Commentary

October 11, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Solomon Kane’, and the Anise Café

Solomon-Kane-poster

On Netflix: ‘Solomon Kane’

Ever have that experience where one movie seems to be everywhere and looks fairly interesting, yet the effort and time just aren’t made to sit down and watch it?
That happens to me more times than I like, and half the time the movie doesn’t prove to be worth it (You let me down, Flesh Wounds, you let me down hard). But eventually, I come upon a movie that, while not something I’d probably ever watch again, I have to admit I had fun watching it. Solomon Kane is one of these films.
After nearly being dragged to Hell by the Devil’s Reaper for a debt he does not remember, English mercenary Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) retreats to a Christian monastery in an attempt to keep his soul out of Satan’s reach. When he is forced to leave after several years, Solomon is welcomed by a kind family on a pilgrimage to the New World. When the family’s daughter (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is captured by an unholy army led by a sorcerer and his masked enforcer, Solomon vows to bring her home, not only for the family that treated him well, but to redeem his soul in the eyes of God.
First off, it seems remarkably easy to fight back against the Devil and his minions; apparently, any old sword will do in blocking the massive, molten sword of the Reaper. Another issue I had is the film’s odd pacing in the beginning and end. Solomon’s violent past as a vile mercenary doesn’t get much time, and in the end when we finally see the sorcerer, I was a little shaky on his motivation, if it was supposed to be anything other than “Give me your soul.”
Also, the very intimidating Devil’s Reaper is never, and I mean never, seen again, and a member of Solomon’s old crew just seems to come out of nowhere in the last thirty minutes. Still, I must admit I enjoyed seeing Solomon’s climb for redemption, and his relationship with the family was refreshing in that there were no “secrets” or needless animosity among them.
I’ve always been a fan of Purefoy, and while he has a few moments where he should’ve reined in his performance, I did enjoy him as the protagonist. One scene I liked in particular was when he was told he had to leave the monastery; his utter fear in losing his protection from the devil was very well portrayed. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Pete Postlethwaite as the family’s father, who was a pretty respectful character. Everyone else does an adequate job, save for Jason Flemyng as the sorcerer who was laughably unintimidating.
At first I feared this fairly low-budget film was going to rely on computer-generated images from old Playstation games and modern television (OK, admittedly the latter isn’t always terrible). Fortunately, most of the film relies on practical sets and enemies, so there was nothing too distracting except for some obviously fake blood.
The script could’ve been tweaked a bit, as some of the lines sounded like they came from every other sword and sorcery movie out there. The film’s atmosphere, while fitting, was also reminiscent of other films; I half-expected to see the cast of Season of the Witch cross their path at any moment.
Basically, if Solomon Kane is available to you, there are much worse movies you could accidentally watch. And for those who are fans of the comic series this film is based on, well, I just learned of what it was seconds before writing this review.
Solomon Kane is rated R for violence.

 

Anise-flyover-needs-cropping

and afterwards: Anise Café

Healthy, tasty Asian cuisine in Peoria

Asian restaurants are not in short supply in the West Valley, but very few offer a warm, inviting environment coupled with a delicious menu to back it up.
Anise Café, housed in suite B104 at 7539 West Peoria Avenue, brings authentic Asian cuisine to the area. The menu is predominantly Vietnamese, which makes sense since the café’s owner and manager, Ann Nguyen, is from Vietnam.
Nguyen left Saigon in 1975 and came to the United States to pursue her dreams. After a 20-year stint as an accountant, Nguyen decided it was time for a change.
“I needed something that was challenging, and I like to cook, so I decided to open my own restaurant,” she said.
Nguyen’s love for cooking was the driving force behind the creation of her menu. She admits all the dishes in her repertoire are her favorites but leans toward a few specific items.
“We have good pho (pronounced “fa”) and the beef stew with lemongrass is very good,” Nguyen said. “The orange chicken is very good, too. It’s lean with no fat, cooked with light butter and served with homemade sauce.”
So the real question is how is the food at Anise Café different from other Asian restaurants in the area? The answer is philosophy in cooking.
“Our food is healthy and tasty, just like home cooking,” Nguyen said, smiling.
I can make a decent Chinese stir-fry, but nowhere close to making homemade Vietnamese food as Nguyen no doubt enjoyed throughout her childhood. So my wife and I stopped by Anise Café for some Vietnamese home cookin’.
We started with do-it-yourself rolls, grilled chicken or pork and a selection of fresh vegetables. These ingredients are rolled in fresh lettuce leaves and dipped in sauce. Deep-fried egg rolls, you may begin weeping.
I’m very fond of shrimp, so we ordered a portion of shrimp bruschetta. Simply put, it’s shrimp and spices served on toasted French baguette slices. What’s not to like?
After washing down our starters with some fragrant tea, our main courses arrived. My wife opted to get her pho on. Her pho was beef with rice noodles in a savory broth and served in a very large bowl. Sipping soup out of a large bowl reminded me a little bit of the tiny soba shop we used to frequent in Okinawa.
I tried the Anise Noodle, egg noodles with barbecue pork slices, onion slivers, bean sprouts and sauce. A small bowl of broth was served on the side. Nguyen stopped by our table and showed me the best way to enjoy this dish. She sprinkled a couple spoonfuls of broth over the bowl of noodles, cautioning me not to add too much since the noodles already had sauce. Nguyen then suggested I add a couple drops of sriracha sauce on the pork. All flavors came together wonderfully to create an enjoyable experience.
We were too full to order anything else, but the Anise Café menu also includes wonton soup, pad thai, curry rice, Korean short ribs and Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich of meat, thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon radish, cilantro, cucumber, chili peppers and mayonnaise. If you’ve never tried Banh Mi before, prepare yourself for an incredible sandwich experience. A word of caution: Banh Mi is very spicy, so order a sweet beverage as a chaser.
Anise Café sets itself apart from other Asian restaurants with Nguyen’s take on fresh, flavorful food that won’t ruin the waistline or the budget. Healthy and tasty Asian food in the West Valley? I’d say Nguyen has succeeded.
Anise Café is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily except Monday.




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