Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kotas Reviews The Other One and Hotter Than Hale Hot Wings

Today I was taken out to lunch by a friend of mine, Mike. We went to a local greasy spoon called "The Other One". This place is tucked away in a shopping center near the GIANT PUBLIC POOL that resides in Oak Ridge (seriously, this thing is enormous). It is known for its burgers and sandwiches, but also for the "Food Challenges" it has, which I'll get to in a bit.

The menu is "lots of burgers of various sizes and toppings, lots of different sandwiches, some sides, and hot wings." You know, bar food. They have a wide variety of foods to accommodate a wide range of tastes, and I believe everyone who eats there can find something they can nosh on. Examples: The Summit - 1/2lb burger with Pimento cheese, The Tofu Reuben - Exactly what it says on the tin, and the Tank - 2 1/3rd lb patties with cheese and bacon. In addition, they have three menu items of questionable judgement: The Fatman, the Colossus, and the Hotter than Hale hot wings.

The Fatman is 4 1/2lb patties, stacked Big Mac style, with a lot of toppings and a side of fries. If you finish it in 11 minutes, you get it for free, otherwise you get your picture on the Wall of Shame. For the "I want the experience but not the full thing" you can order the little guy, which is exactly the same except it uses 2oz patties instead of 1/2 lb ones.

The Colossus is a 5 lb. burger, smothered in toppings and comes with 6 servings of fries. It costs $70 ($75 with cheese), and is designed for a party of 6 or more people to share and enjoy. I believe it is for parties, and may require a "call ahead" order, I'm not sure. There is no challenge associated with this one that I am aware of.

The Hotter Than Hale hot wings are the spicest wings in the joint, and if you can eat 10 of them in a row, without drinking, and with licking your fingers clean and sitting for five minutes, you win a free combo meal. As an alternative, you can have one wing as a side item for a $1. You can now see where this is going.

For my meal, I elected to have the Brooks Bomber, which is a 1/3rd lb cheeseburger topped with a small variety of cold cuts like salami and other things you'd find on a Subway Cold Cut Combo. I had a side of curly fries, which I were told were "crisp", and a diet soda as a drink. Mike had a Gyro, fries, and an extra tub of tzatziki sauce. I also decided to get a "tester" Hotter than Hale hot wing.

The wing arrived first. Having heard tales of its insanity, I elected to let it sit while I waited for the rest of my food. The scent of the wing was very strong, and I could feel the spice in my nostrils. This would be no ordinary hot wing. The burger soon arrived and it was actually really damn good. The patty was well cooked, the toppings complimented the burger, and all in all it was a delicious, if greasy, dish. The curly fries were fine. They were not "crispy", but were about what you would expect from curly fries, so I'm not sure what was up with the "crispy" description. I elected to preserve the majority of the fries to help mitigate the horrible spiciness of the hot wing, which waited for me to be suckered into its trap.

Because he's an asshole, Mike decided he simply MUST record the whole experience on his phone. Yeah, it's probably going to be on YouTube soon. Hooray? Whatever. I introduced myself, picked up the hot wing, and took a bite. All I could really taste was vinegar, which was clearly the base of the sauce. I chewed a bit, and then the burn started to kick in. Deciding that speed was of the essence, I wolfed down the rest of the wing, which still didn't taste like anything except Hot and Vinegar, and licked my fingers clean of the sauce. That's when my eyes started to water really bad, and I began sucking down my soda at an increased rate. Was it spicy? Fuck yeah it was spicy. It was so spicy that soon even the flavor of vinegar was banished and all I could taste was burning. Soda helped but a little. I tried eating some fries, but they didn't do much to mitigate the problem. On a whim, I dunked one into the tzatziki sauce. That did the trick, sort of. The burning was fierce, and I drank a lot of soda and ate almost all of Mike's leftover tzatziki sauce in trying to put out the flames, while my eyes watered and my nose, sinuses WIDE OPEN, ran a bit. Mike tells me I also turned red.

The Other One is a damn fine greasy spoon with a fun atmosphere and some "gimmicky" foods. I will totally eat there again, though I certainly won't have any of their Hotter than Hale hot wings again. It gets 3 smiley faces on a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces, and I'd bring friends there if they visit, and I can find the place.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kotas Reviews Smokey Mountain Brewery

Last night before seeing 'Prometheus' (see previous rant), we ate at a local place I'd always wanted to try but never got a chance to called Smokey Mountain Brewery. Their claim to fame is that they are the main source for all the local craft beer sold by the Copper Celler, and Calhouns. All these local chains are owned by the same people anyway, but I'd never tried this particular outlet before.

The atmosphere is..."well, we have all this space, we might as well serve food to go along with our beer". There isn't much aesthetic, though they've clearly tried to "sports bar" it up with TVs at a lot of the tables and big TVs mounted up on the walls. Sadly, it doesn't quite work, but it's probably "good enough". The staff was pleasant and helpful and all around nice.

The menu is mostly bar food, with steaks, ribs, pizza, and some other pasta dishes for flavor. They make a passing stab at a Vegetarian menu but it falls pretty flat in my opinion. The pizza menu is "pizza/calzone". The sandwiches are standard fair, with a couple of "show burgers" like the Ranch Burger (with ranch dressing). Healthy this place ain't. This place is pretty much known for the beer, so I looked over that menu too.

They had about 10 beers available, divided into three categories: Normal, Premium, and Seasonal. They had different names, but that's what they were, and they were priced accordingly. All the basic varieties of beer were present (pilsner, "light", red ale, porter, brown ale, etc) and they came in Pints or Supermugs at decent prices. To go with my meal I got a "supermug" of their Cherokee Red Ale for $6. First, the mug of beer. It was ridiculously huge, holding at least a liter of booze and it was full to the brim. The beer itself was crisp and not too heavy, with a good "beer" flavor. I enjoyed it very much. The neatest thing is that you can get beer to take home, from bottles up to through kegs, if you so wish. My personal favorite sizes were the 64oz Growler and the 5 Liter mini-keg.

Because I was curious I ordered the Pretzels with Beer Cheese appetizer, which was more expensive than I realized, but hey, what the hell. The pretzels were the big soft kind you'd buy at a hot dog stand, and the beer cheese was excellent, as was the honey mustard it came with. I even saved the honey mustard to go with the fries that came with my Chicken Philly Sandwich. The Chicken Philly was decent, but nothing spectacular. Charlotte ordered a personal Calzone, which was big enough that we could have split it and been happy with that and the appetizer. One of my friends ordered the Reuben, which was actually pretty dang tasty. The fries were good, but not super great. Overall, the food was solid.

All in all, it's a good place to knock back a few local brews while munching on some decent bar food. I give it 3 smiley faces on a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces, and I would recommend that if you are in the area and like beer to try it out. Knock off a smiley face if you aren't a fan of beer.

Kotas Reviews Prometheus

Last night, at the urgings of one of my friends, my wife and I went and saw Prometheus. Having avoided just about every trailer and review ever, except for a few offhand remarks that ranged from "I love this movie!" to "Why does this piece of shit even exist?", I walked in with the following expectation: That it would be better than Aliens: Resurrection. Given that expectation, the movie performed as expected. HOWEVER...

This is not a good movie. I know, I know, I'll be annoying folks with that statement, but hear me out. This movie commits a cardinal sin of horror movies: It is boring as shit. This is an hour long tale that was stretched to fill two, and the movie suffers horribly for it. The basic story is not engaging enough to make me care about anything, so it feels twice as long as it should. A lesser sin that this film commits: It's not scary. Sure, there are a couple of jump scares, and some of the effects are neat and gross, but it's not scary so much as icky. There is build up to scary, and it COULD have been scary, but it's just not. It is just icky, and that is why this movie is not good. Now that I've said that, be warned thar be spoilers ahead!


Okay, let's break this shit down. The opening credit sequence is lots of long shots of beautiful landscapes meant to evoke a "raw, untamed world" sort of feel. Then a creepy albino dude drinks a thing that does awful stuff to him, falls into a lake, and disintigrates into black dust that fades away. Others have stated this is meant to represent the alien beings seeding the Earth with the primordial soup that eventually results in the stupid apes known as human beings, but I would argue that any plan that involves "drink some weird shit and be dissolved" is a terrible plan. Consider my suspension of disbelief stretched a bit. This is also the first of many scenes that could be excised from the film with no loss to the story.

Next up is a quick scene that sets the plot for the film: Archeologist Couple finds evidence that People from Space (I call them Space Idiots) have been visiting our world for thousands of years and have left a clue to where they came from in the form of a "star chart that primative people couldn't possibly know about". Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, something about the Pyramids being impossible to build w/o spaceships...until someone figured out how to do it. Eh, whatever, neat premise, I'm hooked.

The next 10 or so minutes is actually a really really good characterization scene with the character David. David is a creepy, creepy android and maaaan does it show here. This scene calls back to the long shots of people doing normal, everyday stuff on the ship in 2001 and sets the mood of the film. Brooding, slow, and thoughtful. I liked this part immensely, and the actor (whose name I can't remember and am too lazy to look up) does a lovely job here and throughout the film. The acting in this film is actually pretty good, even if the story being told is padded as all get out.

Then we get the requisite "people out of hypersleep" scene that establishes Cherlize Theron's character as not only a bitch, but a hardass bitch. I enjoyed this character, and sort of wished she had been more developed. This is a problem we'll see throughout a lot of this film: Characters not developed enough for me to give a shit when terrible things happen around them or to them. Anyway, time to introduce our characters! The bright eyed-scientist dude (who I don't really care about), the bright-eyed scientist chick (who got ever so slightly more backstory, so I kind of care about her), The Mean Guy (dead as a doorknob), the Nice Awkard Guy (Dead too! Probably paired up with the Mean Guy), The Captain (Heimdall from Thor, also given a bit more development than the others, and probably the best overall character in the film), The Captain's Two Sidekicks (1 dimensional characters who end up being fun), and Random Nameless Extras We Don't Care About And Are Fodder.

Then we get the briefing scene that explains to us everything we already know that the crew of the ship doesn't know, and introduces another character that is obstensibly the driving force behind this but doesn't play a huge role in the film: Mr. Weyland, the Decrept Old Rich Guy Seeking Answers. Now that we have our players, it's time for a bit more development and some atmospheric shots that are well done. They also point out several Chekov's Guns (or Flamethrowers, or Lifepods, or RoboMedicalBays, or..). The first up close views of the Alien Complex are pretty cool, and the tech on display is pretty awesome. Truly the Future. Then they discover alien bodies, THe Mean Guy flips out and leaves, the Nice Guy goes with him, and everyone else gets science-y while David The Paranoid Android does Shady Things...For Science maybe?.

Blah blah contrived action scene. Then we're back to the ship for the revelation that Mean Guy and Nice Guy "got lost on the way back". This is really where I went "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa WHOA. You mean to tell me that with those awesome 3-D mapping robot things that TRANSMITTED A FULL 3-D MAP to the ship, AND have obvious locator beacons and CAMERA feeds...that these two idiots got LOST? My..ASS." Eh, fuck it, they are clearly fodder, because hey, gotta have somethign gross happen in a "No really it's not Alien...but it's Totally Alien" movie! Some science people do stupid science things, the Android does Horrible Thing to Bright Eyed Science Dude, and after a lot of boring stuff, the two Guys are eaten by a Space Cobras in a gratuitous death scene that is slightly squicky, but still kind of dull, because you totally see it coming a mile away. Oh, and the Captain and Cherlize Theron get it on off camera, thus leaving the death of the two Guys unwitnessed, because they don't have DVRs in the Future. /eyeroll

Next day it's time to go get the two Guys, Bright Eyed Science Dude (BESD for short) has an eye leech from the goo that David slipped him in a drink, and he's all "oh man, I'm freakin' out...but I'll wait until we discover the bodies first". They discover the Space Cobra, everyone freaks out, and Cherlize Theron flamethrowers BESD before he reenters the ship because "Holy shit, infected persons maybe shouldn't be let on board." This is supposed to show she is heartless, but I prefer to think of her as "smart" instead. Meanwhile, David the Paranoid Android has discovered that at least one more alien is in Space Hypersleep, and runs home to tell his "Mysterious yet Totally Not Mysterious at all" boss.

Time for pointless body horror! So, Bright-Eyed Science Chick (Or Liz as she is named in the movie) ends up lying on a medbay bed after watch BESD burn to death for being horribly infected. This is clearly traumatic, so David the Paranoid Bastard Android quizzes her about her sex life, and then lets her know she's 3 months pregnant with Horrible Alien Baby, all because she totally did it with BESD right after he was infected, ya know, last night. David's plan is "put her in cryosleep", which as we all know is a terrible plan. Then some nameless extras show up to prep her for the cryo bed, she beats them up...somehow, and runs to Chekov's BioBed to have a Space Cesarian. BioBed is like "LOL only dudes LOL", and is totally trolling her, but she does some Science Stuff and it all works out, even if it is horribly disgusting in every possible way. It is played for tension, but I just...didn't care? I mean, yeah, she's a total badass for walking around after MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY, but there is tension because...Horrible Tentacle Baby is angry at being pulled out. It's icky, but not scary...and merely sets up Chekov's Horrible Tentacle Baby for later. Oh, and Mean Guy comes back as a horrible creature for a pointless action scene.

For some reason, after going through HORRIBLE TRAUMA, she confronts Mr. Weyland (oh yeah, he was totally on board the whole time), and he reveals he's gonna go talk to the one alien left alive. Uh...kay. David will translate (they established how he could do that earlier, so it's cool). Long story short, that doesn't go well, Albino Alien is Not Happy, rips off David's head, beats Mr. Weyland to death with it, and then Cherlize Theron says "fuck this, we're out of here" while Albino Alien gets ready to leave. Somehow, Lizzy figures out he's going to Earth and not Going Home to Let Everyone Know "Hey guys, our horrible plan turned out horribly", and as the alien ship (oh yeah, it was a ship. NO FUCKING SHIT) takes off, the Captain and his Buddies get all Self-Sacrifice-y while Cherlize Theron ejects along with the LifePod. The ship crashes into other ship, which falls out of the sky...and then I just started laughing.

This completely dumb action sequence is the epitome of "fucking retarded". The ship falls out of the sky and lands on an edge...and starts rolling towards Liz and Cherlize. Who then RUN AWAY FROM IT IN A STRAIGHT LINE. I just started laughing, it was ridiculous. Anyway, Liz lives, Cherlize is crushed by the Rolling Ship of Murder, and just as Liz makes it to the lifepod (where she discovers Chekov's Horrible Tentacle Baby is now All Grown Up), David's Head informs her that Albino Dude is coming to kill her...because he totally knows where she is somehow. Seconds later, he bursts into the Lifepod and Liz sics her Babby on him and then flees. Horrible Tentacle Baby then proceeds to do exactly what you'd expect it to do in this film and Face Huggers the whole alien to death. Then the film doesn't end and I got sad.

So, Liz is now upset (and really, who wouldn't be). David's Head calls her and says "Oh, by the way, there are other ships on this planet. Uh, I can totally help you fly one." Liz then leaves, headed to find the Albino Guys and ask them "What the Fuck, yo?" Then the film doesn't end again, and I got sad.

So, back to Horrible Tentacle Baby and Albino Dude. Albino dude twitches slighly, and then (of COURSE) out of his body bursts a proto-Alien. Said proto-Alien was also way too big to fit inside Albino DUde without distorting the corpse, but really, at this point I was just glad to see the credits roll.

This is not a good film. It looks pretty. The acting is good (and in some ways, brilliant). The script is bullshit. It goes for some pretty heavy themes, but it ruins them with lots and lots and LOTS of padding and pointless grossness. There is so much of this film that could be cut and not change the story at ALL. The opening "seeding the earth" sequence. The ENTIRE sequence of Mean Guy and Nice Guy getting eaten by Space Cobras or turning into horrible monsters. The entirety of Chekov's Horrible Tentacle Alien Baby and the aftermath of it. This film is heavily padded and is full of "setup that did not deliver" sequences, ESPECIALLY regarding the Space Jockeys. It posed some really neat ideas, but failed to deliver them in a meaningful way. The character development was bad for all but a small handful of characters, and even most of those got the shaft. This film could have been great, but it collapses under the weight of its own hubris. On the other hand, the acting is excellent. The sets are awe inspiring at times. The special effects are pretty good (nice to see less CGI than usual), and I did think there were some deep themes. It was just presented poorly.

I give this film 1 frowny face on a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces, mostly on the strength of the David character, and the fact that the Captain played a squeezebox. It commits the twin sins of being boring and not scary, and that makes it a bad horror film AND a bad Sci-Fi film too.