Saturday, September 24, 2016

Winners Coming to Grant Park Shopping Mall

There has been talk about it for some time but a Winners store is indeed opening in the space between McNally Robinson and Red River Co-Op grocery store at the Grant Park Mall. A series of store closures and moves inside the mall and of ones facing out to Grant Avenue are signs of the logistical chess game in preparing the mall for another key anchor.

Modern Taco Company is closed now and Magiccuts has a sign inside the mall indicating where they will be moving to in the future. Once all the spaces out front are vacated, the interior walls will be removed to create the larger space. It is unknown whether this includes an expansion outward to the same line as McNally. Both Shopper Drug Mart and the former Target also pushed out northward to create space in past years.

It seems Grant Park has been under construction for years and in truth, it has been. Only now one of the last corridors is being modernized in the same design as the rest of the mall. Canadian Tire is now open in the spot that Target once occupied. However, they did not take the entire space in July leaving room for Goodlife Fitness to join them on the east side.

Goodlife Fitness will have to do some work on the space as there are literally no windows or entrances out front to the space. Nor is there a trailer out front yet selling memberships. Expect to that and work being done soon.

The addition of Winners will make Grant Park Mall a strange hybrid of big and small stores. Not wholly a big box mall or traditional mall, it keeps evolving and has has big money spent on it to achieve success. Contrast this with what has been happening at Garden City Mall which has seen a steady decline that borders on neglect.

There is no timetable on Winner but the opening seems likely in 2017.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Goldeyes Win Championship!

From Goldeyes Twitter
It has been one heck of a year for the Winnipeg Goldeyes and on Monday night in convincing fashion, they beat Wichita Wingnuts 11-4 in the last of a best of 5 series of the American Association Baseball league. Every time the Goldeyes looked like they were down for the count in the play-offs, they battled back and for only the third time, they bring back a championship.

The previous years the Goldeyes won were 1994 and 2012. Sadly, the final game this year took place in Wichita and while Winnipeg weather was fine for a game, they played under sticky 33 C weather to win it all and despite tickets being $5, there were only a few hundred people in attendance. Imagine the crowds and celebrations in Winnipeg for a hometown win. A number of fans and team front office staff made the trek now south including owner Sam Katz.

It was a team effort for the Goldeyes this year. Pitching and hitting as well as good management in signing players and managing the team roster and game to game line-up. It is never easy to win against the teams that Goldeyes have been rivals with since the 1990s.

Congratulations are in order as this looked like a team in the latter half of the season that would not be denied a long play-off run. It took to the last game but they are the 2016 champions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

IHOP Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

They've fooled us one a few years ago with a site plan that showed a International House of Pancakes going up but this time it is for real. Seasons of Tuxedo has put up a revised site plan showing IHOP and Dairy Queen as among the first restaurants of many going up in the parking lot.
Construction continues all over the site which will be dominated by factory outlet mall Outlet Collections of Winnipeg. It opens next year. The Garden Hill Hilton Hotel is well under way as is the Porsche and Audi dealerships. On the west side of the mall multi-residential unit should be ready to go in the new year.
IHOP has never had a location in Winnipeg and given Winnipeg's love of pancakes, it should do well. The Original Pancake House that opened by the VIP Odeon Theatre has been very busy. The IHOP down the street is likely to see as much or more traffic.

Expect to see a flurry of restaurant announcements in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Winnipeg Goldeyes Beat Saint Paul Saints and Advance to Championship

It took till the final game in the best of five series for the Winnipeg Goldeyes to defeat the Saint Paul Saints 3-1. The divisional series was never a sure thing and at one point the team had to fight the odds on enemy territory to come from behind and win 3 games to 2.

A small contingent of Goldeyes fans made the trip down to watch their team win in the Twin Cities. the final game was a mix off defensive and offensive success. Goldeyes pitching was solid and when needed, the team ripped hits out of the ballpark.

The 2016 Goldeyes don't get much rest. They are back it for the American Association Championship Series against Wichita Wingnuts on Wednesday and Thursday in the best of five series. A forecast of rain may affect that schedule in much the same way as the series with Saint Paul was affected. The series heads back to Wichita Saturday and through till Monday if needed.

The team has had an outstanding year and once again get to prove it in a championship series.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Prep Montessori School Coming to Charleswood

The large space in the middle of 3500 Roblin's shopping complex in Old Charleswood has sat empty for some time save for a few elections where it served as temporary quarters for voters registration. Prior to that, the space was last held by U-Weight Loss and before that another weight related business.

Signage has gone up indicating that The Prep Montessori School will be taking over the whole space. They will occupy 3554 feet of space and create a large daycare within. The street already has several daycares nearby so this is a critical mass for parents in the neighbourhood.

The mall becomes fully leased with this move and now there is very little if no space for retail in the area. The second floor of the Charleswood Medical is now the largest space in the area waiting a tenant.

Shopping Malls are finding they need to be more clever in filling space and a daycare in the middle of this complex is likely to be seen as a smart move.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Goldeyes Make the Play-offs

The unrelenting rains on Sunday pushed the Goldeyes/Redhawks game to Sunday and a double header was scheduled on Labour Day. It quickly became known that the Goldeyes needed one more win to clinch a play-off spot ahead of the hard driving Laredo Lemurs.

The first game of the double header was won by 6-1 by the Goldeyes and the result was a jubilant celebration on the field with all the players and managers. It is the 18th time in the 23 year history of the team that they make the play-offs. Only a very strong performance in the latter part of the year got them the spot this year.

On Wednesday, the Goldeyes will face another old rival in the first round of the the play-offs. The Saint Paul Saints will arrive for a best of five series. Shaw Park will host Wednesday and Thursday and CHS Field in Saint Paul will host game three on Saturday and if need be games on Sunday and Monday.

This past weekend also saw the Goldeyes make history with the first play by play called by a woman in radio broadcast. Danielle Doiron did an excellent job and will continue to be a force in the Goldeyes front office.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Goldeyes To Make History Saturday

The Goldeyes complete their final four games in a play-off run against their rival Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. This Saturday though will be one for international history as Danielle Doiron will become the first woman to ever call play by play in a game.

Doiron has been doing great work in her second year as assistant in media relations at the Goldeyes office and is recipient of the Jack Matheson Award from the Manitoba Sports Writers and Sportscasters Association.  The award goes to the top Manitoba-based student currently studying in the sports field.

A recent graduate of Red River College Creative Communications program, Doiron has been handling increased responsibilities on the excellent Goldeyes radio broadcast for away games.

Game time Saturday starts at 6:05 at Shaw Park and Doiron will call the third inning. Goldeyes are in a dogfight for the wildcard spot so should be a great game.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Movie Review: The Light Between Oceans

In 2012, Australian writer M.L. Stedman drew reader in with a story of Tom Sherbourne who returns from the brutality of World War I to take a job as a lighthouse keeper. He is accompanied by his wife Isabel who is the light in her husband's life and wishes to start and raise a family with him on the remote Janus Island. After a number of failed pregnancies and despair at ever having children, a baby washes ashore in a boat. Despite his better judgement, Tom agrees to Isabel's request to raise the little girl as their own. Only a return to the mainland two years later shows that their decision has serious consequences for all.

It easy to see why a studio thought the Stedman material was cinematic and could be a three hanky weeper. Producers brought in Derek Cianfrance to adapt a screenplay as well as direct the movie. Relationships crossing into dark territory is familiar territory for Cianfrance who wrote and directed Blue Valentine.

The casting for the movie brought in the exceptional acting talents of Michael Fassbender (Tom Sherbourne) , Alicia Vikander (Isabel Graysmark) and Rachel Weisz (Hannah Roennfeldt). It was during filming two years ago that Fassbender and Vikander became a couple. The chemistry between the two is obvious.

Fassbender is familiar to Winnipeg people because very on in his now acclaimed career he played Harry Colebourn in the CBC movie A Bear Called Winnie which filmed in Manitoba. Vikander is the new it girl in Hollywood and was seen earlier this summer in Jason Bourne.

The movie is shot on location by Adam Arkepaw in the rarely seen Tasmania. The cinematography is breathtaking in its beauty and loneliness. The other worldliness of the lighthouse and the ocean far from the mainland is a compelling setting for our characters and the blissfulness of their romance is easily felt.

The solitude is also present with the growing number of little crosses representing two failed pregnancies. Vikander as Isabel is exceptional in capturing the emotions of the promise and loss of each child. The arrival of a rowboat washing ashore with a dead man and a new born presents our beleaguered couple with agonizing choices. Fassbender as Tom shows how his dedication to duty of crumbles in the face of his wife's despair at losing the baby to an orphanage just because they followed the rules. Ultimately, they keep the little girl and name her Lucy.

The most unforgiving role in the movie belongs to Rachel Weisz (Hannah), the little girl's real mother. It when Tom and Isabel return to the mainland for a visit and Christening of their child that Tom learns how their Lucy came to be in a rowboat. In the aftermath of World War I, antipathy towards people of German heritage still runs high and in one particularly ugly incident, a man and his newborn are driven into the sea to escape a mob. This leaves the grieving Hannah mourning their loss.

Tom is no longer able to deny the consequences of keeping Lucy once confronted with the truth. He anonymously writes Hannah to assure her little girl is safe and cared for. It has this moment that the movie becomes a love triangle and it is Lucy who is at the center of it. This is where the movie runs into problems.

The writer/director Cianfrance has to show that Hannah was not only a good wife but a good mother before losing both husband and child. The difficulty of this is how to do it with nuance and subtlety. The solution was the insertion of an origin story of Hannah's romance with a German and their marriage and subsequent baby. The segments shown feel like an intrusion rather than imparting information and a long movie gets even longer.

The inevitable conclusion to this tragedy is that Tom's tortured soul eventually results in the truth coming out. The beautiful scenery, talented actors and the very good score of Alexandre Desplat are never able to overcome the fall-off in drama towards the end. There is no villain  except the failure of good intentions. It is difficult to say whether the Stedman book could be adapted without veering away from the source material to create more complex characters and a more sweeping storyline. This is unfortunate because a lighthouse keeper, his wife and a boat washed up shore still sounds like a promising tale.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Brown's Socialhouse Coming to Centrepoint 2017

It has been known for some time that Browns Socialhouse was going to open in Centrepoint opposite. However, week after week would go by and all that can be seen was paper in the windows. Meanwhile the Merchant Kitchen tucked beside the Alt Hotel entrance has been bubbling along.

One wonders if we will ever know why Milestones backed out of a long term lease at the last moment.

The new Brown's Socialhouse will join two others already on the city at Main Street and another at Plessis Road. The restaurant group started in 2004 in Vancouver and has expanded rapidly across the country. The founder Scotty Brown was one of the principals of Vancouver's Cactus Club group. His new enterprise has surpassed his old one and now there are 40 locations.

The casual dining/pub crossover is growing more popular as people want to gather together and move around rather than just be parked at a table. The evolution of flat panel and high definition televisions has changed bars and restaurants. No more picture tube TVs, projection screens of flat panels that are blurry. It is all large HD screens and can be done cheap enough that even the a mom and pop restaurant can now transform to sports bar.

The increasing isolation and a change in television has meant that people are craving certain meeting places and the focal point is the only thing that really isn't worth watching in a recording: sports. The return of the Jets in 2011 coincided with widespread HD channels in that same year. Can't go to the Jets games cause they're sold out? Well, attend any number of bars and restaurants and be part of the excitement.

The bars and restaurants surrounding the the MTS Centre have done well. Moxies, Boston Pizza, Tavern United and others have not just the Winnipeg Jets but the Manitoba Moose and numerous concerts to bring people downtown.

The Jets owners have improved their facility and doubled the sports events with two professional teams calling the arena home. Still, the Chipman family have been instrumental in the plan to expand the entertainment footprint beyond the arena. At first they did this by using the building across the street to bring in special touring events such as Bodies and Titanic. This proved wildly successful.

It is hard to say when the Chipmans decided to embark on a grander scheme for just north of their building but it is likely the event center's popularity made them believe a large project would work. It was thus that Centrepoint was born.

The parkade, hotel, office building, condo and restaurant complex has taken a very long time to complete. It seems that barricades and the like have been around that area of Portage for a few years. In that time though, each section has opened up. The offices and hotel appear to be doing well. The parkade is well used although the neon lights on the side still take a bit to get used to.

The one glaring area giving the whole thing an incomplete look has been the papered over windows on the main level. Brown's Socialhouse says that will change in January of February of 2017. At that time they will build a 225 seat restaurant with a 75 seat patio. This will be double the normal Brown's location and as such, it has been a daunting task to fill the space.

The connectivity of the restaurant and bar scene to venues like the MTS Centre and the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre is seen as critical to their long time survival.  The proximity to each other is also essential.

Brown's Socialhouse will fill a hole on the north side of Portage and will likely make that corner more lively and pedestrian friendly. More people draws more traffic. There are safety in numbers but no one will stick around for papered over windows. They will for a patio filled with people.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Banh Mi King Coming to 510 Portage Avenue

510 Portage Avenue has had many things operate out of it over the years from the Label store, UPS store, University of Winnipeg offices and for a while now...nothing.

I saw something going up in the window a little while ago and now it is confirmed via Twitter picture from Dave Shorr that a restaurant will be going up.

The sign for Bahn Mi King Vietnamese Eatery indicates they are opening soon.

People in Winnipeg have gotten a taste of bahn mi style food at Chosabi restaurant in the Exchange. It seems a good bet that the University of Winnipeg students and faculty will likely embrace this new entrant opposite the school.

Stella's, Sushi Gen and Long Island Cafe coffee are down the street, Subway is next door. Casa Burrito is a few doors down. This is the making of a solid selection of a restaurant row.

The only thing missing are more patios.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Goldeyes Making Play-Off Run

The Goldeyes are a beloved summer tradition in Winnipeg and this year is no different. With 14 games remaining in the season, the Goldeyes are positioned for a play-off run into the fall. Monday and through till Thursday, Goldeyes are playing one of their longtime rivals Fargo Redhawks.


After a nine hour drive back from Sioux City and playing the Explorers, batting practice was dispensed with. This was fine because the team pounded the Explorers 6-1 Sunday after losing the previous two games.

Winnipeg's baseball team has been hot in the second half of the season with a record of 30-13 in the last 43 games. In the American Association North Division, the Goldeyes are 3.5 games behind Saint Paul Saints to hold the wild card spot for the play-offs. This is 3.5 games ahead of the Laredo Lemurs.

It is a pivotal series of games against Fargo this week. The overall 51-35 on the year Goldeyes are second in their division. However, the bulk of the remaining games are against the third place Redhawks and they can never be counted out.

At game time Monday, the temperature was a steamy 30 C and the crowd was packed to the rafters. The Redhawks scored first and the Goldeyes battled back late in the game to tie it 2-2. The extra inning saw them go down to defeat 5-2. Three games remain this week.

And so it goes at Shaw Park with the most approachable athletes in sport and one of the best game day experiences. For those not able to attend the game the radio broadcast on 93.7 CJNU with Steve Schuster makes you feel like you are right there. The move to nostalgia radio has been a good match after bouncing around the radio dial.

In the coming weeks, expect some feature player profiles and interviews of Goldeyes personnel as the play-offs grow closer. Photographer Matraisa Klippenstein will feature some of her shots of the ballpark including some great game day footage.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review: Ben-Hur

In 1959, the epic Ben-Hur was released and went on to win the most Oscars in history until Titanic came along in 1997. Oscars went to Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography. Charlton Heston won the Oscar for Best Actor, the prize that escaped him just three years earlier for The Ten Commandments. The movie, produced and marketed for $300 million in today's dollars, had nearly 10,000 extras. The nine minute chariot race went on the become legendary and the musical score was the longest ever produced for film and highly influential. The 212 minute movie was huge in every way and the critical claim was accompanied by a $1.2 billion box office in today's dollars.

So what does Hollywood do? It decides to do a re-make.

The original story by Lew Wallace of Ben-Hur written 136 years ago is in the public domain so no one had to have to contend with acquiring rights. MGM, the studio for the 1959 version teamed up with Paramount and brought in Mark Burnett and Roma Downey as producers. The famous married couple fresh off their monster TV mini-series The Bible was there to ensure a Christian audience was motivated to come and be entertained. This is not an ill considered position for the studios to take. Over 100 million people watched The Bible mini-series and it finished number 1 all over the world. For some time now the Christian entertainment market has wielded influence on production. It is very likely that MGM and Paramount saw opportunity in re-making this tale given that the original story had a strong connection to the story of Christ.

Was there fresh material from the book ripe for storytelling? Possibly. Screenwriter Keith Clarke (The Way Back) had initially intrigued the studio by examining the beginnings of relationship of Judah Ben-Hur and his adoptive brother Messala. Another pass at the script by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) firmed up that story and incorporated more of the Christ encounters that influence Judah at different points in his life. Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) was hired as director for his action credentials.

Of the cast, only Morgan Freeman's name is stands apart from the rest. He is cast as Shiek Ilderim, a wealthy Nubian who backs and trains Judah for the the chariot race where he ultimately faces off against his brother. Judah is played by English actor Jack Huston and Messala is played by fellow countryman Toby Kebbell. Both actors have a varied experience to bring to this film but it is fair to say that they don't have Charlton's Heston's heft or gravitas. The international cast that follows is competent but not stand out.

The big issue in the re-make of Ben-Hur is that it doesn't know what sort of film it wants to be. If the attempt was to be a character driven piece, the script fails because we don't have enough depth to any individual. The 212 minutes of the 1959 movie was not a conceit but an admission that the people met along his journey shaped his character and influenced who he was as a man. One part cut from the 2016 version of Ben Hur is Quintis Arrius, the Roman Consul, saved from dying in the wrecked ship and who adopted Judah as his own. It is a very human moment for both men and took Judah to Rome where he learned the ways of the chariot. Too often faceless and nameless people come and go in the new Ben-Hur. You don't know enough to care about them or know their motivations.

There are two major action pieces on sea and land that were legendary from the Heston film. The attack on Macedonian pirates where Judah's ship is destroyed in combat and the chariot race. The script and direction by Bekmambetov focus on Judah's point of view from the belly of a slave galley. It is a dark place and the audience only see what our hero sees which is glimpses of the battle until his ship is destroyed. The choice is curious. Was it a style choice or a budget choice? In any event, we only see Judah's suffering endurance rather his noble determination.

The price of admission might be worthwhile to most viewers if the chariot race was a spectacular spectacle. It is. The use of the best CGI digital effects shows Judah race hard against his rival Messala. However, it is oddly soulless as competitors are killed off. Do we care? No. We don't even know them. Sadly, we really don't even know Judah or Messala at this point in the film either.

The final and last thoughts on this movie is the Christ angle. In weeks leading up to the movie release, producers sought approval and endorsement from churchgoers emphasizing the important message about Jesus in Ben-Hur.  The 1959 version handled this with a Jesus who was not clearly seen not spoke but was of huge influence on Judah. The 2016 version has a Jesus who dies very graphically on the cross and is clearly seen and speaks. If the message is forgiveness and redemption, it is lost in the violence.

It may be cynical but the studios might be calling to the faithful to watch the new Ben-Hur as a sign of their devotion. This would be a mistake. If people want to see an excellent epic movie where Jesus is seen as a force for good, they would do well to find the 1959 Ben-Hur and enjoy themselves. There seems to be no point in seeing this movie knowing that the other is so much better.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Folklorama 2016 Argentina Pavilion



Argentina is all about the singing and dancing and great food. The hospitality at this pavilion leaves you happy to see more.



The tango is the dance that thrills at this pavilion and the dancers show the beauty and strength of the women and athleticism of the men.








Expect to hear Don't Cry for me Argentina to be sung! Guest can also learn the tango!