Monday, August 31, 2015

Restaurant Review: A.G. Kitchen in Silver Spring, MD

I went to see Kip Moore at the Fillmore in Silver Spring last week (read my blog post about the concert here), so I wanted to go to a restaurant for dinner that was close by. I looked on Google Maps and found A.G. Kitchen. It's close to the venue, so I made reservations immediately (even before I saw the restaurant was mentioned in the latest Washingtonian Magazine). When I called the day of to say I would be late, the staff was very understanding, which I appreciated.

This restaurant is in a great location in downtown Silver Spring, and it's very spacious (I probably didn't even need a reservation). The restaurant is new, so I think it's still going through some growing pains: the floor looks like poured cement (hardwood would be much more suitable to the vibe); some ceiling panels were missing and bare wood was exposed; very small tables meant to fit four are scattered throughout the largest part of the restaurant (in such a big space, bigger furniture is better and simply more accommodating). BUT I liked the bright colors throughout the space, and there are some booths for seating, which is my preference.

On to the food and staff. I ordered the mini-tacos in which I could mix-and-match which kind I wanted. In the end, I vote that the fish and pork ones are the best. My friend got the Samba Chicken (a house favorite) and was very pleased. AGK's homemade guacamole is also delicious! I already want to go back to try some things I didn't get, like a margarita or the guacamole with fruit in it. Also, the staff is very friendly and attentive; my only complaint would be that they try to clear your plates too quickly, even before you're finished eating! And this was when the restaurant was more than half-empty, so it wasn't like they were trying to rush us so they could use the table for someone else.

All in all a great find, and I am looking forward to my next visit!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Concert: Kip Moore at the Fillmore

Last night I saw Kip Moore perform at the Fillmore in Silver Spring. The tickets were very reasonably priced, and it's a great venue to get close to the stage (we were probably "four rows" away from the stage had there been seats).

His opener was Scott Kurt, a local from Virginia. I liked seeing a local guy perform, and I thought he did a pretty good job! His style was kind of eclectic: His guitar-style reminded me of Collin Raye or John Michael Montgomery (great country singers from the 90's), and his voice sometimes sounded like Chris Cagle. He had some fun songs, so I hope he's able to get more coverage (maybe radio?).

Then it was on to the main act. Kip and his band are a lot of fun, laughing together and calling out fans in the crowd making fun of them. Right off the bat, they seem like fun people to hang out with.

Kip has a new CD out (the whole point of the show was to promote the new album, Wild Ones). So he performed mostly new stuff, but he threw in some of his hits like "Hey Pretty Girl," "Beer Money," and "Somethin' 'bout a Truck." Here are some of his newer songs (somewhat in order of my favorites):

What Ya Got on Tonight
That Was Us
Running for You
Come and Get It
That's Alright with Me
Heart's Desire

It was an acoustic show, which I didn't know ahead of time. But I thought all of the music was really good! There were some silly parts of the show, like Kip's many references to wanting to have babies (is his biological clock ticking?) or his reference to the radio station WPOC instead of WMZQ. And of course there were the annoying high school students trying to push their way through the crowd and the group of moms who were talking throughout the show and not even listening to the music. They were missing a great show!

Kip's going to be performing on Halloween at Rams Head Live!, too! Click here for ticket info. Maybe I'll see you there!

PS: Sorry for the lull in blog posts recently. I was on a Birthright trip to Israel and only just got back. Stay tuned for future blog posts on my trip!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Movie Review: Ex Machina {SPOILERS]

Image found here:
This is a very interesting sci-fi movie about Artificial Intelligence (AI). With this genre of film, the main theme is our fear that AI machines will outsmart humans and take over. Well, this film certainly covers that first part. Here's the plot:

Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) is a genius who has created an AI woman named Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson), who works for Nathan's company, is invited to check out Ava and see if she can pass the Turing test (i.e. to see if she is just as intelligent as a human being). Caleb has to take a helicopter ride to get to the remote location of Nathan's house, and is dropped off all alone and is told to hike to the house; right away you get the creeps and are yelling at the TV to tell Caleb to get back in the chopper. Once he makes it to the house, we immediately can see that Nathan is a complete weirdo who has been away from society for too long, since he's been holed up here to work on his research. Once Caleb realizes his assignment, he starts interacting with Ava to see if the robot woman does have human intelligence. They seem to build a sort of friendship (and perhaps a crush), with Nathan watching all of their conversations. But Ava has the ability to cut off the building's power for short periods of time, and during those times she can talk to Caleb privately. This is when she tells him that Nathan is a horrible person, keeping her prisoner and lamenting that he will destroy her when he creates a better, new model of the AI. Caleb is persuaded, and he works to try to help Ava escape. One day when Nathan gets black-out drunk, Caleb is able to break into to computer system and reset the safety features so that the doors will not automatically lock so Ava can get out. Nathan does find out about this, but by the time he knows about it, it's too late. Ava has been able to get out of her "cage" (if you will), and with the help of another AI woman (who pretty much just acts as Nathan's sex slave), they stab Nathan and kill him. At this point, you think Ava and Caleb are going to run away together and live happily ever after. But NO! The door locks Caleb in, and even when he calls for Ava to come get him out, she leaves. You watch her finally leave her prison and explore the woods around the house. She then catches the helicopter that is meant to take Caleb home, and we see her acclimate to city life. The end.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was beautiful to watch, especially since most of it takes place out in Norway (photos of the set here). And the three main actors did a great job: Isaac was a perfect creep, Gleeson is the epitome of the innocent and naive guy, and Vikander is amazing as a robot, with all of her precise movements (she was trained as a ballerina). I also liked the suspense, and the whole story really got me thinking about today's technology and what could possibly happen in the future. I certainly thought it was risky of Nathan to program his AI to attempt to escape using the help of another person, especially since Nathan did not want her to succeed! He was pretty much asking for it, and he got what he deserved. The movie kept me awake after watching it, just thinking of the robot's intelligence and then her lack of sympathy for humans. The cruelty of machines (without all of the feelings that people have) and how they could potentially destroy the human race is what we fear most about AI.

My least favorite part of the film was the last three minutes. They were completely unnecessary. When we see Ava leaving the building through the elevator and Caleb stuck in the house, the movie should have immediately ended there, with all of us completely shocked that she left him there to die. But we get to see Ava explore the house a bit, enjoy the outdoors, leave the area on the helicopter, and make it to a city where she can people watch, which was her dream to begin with. The audience can assume that when Ava leaves the house, she will enjoy the outdoors that she never got to experience before; we don't need to see it. It's actually almost an insult to the viewer to show these last few bits: we ARE smart enough to know that she would get outside and leave the house where she had been kept a prisoner. The ending was so obvious that it could not even be called artistic no matter how beautiful it was; it was just a waste of film. 

PS: Gleeson is a total dork during the special features; definitely a nerd!