Jay Ruud’s Announcements
Review No. 171: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
1105 Dave Ward Drive
76.7 Percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said: Last week “Cream-Filled Doughnut Day” appeared on the calendar, and She Said and I decided it would be a very auspicious day on which to actually go to a doughnut shop and have ourselves some cream-filled doughnuts. Conway’s local Krispy Kreme was up on our schedule, so I was dispatched to Dave Ward Drive to hunt and gather for brunch.
Krispy Kreme is, of course, a huge American-based chain with more than a thousand stores in the United States and internationally. They were founded in 1937 by Vernon Rudolph, who bought a recipe for yeast doughnuts from a New Orleans chef and began selling them in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The rest is history, as the company began to slowly expand. In 2016 the company was bought by the Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Company, but it remains headquartered in Winston-Salem.
She Said:I know people were excited when Krispy Kreme opened in Conway, but we never felt the need to stray farther afield than Ed’s at the time. But given the national holiday and the need to review, it was time.
He Said: The Conway location is a little hard to get into when you are zipping by on Dave Ward, and it’s not completely clear where to turn in if you don’t know it; Hardee’s driveway being right there makes it hard to see in a split second which is the right driveway.
The inside is rather inviting for a chain doughnut shop, with a lot of doughnuts on display on the shelves, and a variety of drinks available. The place is pretty comfortable and doesn’t make you want to run for the exit when you walk in.
She Said: I didn’t go with He Said, and my ambience at home was lovely. J
He Said: As mentioned, there are a good variety of coffees, teas, other hot drinks, and soda and other cold drinks, but I didn’t have any of them, since I was bringing the doughnuts home. But there were a lot of drinks I could have had if I’d wanted.
He Said: They have a huge variety of both yeast and cake style doughnuts here, including a couple of brand new Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate variety doughnuts. But this was, as noted earlier, cream-filled doughnut day, so I got two chocolate iced doughnuts with “kreme filling,” one chocolate iced glazed doughnut with sprinkles, and one glazed blueberry cake doughnut (that one specifically for She Said).
The chocolate glazed doughnut was scrumptious—it was so much better than the one I had a few weeks ago because every bite was sweet, chocolatey and undry. The cream filled chocolate doughnut was even more tasty, with the sweet crème enhancing every bite with sweet goodness. Other doughnuts I’ve had in town, with a few exceptions (looking at you, Ed’s) seem like a lot of dry, chewy dough, with a hint of sweetness. Not so here. These are the real deal.
She Said:The cream doughnuts were indeed delightful, and I gobbled mine up with glee. I don’t eat a lot of this kind of treat, and now I can see why people do! The dough was the perfect complement to the lightly whipped cream center, and the whole treat was perfectly sweet. I found the blueberry doughnut merely passable, though, as if it were a Xerox of a blueberry doughnut, just not quite there, but not bad either.
He Said: The woman who waited on me was patient, good-humored and efficient. I got no complaints here.
What We Got and What We Paid: Four doughnuts (chocolate glaze, blueberry glazed, and two chocolate kreme filled, all for $5.50.
Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: Pretty much immediate from order to receipt and payment.
He Said:I would not hesitate to stop here again if I’m in the neighborhood and craving a doughnut.
She Said:I’ll apply those cream-filled doughnuts to my face again! But I’ll go somewhere else for the blueberry cake.
Is Krispy Kreme good at what it’s good for? It certainly is! Sweet doughy deliciousness, especially if it’s got a creamy center.
Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Apple Books.
Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.
As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.
With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.
Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.
Blinded By the Light
Gurinder Chadha (2019)
In 1927, the movie industry was revolutionized by Warner Brothers’ release of The Jazz Singer—a musical drama that featured the first sound dialogue and the first synchronized recorded musical score, including six songs performed by Al Jolson, the most popular singer of his time. The film traced the story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young singer who defies his family’s old-world Jewish traditions, embodied chiefly by his cantor father, and though Jakie leaves his home and changes his name to make it as a jazz singer, he cannot escape his heritage.
Flash forward to 2019 and change the venue from early 20th century New York to Thatcher-era Britain, change traditional Jewish culture to Pakistani, and you’ve got essentially the same plot, repackaged to make it more timely. There have, of course, been countless similar movies in the 92 years in between (including two remakes of The Jazz Singer itself, not to mention recent films that give the basic intergenerational conflict a South-Asian flavor, like The Big Sick), so the question we need to ask about this film is this: Given the fact that we’ve seen this plot countless times before, what is there in this iteration of the old cliché that makes it worth our while to watch it again?
Well, people went to The Jazz Singer to hear Jolson sing. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan (and if you’re not, get off of my page) you may want to go to this movie to hear Springsteen. Not that he appears in it himself, but it is his music that inspires the film’s young protagonist Javed (the remarkable newcomer Viveik Kalra, who was essentially picked straight out of acting school to play this part) to follow his own path and defy his autocratic father Malik (a surprisingly sympathetic Kulvinder Ghir of TV’s Still Open All Hours). And Springsteen liked the premise of this film so much that he allowed them to use 17 of his songs, thus making the film’s soundtrack a beautiful thing to behold. And there are really not many movie experiences this summer more joyous than seeing three teenagers romping to “Born to Run” or “Thunder Road” in Bollywood style production numbers in the working class British factory town of Luton.
Secondly, the film’s optimistic depiction of how music or art can both inspire and bring people together raises this movie above the cliché. Javed, an aspiring poet, has been writing his thoughts and his verse in journals for years, but never seems to be willing to make his work public, except by occasionally writing lyrics for his lifelong white neighbor and friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman of Game of Thrones).
But in school, the Muslim Javed meets a new Sikh friend named Roops (Aaron Phagura of TV’s Him), who clues him in to the Boss. From the moment he sticks the cassette tape of Born in the USA into his 1987 Walkman, Javed is hooked. Astounded by the feeling that a white American New Jersey rocker can speak with such instant understanding to the son of a Pakistani immigrant factory worker in British Luton, Javed exclaims “Bruce knows everything I’ve ever felt!”
Feeling his own emotions put into Bruce’s words—“It’s a town full of losers/I’m pulling out”— Javed finds the inspiration to hone his own writing, winning an essay contest that his sympathetic English teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell of Avengers: Endgame) enters him in, writing a love poem for the activist white girl Eliza (Nell Williams, another Game of Thrones alumna), and finally writing decent lyrics for old buddy Matt. In fact, Javed even finds a way to bond with Matt’s dad (a lively Rob Brydon from Tristram Shandy), a huge Springsteen fan. Thus music brings together white and brown, immigrant and native, Muslim, Christian and Sikh. Sure it’s idealistic and maybe a bit cheesy, but it does feel good and there’s something true about it.
That truth comes in the face of real racism and xenophobia that the film does not shrink from. The film was directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), who knows what it was like growing up in London with an East African Indian background. Chadha co-wrote the screenplay with her husband Paul Mayeda-Burges loosely basing the script on a 2007 memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor, who traced his own Javed-like obsession with Springsteen in a book entitled Greetings from Bury Park (Bury Park is a district of the city of Luton, and the title, of course, puns on Springsteen’s debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.).
The film presents quite starkly the skinhead bullying Javed meets on an everyday basis, the swastikas and “Pakis Go Home” graffiti spray-painted on their doors, white children urinating through the mail slots of a Pakistani apartment, even a pig’s head stuck on a community minaret. When Javed publishes a front-page article in the local newspaper extolling the importance of the local mosque, his father Malik is furious with him—such a thing goes against his time-honored approach of keeping his head down and not making waves, essentially of being inoffensive himself in the face of much that is offensive. But when Malik, caught in the high unemployment brought on by Thatcher-era economics, is laid off from his job at the local GM plant after 16 years, he wonders why he ever came to Britain.
It is impossible to see this film without seeing the obvious parallels with the white nationalist politics of Brexit-era Britain and Trumpesque America. The movie isn’t suggesting that pop music, or any other art, is going to heal those deep divisions. After all, as the highly political W.H. Auden said, “poetry makes nothing happen.” But it does make the inoffensive point that (though no fan of the president, whom he has called “deeply damaged”), Springsteen’s music is in many ways the voice of white working class America—from which much of Trump’s base comes—and voices precisely the same concerns and desires that fire South Asian immigrants. On the level of basic humanity, this film strikes home in an unexpected way.
In 1927, Jolson performed in blackface in that first talking musical, evincing a casual racism that is shocking today to anyone who watches the old film. Although it is often hard to see, and may be two steps forward and one step back, society moves inexorably toward enlightenment. Blinded By the Light takes the old story and presents it with a contemporary sensibility, despite its setting more than 30 years in the past. Three Tennysons for this one.
The latest Merlin Mystery from Jay Ruud, THE KNIGHT OF THE CART, will be available September 15, but you can preorder your copy today! To learn more about this and other Merlin Mysteries, visit https://encirclepub.com/
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
(James Gunn, 2017)
The original Guardians of the Galaxy grossed more than three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide in 2014, making this sequel inevitable, and clearly volume three is in the works, to judge by the closing credits of the current film. Volume two, which made nearly $150 million its opening weekend, has not disappointed its backers, and promises to make an even bigger fortune in the weeks to come. There is enough of what made the original film successful carrying over into part two to ensure the continued success of Star Lord and his crew.
Chris Pratt is back in his role as Peter Quill (aka “Star Lord”), and he is joined by his kind-of sort-of love interest, the green-skinned alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the terribly literal strongman Drax (Dave Bautista), along with the engineered raccoon-like scaliwag Rocket (voiced frenetically by Bradley Cooper). You may remember, too, that the original Guardians included a giant talking tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who sacrificed himself to save the others at the end of that film. Being a tree, Groot provided a cutting that the other Guardians kept, which has now grown into a new Baby Groot—still voiced by Diesel, though, as a baby, the infant Groot has a very limited vocabulary, so Diesel doesn’t get many lines, beyond a baby-talk “I am Groot” kind of thing. But Baby Groot pretty much walks away with this film, he’s so incredibly cute. Preparing us, we can be sure, for a massive marketing campaign of Baby Groot action figures in the very near future.
Another popular aspect of the first film was the mixed tape that Quill’s mother left him at her death in 1988, creating a best-selling soundtrack of ’60s and ’70s songs that were the soundtrack of Quill’s life through the adventures of Volume One. Volume Two begins with two set pieces: The first is an idyllic love scene set in 1980, played out to the tune of Looking Glass’s hit song Brandy, involving a liaison between Quill’s mother and a CGI-youthened Kurt Russell (as a visiting humanoid space lover) that recalls the popular 1984 film Starman, for which Jeff Bridges received an Oscar nomination. How awesome would it have been to have gotten Bridges to play this role in Guardians? But I digress. Russell shows up later as Quill’s fugitive father, but more of that anon.
The second set piece incorporating the mixed-tape soundtrack is a battle that the Guardians fight against a giant slug-like monster while they are trying to protect essential batteries for a gold-skinned race of obnoxious little snobs called “the Sovereign” that takes place in the background while Baby Groot is grooving out to the vibes of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” And, in the meantime, the opening credits roll.
If you see the film in 3D, which I am unconvinced is ever worth the exorbitant surcharge laid on it by the profit-obsessed Hollywood film industry, you will actually be entertained by the way things swing out at you and Baby Groot during this battle. And that is the third aspect of Film One that carries over into this one: top-of-the-line action sequences and CGI effects that dazzle the viewer, making this film a true feast for the eyes. If, and that’s a big if, it is ever advisable to pay for the 3D version, this is the time. Trust me, I wouldn’t tell you if it wasn’t true.
But what really made the original Guardians of the Galaxy such a huge popular hit, more than any of these qualities, was the irreverent attitude and tongue-in-cheek cynicism of the characters, especially Quill, and at base the ironic view of the whole film toward the conventional “it takes a bunch of superheroes to save the galaxy” theme inherent in these comic-book movies: A healthy awareness of the absurdity of the basic notion behind these kinds of fantasies—the feeling that, if you can’t make a joke about it, it doesn’t belong in the film—is a healthy perspective to keep. Indeed, that’s what originally differentiated Marvel from DC comics in the first place. Those straight-as-an-arrow, super-serious DC heroes like Superman and Batman were really expected to be taken seriously in their quest to save the world. But Spiderman? Is he strong? Listen Bud: he’s got radioactive blood. Marvel heroes had more psychological complexity, and were wise enough to laugh at themselves. That essentially has held true of the films coming from these two traditions. Iron Man, for instance hits that irreverent note pretty strongly. And the first Guardians hit it out of the park.
Not so much this one. Somewhere around Act II, Kurt Russell shows up riding an egg-shaped craft and saving the Guardians from the hot pursuit of the Sovereign (from whom Rocket has cavalierly stolen a precious battery), and he no sooner meets Quill than he announces that his name is Ego (seriously—do you think that might signify anything?) and that—hold onto your hats—he is Quill’s father.
The revelation underscores the theme of the whole movie, affecting each of the characters in his or her own way. Quill must deal with suddenly having a father when he has grown up without one, and come to terms with his father’s abandonment of his mother. In the meantime, Gamora is at odds with her criminal cyborg sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), whom she has arrested and plans to turn in and with whom she is engaged in a kind of “Dad liked you best!” sibling feud. Even Rocket begins to examine his emotional traumas as a fatherless youth, and Yondu (The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker), the blue-skinned disgraced Ravager who kidnaped Quill as a child, emerges as a kind of long-lost father figure for our hero. This is balanced against the new “family” that the Guardians have forged themselves into, a relationship underscored by the presence of Baby Groot and the need for all the Guardians to watch over him as the new baby in their family. The chief question of the film becomes whether Quill will be forced to make a choice between his newly revealed father and the group of misfits who have become his surrogate family.
Ego himself raises even more serious questions—questions of a theological nature, and questions that may suggest a spoiler alert on the way, so if you want, you might skip this paragraph until you’ve actually seen the movie. Ego, you see, is not simply a humanoid alien being. Essentially Ego is a god, and his motivations are the sort of motivations that human theologians attribute to the creator God as they try to understand him. Even the father’s name—Ego—recalls Yahweh’s declaration to Moses that his name is “I am.” This is all fine for an omnipotent being, but as it turns out Ego is not omnipotent, and the “Ego” name may suggest a darker side, a kind of sociopathic Narcissist. But I don’t want to give too much away.
If all this seems a bit heavy for this little band of sardonic misfits to carry, that’s probably the one real drawback of this movie. It seems out of character for the wisecracking Quill to be so bogged down with existential angst, and when it affects Rocket, well, that might just be going too far. Fans of the original Guardians are still going to find enough here to delight them. And Russell, Rooker and Pom Klementeiff as Ego’s timid little servant girl Mantis give winning performances to complement the lead ensemble. Some may find that the serious turn takes away from the irreverent cynicism that made the first film such a treat, but I’m sure they’ll all be back for Volume Three. It will be interesting to see whether that installment continues this new introspective trend or returns to the cheeky tone of the first Guardians. But for now, I’ll give this one three Tennysons. It’s definitely worth a look.
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