, hair colors like blue, green, and purple. But why? Why do so many guys go ga-ga for something that just doesn’t appear in nature? Women wearing blue wigs (Like Katy Perry, sigh) look about one million times hotter when they look like they’re part goddess, part Smurf, don’t they? So what’s the deal? Well, I think I might have the answer.

The Answer: I’m no Sigmund Freud, but I definitely think that having the hots for a woman with bizarre hair colors definitely stems from repressed, sexual feelings for cartoon characters men used to watch as children, namely Marge Simpson. For many men in my generation, Mrs. Simpson may have been the first female they unconsciously had the hots for but didn’t understand why. But she wasn’t the only one. Anime fans had a whole bevy of women to choose from, and that’s just from the Sailor Scouts alone. The truth is (And I’m seriously considering writing a thesis about this), the reason why men have the hots for any woman in their adulthood stems from the curves and appeal of the characters in their toy boxes when they were younger, with many of them being super curvaceous and having long, plastic hair (fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on who you talk to, women haven’t adopted this last trait), that stretches all the way to their butts. So the next time you see a woman with neon green hair walking down the street and start salivating uncontrollably, it’s not because she’s an Asian in a school girl outfit, no (Though, that does help). It’s because she reminds you of some chick you saw in a Japanese anime when you were younger, yes. I hope that clears things up.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Question: Why Do So Many Men Hate Uggs Boots So Much?

The Skinny: Ugg. When the cold weather comes around, you can expect two things normally--Shoveling out your car (If you're an east and midwest man, that is) and women wearing Uggs boots, which, like it or not, appear to be here to stay. Now, as a guy, I have stared at these hideous Himalayan hikers with great loathing for years now and I've found that I'm not the only one. Many guys I know will blatantly tell women flat out that: "Those boots you have on are Uuuuuugg-ly. Get it? Ugly? Uggs? Aww, what do you know?" right to their faces, not feeling a shade bad about telling their girlfriends, wives, and yes, even their mothers that they've chosen a very poor style of clothing to keep their feet warm. But why do guys hate them so much? And why are some men so mean to women when they see them? Well, I think I might have the answer.

The Answer: Many men are still upset that Zubaz pants have gone out of fashion. If you don’t remember Zubaz (And I seriously question your masculinity if you don’t), they were the outrageous, stretchy pants that bodybuilders used to wear so the back of their pants wouldn’t rip whenever they would do squats. Zubaz were everywhere back in the 90s, and they came in awesome colors, like Zebra stripe, leopard print, and even the American flag (God bless America). They were pretty much everywhere men with testosterone could be found.

But then, something began to happen in the late 90s, something horrible. People started to think that Zubaz looked ridiculous. Not since wife beaters, had men had something distinctly their own in the way of fashion, but once many women started to point out the ludicrousness of them, men couldn’t just keep wearing them anymore, could they? No, no they could not, and after awhile, men started to feel awkward walking out in public with red and white striped pants, even though all they were doing was going to their local nutrition store to pick up some protein bars and many a new girlfriend.

So you know what, this is what I think. Deep down, many men resent women when they see them wearing Uggs because we know that they look just as ridiculous wearing them as we do wearing Zubaz pants (They look like something someone would wear if they were storming the ice planet, Hoth). But since women rule fashion, it’s impossible to do anything about it. We’re stuck to just wearing Zubaz in our houses and headbanging in front of the mirror to old GnR CDs. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Eating out in the Chesters: Mini Mac Diner

While Mini Mac Diner on Route 206 in Chester may be a diner, as its title suggests, it's so much more than that.

"My mother's European, so we do stuffed cabbage and things like that," says co-owner and chef Teri Petriw, who runs the diner with her mother, Anna Bartek. "We also offer pierogis."

Their soups are nothing to sneeze at, either.

"Everything's made pretty much from scratch," Petriw says. "We have chicken noodle (soup), vegetable and split pea. We do barley, we do black bean, we do like a mix."

"We try to do (more soups) as the weather gets colder," Petriw continues. "At least three a day."

Also topping the bill are a variety of treats that you won't even find on the menu, so it pays to talk to the friendly staffers — who would be happy to strike up a conversation with you.

"We make homemade cookies, pies, muffins and turnovers, so we're trying to do more of that for the holiday," Petriw says. "We've had it before, but I think a lot of people just didn't know it because we don't advertise it."

And to go along with that sweet tooth of yours if that last paragraph got you salivating, they also serve ice cream from one of the most popular companies around.

"We have Hershey's hard ice cream," Petriw says. "I picked (Hershey's) because I like their stuff. I used to have it when I was little."

Mini Mac is the kind of establishment that thrives on the reputation of serving breakfast all day, and one of its most popular sellers is the pancakes, which range from the commonplace such as blueberry and corn, to the not-so-commonplace, such as buckwheat and oatmeal.

"What we do is we make the batter (for the oatmeal pancakes), and then we put uncooked oatmeal into the batter," Petriw says. "I've never seen it anywhere but with us. They're excellent and they're tasty."

Also not seen at any other local diner is the local bands Mini Mac features once a week.

"Tuesdays, we still have live music here," Petriw says. "Which works out fairly well because we were pretty much quiet (on that day)."

Mini Mac actually used to have even more music during the week, but they decided to pull back on that when more people were coming for the bands rather than the meals.

"We were open until 8:30 at the time," Petriw says. "But I think the people maybe associate the music with drinking. That was the case here, but we didn't want to do the whole BYOB because of the young crowd, and I didn't want any kind of problems. That's why I didn't pursue that kind of part of it."

And that's just fine, because Mini Mac is all about the meals, anyway.

"We decided to just focus on the food," Petriw says.

The eatery is open seven days a week, which means Petriw and company don't really get much time to enjoy the scenery in Chester, because they devote themselves to the diner and its customers.

"We are in Chester, so I'm kind of in my own little world here," Petriw says. "I don't really get out. We're open seven days a week."

WHERE: 158 Route 206, Chester
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-879-8222
HOURS: 5:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday
CUISINE: Home cooking
PAYMENT: Cash or checks
PRICE RANGE: Soups, $2.25 cup, $2.95 bowl; platters, $5.95 to $6.95; breakfast, $2.75 to $7.05; lunch, $2.70 to $6.85
DRESS: Casual
THE SCENE: It may have a small interior, but a lot of magic is happening in that kitchen back there
ATMOSPHERE: It's close and comfy, so you really feel like you're a part of the family
PARKING: In the lot
OWNERS: Teri Petriw and Anna Bartek

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Valhalla Rising

Norse Mythology is awesome. Mads Mikkelsen is awesome. Combine the two together, and you have a match made in Valhalla, right? Well, maybe, maybe not, as advertising can be deceiving. Checking out the trailer for this film, you may think it’s all guts spilling and heads rolling, but it’s actually a quiet meditation on warfare and religion. Is that good enough for a Norse epic? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for in a Norse epic, now doesn’t it?

The Movie: Three and a half stars

Being a huge fan of Norse Mythology, I got really excited when I read the back of the box for Valhalla Rising, as everything just seemed so badass to me: Mads Mikkelsen (You mean Le Chiffre from Casino Royale?!) playing a prisoner named One Eye (Like Odin, One Eye?!) fights to the death but escapes and meets some warriors along the way headed for the Crusades? Uh, where do I sign up? I mean, seriously, nothing could be cooler to me, as Norse Mythology is the shit.

Then, when I popped in the movie and watched the trailer, which is the only special feature on the entire disc (more on that below), I got even more excited. What I saw was a one-eyed man eviscerating, decapitating, and doing pretty much everything else to the human body that I wouldn’t want done to my own. Seriously, I couldn’t be more psyched about this. And in the back of my mind, all I could think was, could this be the Norse adventure that I’ve been craving all my life? Sure, being an IFC Films release, I knew it wasn’t going to be anything visually spectacular. I knew I wasn’t going to see any scenes of Jormungandr rising from the shores around Midgard while Thor hoists his mighty hammer, Mjollnir, into the air and shoots him with lightning bolts, but it could still be pretty cool, right? And besides, it had to be better than Eric the Viking, which, even as a comedy, is the closest I’ve ever seen to a movie covering the Norse gods.

But alas, as a Norse adventure, it’s not better than Eric the Viking, as even Eric the Viking mentioned Fenrir the wolf once in awhile. Valhalla Rising, on the other hand, is as much a movie about the Norse gods as Do the Right Thing is a movie about helping old ladies cross the street. I can’t say that I’m too surprised, really, now that I’ve actually seen it. I mean, if it really was a giant, fist-pumping adventure film, then I’m sure it would have been more widespread than it was. But I definitely didn’t expect this, as Valhalla Rising is, at times, a plodding, meandering, slog of a film that demands a rewatch, but I don’t think I could possibly stay awake long enough to watch it over again a second time.

As mentioned earlier, the story is centered around a man named One Eye who is a prisoner from the get-go and is chained up to a pole where he has to fight for his captors’ amusement. One Eye is a freaking beast and destroys every single one of his adversaries. So much so, that at one point, he beats a victim in the coconut with a rock and exposes his brain, which definitely makes this the goriest film I’ve ever seen. That’s right, even though the violent scenes in Valhalla Rising are few and far between, this is definitely not a movie for the squeamish. If only the story were as clean cut as the brutality in it.

But alas, the story, while interesting, is presented in such a mundane fashion that I had a problem sitting through it because I was so bored. Valhalla Rising is the kind of film that you’ll like if you don’t really care about dialogue or communication, but you are excited by the possibilities that visuals can convey on a screen as a means to tell a story. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I personally like interaction. I like dialogue. Not to the extent that it bogs down a story, but at least to the point that I can relate to the characters and enjoy them. But One Eye is a mute who carries his emotions out through brutal violence. I hear this film is a big departure from Bronson, director Nicolas Winding Refn's last movie. And really, this film is a big departure from any movie I’ve seen of late. The closest I could compare it to is the opening scenes in the movie Irreversible, which are pretty much a hodgepodge of visuals that you have to make sense of on your own terms. That’s Valhalla Rising in a nutshell, a hodgepodge of images neither here nor there but definably present. It can give you a headache if you think about it too much.

Still, it’s not all bad once you realize just what kind of movie you’re getting yourself into. Valhalla Rising is a very quiet film, and if you’re willing to sink into what it has to present to you, you might just like it. My advice to you is to go into this movie without seeing the trailer or looking at the back of the box. If you do, you’ll actually find a rather somber story both beautiful and horrifying at the same time, albeit incredibly slow. That being said, I can still see some of the most memorable scenes in my head right now, and for that reason, I can’t score it too low. But I also won’t score it too high because of what the advertisements lead you to believe it to be. An action-packed samurai film with Vikings in it, this is not. But a deep reflection on religion and warfare, it is. And if that’s your bag of bones, then I advise that you check it out. It may not be the god-scaling epic that I was hoping for, but it definitely has its moments. Give it a look.

The Disc: One star

In what time period was having just a trailer on your disc considered an adequate special feature? Because in 2010 going into 2011, it’s just plain pathetic. As the sole special feature on this disc, I have to say that I’m more than just a little peeved about this. Some commentary discussing just why the director decided to make this movie would have been nice, or information on why the protagonist is named One Eye (I mean, seriously, I know you’re trying to make me think of Odin when you give your lead a name like that, but what does it all mean? Couldn’t you at least give me a hint?) Overall, if anything, the trailer actually hurts the film, especially if you watch it before the movie like I did. If you do pick up this movie, only watch the trailer afterwards to note how far a trailer can throw you off. Seriously, people, it’s 2010. We want more from our DVD special features than just a freaking trailer. By Odin’s beard, try harder!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eating out in Long Valley: Cornerstone Tavern and Grill

If you're looking for a big, hearty dinner or a really satisfying lunch, why go to just any pizza parlor when you can go to the Cornerstone Tavern & Grill in Long Valley? It has so much more to offer than just your standard slice of pizza.

"It has an Italian kind of feel to it," says manager Antoinette Ferrantely, who has worked in some form of pizzeria all her life. "We have a fully stocked bar, and we offer burgers, as well as numerous pasta dishes, chicken dishes, appetizers and soups."

Soups, in fact, are among the biggest sellers on the menu, and there is a tasty variety.

"We have baked potato, potato-carrot, which is my personal favorite," Ferrantely says. "We have the standard chicken noodle, pasta e fagioli and minestrone."

The potato-carrot is particularly special since it has a hint of carrot to it, but it's not overpowering like many other carrot soups you might have had in the past. It's a nice mix that offers a pleasant surprise when eaten with hot bread.

"We usually have a soup special almost every week," Ferrantely says. "Like this week, we're doing cream of broccoli, which is also very good. It will definitely take away the chill of the cold weather. That's what I eat when I'm cold."

In addition to the stellar soups, pizza is a mainstay at Cornerstone.

"People like the pizza a lot," Ferrantely says. "We try to make it crispy. I'm not a fan of doughy pizza, and from what I've noticed from working in pizzerias, most people don't tend to like it doughy, either."

Cornerstone, of course, offers the standard favorites, such as cheese and pepperoni, but it also serves also gourmet pizzas, such as BLT and honey-mustard chicken. Ferrantely attributes the variety of the pizza choices to the fact that people want their pizza to be traditional but different at the same time. People seem to like the change.

"My father has owned quite a few pizzerias, and he started in the '50s and '60s," Ferrantely says. "He tells me that when he first started out, there was no Buffalo chicken pizza, there was no baked ziti pizza. But you have to stay on top of it.

"People like to take a classic and make it into something new. Personally, I like the classics, but I have to say I love honey-mustard pizza."

Cornerstone also has a liquor license, which is somewhat unique among pizza places.

"Everybody finds it to be very convenient, especially for dinner," Ferrantely says. "Sometimes, people come in at 9 or 9:30 or so, and you know, liquor stores are closed, so we try to offer a good, fresh hot meal and complement it with a wine or a mixed drink."

And if you can't make it out to the eatery but love their food, they'll be more than happy to cater it for you.

"We've catered a surprise retirement party," Ferrantely says. "We've also done catering for the holidays, because the holidays are very stressful, so people don't want to cook, and I don't blame them."

As to what the Tavern and Grill wishes to offer Long Valley, Ferrantely keeps it simple: "We want to offer something different to Long Valley. We want to add a different flair to it, but it's always a work in progress."

WHERE: 71 E. Mill Road, Long Valley
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-876-1283
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
CUISINE: Soups, salads, pizza, pastas
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $1.95 to $10.50; baked pastas, $11.75; hot subs, $7.50 to $8.75; pizza pies, $11.25 to $20; gourmet pizzas, $15.50 to $20
PAYMENT: All major credit cards, cash, checks
DRESS: Casual
THE SCENE: This pleasant restaurant has a bar and an outdoor patio for when the weather is nice
ATMOSPHERE: A friendly staff and excellent food make the Cornerstone Tavern & Grill the place to be for lunch or dinner
DELIVERY: Yes, if it's close enough
PARKING: In the lot
MANAGER: Antoinette Ferrantely

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