Category Archives: Reviews

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ excites movie fans

Art by Shelby Pennington

By Reagan O’Farrell

A final group of people bustles into the already packed theater just as the lights go down, signaling the beginning of the film. People shift in their seats, turning off their phones as their focus now turns to the large screen before them.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle starts off with a bang, paralleling its predecessor of Kingsman: The Secret Service by instantly throwing moviegoers into the heat of the action. Taron Egerton returns as “Eggsy,” one of the two latest recruits to join the Kingsman, a spy organization created with the intention of upholding peace without the use of the government. Mark Strong, who plays “Merlin,” also returns, bringing with him a good portion of the comedy that makes the Kingsman movies so popular. The much-anticipated Colin Firth also returns as Harry Hart despite the seemingly fatal gunshot through the eye in the last movie.

This particular movie centers itself around a group known as The Golden Circle led by Julianne Moore as Poppy, who is the head of a major drug organization that plans on making its practices legalized by any means necessary.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle delves further into characters of whom little was really known about. Harry’s past, in particular, is subject to more scrutiny than previously, and more of Merlin’s personality is revealed through his excursions with Eggsy.

New characters are also introduced in the storyline, including Channing Tatum’s ‘Tequila,’ Halle Berry’s ‘Ginger,’ and Pedro Pascal’s ‘Whiskey.’ These players still did not quite overshadow the original characters, but Ginger and Tequila especially had fairly large roles throughout the movie. Channing Tatum did not appear in the movie nearly as often as one may have expected based on the trailers, but his presence as Tequila still impacted the actions of many characters whether or not he was on the screen.

Kingsman continues its trope of fantastical spy technology, even including a bionic arm that looks straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This comes as no surprise, though it did often lead to several easy wins that would never be possible without their presence. That being said, it did not hinder the movie: there are many battles that could not be solved by a nicely timed container of goop, and multiple resounding losses are faced.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle has been popular since its release on Sept. 22, possibly signaling the rise in popularity of movies that include a combination of action, adventure, and comedy. This movie blended all these genres together seamlessly, occasionally hardening back to The Secret Service in parody.

As with the first film, this movie was clever. Just like in The Secret Service where the “world ending” plot was radical though had its fair amount of reason and logic behind it, The Golden Circle has characters doing bad things for what they believe to be just reasons. While some aspects were more outlandish than others, with one of the main antagonists even bringing about some Hannibal-istic concepts, most of it was in no way entirely unheard of.

This movie does not appear to signal the end of the series: the tail end teases another sequel that may allow Kingsman to continue.

While this movie is certainly rated R for a reason, with its language, violence, and sensual content nobody can rightfully argue, it is certainly something worth seeing for the more mature audiences.

Avid readers anticipate release of Sarah J. Maas’s ‘Tower of Dawn’

Art by Ky Haney

By Reagan O’Farrell

A teenager tightly grips the hardbound pages of the book, opening up to the dog-eared spot from where she last left off. Flipping her hair from her face, she sinks her nose into the book, immediately becoming fully engrossed and incidentally ignoring the miffed stares of the people she nearly runs into.

Since the first installment of the Throne of Glass series was released in 2012, these books, written by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, have become a hit among young adults all across the nation. The sixth book, Tower of Dawn, was released on Sept.5.

This series is set around notorious assassin Caelena Sardothien as she finds herself exonerated from slavery by boy prince Dorian Havilliard, only to be trained by Captain of the Guard Chaol Westfall with the intention of becoming a personal operative for the ruthless king. As she battles against fellow thieves and killers, she must also discover the forces that have been brutally killing her competitors before it finally attacks her while simultaneously feigning as a mild-mannered lady at the glass castle. Despite her initial intentions, Caelena finds herself befriending Dorian and Chaol alongside the mysterious yet clever princess Nehemia Ytger.

Throne of Glass is deep within the epic fantasy genre with Sarah J. Maas having built a world entirely of its own making littered with the minute details that make readers feel as though they live there themselves. Stabs at romance can be found throughout the series, though more often in its latter half, and all of the books contain several action sequences written in enough detail to seem as though the fights are taking place on the physical earth.

While the writing is extraordinarily done, many critics have risen to the front in objection to the series’ applauded nature. Many of these criticisms are founded upon the characteristics of the protagonist, Caelena. She is a typical anti-hero: parallels can be drawn between her and other radical characters such as Deadpool. Some people develop bad tastes in their mouths when they hear too much of Caelena’s snarky attitude and are forced to understand what she has done to earn her title as a famous assassin. However, a number of these critics fail to note her development as one book evolves to the next. Her cynical nature becomes far less biting and sour and instead turns into an odd form of affection, and she addresses her own behaviors with a critical eye.

Others find more objection in the narrative style itself. They are none too fond of Maas’s thorough explicitness of both violent and sensual scenes, balking at the idea that children in the fifth grade could be found engrossed in the novels despite the fact that the intended audience is people in their later teens.

Throne of Glass is not without its faults, but Maas exhibits her natural talent in regards to wielding prose with her profound descriptions of both individuals and scenery. She also manages to leave seemingly irrelevant pieces of information throughout the books only to bring those details up later and express their weighty significance. Her characters are compelling, and despite the various number of them, they each receive adequate attention and development, all of whom connect back to Caelena herself.

The next book, Tower of Dawn, differs from the rest of the books in the series. Originally intended to simply be a novella, Maas became so invested in the book that it became a crucial component to the series. It is to be told from a perspective unlike the previous, with Caelena no longer being the forefront of the novel, instead being replaced by a male lead and female secondary character. This could bring an interesting change in the dynamic of the plot, but most readers have enough faith in Maas’s abilities to eagerly anticipate the installment.

For readers already invested in the series, Maas recommended in one of her newsletters to read her previous novella collection, The Assassin’s Blade, before proceeding to read Tower of Dawn.

Throne of Glass has been revving up in popularity these past few years, enough so for HBO to decide to create a television show based upon these books known as Queen of Shadows. While the characters may not find their way on screen for a little while, fans can look forward to reading the original ink and paper.

‘Wonder Woman’ smashes expectations

By Joey Bowling

Bullets fly across the screen, deflected by golden gauntlets. People are callously killed in some scenes, in others they are given a touching send off. No movie gives every character depth and expands upon their stories as wonderfully as Wonder Woman. The production is all at once heartwarming and action-packed.

Warner Bros. Pictures boasts an achievement that no other studios managed. Patty Jenkins is a female director of a superhero movie. This is a first in film history, considering no woman has ever directed a superhero movie before.

However, she also flips many common principles of female characters in media on their heads. Jenkins gives these Thymesciran Amazons back their bodies by giving them attire that is suitable for combat, rather than eye-candy. These women are a fierce race, dressing as if any moment they would step foot onto the battlefield.

Another norm she inverts is the scene in which Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is almost randomly naked, cupping his genitals after getting out of a bath. This goes against popular culture and shows viewers how awkward and unnecessary nude scenes are for developing a plot, something commonly used by male directors for female actors.

Speaking of nudity, parents should be aware that there is the scene above in the movie, as well as various innuendo throughout. One scene involves Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Trevor on a boat talking about procreation and “pleasures of the flesh.” There is little cursing in the movie, the harshest it gets is damn.

Another point of consideration for parents is the intense scenes. In one, a main character sacrifices himself to blow up a ship filled with poisonous gas. Before that, a scientist in Germany is experimenting on people and how to most effectively kill them.

Moving on to actual movie scenes, it entertains all sorts of attendees. The fight sequences will quell the more bloodthirsty viewers, while there is a tender romantic subplot for the bleeding hearts out there.

The fight scenes are intense between Prince and German soldiers. She also carries herself triumphantly against the main antagonist Ares in the climactic fight scene.

The movie also employs a diverse cast of characters, from the black and Asian Amazonians to the Israeli lead, Gadot. The movie has been lauded as a cornucopia of diversity by critics such as Hypable and PJ Media.

Another worthy mention of the movie is its memorable quotes. An exchange between Trevor and Prince, goes as such.

Trevor leads with “I can’t let you do this.”

Prince’s passionate reply is “What I do is not up to you.” A fan favorite quote from the movie resonates with many audiences, said by Prince near the end of the film. “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

Over all, Wonder Woman proves to be a home run for anyone who watches it. With quotes littered throughout like gems, and fight scenes helping to make sure the movie doesn’t stagnate, it is a titillating film for all ages.

 

 

Local bakeries offer diverse cupcake varieties

By Alexandra Scarber

I’m an avid baker with an extreme love for jumbo cupcakes decorated only to the tens. Avoiding salty foods is no struggle for me, but if it’s a dessert, no questions asked; I’m going to be eating whatever it is with no regrets, at least while I’m eating it. While running or swimming off the calories, I may sing a different tune. Reviewing restaurants is all fun and games, but bakeries is a whole new level of fun.

To start the cupcake adventure, my dad who was home for the weekend (he has been living in Washington, D.C. since February for his job, so yay) drove us to Louisville, where Annie Mays Sweet Cafe is located. The mini “parking lot” has three spots, but that’s sufficient, and the restaurant is easily wheelchair accessible. Annie May’s is a nut and gluten free bakery that also offers vegan and dairy free desserts. I wanted to try vegan cupcakes and compare them to regular cupcakes, so this was a great place because there are many vegan options. The bakery has light pink walls with checkered black and white tile floors. The table and chairs are old fashioned with a retro diner like style. The walls are decorated with black and white shots of desserts being baked except for one image of a completed light pink cake that is in full color and slightly larger than all of the other shots.

The decision was very tough, but I eventually decided on my two cupcakes, one a vanilla cake and strawberry buttercream (with no cream) frosting, and a carrot cake with vanilla buttercream (with no cream) frosting. The total cost was $6.01 and if you are thinking to yourself right now that if I paid that much for two cupcakes, I’m crazy,  don’t worry. I’m not. Annie May’s is gluten free, which means they can’t use white flour because it contains gluten. Instead, they have to use bran flour, which is very expensive, and in place of butter, they use coconut oil, which is also extremely expensive compared to its non-vegan counterpart. A 48-ounce container of regular canola oil costs $3.14 from Target and 48 ounces of coconut oil from Amazon costs $29.50, which used on an everyday basis to replace butter can quickly add up, so Annie May’s has to charge more for vegan desserts that contain the coconut oil.

If a food is vegan, it means there are no animal products, including any animal byproducts as well. This makes baking especially difficult because butter is a main component in most types of frosting, and eggs are a main component in both the frosting, if it is a meringue, and the cake itself because it binds all of the wet and dry ingredients together. Two items you wouldn’t think about, but are on the no-no list are honey, which comes from bees, and gelatin aka animal bone marrow, and it’s used as a thickener in gummy candies, marshmallows, and is the main ingredient in Jell-O. To say the least, going vegan is difficult, which is why places like Annie May’s are a great option for all the vegans in the world.

Although not all of the food is vegan, it is all nut and gluten free, but they do have a large selection that is vegan. The desserts available at Annie May’s include homemade pop tarts, cupcakes, brownies, blondies, ice cream, cakes, massive donuts, ginormous muffins, cookies filled with buttercream frosting and dipped in chocolate, and what they are most known for, their homemade oatmeal cream pies. There is also a small food menu that includes soups and sandwiches as well, but the focus is on the sweets and treats.

After I picked out the cupcakes at Annie May’s, I plugged the address into my dad’s GPS on his phone to the Adrienne and Co. that is located in New Albany. The bakery is across the street from the Grand and is easily accessible for wheelchairs, although the parking job is a bit difficult as the slots are slanted. Adrienne and Co. has three locations, one in New Albany, Jeffersonville, and Floyds Knobs.  New Albany location has the best dessert selection, Floyds Knobs has the best donut selection, and the Jeffersonville location has the best food variety. I chose the New Albany location because they have the best cupcake selection.

The bakery has a rustic; yet; cute feel. There are twinkle lights hanging throughout, and the rough wood floors have darker color tones throughout. The bakery has a small food menu, but the emphasis is clearly on the desserts. The first thing my eyes landed on when I walked through the doors was a glorious display of all the desserts. From massive cupcakes, humongous blondie bars, brownies drowning with fudge frosting, cheesecakes, cannolis, donuts, sticky buns, and massive cookies, the decisions are endless.

I was going to order the jumbo carrot cupcake and the jumbo vanilla cupcakes which are $4.99 each, but soon realized that with my $5 coupon I received from purchasing so much (my family and I really do frequent the shops too much) that it would be smarter to buy a six pack of regular sized cupcakes instead. For those of you who are thinking to yourselves holy cow that is ridiculous to pay that much for a cupcake, you have to remember that each cupcake is frosted, filled, and decorated with only the finest ingredients. They use almond extract for their frosting, which is expensive ringing in at a whopping $12.32 for a 4-ounce bottle.  I chose to review the regular sized vanilla and the regular sized carrot cake because that is what I had already bought from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe. I let my family eat the rest of the six pack which included strawberry, red velvet, banana walnut, and chocolate because I was already eating four cupcakes at once and even for a cupcake lover like me, that’s quite a lot of sugar in one sitting.

When I got home, the first thing I did was weigh each cupcake because there was a very noticeable difference in the weight of the regular vs vegan cupcakes. I weighed in grams and the vegan carrot weighed 2.4, the vegan vanilla weighed 2.5, the regular carrot weighed 1.6, and the regular vanilla weighed 1.2. The vegan cupcakes most likely weighed more because they were much more dense because they were baked with the bran flour, and the regular cupcake weighed much less because they were baked with regular flour which makes for a much lighter, airier cake. The difference in grams between the two vegan ones was most likely the very slight difference in the amount of frosting, and the difference between the regular carrot and vanilla can be accredited to the fact that the carrot had raisin, pineapple, and pecan chunks and the vanilla had nothing besides the light whipped cream, which the carrot had as well.

Review of cupcakes taste and appearance:

Vegan vanilla: This cake was much less dense than the vegan carrot and had large bubbles from the cupcake rising during baking. The cake was chewy with a bran flavor and a slight pokey texture. I picked up on a slight hint of vanilla from either vanilla extract or actual vanilla bean. The cake had spilled over the cupcake pan a little on the left when baked, which caused it to appear a bit lopsided, but it did not affect the taste. The frosting was very thick with a creamy texture, very sweet, and had a light and refreshing strawberry taste. The little rainbow sprinkle beads were meant to be cute and contributed little to no taste. The frosting was put on with, if they use Wilton frosting tips, a #31. The frosting was neat and professional with no visible mistakes.

Vegan carrot: This cake very dense and had very little bubbles from the cupcakes rising during baking. The cake had a subtle carrot taste with a hint of cinnamon. This cake was less grainy than the vanilla, but was a little dry. The flavor bran was there from the flour in the cake. The frosting was very thick, sweet, creamy, and tasted of vanilla. Cinnamon was sprinkled on top and finished the cupcake off quite nicely. The frosting was put on with, if they use Wilton frosting tips, a #31. The frosting was neat and professional with no visible mistakes.

Regular vanilla: This cake was very fluffy and light, but it could have done with a minute or two less in the oven because the top and bottom of the cupcakes was a little too browned for my taste. The texture reminded me of angel food cake, and I didn’t pick up on any flavor except for vanilla, which is expected. The filing was whipped cream, and it put in the center of the cake with the correct depth. The frosting knocked me over with the strong flavor of almond extract, which I enjoyed. The taste of almond extract is very distinctive, so some people do not like it, but I find it a unique twist from the regular  butter-creams. If you do not like the taste of almond extract, I advise you to either ask the cashier if the cupcake you want has almond extract or to order something other than cupcakes. This is because the majority of their cupcakes have almond extract in them. The cupcake was frosted with, if they use Wilton frosting tips, a #109. The sprinkles were a cute finish that contributed no real taste to a delicious cupcake.

Regular carrot: This cake was very moist and bubbled from baking. The cake tasted strongly of carrots, but Adrienne modified the original carrot cake by adding in raisins, pineapple chunks, and chopped pecans. I found this twist delicious, but I believe they should have this posted on an allergens warning board because if someone were to have a pineapple or raisin allergy, they would most likely not expect to find pineapple chunks  or raisins in a carrot cake cupcake. The filling tasted as it should, light and creamy, but was filled entirely off center. The cream cheese frosting was creamy, milky, and sweet with a chopped up pecan and a perfectly piped miniature carrot to finish off the cake.  The cupcake was frosted with, if they use Wilton, a #12. They most likely used a #7 for the miniature carrot.

Adrienne & Co.

Location: 133 E. Market Street New Albany, IN 47150

Accessible by: SHANE@CAKESTODAY.COM or  (812) 949-2334
This bakery is accessible to wheelchairs.

Hours:  Closed-Monday, Tuesday through Friday 7a.m. to 2p.m., and Saturday & Sunday 8a.m. to 2p.m.

Grade: Decoration A+, frosting A, filling A, and cake A

                 Annie May’s Sweet Cafe                

Location: 3110 Frankfort Avenue Louisville KY 4026.  

Accessible by: info@anniemayssweetcafe.com or (502) 384-2667

This bakery is accessible to wheelchairs.

Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 9a.m. to 6p.m. Saturday: 9a.m. to 3p.m. Sunday – Monday: Closed

Grade: Decoration A, frosting A+, and cake B

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