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Jurassic Park 3D roars into theaters

Jurassic Park 3D roars into theaters

By ANDREW PAXTON

Jurassic Park posterSteven Spielberg’s iconic movie featuring killer dinosaurs running amok is back in theaters, this time containing eye-popping 3D effects that will immerse you on an island teeming with hungry man-eating beasts.

Hang on to your butts.

“Jurassic Park 3D” grabs audiences from the fear-inducing opening scene until the ending credits as viewers follow Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) through their harrowing tale of prehistoric mayhem.

Not long after John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) invites the three to inspect his theme park featuring cloned T-rexes and Velociraptors, things start to go wrong, thanks in part to the mischievous computer-programmer-turned-corporate-spy Dennis Nerdy (Wayne Knight).

Not even the legendary Samuel L. Jackson, in his role as head programmer Ray Arnold, can prevent people from being hunted and mutilated by the ravenous reptiles.

Although the release of “Jurassic Park 3D” commemorates 20 years since the original film hit theaters, many of the points featured in the movie are just as poignant today.

A reoccurring theme in the film revolves around mankind’s loss of respect for nature, and humans believing they can control everything.

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should,” Malcolm warns.

In our modern world where cloning continues to develop and genetically modified organisms are showing up on grocery store shelves, the message hits close to home.

Cyber espionage and reliance on automation are also explored in Spielberg’s romp through a prehistoric theme-park, juxtaposing the past, present and future into a kaleidoscope of chaos and carnage.

As government officials warn us daily of digital attacks, the images of Nerdy taking down the groundwork of Jurassic Park with a few keystrokes should make everyone think twice about the systems that maintain our own electricity, water and other vital infrastructure.

“Jurassic Park” won Academy Awards for Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual effects when it was first released. Now, those award-winning effects have been upgraded with 3D graphics that makes viewers cringe and squeal with every snap of dinosaur jaws.

The graphics and musical score “are top of the line. Spared no expense,” as Jurassic Park’s creator Hammond would say.

Whether making a return visit or your first trip, the journey to Jurassic Park is well worth the price of admission. Just make sure to hang on tight.

 

 

BEST BETS: 'Evil dead,' loopholes

BEST BETS: ‘Evil dead,’ loopholes

BEST BETS

Loft to screen cult ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy

evildeadBy BRUCE HARDT

The films of the “Evil Dead” trilogy will play at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., on April 13 starting at 9 p.m. The films featured will be “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness.”

Directed by Sam Raimi (“Oz the Great and Powerful”), the Evil Dead trilogy stands as one of the cult cornerstones of 1980s cinema. As a whole these films are a perfect medley of gore and giggles that chronicles the one-boomstick war between Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the Deadites.

Deadites are people possessed by the supernatural Book of the Dead, an ancient text bound in human flesh and inked in blood. When read from, the book unleashes ancient demons whose bloodlust will put any possession movie of the last 20 years to the chainsaw.

“The Evil Dead” (1981) and “Evil Dead 2” (1987) are classic “cabin in the woods” trope, pitting Ash against his demonized friends and eventual self in the setting of a remote mountain hideaway.

“Army of Darkness” (1992) raises the stakes and slapstick several notches. Ash and the Deadites clash in a final, epic battle in medieval Europe.

“The Evil Dead” will show at 9 p.m., “Evil Dead 2” at 10:30 p.m. and “Army of Darkness” at midnight. Single film admission is $9 general and $5 for Loft members. All three films are $20 general and $13 for members.

For information, including tickets, visit loftcinema.com/film/dead-by-dawn-the-evil-dead-trilogy-triple-feature.

 

No loopholes in ‘Looper’

2012 yielded a film trove of geeky goodness. We rejoiced at a sequel to “The Dark Knight,” were wowed by “The Avengers” and celebrated in unison with the long overdue death of “The Twilight Saga.”

“Looper,” one of the smaller gems from last year, is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Its quality is surprising, given its ambition. “Looper” is easily one of the best science-fiction films in recent memory. Director Rian Johnson (“Brick”) threads genre into a masterful tapestry of time travel and all of the mindfuckery it entails.

Meet Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an assassin hired by mobsters to kill targets sent from the future. A looper’s contract is closed when his older self is sent back to be killed, effectively “closing the loop” and covering the mob’s tracks.

One day Joe meets old Joe (Bruce Willis), who has a score to settle with the elusive “Rainmaker,” a criminal warlord prematurely closing loops, among other atrocities, in the future. A literal race against time ensues that will challenge young Joe to the core of his very humanity.

“Looper” is a simultaneous wonder of action and thought, provoking your adrenaline and heartstrings. A self-aware screenplay deftly juggles the film’s myriad plot points while injecting believability into its characters and world.

This aspect is further enhanced by the performances, particularly Emily Blunt as Sara, a single mother with an explosive secret. Savvy sci-fi viewers will notice “Looper” influences, namely “The Terminator” and the works of manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo.

For information, visit sonypictures.com/homevideo/looper.

Best Bets: New releases from Tucson's Lariats and SoCal's Children of God

Best Bets: New releases from Tucson’s Lariats and SoCal’s Children of God

By BRUCE HARDT

Catch Lariats show March 16

Local emo/punk band Lariats will play an all-ages show on March 16 at 6 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St, for $5. The show will commemorate the release of the band’s new EP, “Our Native Tongue is Bad News.”

Lariats consists of members from other local talents such as The Bled, Youinseries, Versus the Mirror and American Black Lung. The concert will also feature Arizona hardcore punk bands American Standards and Territory, and psychedelic rock outfit Hollow Hills.

Following the positive reception to their 2012 debut, “If Mediocrity Was a Body of Water, We Would Have All Drowned by Now,” Lariats has won fans far and wide with their energetic, honest sound and lineup of seasoned musicians.

For information, visit hotelcongress.com/music/lariats-our-native-tongue-is-bad-news-album-release-party, facebook.com/lariats or on Twitter at @lariatsrock.

 

Children of God sets fire to the sky, review

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Album artwork by Thomas Hooper

Every once in a while a band will come along whose talent is evident from their demo moving forward. Orange County’s Children of God is such a band.

Starting out as a noisy hardcore punk band on their demo and “Coup de Grace” EP, Children of God began to incorporate elements of sludge metal and black metal starting with their split with peers, Seven Sisters of Sleep.

The result is a more contemplative sound that is no less vicious.

“We Set Fire to the Sky,” the band’s first full-length effort, is a culmination of the band’s previous work, and sets the bar to dizzying heights.

A package of torrential blasts and bleak landscapes, this record is mesmerizing, ambitious and loyal to the fiercely honest aesthetics of its genre.

A self-released piece, “We Set Fire to the Sky” has much to say about the state of society. Eight songs wreak havoc and impose peace, each a testament to Children of God’s unique brand and a dedication to combating personal and theological ills.

“We Set Fire to the Sky” can be purchased in vinyl from hellfishfamily.com or cvltnation.com/store-front and listened to and downloaded at cogofficial.stereokiller.com.

FOODIE FINDS: Upscale Umi Star a delight

FOODIE FINDS: Upscale Umi Star a delight

By MIKI JENNINGS

Serving fine Asian food and classy cocktails, Umi Star offers a nice lunch spot or a fine choice for dinner and drinks.

The restaurant, located at Grant Road and Campbell Avenue, took over the former Cartel Coffee Lab location in September.

Umi Star’s modern, metal furnishings are sleek and stylish. The music’s great and the staff is eager to help. Pair that with a good drink and tasty food, and you’ve got an upscale nightlife alternative to the typical bar scene.

Appetizer options include salty, tart or spicy edamame, edamame hummus with taro fries, and pork or veggie dumplings. You could also try sushi bruschetta with ginger sesame-marinated tuna for $9 or Japanese ceviche for $6.

If you’re the salad type, the menu has four to choose from: cucumber sunomono, chukka, squid and sashimi. Each salad costs $6-$7, except the sashimi, which costs $12. Salads are made with fresh veggies and other lively ingredients.

For something more substantial, check out the Asian street tacos. They come in beef or chicken, and cost $5 for two.

Or, try the sushi and specialty rolls. The cucumber and avocado roll is served with spicy aioli and chili plum soy sauce.

The rolls come beautifully plated by the chefs, and are incredibly full of interesting and exciting flavors.

Happy hour drink specials feature $6 cocktails, all with a unique combination of alcohols and other ingredients.

The Dublin Donkey Punch is a refreshing mix of high-quality whiskey, ginger beer, lime juice and mint.

The Lo Pan is another great cocktail, made with coconut and green tea-infused rum, lime juice, demerara and absinthe.

Umi Star’s 3 Storms has a base of grapefruit-infused shochu and champagne, with lime and honey.

There are also specially priced Asahi for $12 and Session beers for $12.

Varied sake options include Gekkeikan’s Haiku, Hakutsuru and Kubota Senju.

They range in price from $15-$30 per 300-375 ml bottle, which is the perfect size for sharing with a group.

 

FYI

Umi Star

Address: 2502 N. Campbell Ave.

Phone: 777-4465

Website: umistar.com

Hours:

Monday: closed

Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-midnight

Friday-Sunday: 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Fiat 500 video review

http://youtu.be/Y6cS-q-qS1I

FOODIE FINDS:  Fix offers comfort foods away from home

FOODIE FINDS: Fix offers comfort foods away from home

By MIKI JENNINGS 

On University Boulevard, the Fix is serving up a new take on an old standby: mac and cheese.

Colorful, splashy and full of macaroni-inspired slogans, the cafe gives college students a friendly place to get a hearty meal away from home.

The Fix’s bowls of macaroni and cheese feature unique additions, including veggies, jalapeños, bacon and even lobster.

For a $3 difference, you can choose between a “minor” or “major” mac. The smaller serving was plenty for me, and I can’t imagine finishing the larger size in one sitting. Bowls range from $5.99 to $11.49.

The Fix offers a large selection of ingredients for “build-your-own” bowls.

Customers can choose between cream cheese, cheddar, parmesan, alfredo and Swiss cheese. You can add avocado, spinach, tortilla strips, green chilies and broccoli. Meats include turkey, bacon, ham, chicken, hamburger, bratwurst and lobster.

The menu also includes a variety of grilled cheese and other sandwiches that cost between $5.59 and $8.49. Portions are huge, almost ensuring leftovers.

Grilled cheeses come with chips and a cookie. All other sandwiches come with chips.

For a healthier fix, you can buy a Caesar, club, garden or taco salad. The costs range from $6.49 to $7.49. Given the price and the tastier, unhealthier options, it almost seems a waste to choose a salad.

If you like to stick around for dessert, you can buy an order of cookies. The cafe sells individual cookies, and half- and full-dozens.

The Fix offers soda, coffee and an assortment of beer and wine. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 – 6 p.m.

Specials include $2 beer or wine, and $5 for a grilled cheese or mini-bowl of mac and cheese with a Budweiser or soda.

For more information, visit facebook.com/thefixarizona.

 

FYI
The Fix

Address: 943 E. University Blvd.

Phone: 305-4493

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sunday: Noon-6 p.m.

 

One of the Fix’s half-sandwiches with a side of jalapeño macaroni and cheese. Photo by Miki Jennings.

 

Foodie Finds: Healthy Snacks

Foodie Finds: Healthy Snacks

By MIKI JENNINGS

Juggling work, school and a social life can be difficult enough. Taking the time to plan balanced lunches from home can prove quite the challenge. All too often, college students resort to fast food or unhealthy snacks because it’s easier than planning ahead.
Healthier snacks are getting more and more common in the market. Here are some healthy alternative snacks to supplement your lunch while you’re on the go.

HALFPOPS

Halfpops are a partially popped popcorn snack from Seattle, Wash. They recently came to Tucson’s AJ’s Fine Foods and are $3.69 for a 7-ounce bag. They are small, crunchy bites with a toastier popcorn taste.
Their website boasts “less fluff, more flavor” and all natural ingredients that are free of gluten, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, preservatives or artificial flavors.
They come in two flavors: butter and salt, and aged cheddar. These flavors are great, but they really need a sweet addition, like kettle corn or caramel. Until that happens though, the salty flavors provide a great snack.
AJ’s Fine Foods is located in La Encantada, 2805 E. Skyline Drive.

UNREAL CANDY, UNJUNKED

It may be candy, but the great thing about Unreal’s Unjunked candy is just that — no junk. The candy has no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavoring, and no preservatives.
So while the sugar rush might not be great for you, it’s probably better for you than all the extra ingredients in regular candy. They make “unjunked” versions of many candy classics: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, plain and peanut M&M’s, and Milky Way candy bars.
The thing about Unreal candy is that if you expect it to be exactly like its highly-processed counterpart, you will be disappointed. The “unjunked” peanut M&Ms are duller in color and misshapen, but packed with a more natural nutty, chocolate taste.
In Tucson, Unreal products can be purchased at CVS for about $1.19 a bag. Check out getunreal.com/find-unreal-candy for more stores.

Unreal Candy. Photo by Miki Jennings

 

Roughing it out with “Roughnecks”

By THOMAS F. JOHNSON

The series “Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles” was based on the Paul Verhoeven science-fiction film in 1997.
It was kept from getting an audience because new episodes were shown in the wee hours of the morning, run out of order or constantly rerun.
But it is a hidden gem, and well worth a watch for anyone who has the time to sit down and take it in.
The first thing I must say about the series is that the animation hasn’t aged all that poorly for 1999 computer-generated imagery, even though a lot of the human characters do run face first into the uncanny valley when they’re not in their suits and there are several times where the CGI shows its flaws.
I can honestly say the show would’ve looked a lot better had they done it in 2D. They actually were going to do that until they changed to CGI at the last minute, and they would suffer the consequences dearly for it.
But the excellent animator Fil Barlow did produce the art design, which is especially evident given the wonderfully creative designs of the bugs.
The series is about a group of soldiers called Razack’s Roughnecks during a war between humanity and a species of cruel, arthropodal aliens called the Bugs and their allies. (Well, it’s more complicated than that, but saying more would spoil it.)
It shows the progression of the war as we learn more and more about both the bugs and the characters.
This was one of the first in the wave of ‘90s action shows written to be light enough for kids and smart enough for adults, and it really does show.
The series hews closer to the original Robert A. Heinlein novel in tone, being a straight military science-fiction piece rather than the tongue-in-cheek satire of fascism in Verhoeven’s movie.
Though the writing can get a bit formulaic at times (Seriously, how many rescue missions can they do?), the story remains compelling throughout.
As one learns more and more about the bugs, one gets more and more fascinated. The characterization is consistent and good, helped by excellent voice acting, as we get to know characters like hotshot Johnny Rico, the impulsive and brash Dizzy, and the sensitive psychic Jenkins.
And the action itself is exciting fun, especially due to Barlow’s excellent designs for the bugs.
Unfortunately, in what will likely become a running theme for this column, the huge battle of the last four episodes that the series was building toward never happened due to production problems, instead replacing them with crummy clip shows.
Barlow said it was due to them budgeting for 2D animation instead of CGI and Sony not wanting to take a chance on the show.
But if you want a smart, adult, military sci-fi cartoon, check it out at http://www.hulu.com/roughnecks-starship-troopers-chronicles.
And if you want a bit more behind the scenes info, check out Barlow’s Deviantart at http://filbarlow.deviantart.com/.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Emilie Autumn: ‘Fight Like a Girl’

ALBUM REVIEW: Emilie Autumn: ‘Fight Like a Girl’

By APRIL GEORGE

With six years gone by since the release of “Opheliac,” fans of Emilie Autumn were beginning to wonder if they would ever see new material.

Autumn announced “Fight Like A Girl” in 2010, shortly after the release of her autobiographical fantasy novel, “The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls.” Fans waited eagerly but heard nothing more  until early this year, when Autumn began debuting songs from the album on her tour.

The concept album for Autumn’s planned stage musical based on her book was finally released on June 24. Fans crashed her website in their hurry to get the album, which has since received mixed reviews  from the fanbase.

“Fight Like A Girl” is a far different experience than her first album, “Enchant,” though not nearly as dark as “Opheliac.”

Dark tunes include the title track, which is about revenge, plus “Take the Pill,” about  forced  medication, “Time for Tea,” a violent song about rising against oppressors (in the case of the story, doctors in an asylum) and “Scavenger,” which is about both vultures and grave robbers, depending on how listeners perceive it.

Other songs range from humorous (“Girls! Girls! Girls!”) to thought-provoking (“Gaslight,” “One Foot in Front of the Other,” “Goodnight Sweet Ladies.”) Autumn also included “If I Burn,” a song cut from “Opheliac” about the witch burnings of Europe, and several instrumental tracks.

The best part of the album is that a listener doesn’t need to have read the book to understand it, as Autumn tells the story through song.

Unfortunately, the album uses less violin than her previous ones, a letdown given that Autumn is a talented violinist. Other critiques have panned some of the songs as “rushed” and not up to the standards of her first two albums.

One song in particular, “The Key,” has been poorly received by most fans. Though it has excellent instrumentals, the lyrics are poorly rendered and spend too much time simply summarizing the climax of the book.

Favorite tracks include “Fight Like a Girl,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “Take the Pill,” “If I Burn,” “Hell is Empty,” and “Goodnight Sweet Ladies.” Least favorite track: “The Key.”

Grade: A-

Swashbuckling fun awaits viewers in 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'

Swashbuckling fun awaits viewers in ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’

“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” delivers a strong message of perseverance and teamwork.

The movie opens in London in 1837. The sentiment of disgust for pirates is made clear by Queen Victoria Regina. Happiness, it seems, will not be hers until all pirates are extinct.

The audience is introduced to the pirate crew as they debate the best part of being a pirate. The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant, settles the argument by declaring the best part about being a pirate is “Ham Nite.”

The Pirate Captain begins to discuss the upcoming and illustrious Pirate of the Year award. In previous years, he has lost the competition but is certain that will change this year.

The pirates are evaluated for the award based mainly off the amount of booty they have pillaged, but other aspects are taken into consideration, including their beards, their ability to roar and the bounty on them set by the Queen.

The Pirate Captain is determined to win despite the condescending attitudes of competing pirates and a lack of ships to plunder.

After numerous failed plundering attempts, the Pirate Captain is about to give up on piracy. After a motivational speech given to him by his first mate, he attempts to pillage one more ship.  However, instead of finding treasure he meets Charles Darwin.

The Pirate Captain nearly forces Darwin to walk the plank, but he saves himself at the last minute by commenting on the ship’s beloved parrot Polly. He notices something special about her and promises untold riches if they enter her into the Scientist of the Year contest in London.

Through their encounters with Darwin and Queen Victoria, the pirates learn that nothing is as it seems and that through teamwork and loyalty, dreams can be accomplished.

Although this movie is geared toward children, there are certain elements that may cause parents of younger children some concern. For example, a pirate competing for the Pirate of the Year award named Cutlass Liz, voiced by Salma Hayek, was portrayed in a very sexual manner, including a tight, low-cut shirt that showed off more of her body than it covered. As she entered the bar, a group of pirates call her a trollop. Not the best thoughts to be putting in the minds of children.

However, most college students would not mind the brief sexuality and the humor would be appreciated.  Viewers of all ages will find it hard to not cheer for the Pirate Captain and his crew throughout their adventures.

Overall, the theme of the movie was positive and fun despite a few scenes that may be inappropriate for younger children. It is rated PG and was released into theaters April 27.

Grade: B

© 2012 Sony Pictures Digital Inc.

 

The Movie Snob: '21 Jump Street'

The Movie Snob: ’21 Jump Street’

By ERIC KLUMP

“21 Jump Street” helped to established Fox as a powerhouse network in 1987.

A young Johnny Depp headed the cast and its episodes dealt with real issues in teenage lives. A remake of the show is now showing at your local cinema, and is definitely worth watching.

In terms of a remake of the old hit, how does the film stack up? Terribly, but this is a good thing. Instead of trying to copy the old show, this movie is the best buddy-cop comedy in years.

It follows two former schoolmates-turned-partners on the police force, played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The two, undercover, are sent back to high school to bust a drug ring.

The film takes no prisoners with its humor, making fun of everything from high-speed action pursuits to changing ideals of “cool” to the movie itself, with a series of jokes about the fact that the movie is “another remake.”

Tatum plays officer Greg Jenko, a stereotypical dumb jock in high school, who is turned into a social outcast by the vastly different social landscape of modern high school.

Hill plays Morton Schmidt, who was a nerdy loner in high school but who quickly becomes one of his new school’s most popular students while on assignment.

Others include Rob Riggle, who steals the show as the coach Mr. Walters, and Ice Cube as the officer heading the Jump Street program.

Additionally, Johnny Depp makes a brief but memorable cameo that in and of itself is worth noting.

If you want an average comedy, go see something else. If you want to leave the theater wiping tears of laughter off your cheeks, go see “21 Jump Street.”

Grade: A

“21 Jump Street” opened in theaters March 16.

Trailer: http://youtu.be/oF0hzOP2agU

(c) Sony Pictures Digital Inc.

The Game Snob: Mass Effect 3

The Game Snob: Mass Effect 3

By ERIC KLUMP

As March 6 approached, many gamers wondered if Mass Effect 3 would be a fitting end to this series and if it could innovate and improve on an already near-perfect game.

The Mass Effect series is arguably the defining series of this console generation. It gave gamers a deep and enthralling story that, through player-made decisions, creates unique game experiences for every player.

Game play in the series has always been fluid. The game balances RPG elements with third-person action beautifully. The graphics have always shown what a game can do in this console generation, nearing photorealism.

With all of this to consider, how can Mass Effect live up to its predecessors? More, how can it improve on the previous two games?

I’m glad to say that this game doesn’t disappoint, meeting and exceeding high expectations. While playing the game, one doesn’t feel like they are playing something revolutionary or new. Mass Effect 3 is like a stone that’s been polished into a gem.

The story opens with a grounded Captain Shepard being brought back into service to save the galaxy. The series’ antagonists, the Reapers, have mounted a full-scale invasion of Earth.

Shepard has to combat the whole band of Reapers with a much weaker crew. He gathers teammates and old allies as the game progresses, with the larger goal of uniting races from around the galaxy, using his greatest weapon: his voice.

Between cutscenes, players explore, investigate and battle to save the universe from the Reapers and the human-first group Cerberus.

As always in the series, battles rely not only on your shooting and/or biotic abilities but how you direct your team. Both are fluid and easy to use but hard to master, making each fight a rewarding challenge for players.

New to the series is the addition of multiplayer mode, allowing players across the world to play co-op. The mode and its unlockable classes are fun but a slight letdown. It seems like an afterthought that should have been either developed more or left out altogether.

Overall, Mass Effect 3 is an amazing game no player should ignore this year. I recommend playing the whole series.

Score: A+

(c) Bioware

REVIEW: Rachael Yamagata, 'Chesapeake'

REVIEW: Rachael Yamagata, ‘Chesapeake’

By KYLE WASSON

When I first picked up “Chesapeake,” Rachael Yamagata’s third full-length release, my inhibitions were met with a sigh of refreshing promise. The first notes of her opening track “Even if I Don’t” show Yamagata’s focus throughout “Chesapeake’s” recording: simply make timeless, ambient, emotional music.

The Virginian piano rock-goddess first played with Bumpus, and has since eventually worked with artists ranging from Jason Mraz to Connor Oberst and Bright Eyes.

Yamagata teamed up with John Alagia, the long-time Dave Matthews Band producer, and packed up her belongings for an in-house recording.

By “in-house” I mean Yamagata moved to Alagia’s Chesapeake Bay retreat, instruments and all, and settled down to make the record.

Yamagata wanted complete freedom over the project, establishing her very own Frankenfish Record label. The two names ‘Chesapeake’ and ‘Frankenfish’ kept floating around, and after careful consideration and a little tequila, the names were picked as her label and first independent release.

Yamagata collected friends across the industry to contribute to “Chesapeake.” From laying down late night drum tracks to vocal recordings and even piano sessions in Alagia’s bedroom (it has the best acoustics), the recording process has become a labor of daily love for all involved. It shows through the tracks.

Occasional breathtaking string sections accompany some of the heartiest guitar riffs in mirroring the output of Yamagata’s vocals and outstanding piano. That’s the surprise of “Chesapeake”: you don’t know what you’re going to get from one track to the next.

The crew responsible for the production is a patched-together bunch from all over the indie world. Victor Indrizzo slipped away from his drumming duties for Sheryl Crow’s tour to lay drum tracks. Michael Chaves, guitarist with John Mayer’s band, slept on the couch and laid guitar down when needed.

Yamagata depended on Camera+ and the iPhone to deliver stellar album artwork, and it did. All funds and frequent flier miles were scraped together in the making of “Chesapeake.”

The devotion and patience it took to make this album is evident and Yamagata’s approach is glimmering in each track.

My favorites include “Dealbreaker,” a sultry, slowed-down ballad that compliments her voice wonderfully. She has a smoky, new-age, Janis swagger to her vocals, and I can’t get enough.

Give the album’s opener, “Even if I Don’t” a try. There is a huge shift from traditional mainstream to this track. Some make you want to dance and others make you want to find the bottom of a bottle.

Overall, I believed “Chesapeake” to be an enthralling album. However, I personally appreciate her earlier work. If you like more mainstream, gentle music, “Cheaspeake” is worth your while. At least check her out on YouTube. “Reason Why” was truly a song that tugged at my heartstrings.

GRADE: C+

 

FOODIE FINDS: The B Line for breakfast

FOODIE FINDS: The B Line for breakfast

By MIKI JENNINGS

It’s hard to find places in Tucson with great food and reasonable prices, so it was refreshing to step into The B Line for breakfast.

There are plenty of places around town to get breakfast and some are even pretty cheap, but they don’t always offer high quality food.

The B Line is a smallish building on Fourth Avenue, with lots of traffic between the kitchen and dining tables. Breakfast hours are 7 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday.

The B Line serves a tasty, affordable entree of eggs, toast and potatoes. Photo By MIKI JENNINGS

It can get very busy in the mornings, especially when the kitchen is about to switch over to lunch. You might have to fight for seating but it’s worth the effort.

The breakfast menu isn’t expansive but offers the basics: eggs, breakfast burritos served with fresh salsa and crepe-style pancakes (pan crêpes) served with rich pecan butter and smooth maple syrup.

You can add sides such as fruit cups, spinach and chorizo.

The B Line’s eggs are cage-free, well cooked and flavorful. If you want something sweet to go with them, order the 2×2 plate that comes with two scrambled eggs and two pancake-sized crêpes.

Early risers can order from a wide selection of coffees, juices or teas.

If you’re not too stuffed after breakfast, sample something from the rotating dessert case. Treats, made fresh every day, include cookies, tarts, cake, pie, pot de crème and macaroons.

We tried the milk-and-white chocolate mousse, served with chocolate garnishes. It was smooth, creamy and rich.

Breakfast prices range from $3-$7. Cheaper items include biscuits and crêpe short stacks, while full plates are more expensive. Desserts cost $6 or less.

FYI:

The B Line

Address: 621 N. Fourth Ave.

Phone: 882-7575

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

Website: blinerestaurant.com

GAME SYSTEM REVIEW: Viva la vita! (Live the life)

GAME SYSTEM REVIEW: Viva la vita! (Live the life)

By D.J. ARIZMENDI

Life has a certain motion. Before we can walk, we must crawl. Sony’s new portable gaming system, the PS Vita, on the other hand, has not even reached infancy but already has a running start against its competition.

With one of the best launch lineups in video game history, a gorgeous OLED screen and dual analog sticks, the Vita has everything gamers want in their hands, minus the uber cute anime girl.

The menu interface moves fluidly and the touch screen is surprisingly responsive. If you have any experience using an Apple device, you should feel right at home.

Photo Illustration By MIKI JENNINGS

Does it feel a bit rip-offish? Admittedly it does. In Sony’s defense, it mocks the style well without seeming tacky.

As with any new sexy tech, it’s the inside that matters.

Vita’s opulent 5-inch OLED screen sports a 4-core processor and 512 megabytes of RAM. It has a resolution of 960×544. In other words, the Nintendo 3DS looks last-generation by comparison.

For those worried about the weight, it’s not as heavy as it looks. At 9.8 ounces, the Vita fits into its tight dressing with some lovely handles on the back to assist with grip.

Even though I had no issue with the weight, the width can be overwhelming. Stood on its side, the Vita is a tad over 7 inches. Many people might find it cumbersome to squeeze that much into their pockets, especially since skinny jeans are in style.

If you are feeling artsy, the Vita has two cameras, one rear and one front. The biggest downfall for this feature is the quality it produces. The pictures look as if I resurrected my first flip phone from T-Mobile.

The saving grace is that the video can capture images at a staggering 120 frames per second, but it will look like garbage.

Though the button layout is similar to the PSP, the addition of a right analog stick makes this truly a game changer in the world of handhelds.

“Uncharted: Golden Abyss” is probably the strongest argument for an additional analog stick. Having that sense of complete control really pushes it over the edge for having a console-like experience.

Information about the 3G service has been spotty at best, kind of like AT&T’s coverage — which incidentally is the Vita’s provider.

Setting up the system for the service was beyond a nightmare. I would not recommend getting the 3G model unless it is your only option.

But if you are a glutton for punishment and wish to take advantage of the 3G feature, you can send messages, synch trophy info, look in the Playstation store, use a subpar web browser and access certain apps such as Near.

Be warned, though: You cannot download anything larger than 20MB over 3G. That basically means you will not be able to download any games available through the Playstation store.

By now you may be thinking this review is not exactly glowing, but there is a twist in the third act — the games.

By the Feb. 22 launch date, there will be at least 26 games available.  Anyone who has been a part of a system launch knows that is quite impressive. Even more impressive: I already have six of those games and could easily recommend six more on top of that.

If having great games was not enough, Sony has pledged to have every Vita game come out in a digital format on the same day as its physical counterpart.

The incentive for buying games digitally is not only the obvious convenience but the fact it will be sold at a 10 percent discount.

Imagine this: In the near future, you will be able to play a fully featured “Call of Duty” game on the go. Need I say more, bro?

Just like life, the Vita is not perfect. However, it is too wonderful to miss out on. With time, it has serious potential to become the greatest gaming handheld of this generation.

Grade: A-

FYI

Notable games at launch:

 

  1. “Uncharted: Golden Abyss”
  2. “Lumines: Electronic Symphony”
  3. “Super Stardust Delta”(download only)
  4. “Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3”
  5. “Touch My Katamari”
  6. “FFIA Soccer”
  7. “BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extreme”
  8. “Escape Plan”(Download Only)
  9. “Rayman Origins”
  10. “Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack”(download only)
  11. “Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus”
  12. “Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational”