Monday, November 28, 2016


Starring: Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders
Director: Barry Jenkins
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Rating: R

"Moonlight" is one of the most heartbreaking films I've ever watched. To call this a coming of age story is a bit of an understatement. Yes, we see our protagonist Chiron develop from age 8 to age 28 (or thereabouts) but we also see his attempt to overcome being a gay black male in a rough Miami neighborhood. This isn't just your average tale of growing up. The acting is incredible, each actor doing their character justice, with spot-on cinematography and a hauntingly beautiful score. Will this be a contender come Oscar season?  It's hard to say, but this is an extremely well-done film that's sure to leave tears in your eyes and a heaviness on your heart.

The film is broken into three parts. We first meet 8-year-old Chiron, aka Little, as he is running away from bullies. He finds himself in a drug house, and we immediately realize the type of neighborhood he lives in. Juan (Ali) finds him and serves as a sort of mentor, though he is in fact a drug dealer himself. Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Monae) are seen parent figures to Little, much more so than his mother (Harris) who has recently developed an addiction to crack. Even at age 8, Little questions his sexuality and wonders why kids at school tease him and call him cruel, gay slurs. His friend Kevin encourages him to not be "soft" and fight back when he is bring picked on. This friendship with Kevin develops into a touching story line that we follow throughout the film. Juan and Teresa struggle with their role in Little's life, knowing his tumultuous home situation. The moment Little realizes Juan sells drugs for a living, and his mother takes drugs, is heartbreaking.

During part two, we meet Chiron, the alienated and bullied high school student, still being tormented for his sexuality. Chiron's struggle with his sexuality isn't the primary focus of the film, because everything in his life is an equally difficult struggle. He continues to spend time with Teresa as his own mother falls further and further into the drug world. One day, Chiron hits his breaking point. We see it building and building until it finally comes to a head. It was only a matter of time, and it's devastating to watch.

Part three introduces us to a whole new man: Black. He has become a drug dealer in Atlanta, and has developed a hard persona - the sensitive and naive boy we once knew is long gone. He gets a phone call from his old friend Kevin, and when they reunite, Kevin is also shocked at Black's new lifestyle. The two share a few powerful scenes over dinner at a diner, but for the most part, this was the weakest chapter in the film. It was also hard to see the vicious cycle of poverty and crime life continue to be played out.

Obviously, this is not a feel-good movie. My brow was furrowed the entire time. The three actors that played Chiron did it with such grace and courage. It's a beautiful movie, in its own dark way, but was very hard for me to watch.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Running Time:1 hour, 56 minutes 
Rating: PG-13

It wasn't until a few years ago that I got into the sci-fi film genre. "Aliens," "Interstellar," and "Gravity" helped me get on the bandwagon, and now I'm excited anytime a new space film gets released. (I finally saw the very first Star Wars just last month!) The fact that we know so little about aliens, outer space, other galaxies and the like, leaves a lot of room for creative story lines and interpretations. "Arrival" is the latest sci-fi/alien film, and it's the best movie I've seen all year. I would advise you to not watch the trailer, so there are truly no spoilers.

It's always difficult to write about films like this - not divulging too much of the plot, but wanting to entice my readers to go see it. The cinematography is beautiful, the score haunts, and you'll alternate between being on the edge of your seat and being totally lost. Director Denis Villeneuve is fresh off "Sicario", a fabulous, underrated movie that has quite a bit in common with "Arrival". While the plots couldn't be further apart, we're on a journey through the eyes of a female protagonist, figuring everything out at the same time with her.

Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, an expert linguist hired to communicate with paranormal creatures that have arrived to Earth. The arrival came in the form of 12 UFOs, scattered randomly throughout the world. Adams brings such grace to this role that it's easy to empathize with her. Jeremy Renner, though a bit miscast, does a fine job as physicist Ian, who works alongside Louise to figure out how to communicate with the aliens. I could always use more screen time with Forest Whitaker, the military officer who hired them.

Louise, Ian and the team are allowed inside the UFO every 18 hours, when a door opens. Their first trek inside will cause anyone anxiety to watch. I was worried that seeing the aliens would take away the intrigue and mystery, but it's always interesting to see different writers' and directors' interpretations of the creatures. The plot slows a bit during the middle, but every other scene jerks you back to the pressure cooker Louise, Ian and the rest of the world are in. What seems like a daunting and impossible task isn't made easier when each country shuts off communication with each other, out of mistrust and fear of the unknown.

I hate to stop here, but that's really all I can say without giving away too much. You don't have to enjoy sci-fi films to enjoy this movie. If you do enjoy them, you'll really love this movie. It's one of the most unique filims that I've seen in a long time. The story, though strong on its own, is supported significantly by Amy Adams, a true tour de force. She has a lot to carry with this film and she doesn't disappoint. You'll leave, still thinking about the movie for days to follow.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Pieology just opened its doors at Friendly Center in Greensboro, next to the new Rise Donuts. Nothing (major) against the Cheesecake Factory, but the Pieology - Rise duo is about to be the hottest new stop in the shopping center. Last week, I got to sample 6 of Rise's famous donut flavors including Original Glazed, Sprinkles with Vanilla Icing, Chocolate Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Cheerwine Glazed and my favorite of the bunch, Fruity Pebbles. Last week was a great week because I also got to attend a Private Media Event and enjoyed a sneak peek at Pieology, a fast-casual, customize-your-own, unlimited fresh toppings pizza joint. I repeat: these two are about to be the hottest spots at Friendly.
Beauties from Rise!

When you walk into Pieology, you notice several things: it's bright, clean, and there are endless toppings with which to decorate your pie. Literally endless - you can put on as many toppings as you like, which is good news to a "too much is just enough" kind of gal. Salads are fresh, with a nice assortment of toppings and presumably homemade dressing, and you can build your own, too. But the main event here, is the pie.

My favorite of the night was the Smokin' Buffalo Chicken. This promises heat, and it delivers. An olive oil base is a nice, neutral bed for chicken, fiery buffalo sauce, gorgonzola, mozzarella and the kicker - cilantro. The flavors all shrine through and satisfies all of my buffalo cravings. It's simple, yet packs a huge punch. Not for the weak palate!
Smokin' Buffalo Chicken

Alfredo's Alfredo is another flavor bomb, with a three cheese alfredo sauce base, mushrooms, artichokes, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and tons of fresh garlic. With both the Smokin' Buffalo and Alfredo's Alfredo, I didn't miss the tomato sauce base, which I typically prefer. This pie has enough going on to intrigue my taste buds and satisfy my texture buds, too. This one is a winner.
Alfredo's Alfredo
The Rustic Veggie is a great healthy option, served on a whole wheat crust with that tomato sauce I had been lusting after. They call it the Mardi Gras pie, because it's so darn colorful! Just about every veggie you can think of is on top: green peppers, roasted red peppers, corn, red onion, garlic, basil, with ricotta and mozzarella to boot. Why hasn't corn been a common pizza topping until now?  The crunch and sweetness is fantastic. I would probably add more garlic next time, but I was impressed that the crust didn't bend with the weight of the toppings! It may be a super thin crust, but it is crisp and sturdy!
Rustic Veggie

Gotta do a Classic Margherita when you're sampling pies. This was my second favorite: beauty in simplicity.  Tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, garlic, Parmesan - this one will have even the heartiest carnivores out there smiling. These ingredients were made for each other, and Pieology's version is one of the better Marg pies I've had in the area.
Classic Margherita

I didn't feel overly stuffed after eating several slices of Pieology's pizza. That's not something I can say about other pizza joints. Thankfully I had room to try their Chocolate Chip Churro Dessert Pizza, which nailed my sweet tooth with just the touch of sweetness I needed. The crust is super thin, almost too crisp for my liking, but you don't need much to get your fix. The mini chocolate chips are precious, the cinnamon sugar sprinkle with the icing glaze is reminiscent of a cinnamon roll, but this doesn't feel too rich or gluttonous. And in case you can't finish any of your pies, there are brilliant half-pizza size boxes for you to leave with!
Chocolate Chip Churro Dessert Pizza
I have no doubts that both Pieology and Rise will take off the moment people get word of their openings. Both are active on social media, too. Check them out, and let me know what you think!