Me and My Nine Iron

May 30, 2012

La Tavolata review

Filed under: Food reviews — BJ @ 1:20 pm

We decided to check out this Italian eatery after its 4.5-star rating on Yelp and its 5-star rating on Urban Spoon. In short, it all held up. There’s really only one way for these little cafes to be successful and have repeat customers: make bomb dishes. La Tavolata is no different.

The pasta dishes are flawless and make this place an instant Italian favorite. The long wait (>30 min.) to get our food was worth it, as you can taste the al dente in all of the pasta. You won’t taste fettucine alfredo better than here, and the portions are perfect – at very reasonable prices ($12-13 for pasta).

La Tavolata is on South St. in Artesia.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5




May 29, 2012

Hokkaido vs. Onami

Filed under: Food reviews — BJ @ 6:26 pm
Tags: ,

For us SoCal’ers, we’ve all been to Todai, but for $29, I wanted to shed light on alternative seafood buffet options in the area.

Chinese Food

Or as the restaurants call it, “hot entrees.” Or as my friends call it, “food you don’t waste your stomach on so you can gorge on as much sushi as possible.”

Hokkaido: I’ve yet to find a place where the food is near inedible. Todai is no different. Hokkaido is among the worst. Their roast beef and ribs = yuck. Made to order = Mongolian BBQ.
Onami: The best food you’ll find at a seafood buffet. If I only ate this, it would still be a good meal. Enough of a difference to make it the best seafood buffet, but I’ll go on. Made to order = kalbi.


Hokkaido: Bread and butter rolls. Items offered: 13.
Onami: I’ll admit their Spicy Tuna Rolls–with that carrot and asparagus some places use–is kind of bunk, but the Philadelphia Roll and the adequate selection more than makes up for it. Some items offered here you can’t find at Hokkaido include the Salmon Skin Roll, Philadelphia Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Scallop, Albacore Tuna and Yellow Tail. Items offered: 52.


Hokkaido: You would think having a chocolate fountain makes it unmatchable, but the rest of the dessert bar is skippable.
Onami: A handful of bite-sized cakes you would find at Todai or even a Las Vegas buffet, topped off with three ice cream flavors on a cone–including Green Tea–makes you forget about that chocolate fountain.

Prices (weekend)

Lunch: $17.99
Dinner: $17.99
Lunch: $17.95
Dinner: $26.95

You get what you pay for, but more so, I’m not paying $18 for a subpar meal. Hokkaido’s $11 lunch on Mon. thru Fri. is something to consider though.


Hokkaido: Three, including in Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Todai: Three in CA, including in Orange, Westminster and Arcadia.
Onami: One, in Torrance.


Hokkaido: 2 stars out of 5

Todai: 3 stars out of 5

Onami: 5 stars out of 5

A few misses to keep Onami from being flawless, but the best seafood buffet I’ve had by far.


May 25, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 5:43 pm

Seen at a pre-release screening in Hollywood:

I went to the red carpet premiere at ArcLight Hollywood this week and saw this movie on a gigantic screen with a good crowd vibe. And I think we can all agree that that can influence a viewer’s enjoyment of the movie, especially for a comedy or a horror. With that said, I have to disagree with all of the negative reviews. The acting was solid (Jesse McCartney‘s performance impressed me when his character got hurt), the atmosphere was perfect and the story was well-paced. I thought it was a found footage movie, but rest assured, it’s not.

The thing that held it back for me was not its “predictability” or “payoff,” but a lack of closure as well as what was entirely going on and why – even after the movie. Notwithstanding that, it was a fun 80 minutes, and hopefully, you can enjoy it without calling it stupid. As far as the fright meter, it’s definitely not one of the scarier movies you’ll see and not as good as writer-producer Oren Peli‘s Paranormal Activity franchise, but he knows how to make things creepy, which I definitely felt after coming out of the theater. (The end reminded me of Paranormal Activity 3‘s.)

We’re already five months into the year, and this is about the only decent pure

Saw Olivia Dudley (4th from left) in the lobby. She makes a brief appearance in The Dictator as well.

horror movie to come out (I say pure because The Cabin in the Woods is not a pure horror flick) – and none is sure to come out in the summer. You could definitely do a lot worse in what I think is the hardest genre to please, as I had a fun time.

Chernobyl Diaries opens in theaters today.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

IMDb rating: 5.8
What it should be: 7.3


With McCartney the only recognizable name in the movie, here’s an old favorite from the singer-actor, which now seems like it deserves credit for the advent of Far East Movement’s monster hit, Like a G6.


May 23, 2012

The Lazy Dog Cafe review

Filed under: Food reviews — BJ @ 5:15 pm

I had previously never heard of this place and was surprised to find they had ten locations; I went to the one near Angels Stadium on W Katella Ave. in Orange. Notwithstanding the name of the restaurant, I didn’t know they were a dog-friendly place. We decided to eat out in the patio since it was a nice day, and the waiters brought doggie bowls filled with water for the dogs. I didn’t know how I felt about a restaurant fostering an environment for dogs in the same area as patrons eating.

Sure enough, a pitbull was barking the entire time, and just as I took my last bite, a furry dog whose owner got up to leave, shook himself off and all of his fur floated in the air. A truly disgusting sight while eating.

The food was very run-of-the-mill American. I got a Baja California burger ($9.75), which was pretty good, but the fries were so unseasoned that I gave away the few I had after I finished my burger. And when you have bad fries, no matter how good the burger is, it sours your meal. That being said, the food really wasn’t all that bad, and for the price, I wouldn’t mind dropping in after an Angels game.

But one thing’s for certain: no matter the weather, I’m eating inside.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5



May 22, 2012

So long, Wiigdeikberg

I watched Saturday Night Live in full for the first time this season, just in time to watch several regulars perform on the show for the last time. Mick Jagger was host and musical guest for the season finale, and I swear some critics don’t even know what they want, chastising his monologue and comedic chops in the skits. I couldn’t disagree more. I was pleasantly surprised at the rock legend’s humor and thought his monologue was solid.

While Jason Sudeikis was among three rumored to leave following this season, it appears only Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg are definite, with the last skit being the former’s send-off. Unfortunately, and unlike some, I found the skit unemotional for those not on stage, uncreative and with a sense of confusion over whether Wiig’s tears were genuine. It was that awkward.

Samberg’s farewell to SNL was Lazy Sunday 2, and while his digital shorts are always entertaining, it didn’t have anywhere near the magic of the first one. Otherwise, I’m mostly in agreement over the best and worst skits, as reviewed here.

I always found Stefon–the gay city correspondent on Weekend Update played by Bill Hader–weirdly amusing, and while Hader’s classic fails at holding in his laughter weren’t as frequent, he had some of the most money lines I’ve heard from his character that night.

Even though I agree with the Al Sharpton skit arguably being the worst of the night, the teleprompter misreading was actually one of the few bright spots and garnered some good laughs. They should do it more often. “Al Sharpton lettuce.”

Pretty fun show overall.

Will Smith backhanded a television reporter at the Men in Black 3 Moscow premiere after the male reporter allegedly tried to kiss Smith on the lips. I guess I’m in the minority here because 81% of the almost 230,000 votes said he didn’t overreact – a still-surprising action from the always-upstanding superstar.

Love his wife’s reaction. But I wonder if he would’ve thought twice about doing that in the litigious-happy U.S.

Messed up, but I couldn’t not laugh at this.












May 17, 2012

That’s My Boy review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 3:13 pm

Seen at a pre-release screening in Redondo Beach:

I had high expectations for this one, as it was Adam Sandler‘s first R-rated comedy since the dark comedy, Funny People in 2009. It didn’t disappoint. Outrageous in the way the plot got crazier as it went along like in Just Go With It, it should be the best IMDb-rated Sandler comedy since Punch-Drunk Love ten years ago – of course, the only Sandler movie no one’s ever seen. If not, then Sandler is eternally despised by critics who can’t stand his crazy voice, but even I’ll admit I don’t know if that was the best decision, albeit character-fitting.

It really pushed the envelope both vulgarly and controversially, and I applaud that. A lot of laughs. I’d put it on The Five-Year Engagement level, not 21 Jump Street, which remains the best comedy of the year. A nice return to form for Sandler, who had a handful of famous non-actors in this one: Rex Ryan as Sandler’s tax man, Vanilla Ice who plays himself as Sandler’s school friend and Ciara among others. Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl), Susan Sarandon and a slew of SNL alums, led by current SNL member Andy Samberg, round out the cast.

I tried to refrain from the .5’s in my rating, but I’ve wanted to use it for two movies in a row now so I felt the need to modify that. I’ll use it sparingly, if at all. But yeah, as much fun as it was, something didn’t sit right with me about the ridiculousness of it all to give it a perfect rating.

Sandler’s making a Grown Ups sequel for next year while director Sean Anders is penning a Dumb and Dumber sequel for the Farrelly brothers for 2014.

That’s My Boy opens in theaters on June 15.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

IMDb rating: n/a
What it should be: 7.0



May 16, 2012

High School review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 4:57 pm

Seen at a pre-release screening in Los Angeles:

A high school stoner comedy, it was an immature fun time. Like American Pie and Harold and Kumar, short on laughs but amusing throughout – though, not as appealing with two unknown leads who play very one-dimensional characters. An overall good movie made possible by good story structure.

Supported by a cast including Adrien Brody as a maniacal pothead and an unrecognizable Michael Chiklis (The Shield) as the school headmaster, it was an otherwise cheesy comedy that I’m only giving a ‘consider’ if you’re into stoner movies.

High School opens in limited release on June 1.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

IMDb rating: 6.9
What it should be: 6.9



May 15, 2012

Killing Them Softly review

Filed under: Food reviews,Movie reviews — BJ @ 12:36 pm
Tags: ,

Seen at a pre-release screening in Los Angeles:

I was intrigued by this dark mob movie starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini. After all, how can that cast go wrong? Well, I don’t know what the actors saw in the script–maybe, Pitt liked how The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford turned out and trusted Andrew Dominik and Gandolfini just wanted as much screen time as possible–because it was just bad, bad, bad.

The death of the movie happened in Dominik’s adaptation of Cogan’s Trade. He had Gandolfini’s slimeball character tell anecdote after anecdote to Pitt’s Cogan, a failed attempt at a Quentin Tarantino-style movie. On top of that, there were maybe, two or three major incidents in the entire movie, and there was nothing Pitt and Liotta could’ve done to salvage this movie.

Bad casting on everyone else (for starters, Dominik should’ve pushed for Casey Affleck to return as well to play the character Scoot McNairy ended up playing), bad script (there was absolutely no conflict in Cogan’s task. Even the title was uttered once but hypocritical to Cogan’s actions) and a rare miss by the Weinstein Company, who also have David O. Russell‘s The Silver Linings Playbook and Q’s Django Unchained at the end of the year.

I don’t know what under a 6.0 IMDb rating type-of-movie is, but when it gets to that point, does it really matter? I’m particularly stunned that this is even competing for the highest prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, a dishonor to the other nominees.

Killing Them Softly opens in theaters on September 21.

Rating: 1 stars out of 5

IMDb rating: n/a
What it should be: <6.0


Afterwards, I decided to try a Brazilian place down the street on W Pico Blvd. in West L.A. I had Manuella’s Special pasta ($13.59) with shrimp, chicken breast and prosciutto and Pink Pescatore pizza ($15.49) with salmon, scallop, shrimp and capers – yes, very fishy. Still trying to figure out how any of this was Brazilian.

The prices are very reasonable–all of their pasta dishes are considerably cheaper than at Cheesecake Factory–and a great place for a late-night meal. They’re open until 2a on weekdays and 4a on weekends. When we got there at 9p, almost all of the tables were full. They have two other locations in Hollywood, but know that the original one in West Hollywood doesn’t serve pizza.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


May 14, 2012

The Avengers review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 8:50 pm

I know I’m not a fan of superhero movies, but even I thought this was a must-watch. After having seen it though, the culmination of all the superheros joining together was the best idea of the whole movie, and its IMDb user rating suggests a high geek count in correlation with its box office numbers.

It’s currently one of the top 25 movies of all-time, and I’m more certain of this not being true than Inception being a top 10 movie of all-time.

(Aside: I recently read an old Matt Damon quote on how he thinks Oscars should be voted ten years after the movie’s release. The whole debate about Inception‘s ranking was tough when it came out because everyone was too close to all the buzz around it – for better or worse. I think the great classics truly hold up over time, and hopefully, Inception will be appreciated more by those that didn’t buy its ranking as the years go by.)

In fact, I can argue that this might not even be the best Marvel movie, as the only other franchise I watched, Iron Man, was equally entertaining. It ran a long 2:23, and aside from all the mindless action in the final battle, I thought things could’ve picked up a little quicker in the first hour in gathering the team together.

Nevertheless, props to Joss Whedon for making this better than an inane summer blockbuster. He’s really making a splash in features this year; The Cabin in the Woods was amazing, and I’m intrigued by In Your Eyes, which is supposed to come out this year as well. Already the 12th film to reach $1 billion worldwide after just two weeks in the U.S., the aim is on for third-highest grossing movie of all-time.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

IMDb rating: 8.7
What it should be: 7.2



May 12, 2012

I Wish review

Filed under: Food reviews,Movie reviews — BJ @ 2:39 pm
Tags: ,

Seen at a pre-release screening in Los Angeles:

My second foreign film of the year was also my first visit to USC’s School of Cinematic Art. I really dug the environment on Monday evening, as one group of students were conducting a table read outside and others were working on their respective projects. Inside the George Lucas Building, they have about four theaters and an exhibit for The Avengers, displaying all of the superheroes’ costumes and weapons. (The Thor hammer is noticeably awesome.) Inside the theater is a nice, intimate setting with about 100 seats arranged in the format of a lecture hall.

There were a lot of similarities to Jeff, Who Lives at Home, and overall, it was a little better with a little more substance in the second act. Essentially a journey to find the true meaning of life, the real-life brothers’ emotions and innocent behavior are captured wonderfully by the Japanese filmmaker, Hirokazu Koreeda. It was a great story and had an ending I was sad at the protagonist for making but understood why he made it like in Midnight in Paris.

The movie’s over two hours long and had entire scenes, albeit each under a minute long, that were completely pointless other than to show the kids some more. Other than that, it’s a nice PG-film that you can find peace with and reminisce over.

I Wish opened in limited release Friday.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

IMDb rating: 7.8
What it should be: 7.3


Afterwards, I went to grab a burger at In-N-Out, and I write this now because the always-reliable cheeseburger was so terribly bad. Unfortunately, I was home when I opened up my bag because that deserved an “Are you kidding me? I want a new burger now.”

To focus on the main problem, the fresh vegetables they’re known for couldn’t have been further from the truth. The tomato had that dry whiteness in the middle, and the lettuce was so old, it lost its bright greenness. Whoever put that burger together truly couldn’t have cared less about what they were serving because if an In-N-Out executive saw my burger, they would’ve been damn embarrassed.

What an awful $5 spent at a no longer dependable burger joint. The best burger in the world? Not even in the area with burgers like these.


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