Archive for May, 2010

The Curse of the Sequel: Iron Man 2

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by demibanwo

Every year, just around the summer, a huge blockbuster movie is released that tops the charts for a couple of weeks and grosses huge numbers at the box office. Not long after that, a sequel is green-lit and production on the sequel begins. A few sequels are able to beat the colloquial “curse of the sequel”, where the first installment overshadows the next. Such movies include “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Spiderman 2.”

Unfortunately, Marvel Studios’ most recent release “Iron Man 2” is a victim of the pattern. A good movie in its own right, it is falls short of the bar set by the first movie in character and plot development.

Robert Downey Jr. of “Tropic Thunder” and “Sherlock Holmes” fame, reprises his role as Tony Stark, millionaire playboy and head of Stark Industries, a military weapon facility and dealership. The character bears striking similarities to Howard Hughes, one of the wealthiest men in world, in his eccentric behavior and daredevil tendencies.

Like his DC Comics counterpart, Bruce Wayne/Batman, Stark has no superhero powers but has access to resources that enable him to create his superhero identity, Iron Man.

Unlike Bruce Wayne, Stark’s identity as Iron Man was revealed to the public at the end of the first movie. Stark faces the challenges of living his outrageously lavish lifestyle while upholding the heroic image of Iron Man. This conflict is shown in a scene where he attends a party drunk and in his Iron Man suit.

Stark faces new villains like Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rouke), a Russian rogue scientist who emulates the Iron Man arc reactor technology and produces his own fighting machine. Vanko is the son of Howard Stark’s (Tony’s father) partner who was accused of being a spy and exiled to Russia. Vanko holds a personal vendetta against Stark and is out to destroy “not the man but his legacy.”

In addition to Vanko, Stark also has to deal with Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival weapons developer who enlists the help of Vanko to create “Hammer Drones”, mass produced weaponized versions of the Iron Man suit.

On the flip side, Stark also gains new allies. Scarlett Johannson steals the scene as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, an femme fatale who is deployed to Stark Industry to keep an eye on Stark and attempt to groom him for the Avenger’s program, a coalition of superheroes.

Along with Romanoff is Lt. James Rhodes, Stark’s best friend. Terrence Howard originally played Rhodes in the first movie but due to “irreconcilable differences” with Marvel Studios, Howard was replaced with Don Cheadle and the chemistry between Cheadle and Downey Jr. is reflected in the love/hate relationship between Stark and Rhodes.

As an avid comic book aficionado, it was the little references to other comic book characters that really worked for me. In one scene, Stark uses Captain America’s shield to prop up a pipe and all throughout the film, references are made to the Avengers franchise. This movie also paid homage to the cartoon series in a scene where Stark has a suitcase contraption that transforms into the Iron Man suit just like in the cartoon series.

Like all the recent superhero movies, Iron Man 2 includes a scene after the credits that hints at the next Marvel movie. In the scene, one of the characters from the movie discovers the Hammer of Thor, a nod to the “Thor” movie that is in the works.

At 2 hours long, Iron Man 2 packs a lot of punches. From the ad-lib dialogue of Downey Jr., to the advanced special effects, Iron Man 2 has the potential to be a box office hit but it still doesn’t fill the void left behind by the first movie.

Advertisements

Personal Column: Home

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by demibanwo

Nigeria. To some it is just another country in Africa. To others, it is the country which they were unfortunate to be raised in and have sworn to never go back. To others, it is the 15th largest oil-producing country in the world. To me, it’s home.

I’ve been on the Unites States for three years and still, there’s something missing. Or maybe there’s too much. Too much competition. Too much talent.

Or not enough. Not enough opportunities to display talents. Not enough jobs to cover the competition.

“So my main goal is to move back home,” I say to my high school best friend, Ada. After three years in different states, we’ve grown apart but we still find time to reminisce on the “good old days”.

“Seriously, I’m trying to go back as soon as possible, as in, two years max.” She seems surprised.

Surprise. That’s what I’ve been met with every time I told someone I plan to move back home. My mum has given up any hope on my relocating back to Nigeria.

“Of all people, I never thought you’d move back,” she says, with a smirk. She says I’ve been so assimilated in the American system. In our local lingo, I’ve become an “akata,” a Nigerian turned American.

“First of all, you’ve lost your accent,” she says. We exchange a banter of Nigerian colloquialisms, my subdued effort to prove her wrong.

Coincidentally, earlier in the day, I heard from another friend that my accent sounds like a mix between a Southerner and an African.

“So why so you want to go back so badly?” she asks. I’ve asked myself the same question over and over again.

Why do I want to go back? Last time I went back home was for Christmas. During that break, everywhere I looked I saw an opportunity. When those around me complained about how bad things were, I thought about how to make them better.

There is a lot wrong with Nigeria. As I type, there is a religious war going on. Not that that is anything new in Nigeria. With over 300 religions, there are too many “gods”. In this case, the Muslims are fighting and killing everybody else. The war is currently ravaging in the northern region of Nigeria.

“Are you really ready to go back?” Ada asks. I’ve asked myself the same question over and over again and every time I ask, I remember the little things that I’m going in back to.

Am I ready to go back to washing clothes by hand instead of just tossing them in the machine? First there is fetching the buckets of water. About five. In goes the soap. After washing come the blisters and skin peeling. Am I ready to deal with all that?

Am I ready to go back to fluctuating electricity? Or no electricity at all? I recount countless occasions when I was writing a paper or watching a TV show and just as it got intense or before I got the chance to save my paper, darkness. And heat.

“So why aren’t you going back?” I ask her. Ada has been here a little longer than I have, four years. The difference between our experiences is the fact that her whole family moved here with her. My family is back home in Nigeria.

I went to boarding school for six years so I’m used to seeing my family about five times or less a year and honestly, that’s enough for me. I have been able to explore and find myself by myself and I’ve gotten used to being on my own.

Am I ready to go back to having my whole family around me all the time, constantly in my ears, telling me what I can’t do? Am I ready to go back to not wanting to come home because I know I’m going to get in an argument with my mum about the state of my room?

Talking to Ada made me realize the things I hadn’t thought about. That’s why she’s my best friend. She is the reason why I reason if I do at all. She makes me think things through without thinking about it.

I’m not ready right now so I’ll give myself time. Time to detach myself from the American way of life. Time to gain the professional experience I need to succeed in Nigeria. Time to build a tough skin to deal with my mum. I put that at two years.

Nigeria might not be the best country, far from it, actually but just like the song “Arabian Nights” says: “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

Laziz Biryani Corner: Exceptional Indo-Pakistan Cuisine

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by demibanwo

My past experiences with Indian food have tarnished my appetite for the cuisine. On several occasions, including back home in Nigeria, I’ve been faced with a plate of the most colorful yet disappointing dishes. If you think sushi made by Mexicans is not authentic, try Indian food made by Nigerians. I’ve tried India Mahal on Hillsborough Street, Royalindia on Glenwood Avenue and even gourmet Indian cuisine at Azitra and they all tasted bland, almost factory-made.

With this mindset, the idea of trying Indian food one more time was unappealing. During a food review session in class, food review expert Greg Cox raved about Laziz Biryani Corner, a little Indian dive located inside the GoPaks Bazaar convenience store on Hillsborough Street.

Sultana Sarwar, a native of Mumbai who was a resident of Pakistan before moving to the United States, owns Laziz Biryani Corner. Having lived in both India and Pakistan, she is familiar and fluent with both cuisines.

Laziz is in many ways different from all the other Indian eateries I have tried but perhaps the one thing that attracted me to Laziz was learning that they served goat meat.

Goat meat is by no means a delicacy. Back in Nigeria, goat is a staple food eaten with almost every meal, but on this side of the world, I’ve been hard pressed to find a good goat meat dish.

There are a lot of reasons to not like Laziz Biryani Corner. First of all, it’s located all the way behind a convenience store, an unlikely location for a restaurant. It has little aesthetic appeal: the décor consists of a beach mural on the wall and red plastic chairs with hardwood booths. Around the corner are shelves filled with chips, car oil, soda and other convenience goods. The only copy of their menu is taped to a glass screen.

The menu is equally split into vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and sides. They serve mostly biryani entrees, rice-based dishes garnished with exotic spices such as cardamom and coriander and meats for the non-vegetarian dishes along with different sauces and curries to go with the rice dishes. They also serve a Thali platter, a combo that includes two dishes accompanied with basmati rice, a salad and a naan. All their dishes are less than $10 and NC State students get a 10 percent discount.

Their butter chicken came highly recommended by a friend, so I tried a variation of that, butter mutton, tenderized goat meat prepared with tomatoes, butter, fresh garlic and ginger. The kitchen is located right behind the counter and so the food was prepared in full views. Usually I hate seeing food being cooked but for some reason, watching the pieces of mutton being swirled around in the curry sauce by the proprietress of the restaurant herself brought me the much-needed assurance that I was in for a good meal.

The wait time was much shorter than I expected. At other Indian restaurants, I had waited for about 20 minutes but at Laziz, the wait was somewhere between five and ten minutes. While waiting we were treated to bite-sized pieces of chicken and goat for me, and Indian cheese for my friend who is a vegetarian. Their hospitality was impeccable.

When the food arrived, I was astonished by the portion sizes. Whereas, I was never satisfied by the sizes at other places that cost twice as much, at Laziz, I was overwhelmed. The basmati rice was an array of red, orange and pink hues, and tasted as seasoned as it smelled. The mutton was soft and succulent and felt like I was chewing a medium-rare steak. The naan, leavened oven-baked flatbread, was sub par on its own but tasted exceptional later the next day when I warmed it up and ate with some butter and their dipping sauce.

I tried some of their Shahee Paneer, a vegetarian dish consisting of Indian cheese cooked in butter, tomato and spices, and as a self-proclaimed carnivore, I was fooled into thinking that the cheese was a piece of meat because it tasted just as good.

I ordered mango lassi for desert, the Indian equivalent of a milkshake made with mango pulp, yogurt, milk and sugar. It tasted more like a smoothie with a sour kick that came from the yogurt.

Laziz is also 100 percent halal, which means they respect the halal laws with regards to the way they prepare their food. They also have a sanitation score of 102.

Laziz changed my perception of Indian food, so when you get a chance, take a risk and try it. I’ve walked past the GoPaks Bazaar everyday this semester and now, I don’t regret going in. My only regret is not discovering Laziz earlier. Maybe I could have been saved on those days when I had to settle for mediocre Chinese. Laziz is open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Saturday but is closed on Sundays. More information can be found at their website: http://lazizbiryanicorner.vpweb.com/