We SAID: Spring Detox

Staff Writer

Spring has sprung and we’re all busy cleaning up homes, phones, and emails (no really, there’s an app for that), but what about bodies? Beyond getting ready for summer with a renewed fervor for the local gym, some of us are headed back to the sauna for a good old fashioned detox.

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Note that all saunas are not created equal. There’s a difference between heating coils in the corner of a wooden box, and being completely surrounded by infrared heating panels. Enter Sweatheory in Hollywood. If the surroundings look familiar, it’s because they are. Formerly Sweat Shop LA… then Cedarhouse… Sweatheory is the latest (and perhaps final) incarnation of this urban day-spa. It’s been through one heck of an upgrade, with an expanded retail space and even an infrared yoga studio.

What’s special about this place is the manner in which you can customize your sweat, at a very attractive price point. The rooms are private (and yours for up to an hour), and contain a sauna, shower and a full length mirror (for post-sweat selfies). There are towels and toiletries and even a fluffy bathrobe to complete the urban spa experience. Your base experience will run about $35. You can sweat alone, or with a friend (some saunas are large enough for two people) and add all manner of cayenne, minerals, and even music to your sweat experience.

And once you’re done, it’s just a few steps next door to Life Food Organic, which serves everything from fresh made salads to customized smoothies and desserts. In between sips of organic wheatgrass and ginger shots, there are shelves of supplements and bath & body products designed to keep you detoxed and in ship shape between sweat appointments.

We recommend making an appointment for Sweatheory, as most customers have preferred times and even saunas for their detox pleasure. With spring in full bloom, now is as good a time as any to get your sweat on.

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We SAID: Oscar Gorgeous

Staff Writer

Winners, losers and major upsets aside (poor Faye Dunaway may never recover from the Best Picture snafu), the stars hit the red carpet last night with a clear mission to put their best … everything… forward. There was a noticeable effort to stand out in the best possible way with clean lines and polished makeup. And even those who went for a … bit… of embellishment (Janelle Monae, we see you) balanced the look with subtle shimmer and gorgeous flesh toned makeup.

Red rules! Viola Davis looked every bit a winner in a svelte red number that flattered her athletic figure. Did we mention that she also made history as the first African American Woman to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony for acting? The woman is a powerhouse, and she was not here to play on the red carpet. Ruth Negga softened up the powerful rouge hue with lace and a full skirt, and sweetened the look even further with soft curls and a girlish head band.

Metallics were a big deal on the carpet this year. Emma Stone continued her gold trend with another number that on anyone else would have been doing the most. But even with brocade and fringe, the Givenchy dress lent an elegant ease that matched her famous smile. Amy Adams might not have been a contender, but that didn’t stop her from investing in lots of double-stick tape for a structured shimmering number. And Jessica Biel will definitely split the vote for best/worst dressed. Her golden high collar *doingwaytoomuch.com* ensemble at least deserved honorable mention. Her husband was opening the show, and we imagine she figured she had to make a statement by any means necessary.

Speaking of honorable mentions, we could not go without mentioning Charlize Theron. She was presenting this year, so the pressure was off. And her ease showed in a dark oscar-4metallic dress that was more practical than not. A little weight gain softened her normally sharp edges, and it’s not a stretch to say that it looks really good on her. She’s a stunning woman at any size, but it was nice to see her moving comfortably in her skin with a genuine smile and sans outrageous fake tan.

On the other end of the spectrum, Janelle Monae was doing more than her little frame could probably carry. oscar-8Her dress featured all manner of designs and embellishments. It looked like the designer simply couldn’t commit to a single idea, and decided to do everything and hope for the best. Her stylist even had the nerve to slap an embellished tiara/headband thing on her head. Fortunately, Monet is just quirky enough to pull it off, and managed to even look calm and collected in the frenetic ensemble.

At least Monae’s makeup artist got the memo about balance, and calmed things down with gorgeous flesh toned shimmers and a soft smoky eye. Her makeup was definitely among some of the best that the night had to offer. Other big hits of the night included Hailee Steinfeld (when did that child grow up? She looked STUNNING), Emma Stone and Naomie Harris.

Overall, it was a good night for fashion. We even forgive Halle Berry for showing up looking like she hopped out of the chair while her hair dresser was desperately trying to style those curls, and for wearing the millionth dress that looks just like all the other ones she wore on red carpets’ past.

He SAID: John Wick Gun-Fu (Chapter Two)

Scott F. Evans

In 2014, Keanu Reeves’ flagging career was given new life with the unexpected hit, John Wick. While the film was weak on story and character, it compensated for those shortcomings by offering some remarkably inventive action sequences and has made a place for itself as a modern action classic. With the same creative team in tow, Reeves is back with John Wick Chapter 2.  And while the sequel not only delivers even more thrills and spills than the original, it also mostly addresses the story and character issues of the original. Unfortunately, it creates some new problems as well.

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JW2 was made on a budget of forty million dollars, and while that’s double the cost of the original, it’s fairly low considering how good this film looks.  The budget’s on the screen as JW2 looks as good as movies with three times that budget. Credit that to cinematographer Dan Laustsen. He has only lensed a handful of features, but shoots some truly impressive pictures for this sequel elevating it far above most action fare nowadays.

Director Chad Stahelski is back and once again shows a keen eye for capturing action. His camera work is smooth and never intrusive. More importantly, unlike most modern genre directors, he’s not afraid to hold his shots. Stahelski wants us to see all of the work the performers put into executing the intricate fighting techniques and stunts. The actors and stunt people put in long, grueling hours perfecting these sequences.  It’s insulting to them and shortchanges the audience to obscure it with unsteady camerawork and rapid fire editing.

Derek Kolstad also returns as screenwriter.  His script is fun and greatly expands on Wick’s world, but some of it’s flourishes almost causes the film to slip into parody.  Some of Kolstad’s overwritten dialogue makes the film feel like it’s taking itself too seriously.  He gives his characters dialogue that strives for elegance, but ends up sounding pretentious.  John Wick is essentially a comic book movie with guns standing in for superpowers, not Masterpiece Theater.

Of course Keanu Reeves is also back as the titular character.  And like the first one, Reeves is both this film’s main strength and weakness.  On the upside, Reeves physically gives John Wick his all, doing the majority of his own stunts.  He reportedly spent months learning how to shoot, fight, and drive for his new franchise. It shows.  Reeves moves like a trained professional, showing remarkable efficiency with guns and jiu-jitsu techniques.  Unfortunately, where he is the least impressive is in practically any of the scenes where he needs to deliver Kolstad’s overcooked dialogue. Reeves has this unnatural stiffness that sometimes stops the film cold. Rapper turned actor Common plays Cassian, one of the film’s main villains. He and Reeves engage in a pair of incredible extended action sequences.  But between these two astonishing scenes, the two have a moment where they exchange dialogue over a drink. To call this scene cringe-worthy would be a disservice.  There’s a famous scene in Michael Mann’s Heat where Robert De Niro and Al Pacino meet for a cup of coffee. You can see Kolstad and Stahelski  trying to emulate this scene, but the actors just aren’t up to par.   Jamie Foxx was just featured in Sleepless a few weeks ago.  While that film isn’t very good, Foxx has a natural ease and you wonder if an actor of that caliber could turn a John Wick into a true action masterpiece.

The first John Wick set a new standard for action cinema with its hybrid take on the conventional movie shootout and fistfight.  And while those sequences were without a doubt both innovative and exciting, they also got repetitive fairly quickly.  JW2 has the same problem. Stahelski and his stunt team went with ‘more’ instead of ‘different’.  Yeah,  it’s a soft criticism, but with a runtime of two hours, this film really could’ve used some variety in the type of action presented.

All that said, John Wick 2 still definitely warrants a watch in cinemas.  Laustsen’s cinematography, Stahleski’s direction, Reeves’ physical commitment, and the film’s breezy two hour runtime make JW2 a pulpy fun night at the movies.

We SAID: The Best Brands You’ve Never Heard Of

Staff Writer

In a globalized market full of products from every conceivable pocket on the planet, it’s hard to stand out in today’s beauty industry. Every season, we’re inundated with products that promise to change our minds forever about what we think we know about skin and hair care. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and most savvy consumers are hard to impress. So it’s always a refreshing surprise to see brands really shine with an impressive list of ingredients, and the performance to back it up.

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FACE:

Bella Aura Instant Lifting Eye Contour features a formula that hydrates and tightens in a single drop. Full of feel good ingredients like Argan and Nigella Sativa, it lifts the eye area without the signature dry feeling associated with most firming formulations.

Luxe Botanics Kigelia Clarifying Moisturizer might be the crown jewel in the company’s cozy skin care selection. Featuring Kigelia Africana, this clear moisturizer cuts inflammation, and acne-causing irritations from the very first application. It feels more like a serum than a traditional moisturizer, but still manages to hydrate oily and acne-prone skin.

HAIR:

Mirai Clinical Purifying & Deodorizing Shampoo claims that this formula is so moisturizing, you don’t need a separate conditioner. We’re happy to report, it’s actually true. The low-foaming formula cleans your hair without stripping it, and leaves strands feeling light and hydrated.

BODY:

Aleavia Enzymatic Body Cleanse claims to clean and heal the skin in one shot. The formula is so gentle that it can double as a shampoo and even a facial wash. You couldn’t ask for a simpler lineup of ingredients; there are only 7.

She SAID: New Beauty

Shahada Karim

The  new year is off to a colorful, albiet decidedly muted start. Some of the spring collections got an early start during Holiday ’16, and we’ve noticed that they’re not much different in texture (and in some cases, color) than what trended through the end of the year. From Burberry mattes to Chanel smoke, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Ever the little company that could, Viseart continued it’s multi-tasking philosophy with the new Warm Mattes Palette. Made up of warm neutrals from off white to brownish red, the palette features the same creamy texture and high pigment that Viseart has become famous for. Also released was an extension of the new pro palettes, which are a fraction of the size and feature complimentary mattes and shimmers.

The Burberry Silk & Bloom Palette might be the most appropriate ‘Spring’ offering, in a decidedly bright pinky-plum shade. The company also released a collection of  Liquid Lip Velvets that apply and dry like a typical matte liquid lipstick, without the additional feature of remaining transfer-proof. On the up side, they remain very comfortable on the lips, unlike many formulas that leave lips parched and thirsting for relief.

Anastasia Beverly Hills  began her legacy with brows, and created a makeup empire that now includes just about everything else on the face. The company’s latest offering comes in the form of a highly anticipated lip palette, that includes both traditional and primary colors to bring out the mixologist in every beauty lover.

Chanel  got out early with the new CODE collection for Spring, by releasing it in December. The crown jewel of the collection is Blush Harmony, with four distinct colors to blend or use alone at your discretion. Two new eyeshadow palettes and a slew of lip colors have the potential to get lost in Chanel’s other permanent offerings, and the eyeliner in Petrol Noir is fun but forgettable.

If there is an up side, it’s that the trends from Holiday (or even spring/summer of ’16) haven’t really changed. That’s good news for anyone hoping to embrace the new year effortlessly and beautifully, without breaking the bank.

He SAID: Hidden Gem

Scott F. Evans

2017 (and late 2016) continues to deliver solid African-American cinema with this week’s release of Hidden Figures.  The film tells the story of the black women, classified as “computers” by NASA, whose invaluable input helped astronaut John Glenn orbit the planet.  It’s a remarkably inspirational story that’s been ignored by cinema and largely forgotten in history.  But this film, based loosely on the non-fiction book of the same name, seeks to remedy that.

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Hidden Figures is directed by Theodore Melfi with a script co-written with Allison Schroeder and adapted from  the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  And while the direction isn’t particularly special, the film still works surprisingly well.  Melfi’s direction is adequate, certainly a step above pedestrian, but it won’t garner any awards. He does elicit strong performances from his cast though.   He and Schroeder’s script give the actors plenty to work with.  The dialogue pops and breezes along with a slightly whimsical tone without trivializing the situation.  These brilliant women had to deal with an altogether different brand of racism; one that had no problem using their amazing talents, while refusing to acknowledge their efforts.  But the script doesn’t beat you up about it by focusing solely on the puzzling racism that still permeated a scientific organization like NASA.  It doesn’t run from or soft sell it, but it also doesn’t wallow in misery.  Instead it illustrates the value of higher education in a world that is rapidly progressing through technology.

But Hidden Figures is really elevated by its cast, with every player turning in a robust performance.  Taraji P. Henson leads the pack as mathematical genius Katherine Johnson.  While the film is something of an ensemble piece, Henson truly anchors it.  She plays Johnson with a easy, yet restrained touch, giving the role a light sense of humor even as she navigates the racial minefield of late 1960’s NASA.  Octavia Spencer gives another one of her typically solid performances as Dorothy Vaughn who manages the team of “computers”.  She plays Vaughn as strong, but not in that stiff manner we usually get in these types of roles.  Janelle Monae is new to acting, but she holds her own as the determined Mary Jackson. She plays her with a bit of sauce, but not enough to push Hidden Figures beyond its PG rating.  Kevin Costner is as stalwart as ever as Al Harrison.  He’s good in the role but as it’s almost tailor-made for him, it’s not a standout.

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If there’s one criticism I’d level at Hidden Figures is that music is weak.  It’s not bad, but the score by Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer all sound inauthentic, like modern music trying to sound period.  It’s too polished and synthetic sounding.  This film was made with the relatively low amount of 25 million (it doesn’t look it) so maybe securing era-specific music rights proved too rich for the budget.

So even though Hidden Figures plays almost like a big budget TV movie, it’s still worth a look in theaters.  This is truly an important story that should serve to inspire both young and old.