Monday, August 29, 2016

Brown's Socialhouse Coming to Centrepoint 2017

It has been known for some time that Browns Socialhouse was going to open in Centrepoint opposite. However, week after week would go by and all that can be seen was paper in the windows. Meanwhile the Merchant Kitchen tucked beside the Alt Hotel entrance has been bubbling along.

One wonders if we will ever know why Milestones backed out of a long term lease at the last moment.

The new Brown's Socialhouse will join two others already on the city at Main Street and another at Plessis Road. The restaurant group started in 2004 in Vancouver and has expanded rapidly across the country. The founder Scotty Brown was one of the principals of Vancouver's Cactus Club group. His new enterprise has surpassed his old one and now there are 40 locations.

The casual dining/pub crossover is growing more popular as people want to gather together and move around rather than just be parked at a table. The evolution of flat panel and high definition televisions has changed bars and restaurants. No more picture tube TVs, projection screens of flat panels that are blurry. It is all large HD screens and can be done cheap enough that even the a mom and pop restaurant can now transform to sports bar.

The increasing isolation and a change in television has meant that people are craving certain meeting places and the focal point is the only thing that really isn't worth watching in a recording: sports. The return of the Jets in 2011 coincided with widespread HD channels in that same year. Can't go to the Jets games cause they're sold out? Well, attend any number of bars and restaurants and be part of the excitement.

The bars and restaurants surrounding the the MTS Centre have done well. Moxies, Boston Pizza, Tavern United and others have not just the Winnipeg Jets but the Manitoba Moose and numerous concerts to bring people downtown.

The Jets owners have improved their facility and doubled the sports events with two professional teams calling the arena home. Still, the Chipman family have been instrumental in the plan to expand the entertainment footprint beyond the arena. At first they did this by using the building across the street to bring in special touring events such as Bodies and Titanic. This proved wildly successful.

It is hard to say when the Chipmans decided to embark on a grander scheme for just north of their building but it is likely the event center's popularity made them believe a large project would work. It was thus that Centrepoint was born.

The parkade, hotel, office building, condo and restaurant complex has taken a very long time to complete. It seems that barricades and the like have been around that area of Portage for a few years. In that time though, each section has opened up. The offices and hotel appear to be doing well. The parkade is well used although the neon lights on the side still take a bit to get used to.

The one glaring area giving the whole thing an incomplete look has been the papered over windows on the main level. Brown's Socialhouse says that will change in January of February of 2017. At that time they will build a 225 seat restaurant with a 75 seat patio. This will be double the normal Brown's location and as such, it has been a daunting task to fill the space.

The connectivity of the restaurant and bar scene to venues like the MTS Centre and the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre is seen as critical to their long time survival.  The proximity to each other is also essential.

Brown's Socialhouse will fill a hole on the north side of Portage and will likely make that corner more lively and pedestrian friendly. More people draws more traffic. There are safety in numbers but no one will stick around for papered over windows. They will for a patio filled with people.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Banh Mi King Coming to 510 Portage Avenue

510 Portage Avenue has had many things operate out of it over the years from the Label store, UPS store, University of Winnipeg offices and for a while now...nothing.

I saw something going up in the window a little while ago and now it is confirmed via Twitter picture from Dave Shorr that a restaurant will be going up.

The sign for Bahn Mi King Vietnamese Eatery indicates they are opening soon.

People in Winnipeg have gotten a taste of bahn mi style food at Chosabi restaurant in the Exchange. It seems a good bet that the University of Winnipeg students and faculty will likely embrace this new entrant opposite the school.

Stella's, Sushi Gen and Long Island Cafe coffee are down the street, Subway is next door. Casa Burrito is a few doors down. This is the making of a solid selection of a restaurant row.

The only thing missing are more patios.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Goldeyes Making Play-Off Run

The Goldeyes are a beloved summer tradition in Winnipeg and this year is no different. With 14 games remaining in the season, the Goldeyes are positioned for a play-off run into the fall. Monday and through till Thursday, Goldeyes are playing one of their longtime rivals Fargo Redhawks.

After a nine hour drive back from Sioux City and playing the Explorers, batting practice was dispensed with. This was fine because the team pounded the Explorers 6-1 Sunday after losing the previous two games.

Winnipeg's baseball team has been hot in the second half of the season with a record of 30-13 in the last 43 games. In the American Association North Division, the Goldeyes are 3.5 games behind Saint Paul Saints to hold the wild card spot for the play-offs. This is 3.5 games ahead of the Laredo Lemurs.

It is a pivotal series of games against Fargo this week. The overall 51-35 on the year Goldeyes are second in their division. However, the bulk of the remaining games are against the third place Redhawks and they can never be counted out.

At game time Monday, the temperature was a steamy 30 C and the crowd was packed to the rafters. The Redhawks scored first and the Goldeyes battled back late in the game to tie it 2-2. The extra inning saw them go down to defeat 5-2. Three games remain this week.

And so it goes at Shaw Park with the most approachable athletes in sport and one of the best game day experiences. For those not able to attend the game the radio broadcast on 93.7 CJNU with Steve Schuster makes you feel like you are right there. The move to nostalgia radio has been a good match after bouncing around the radio dial.

In the coming weeks, expect some feature player profiles and interviews of Goldeyes personnel as the play-offs grow closer. Photographer Matraisa Klippenstein will feature some of her shots of the ballpark including some great game day footage.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review: Ben-Hur

In 1959, the epic Ben-Hur was released and went on to win the most Oscars in history until Titanic came along in 1997. Oscars went to Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography. Charlton Heston won the Oscar for Best Actor, the prize that escaped him just three years earlier for The Ten Commandments. The movie, produced and marketed for $300 million in today's dollars, had nearly 10,000 extras. The nine minute chariot race went on the become legendary and the musical score was the longest ever produced for film and highly influential. The 212 minute movie was huge in every way and the critical claim was accompanied by a $1.2 billion box office in today's dollars.

So what does Hollywood do? It decides to do a re-make.

The original story by Lew Wallace of Ben-Hur written 136 years ago is in the public domain so no one had to have to contend with acquiring rights. MGM, the studio for the 1959 version teamed up with Paramount and brought in Mark Burnett and Roma Downey as producers. The famous married couple fresh off their monster TV mini-series The Bible was there to ensure a Christian audience was motivated to come and be entertained. This is not an ill considered position for the studios to take. Over 100 million people watched The Bible mini-series and it finished number 1 all over the world. For some time now the Christian entertainment market has wielded influence on production. It is very likely that MGM and Paramount saw opportunity in re-making this tale given that the original story had a strong connection to the story of Christ.

Was there fresh material from the book ripe for storytelling? Possibly. Screenwriter Keith Clarke (The Way Back) had initially intrigued the studio by examining the beginnings of relationship of Judah Ben-Hur and his adoptive brother Messala. Another pass at the script by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) firmed up that story and incorporated more of the Christ encounters that influence Judah at different points in his life. Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) was hired as director for his action credentials.

Of the cast, only Morgan Freeman's name is stands apart from the rest. He is cast as Shiek Ilderim, a wealthy Nubian who backs and trains Judah for the the chariot race where he ultimately faces off against his brother. Judah is played by English actor Jack Huston and Messala is played by fellow countryman Toby Kebbell. Both actors have a varied experience to bring to this film but it is fair to say that they don't have Charlton's Heston's heft or gravitas. The international cast that follows is competent but not stand out.

The big issue in the re-make of Ben-Hur is that it doesn't know what sort of film it wants to be. If the attempt was to be a character driven piece, the script fails because we don't have enough depth to any individual. The 212 minutes of the 1959 movie was not a conceit but an admission that the people met along his journey shaped his character and influenced who he was as a man. One part cut from the 2016 version of Ben Hur is Quintis Arrius, the Roman Consul, saved from dying in the wrecked ship and who adopted Judah as his own. It is a very human moment for both men and took Judah to Rome where he learned the ways of the chariot. Too often faceless and nameless people come and go in the new Ben-Hur. You don't know enough to care about them or know their motivations.

There are two major action pieces on sea and land that were legendary from the Heston film. The attack on Macedonian pirates where Judah's ship is destroyed in combat and the chariot race. The script and direction by Bekmambetov focus on Judah's point of view from the belly of a slave galley. It is a dark place and the audience only see what our hero sees which is glimpses of the battle until his ship is destroyed. The choice is curious. Was it a style choice or a budget choice? In any event, we only see Judah's suffering endurance rather his noble determination.

The price of admission might be worthwhile to most viewers if the chariot race was a spectacular spectacle. It is. The use of the best CGI digital effects shows Judah race hard against his rival Messala. However, it is oddly soulless as competitors are killed off. Do we care? No. We don't even know them. Sadly, we really don't even know Judah or Messala at this point in the film either.

The final and last thoughts on this movie is the Christ angle. In weeks leading up to the movie release, producers sought approval and endorsement from churchgoers emphasizing the important message about Jesus in Ben-Hur.  The 1959 version handled this with a Jesus who was not clearly seen not spoke but was of huge influence on Judah. The 2016 version has a Jesus who dies very graphically on the cross and is clearly seen and speaks. If the message is forgiveness and redemption, it is lost in the violence.

It may be cynical but the studios might be calling to the faithful to watch the new Ben-Hur as a sign of their devotion. This would be a mistake. If people want to see an excellent epic movie where Jesus is seen as a force for good, they would do well to find the 1959 Ben-Hur and enjoy themselves. There seems to be no point in seeing this movie knowing that the other is so much better.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Folklorama 2016 Argentina Pavilion

Argentina is all about the singing and dancing and great food. The hospitality at this pavilion leaves you happy to see more.

The tango is the dance that thrills at this pavilion and the dancers show the beauty and strength of the women and athleticism of the men.

Expect to hear Don't Cry for me Argentina to be sung! Guest can also learn the tango!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Folklorama 2016 UK Pavilion

The UK pavilion delivers a dance opus to the four regions of the U.K.: England, Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland. Great costumes, dancing and live music are what you can expect.

Food is always a must at UK pavilion so people should check out cottage pie and their beer.

The culture part allowed you to have pics taken with a Buckingham palace guard or with Harry Potter!