Archive for April, 2007

Excitables for the Weekend of April 27-29

April 27, 2007

I’d be more excited about Boston’s return to Yankee Stadium this weekend if Jerseycool had not spent last night freezing and bored along the first base side of the House that Ruth Built. Yes, ducklings it’s tough times in Yankeeland. Six losses in a row and the hot Boston Red Sox on the way into town. Another sweep and the Yankees could find themselves with a new manager on Monday, so in terms of the sporting world this weekend all eyes will be on Boston-New York part two.

The other big sport event in town is the annual NFL Draft. Football honchos around the country will gather at Radio City Music Hall to pick teams for next season. Truly, it’s the first day of the new season and every fan will be filled with hope as their teams select the next batch of “sure-fire” hall of famers.

Elsewhere this weekend: Looking for a flick? Well, it’s not long until Spiderman3 opens folks. This week’s box office entries including the Cold Stone Steve Austin in the action flick “The Condemned” and a gaggle of teens in the creepy-deep “The Invisible.” We got an absolute rave in our in box from one of our movie buddies about “Hot Fuzz”, the action movie send up by the same guys who brought you Shaun of the Dead. You may not get a better return on your money there.

For readers out there, we’ve been trying to get into Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian but it’s been slow, slow going for the novel that’s trying to bring back life to the Dracula tale (pun intended). No, we’re going to have to go with Charles C. Mann’s 1491, which we recommended a few weekends ago and we’re sticking to our story there.

Have a good weekend everyone,

JC

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Everybody Safe On Stage

April 26, 2007

Turns out we were all wrong about who was going home last night on American Idol, well, kind of. Because the show morphed into the Jerry Lewis telethon for one magical night, Ryan Seacrest just didn’t have the heart to give either Lakisha or Chris the boot.

Yep, we’re sticking by our prediction that one of the two will be gone next week when the lowest two voters will be eliminated. We figure there’s no way the show will get 70 million votes next week when it returns to its cynical, cruel ways so whoever finished last or next to last this week will have to make up a lot of ground next week.

The American Idol telethon itself wasn’t bad. The clips of children in need were sufficiently heartbreaking, performances were all pretty good with standout songs from Kelly Clarkson and Annie Lennox. Lisa Simpson’s impersonation of Paula Abdul was probably the funniest part of the show and Celine Dion’s duet with a superimposed Elvis Presley was the creepiest.

Speaking of the King’s big moment on stage, we’ve always argued that a duets night on Idol would be a terrific idea but could never get through because of two problems 1) you need an even number of contestants meaning the only way you could do it is at 12 or 10  2) there’s something inherently unfair about being judged as a duet during an individual competition.

However, did we see the solution last night. Next year will a duet feature a live Idol contestant singing with a holograph of their musical idol.  Think of the previous possibilities, Taylor Hicks-Ray Charles, Chris Daughtry-Ed Kowalczyk, Fantasia-Macy Gray, Jennifer Hudson-Billie Holiday. The list goes on and on and might make for an interesting night of Idol. Probably more interesting than 70s night.

 JC

Lakisha Does It Again

April 25, 2007

OK, folks. One more time with feeling. If you ever happen to be on American Idol and think about covering another song performed by someone who was previously on American Idol, stop, pack up your things and immediately move out of the AI hotel or wherever they put the contestants.

Just one week after Lakisha Jones bounced into the bottom two with a shouty version of Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” she did it again this time with a shouty version of Fantasia Barrino’s “I Believe.” Dear lord someone stop this girl before she starts covering Kevin Covais.

Now, Kiki sang Fantasia better than she sang Carrie Underwood but even Paula Abdul cringed at what was clear to everyone in the room. Kiki is no Fantasia, no Carrie Underwood and might not be Jennifer Hudson (oh yeah, she covered Hudson in week 1 too). On a week where Idol contestants were supposed to be singing inspirational tunes in line with their “Idol Gives Back” theme (more on that later) apparently she was not inspired to do anything somewhat original.

This could be the end for Kiki tonight since there is no Sanjaya and Phil “Bottom Three” Stacey seems to have found himself.

Two things might save Jones. First, Blake Edwards committed career sacrilege by covering the beloved John Lennon tune Imagine. It was a wobbly, off-key version that reminded people how weak Blake’s vocals are and how not like John Lennon he is. Second, Chris Richardson stank up the stage covering Eric Clapton. The boy gave the worst vocal of the night and with Sanjaya biting the dust last week, Idol voters might be getting around to pruning the tree of bad vocals. Even though the judges praised Richardson’s performance they obviously were suffering some kind of group brain fart since we at JerseyCool central were mightily annoyed by the great nasaler.

Our prediction for tonight however is Lakisha Jones getting the dismissal slip. Two weeks of butchering other Idol songs is probably two weeks too much.

Now, a word on Idol Gives Back. I’m really torn on this one, folks. The cynical side of me is bursting at the seams with what looks like a brazen PR stunt but the other side is thinking this is a pretty worthwhile endeavor for the show. Yeah, it’s a ploy to generate buzz and ratings but Idol didn’t have to do this. The show could have just merrily slogged through this season without lifting a finger. In the end some very needy people here and abroad will get help and that overshadows the cynicism in our book.

JC

Forecast Looks Bright for FOW’s Traffic and Weather

April 23, 2007

There’s a tradition in American pop music where artists struggle after the’ve hit it big. Think Bob Dylon after Blonde on Blonde, Springsteen after Born in the USA, Alanis Morrisette after Jagged Little Pill. It boils down to this: once an artist says what they want to say what’s there to do next?

That feeling permeates Fountains of Wayne’s latest Traffic and Weather. FOW hit it big five years ago with Welcome Interstate Managers, a rousing showcase of power pop. The collection was best know for its superhit Stacey’s Mom but it was also a solid set of Beatles-influenced rock that hadn’t been heard since the late 1970s early 1980s new wave influx. Since WIM little has been heard from the band named after the Wayne, NJ, lawn ornament store, other than a collection of rarities and B-sides, Out of State Plates.

One imagines that the band took some time off but also took a lot of time figuring out what to do next. The result is a brooding, lonely set of songs masquerading as upbeat fluff. The album’s sound is pure Jeff Lynn ELO mixed with a bit of Traveling Wilburys for good measure but the writing is Bruce Springsteen circa Darkness on the Edge of Town. Success seems to have caused if not melancholy than a good dose of circumspection in FOW’s songs.

Nearly all of the characters in the set are lonely folks some at the very breaking point of pathos. The title song is about unrequited love between local news anchors (it also sports the best line of the album “Chuck Scarborough Turns to Sue Simmons/Says Sugar you don’t know what you’re missing”). A jokey premise but underneath there’s a longing that’s borderline scary.

There are also characters in debt and out of prison, lonely waitresses that bolt supposed greener pastures in Lichtenstein and disconnected urban professionals who have nothing to look forward to except a warm shower and an hour of late night TV. This is except from “Someone to Love” is typical.

He calls his mom, says he’s doing fine
She’s got somebody on the other line
Puts Coldplay on, pours a glass of wine
and curls up with a book about organized crime

When it’s late
And it’s hot
And a date with the Late Show is all that you’ve got
Don’t give out
Don’t give up
One of these nights you might find someone to love

The plight of the office worker, extreme commuter and put upon saleseman has always been a cause du jour for Fountains of Wayne but never before has the band taken the suburban malaise as seriously as it has here. Though Traffic and Weather on the surface seems to be more of the same it’s a significant step forward for a band that should be considered more than just power pop.

JCP.S. This is a sad coda. We tried to pick up Traffic and Weather the week it released at Best Buy and Coconuts music stores only to find it missing from the new releases rack and the FOW bin. This is a sad, sad state of affairs in music land. We understand that music purchases have moved online and more and more simply downloaded from the net but it’s a little sad that two stores, just a stones throw from the aforementioned Fountains of Wayne store aren’t stocking this NY-NJ band’s new release. We eventually got our copy from Amazon.

Excitables for the Weekend of April 20-22

April 20, 2007

It’s Earth Day — springtime finally hits the northeast just in time for Earth Day. Without getting to crunchy folks it’s a good time to break out the bikes, dust off the planters and hit those hiking trails people.

Jerseycool’s personal favorite hiking spot is Ramapo Mountain, but there will be events in just about eRamapo Mountainvery local community on Sunday including Lewis Morris County Park in Morris Township and Washington Lake Park on Saturday. Check your local papers for events closer to home. NJ.com also has a listing of events.

Yankees-Red Sox; Mets-Braves — the first real set of baseball weather also brings with it the first two marque matchups of the baseball year. Yankees and Red Sox will meet in Boston for a three game set with a prime time matchup on

ESPN slated for Sunday night. Not to be outdone the Mets host their long time rival the Braves, who are off to a hot start this year.

If you’re the type to have a few amongst friends when watching the game today’s Star Ledger has a roundup of Garden State sports bars. You can also find the article on NJ.com.

In the cinema, Anthony Hopkins reprises his role as Hannibal Lecter…oh wait, that’s a different movie. Anyway, Hopkins breaks out his creepy persona to chew up scenes (no pun intended) in the courtroom drama, Fracture. Fans of the indie hit Shaun of the Dead probably already have today circled since Hot Fuzz, a send up of action flicks by the same comedy team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright hits theaters.Hot Fuzz

Vacancy is the other big release of the weekend. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale get trapped at a homicidal motel. Resemblances to Psycho are purely intentional.

Have a good weekend everyone,

JC

Size Doesn’t Seem to Matter at Gaucho Steak

April 19, 2007

Gaucho Steak – Argentinian Grill
381 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ, 0704
973-233-1520
gauchosteakrestaurant.com


Hi folks, sorry but Gaucho Steakhouse is no more. This post is here as a memorial but the restaurant has closed. 

We took in the new eatery on Bloomfield Avenue last week and while we found the meal filling it could be a shock to diners accustomed to the 48 oz prime rib you get at say Charlier Browns or Lonestar Steakhouse.
OK, now let’s be fair. We ordered the Filete, which our server promptly noted was the smallest of the restaurant’s chops and we did see a few larger plates coming out from the kitchen. If you’re looking to pig out ask the server what the best option is.

Gaucho Steak also serves grass fed free range steaks imported form South America, so when you walk in keep in mind you’re paying for quality not quantity here and the quality is quite good.

We thought the Filete had a nice organic flavor to it, different from the over-processed fare you normally get at a steakhouse. The sauces served with the Filete were also tasty and necessary since the meat is gamier than you’d expect. Where we were truly disappointed was in the sides. Our Filete came with half a caramelized onion, which was good but at $22 a steak we expected a bit more.

Now C went for the Lomo — beef tenderloin, onion sundried tomato bacon tart and Cabrales Cheese. Again, we thought the flavor was great but portions were a bit light for the $22 item.

Now, the really good news is because we had room in the tummy we sampled the chocolate stuffed empanada guilt free and were rewarded with a tasty dessert that polished off the meal well.

We also reccomend the oxtail empanada as an appetizers. It was a great way to prepare the palette for the Latin American fare.

As for the intangibles, we were promptly seated without a reservation around 6:30 on a Friday and our server was great, patiently explaining the different menu options. The decor is also inviting, the walls are a deep red, which seems to be the color du jour among restaurants today and South American cowboy paraphernalia adorns the walls. Reminds us a bit of Mesob, the Eithiopian place down the street that we’ve been praising.

Overall, Gaucho was a great experience. We think some diners might be put off by the price/portion ratio but for those looking for a different kind of steakhouse Gauch should be on the shortlist of places to try.

If you want a slightly different take read S. J. Gintzler’s three star review of Gaucho on NJ.com.

 

 

 



One of the more interesting things about traveling to other countries is eating out and one of the things thatGaucho Steakhouse frustrates Americans to no end is portion size. We eat big here in the states and most countries, with the exception of maybe Italy, serve much more reasonable portions. If you’re a fan of this then Gaucho Steakhouse in Montclair is for you.

Kiki Better Hope Jesus Takes This Wheel And Texted Some Votes

April 18, 2007

Let’s start off by apologizing for being away the past few days. Not only has JerseyCool been navigating the flood waters to get back and forth to work but we’ve been locked in day long develop meetings at the day gig. Hey someone’s gotta pay for all this wit and wisdom.

Anyway, we have a very pleasant, with the emphasis on pleasant, review of Gaucho Steakhouse for the locals to chew on forthcomLakisha Jonesing but for now here’s our Wednesday take on American Idol and our predictions, condensed style.

OK, the good: Melinda Doolittle, Jordin Sparks, Blake Edwards with A, A- and B+ performances respectively.

The mediocre: Phil “Bottom Three” Stacey. Actually, not a bad performance but if shaking hands with people in the crowd counts for personality then we have dropped our standards haven’t we. Phil gets a one week reprieve from the bottom three but it’s probably just for one week.

The bad: Lakisha Jones, Chris Richardson and Sanjaya Malakar. All deserve to be in the bottom three, though Jones’ fans may rally to her defense, which would put Phil back into his weekly spot. Still, if you haven’t figured out by now that it’s a bad idea to cover songs made popular by other American Idols (Kiki sang “Jesus Take the Wheel”) you really deserve to go home (nobody butchers Carrie Underwood on country week, nobody!) Richardson did his sing through the nose shtick and then pandered for votes by adding his condolences to the Virginia Tech victims. It may have been genuine but it looked like pandering and people American Idol is all about the looks. Sanjaya was actually really, really bad this week which brings us to….

Predication: Sanjaya goes tonight because I think even the vote for the worsters have gotten tired of this. When you turn the mockery into a mockery it’s just not fun anymore. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the week the diva vote solidifies around Ms. Doolittle, which is bad news for Kiki.

JC

Excitables for the Weekend of April 13-15

April 13, 2007

Throw some salt over your shoulder, beware of black cats and be extra careful around mirrors today. Yes my faithful readers we begin the weekend on Friday the 13th. Obviously, the best and only way to honor and appease the date is with a marathon of Friday the 13th movies so fire up the DVD. May we suggest “Friday the 13th – From Crystal Lake to Manhattan”Friday the 13th a tidy collection of 8 FT13 flicks.

Not into horror? You could opt for the Freaky Friday series. We’re partial to the Barbara Harris/Jodie Foster version.

Elsewhere this weekend:

Hockey — You may not have noticed but there are hockey playoffs going on right now. Yep, the NHL playoffs have kicked of and not one, not two but three area teams are involved. The Devils, Rangers and Islanders all made the annual NHL round robin.

Robinson Remembered — On Sunday it will be the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. To honor this event 200 players in the league will wear Robinson’s retired number 42. The number was retired from the entire league 10 years ago on the 50th anniversary. The movement was not planned. It started spontaneously by a request from Cincinnati slugger Ken Griffey Jr. and quickly spread throughout Major League Baseball. The NY Times has an excellent piece on the memorial today.

Professional baseball has a lot of problems as do all major sports but sometimes they do manage to get things right.

In the theaters — As we all hold our breaths a few more weeks for Spiderman 3, the movie studios are treating us with a eye candy like the Bruce Willis-Hallie Berry Perfect Stranger and Gen Y Rear Window remake Disturbia. Indie fans may find more treats with Year of the Dog, a dramedy about pet loss, yep, pet loss that’s getting very good reviews across the board. Bring the Kleenex dog lovers.

On the Johnny DramaTube — Stormy weather is expected to settle in over the region on Sunday, just in time for episode two of The Sopranos and Entourage. The two JerseyCool favorites both started off well last week, more so for the Sopranos than for Entourage. Word on the street is that all those Soprano fans more interested in the mob family than the family family will not be disappointed in episode two.

Happy weekend folks,

JC

Haley’s Gone, You’re Pulling My Leg

April 12, 2007

Haley ScarnatoHaley Scarnato’s legs and plunging necklines couldn’t get her past this week’s American Idol. We got the predication right but we’re the first to admit that it didn’t take Nostradamus to pick this one, folks.

Now, Haley looks like a nice enough girl but once it became apparent she didn’t have the vocal chops for the competition, clothes started coming off and breasts started jiggling. Not a bad decision but for the third week in a row Scarnato basically performed in her underwear and she got called out for it.

She might have made a better decision by trying to rock out and steal some of those Gina Glockson fans looking for a canidate. It would have been a hollow stop gap but she could have garnered the two to three votes needed to beat Phil “bottom three” Stacey, who will probably go next week.

This brings us to Sanjaya Malakar, the tone deaf don. He actually wasn’t bad this week, however this does not mean he was actually good. The cannon fodder is getting closer and closer to Malakar, who we expect to lose sometime in the next two weeks as people who take AI seriously start to rally toward one candidate or another.

I don’t think Vote for the Worst is keeping Malakar in this but for all of those who think it would be funny if he wins let me leave you with this. If Malakar wins be prepared to pay to vote. Yep, you heard it here first. You’ll have to pay to vote next year and not some measly 10 cent messaging charge. No, we’re talking about a $1 per vote donated to charity of course. This would instantly cut down on repeat voters.

Hey, I’m as amused by Sanjaya’s run here as the next guy but I ain’t paying money to see it happen.

JC

More From the Lost Files

April 11, 2007

Doc Jensen over at EW.com says tonight’s episode of Lost is another good one. Now, I know a lot of people are down on the show. The never ending mysteries, the break between episodes and the sudden appearance of new characters can get frustrating. However, this lost in all the Lost talk is the simple fact that this season has actually been quite good.

I think the hostage story line went on a bit too long. It was tough maintaining any narrative momentum when one episode focused on the hostages, another focused on the others and another on the beach castaways. Lost has always been at its best when it shuffles and moves different storylines along at the same time.

It also suffers from X-Files syndrome. Unless you’ve been with Lost from the begining there’s really no way to follow along, so it’s pretty tough to pick up new viewers.

Awhile back Lost producers floated the idea of picking an end date for the show. Hopefully, with the Sopranos picking up ratings during its final run this will bring ABC to its senses and end Lost after next season. The suits could even wrap it up with a two-hour movie the following fall just to milk it one last time. It would be a good way to reward fans who have stuck with the show through some frustrating times. These are the people who created fan sites, launched podcasts and created entire communities of like-minded TV junkies.

Lost was the first TV 2.0 show and its fans deserve an end for all their investments.

JC