TacoCat HI launches its fusion pop-up

Has it really been that long? Korean fusion tacos blew up the street food scene seven years ago, and food trucks haven’t been the same since. As with all fads, the new fusion ran its course, with the cream of the crop surviving and thriving throughout the country.

Well, the cycle is circling back. Kat Araujo and Joseph Lee met while working at Seed restaurant in Kaimuki, and decided to put their skills toward forming a pop-up company. TacoCat HI uses Joseph’s Korean mother’s recipes for taco fillings, and desserts from Kat’s childhood. By the way, the name was chosen because it’s a palindrome, and they love plays on words.

They officially launched TacoCat HI to the public last night with an event at Kakaako Agora, where 100 attendees paid $25 for all the tacos and desserts they could eat. The large, tasty tacos had chicken, pork, beef and tofu fillings; the tres leches and cookies were a big hit. Judging from the rate at which fillings ran out, pork and chicken were probably the crowd favorites. (Joseph’s mom was on hand to help out and laughed that one of the tres leches would be her dinner, since the tacos went so quickly.)

You can catch TacoCat HI at the next Eat the Street in Kakaako.

Photos by Eric Baranda:

TacocatHI's launch

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‘Empire’ season finale: The OMG moments

EmpireI was hoping for a crazy, over-the-top season finale for “Empire,” the water cooler show of the year, and wow, did it deliver. There were so many OMG moments that I gasped, sat up in shock, yelled at my TV and even applauded during the two-hour run time.

Here’s a summary of some of the more memorable moments:

  • Becky telling her boss Lucious to use his inside voice after he yells at her, and then proclaiming to be half-white. She’s about as white as Wesley Snipes.
  • Guest stars galore with Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg and Patti Labelle all joining in on the fun. Talk about ending the season with a bang.
  • Lucious and Jamal absolutely bring it with yet another hit-in-the-making song. I love how this show makes me bob my head to the beats each week.
  • Cookie tries to smother Lucious with a pillow after learning that he killed her cousin Bunkie, and then gets a pillow as a “gift” at the next family meeting. Not to mention being cut off from Empire completely after sleeping with the head of security. No one messes with Lucious, honey. Not even you, Cookie.
  • Lucious is so badass that he’s not beyond clocking his son Hakeem in the face for dissing him publicly. Who’s your daddy?
  • Hakeem and Anika try to get back at Lucious by having sex with each other. Eww. That woman was going to be your stepmom, son! And how did they know that Lucious would be walking by exactly at that moment to witness that disgusting scene? What if he hadn’t? Were they just going to tell him about it? If so, they could’ve just done that and not actually have gone through the ugly bump and grind.
  • Vernon returns to the scene only to become a Clue victim. He was killed in the living room by Andre’s pregnant wife with a candlestick! That’s right, Rhonda is pregnant. And that apparently trumps any need to call the authorities. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
  • Cookie and Anika finally throw down and it was glorious. It was like Alexis and Crystle Carrington all over again but 10 times fiercer. And if you don’t get that reference then you are too young to be friends with me.
  • Lucious shows Andre that he can influence a gospel music therapist to sell out, proving that he is more powerful than Jesus. And he’s right.
  • The perfect last line – “Game time, bitches.”

EmpireIt will be a long wait for Season 2 but as I look back on an amazing Season 1, here are the reasons why I think “Empire” is Must-See-TV.

1) It proves that network TV still matters. With all the recent accolades going to shows on AMC, HBO and Netflix, the standard networks CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox have been largely shut out during the TV award season. Fox’s “Empire” proves that network TV still has the ability to be culturally relevant.

2) Yes, minority casts can work! Hollywood has always had a severe lack of significant roles for minority actors, but along comes “Empire” and its all African-American cast, proving that once again minority-led TV shows can be hits. This bodes well for other shows on network TV with lead minority roles such as “Fresh off the Boat.”

3) It’s singalong TV. “Empire” has had great success melding the music and TV industries. Songs from the show have climbed the charts and the soundtrack just debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200. My personal favorite? “Conqueror” by Estelle and Jussie Smollett. I love it.

4) Characters are memorable. At first, it was all about the Cookie. Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of the Lyon family matriarch blew me away with her delivery and attitude. That woman deserves some serious recognition come award season next year. But as the season progressed I realized that the entire cast was perfect. Henson already was a star before “Empire,” but I predict that Jussie Smollett with his endearing performance as Jamal, the gay black sheep of the family, will be the breakout star of this cast.

5) It knows what it is. I love that “Empire” doesn’t take itself too seriously. It recognizes that its characters and story lines are over-the-top and campy. But that’s the genius of it. The show isn’t afraid to have some fun. Yet it restrains itself just enough so that it never enters ridiculous territory. As long as it can continue to ride that fine line, the show will succeed.

Neeson not too old to “Run All Night”

I’ve only seen six movies at the theaters this year and Liam Neeson starred in two of them. Forget James Brown. Liam Neeson is the new hardest-working man in show business.

runallnight1I give all the credit in the world to the guy. After finding glory with “Taken” back in 2008, he’s become one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, churning out action films year after year, despite now being over 60 years old. At that age I’d be lucky to be able to run to the bathroom, let alone all night.

Neeson’s action films have come and gone with various levels of success. But it’s a shame that “Run All Night” isn’t getting the same attention as his “Taken” films, because this is probably his best film since the original “Taken.” It looks like the third time was the charm for Neeson teaming with director Jaume Collett-Sera (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”), as “Run All Night” gives Neeson his meatiest character to date.

Sure, he plays a drunk once again, but that plot point is quickly forgotten early in the film. I loved watching him try to reconnect with his son Michael, played by Joel Kinnaman. Kinnaman gave a pretty terrible performance in the horrible “Robocop” remake last year so it’s good to see him bounce back with a solid role here. Now I’m looking forward to him playing Rick Flagg in the upcoming “Suicide Squad” movie. Ed Harris also brings his consistent A-game as the local gangster boss, although it was a little sad to see how quickly he’s aged. Stay strong, General Hummel.

runallnight2“Run All Night” isn’t a classic by any means, but with the action film genre slowly dying in today’s CGI-heavy Hollywood, it’s good to see films like this one bring back some of that old-school action bad-assery.


‘McFarland, USA’ is movie comfort food

After watching the film’s trailer, I thought I was going to hate “McFarland, USA.” I really did.

I already knew that the underdog group of minority kids would overcome some sort of adversity to succeed in dramatic fashion with their white savior coach leading the way. Sure enough, the film followed that paint by numbers formula to a tee and there wasn’t a single plot point that I couldn’t see coming a mile away. Oh, and haven’t we seen enough of these white man saving the ethnic kids films by now? Disney just did one last year with “Million Dollar Arm.” Ugh.

mcfarland1But despite the film being as generic and formulaic as it can get, I have to say I left the theater with a smile on my face.

Based on a true story, “McFarland, USA” is the name of a small town in California with a large Mexican population. Kevin Costner plays Jim White, a coach with a mean temper who is forced to relocate there after losing his previous job. Of course there is some culture shock at first with his wife and two daughters having to learn about enchiladas and lowriders but once he discovers a group of kids who can run like the wind, he forms a cross country team that will compete in the first ever state finals.

Costner is always comfortable playing a sports figure and he does a great job with his character but it’s the boys who comprise of the cross-country team who really stand out. Each has their individual personalities and play off them wonderfully, making it so easy to root for them. The standouts are Carlos Pratts as Thomas, the fastest of the group but with the most to prove, and Ramiro Rodriguez as Danny Diaz, the boy who doesn’t know how to quit. Underdog films don’t work if you don’t believe in the heroes and this cast certainly shines with their enthusiasm and passion for life and running.

mcfarland2I was also very happy to see the major inclusion of Mexican culture in the film. This was not about Mexicans learning the white man’s world, but the other way around. With the majority of the film taking place in McFarland, many opportunities are taken to show true Mexican culture such as the strong influence of family, work ethic, religion, and even a celebration called a “quinceanera” which takes place when a young girl turns 15.

Think of “McFarland, USA” as movie comfort food. You know what you’re going to get but will enjoy the hell out of it anyway.

Oscar categories we really want

The Oscars still represent the finest achievement in annual cinema. But with a months-long awards season leading up to it, including the Golden Globes and SAG awards, they have become predictable — almost a formality. Rarely have Academy voters surprised film fans with their picks.

Even rarer is for the Oscars to come up with a broadcast that’s actually entertaining: Ratings show that fewer people watch it each year. Instead of the usual stuffy show with men in penguin suits and women in garish gowns listening to agonizingly boring speeches filled with names of people we don’t know, what if Oscar rewarded films and categories that the actual movie-going public cared about?

You want to increase ratings and get people interested again? How about introducing the following categories:

Most Likely to Make You Sleep with the Lights On: “The Babadook”

The horror genre is like me talking to pretty girls — always ignored. But there was a little film out of Australia called “The Babadook” that not only scared the you-know-what out of me, but also surprised me with its deep layers and on-point performances.

Most Likely to Make You Pee Your Pants: “22 Jump Street”

2014 wasn’t a strong year for comedy. In fact, I can more quickly name the comedies that failed than the ones that actually made me laugh. But of the few that genuinely got a few chuckles out of me, “22 Jump Street” was the by far the most entertaining. And who can forget those awesome end credits?

Best Best Friend Character: Baymax from “Big Hero 6”

There’s always a best friend character. Whether it’s the sassy, tell-it-like-it-is girl in romantic comedies or the loyal buddy who’d literally take a bullet for you, the best friend character is someone who helps define the lead character. This year, I wanted my best friend to be Baymax. I want to hang out with him all day until I am satisfied with my care.

Most Overrated Movie: “Boyhood”

Can we please get over this film already? Yeah, it was filmed over 12 years. Big deal. Take out that concept and there’s not much of a film left. Not an entertaining one, anyway. This Honest Trailer nails it.

Most Underrated Movie: “Nightcrawler”

I love my movies dark. “Nightcrawler” definitely succeeds in showing us not only the dark side of Los Angeles, but the dark side of human nature as well. It’s a shame that this film didn’t get the attention it deserved. Which leads us to …

Biggest Oscar Snub: Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler”

How meta would it be for Oscar to recognize its nomination errors on its own show? I think it’d be genius. Jake Gyllenhaal transformed like no other actor this year with his performance in “Nightcrawler” and it’s absolutely criminal that he was ignored by Oscar. We should be talking about his chances of winning the Best Actor award, not about why he wasn’t even nominated.

The John Woo Award for Action Excellence: “John Wick”

John Woo is the action god. No, not an action god. THE action god. The man behind Hong Kong classics “Hard Boiled” and “The Killer” had a huge influence on action films in the ‘90s and beyond, and his clean, operatic bullet ballets have been copied many times but never matched. But man, does “John Wick” come close. Keanu Reeves delivers in spades as an assassin in “John Wick” with the help of some beautifully choreographed action pieces unlike any we’ve seen in recent years. Here’s just a little taste.

Most WTF Moment: “Gone Girl”

I’d say spoiler alert but the film’s already been out for over four months so if you haven’t seen it by now, you probably won’t see it anytime soon. Rosamund Pike gives an incredible performance as Amy, a woman who appears to be a victim, but the film slowly reveals that she’s actually the crazy one. But you never really get how batcrap crazy she is until she slits Doogie Howser’s neck while having sex with him. We all knew at that point that she was a little off but had no idea how psychopathic she really is. Bravo.