The best, the worst of entertainment in 2013

2013-12-25T16:00:00Z 2013-12-26T22:26:11Z The best, the worst of entertainment in 2013Tara McElmurry, Eloise Valadez, Pat Colander and Kathleen Dorsey nwitimes.com

By Pat Colander

1. Best Food Trend: Half-Price Wine Wednesdays.

A trend that began in a few years ago became stronger in 2013. Ciao Bella, in Schererville, implemented the mid-week discount this year with an award-winning wine list that includes a broad selection of Chiantis, a brilliant list of Reserve Reds and house-branded Pinot, Chardonnay, White Zin, Cab, Merlot and Italian Sangiovese.

2. Other Best Food Trend: A Reverence for Well-Rendered Pie.

The year 2013 may always be remembered as the year Hoosier Mama Pie took off, but made-to-order bakery pies are nothing new in Northwest Indiana where independent bakers thrive and grocers stay competitive with house-made goods that can stand up to the most deluxe concoctions of locally-sourced ingredients and whole-grain shells available anywhere.

3. Big Screen Hits: Civil War Brought to Life.

Though the re-ignited interest in the Civil War has been led by award-winning movies like “Lincoln,” “Django Unchained,” and “Twelve Years a Slave,” new books are on continual roll-out—many due to anniversaries inside the Civil War frame, like the decisive battle of Gettysburg—including critically-acclaimed work like James McBride’s prelude fictional memoir, The Good Lord Bird and another edition of Mark Twain’s autobiography, entwined from start to finish with CW history. And all this in the midst of a centennial frenzy of World War I literature, including a graphic portrayal of a single horrible battle.

4. On The Small Screen: Drunk History on Funny or Die.

Yes, there is a certain amount of guilt about laughing at the impaired but that goes away when the history stories are told ridiculously by famous actors and actresses and their friends who are known to not have permanent substance abuse problems like Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle and Zooey Deschanel acting out a meeting between Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and later Mary Todd Lincoln. I know I am late to this party: 1.75 million watched this video before me.

5. Big Screen Misses: The Lone Ranger.

Probably the most interesting thing about Johnny Depp is that the movies he makes are so unpredictable. The only constant seems to be that his makeup artists do well at the Oscars. No one anticipated that the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, released in July of 2006 would make more than $520 million. Or that The Lone Ranger, in spite of high-energy, great stunt work, good makeup, several running gags that weren’t too bad and a screenplay made out of almost thin air, would be such a disappointment. (The movie still made $91 million.)

6. Small Screen Misses: The Disappointing Season Finales.

The Newsroom on HBO ended with Mac and Will getting engaged again. Don’t get me wrong, this is not to take away from Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer who are great and Aaron Sorkin is a terrific television writer and there were many episodes I loved and I’m thrilled that there will be a third season, but the ending? Just a relief about the Mac and Will melodrama, and did anyone ever believe they were all going to quit—and what, maybe start their own show like Mad Men started their own advertising agency? Really? On the other hand, Downton Abbey’s sweeping exodus and killing off main players was over the top. Why not try a Doctor Who-type metamorphosis and just hire another actor to play Matthew? While I applauded the surge in pace at the end of the Game of Thrones season and the slaughter episode was an amazing shock to the casual viewer, the series still ended with a solid shrug.

7. Worst Weather Moment: June.

I don’t remember the temperature getting above 60 degrees the whole month, although the research may never be complete, because this is way too depressing to continue on.

8. Worst National News: The Sequester that Grounded Air Shows.

We do not live in Washington, New York or other centers of big time political conflict and consequence. So, how come we were so impacted by the cuts that were never supposed to happen in the first place? It is a mystery that continues, but in the meantime, the biggest, best and most breathtaking planes and pilots are off the stage for now.

By Eloise Marie Valadez

Best Concerts:

1. The Eagles, who performed Sept. 20 at United Center in Chicago. The iconic group, masters at mixing rock and country, performed their show in a semi-chronlogical fashion highlighting their musical history in not only song but video and live commentary. The group made their way back to the Chicago-area Oct. 19 for a concert at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

2. Paul McCartney, who performed his "Out There" tour July 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and July 16 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The former Mop Top was in fine form on this tour as he delivered Beatles' hits, Wings favorites and solo McCartney tunes.

3. Bruno Mars, who performed July 13 at United Center in Chicago. The pop singer, who burned up the charts this year, proved he's a triple threat on the live stage. Mars showcased stellar dance moves, strong vocals and talents on guitar and drums.

4. Most unexpected death: Acclaimed chef and culinary icon Charlie Trotter dies at 54 on Nov. 6 at his Chicago home.

5. Favorite health trend: Superfood Kale emerges as one of the hot culinary trends of the year.

6. Favorite ongoing food saga: Tammy Pham's Siam Marina in Calumet City's River Oaks Mall closes its doors during the summer, with a promise to reopen in Tinley Park in the new year. We are patiently waiting!

7. Most unexpected resurgence: The reopening of Miller Bakery Café in Gary.

8. Most exciting restaurant I can't wait to try: The opening of Eataly, a major Italian food market and eatery, in Chicago.

By Tara McElmurry

1. Best food/drink trend: Craft beer

Craft breweries seems to be popping up everywhere around the country and even right here in the Region. It may seem like overkill to some or too “hipster” to others, but as far as I’m concerned this trend is pushing brewers to come up with more unique and delicious flavors to enjoy. Dark Lord Day, anyone? Or how about a nice, smooth Crown Brown?

2. Best thing on TV: The Walking Dead

Although it didn’t start this year, "The Walking Dead" continues to bring thrills to my Sunday nights. I don’t know how those writers do it, but just when you think everything is going to be okay, the Governor comes back. And that last episode before the winter break? Heads did roll.

3. Worst Weather Moment: Big Thunderstorm/Tornados on Nov. 17

Most of the Region and Chicagoland area came out of that storm unscathed, but my family in Morton, Ill. know 10 families in Washington, Ill. who lost their entire homes.

4. Best sequel (so far): Catching Fire

Disclaimer: I still have yet to see the second Hobbit and "Anchorman 2." Although really enjoyed Thor 2 and have high hopes for the first two I listed, I still think "Catching Fire" will come out on top. Based off the second book in the Hunger Games series, I think the filmmakers did a great job transitioning the story from the page to the silver screen.

5. Most shocking deaths (of my generation): Paul Walker and Cory Monteith

These tragic, untimely deaths are a reminder to not take things for granted.

6. Best athletic trend: Cycling/Triathlons

This trend may just be within my personal circle of friends and family, but it seems to be getting more popular. My boyfriend participated in a local triathlon at Crown Point High School this past fall. My family and I also rode in a few Pint Night rides with the Schererville Trek Store this past summer.

7. Best health trend: Green Drinks

Before you gag in disgust, give them a try. Depending on what you put in the blender, they can be very delicious. I started drinking them in the summer after my dad made me one. Now, I drink one almost everyday. My current favorite: baby spinach, bananas and pineapple juice.

8. Best performance on stage: Book of Mormon

I was able to catch the show while it was in Chicago, and it was wonderful. The story and actors made you laugh out loud as well as think deeply about some of the metaphors/exaggerations presented on stage.

9. Biggest moment in music: Beyoncé crashing iTunes

Queen Bey sure knows how to play her business. I loved her stealthy approach and personal production of this release.

10. Biggest architectural development: The new Lake Central High School

As an alum of the tri-town high school, I’m very impressed at the new building. I can’t wait to take a walk around to see what future students will be taking advantage of while they learn. One of my old teachers told me I won’t even recognize the place once the demolishing of the old parts and construction of the new parts are finished.

By Kathleen Dorsey

1. Big Screen Hits: So Much Sci-Fi. From Star Trek: Into Darkness to Ender's Game and Thor: The Dark World, Sci-Fi and fantasy movies dominated the box offices this year. Luckily, 90% of the cinema offerings were fantastic and left us wanting more.

2. Small Screen Blockbusters: Doctor Who. The 50th anniversary of any TV show is nearly unheard of—even the longest-running American shows rarely last more than ten years. Doctor Who proves that it can keep viewers of all ages interested, for generation after generation.

3. Most disappointing death: To me, the saddest celebrity death of 2013 is Joan Fontaine. The well-publicized feud between Fontaine and her sister, Olivia de Havilland, made many people wonder why these two lovely sisters couldn't get along. Who was the instigator? And why, after so many years, did animosity still reign? I suppose we'll never know. And now the world has lost another one of the treasures from Hollywood's golden age.

4. Best Food Trend: Truffle oil. I don't know if it's just me, but I've consumed so much truffle oil this year I feel I've started to permanently smell of the stuff. I can't get enough of it.

5. Best Drink Trend: While in Europe this summer, I was introduced to one of this year's most refreshing and popular drinks - the Aperol spritzer. Slightly bitter yet sparkingly sweet, this drink will keep you cool on a hot day and impart a touch of Italian sophistication to any cocktail aficionado.

6. Worst National News: The Boston Marathon bombing. This tragedy still leaves me speechless, not least because a year of intense scrutiny later, we still know very little of the perpetrators' motives. Rolling Stone's ill-considered Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cover fed the controversy that lasted long after the fateful race day was over.

7. Best Album of 2013: Random Access Memories by Daft Punk. Although the album's popularity waned in the U.S. after the band's snub of Stephen Colbert, for me it will forever be the soundtrack of the summer of 2013.

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