This is an easy to watch film. It hits all the notes we want it to and has something for everyone: action, emotion and humor – it is worth the trip.

In “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, Peter Parker deals with the death of his mentor and father figure, awkwardly chases after his high school crush and saves the world, albeit reluctantly.

As with “Homecoming”, the Tom Holland era of Spider-Man is light, funny and good entertainment. It is closer to the more comedic and down to earth character portrayed in the original Marvel comic books.

In this one, Peter is back in high school and goes on a trip to Europe with his fellow classmates and bumbling idiot teachers.

It is very clear he wants to get some breathing space from superhero duties and just be a normal kid. An anti: “With great power comes great responsibility” if you will.

Instead, he is focused on THE PLAN.

THE PLAN = getting the girl he likes to notice him, read: MJ (played sharply by Zendaya). This plays out as a sweet an innocent unfolding of two teenagers who are still learning how to process their feelings and each want to communicate but can’t quite get there. The characters are treated with respect and their emotions and limitations are not played for laughs – as is sometimes the case when dealing with teenage romance.

Peter has no intentions of saving the day in this edition. He just wants to enjoy some down-time in picturesque cities and finds himself somehow roped into saving the day.

There is a twist in the movie for those who haven’t read the comics or know that much about the canon of Spider-Man, so if plot points are important to you, don’t read any more!!



The twist is Mysterio. Good ol’ Mysterio, one of the CLASSIC Spider-Man villains and most iconic of the whole œuvre.

As a master manipulator and illusionist, Mysterio makes Nick Fury, Spider-Man and the whole world believe that the Elementals (a group of 4 ravaging monsters based on the elements of fire, water, earth and air) are out to destroy the world, and only he can destroy them, with a little help of Spider-Man of course. His explanation includes a multiverse where his earth was destroyed by the Elementals so he travels to this one to stop them in time.

But even though he projects himself as the hero in the beginning of the movie, all the comic book fans knew it was for nefarious purposes, to manipulate the masses into believing he could be the next great big thing. He has patiently waited to fill the vacuum that Iron Man left with his death and sets to become the hero of the world. All from the comfort of a VR headset.

Since he operates drones that project a simulated reality, Mysterio choreographs quite stunning fight sequences ripe with insults, overwhelming villainy power, and starring him as a swashbuckling savior in the middle of it all.

One thing that is lacking is the motive for Mysterio’s take over of the world. It seems rushed in the movie and condensed into a melodramatic Black & White flashback and a throwaway line of: “I want the world to know the truth”. It does not feel strong enough and is the only part of the movie that seems underdeveloped.

The fight sequences, however, are very well done. The cinematography is active but not dizzying, jumping along with Spider-man and changing POVs quickly, but with ease.

The VR (virtual reality) illusion is timely and is used quite well, which also brings us to the emotional aspects of the film.


Though the tone is light, “Far From Home” tackles some poignant issues. A major one is the death of Iron Man in “Endgame”. Peter struggles with losing his faux father and questions whether the world depends on his shoulders now.

This is addressed quite frankly and directly throughout the film where we see Tony Stark’s legacy (on murals and statues) and his memory (with EDITH, the powerful glasses that can do almost anything), but also his absence and the psychological implications it has on Peter. No moment might be more disturbing in the movie than when Peter sees a zombie version of Iron Man creeping towards him in the dreamlike sequence Mysterio concocted to toy with Peter’s fears — and make him question what is real. Chilling and visually impressive, the dreamlike sequences serve as fight scenes but also internal struggle scenes.

A sweet moment occurs when Happy comes to rescue Peter in a Stark Industries plane and Peter builds a new suit in the back. Seeing Peter tinker with the machinery and get passionate serves as a reminder that Iron Man lives on forever and his ingenuity will continue to inspire the next generation of superheroes.


Finally, the comedy! This movie is packed with jokes, from Ned’s incredulity to all the cool things that come with being a superhero, and to Peter’s classmates for looking up to Spider-Man and not giving a second thought to Peter. But none might be as effective as MJ’s deadpan delivery and smart-aleck personality. Zendaya toes the line perfectly and plays off of Tom Holland’s discomfort beautifully. Well written and well executed.

Peter Parker: You look really pretty.
MJ: Therefore I have value?
Peter Parker: No…that’s not what…
MJ: I’m just messing with you. You look pretty too.”

It was weird to see a Spider-Man movie not take place in New York, but it worked and we were able to get a taste of it in the satisfying final scene. A bookending to an entertaining ride backed with a punchy 80s post-punk end credits song.

Fun, exciting and packed with jokes. The blockbuster of the summer – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½


Style over substance. Not accommodating to people with allergies. Quite possibly the most over-hyped place in all of Chicago.

Nobody likes a bad review, not the establishment, nor the person writing it. To put it quite simply: it’s not fun for anyone.

But, this place needs to know how it treats its customers and the blatant disregard it has vis-à-vis food intolerances. Let me start with the beginning. The host was nice enough, showed me to a bar seat in this upscale, trendy place.

The prices were high, as were the expectations.

Photo from their website

I get a recommendation from our waiter to try the hamburger, so I ask for a burger with no cheese – as I’m pretty badly lactose intolerant, and warn them as such. Figure that it’s not too complicated to remember. The burger comes back with cheese on it.

This happens so often that I am barely phased by it anymore. Waiters will half-listen to your order and then give you something wrong. But, I understand that they can be busy and errors can occur, so it’s not a big deal. I kindly inform them that they made a mistake and thought that would be the end of it.

Then me and my girlfriend wait..and wait…and wait long enough for her dish to get cold at which point I tell her to start eating because there’s no point in eating soggy noodles. The burger FINALLY comes back after about 30 mins of waiting. Imagine that: 30 mins for one burger with no cheese and fries that cost extra. This is after already waiting 20 minutes for the original burger. If McDonalds gave out their burger in almost an hour, they would have been out of business the year they opened.

They finally come back and apologetically serve me my food once more. So I take a bite out of the second burger and lo and behold, it has cheese, again.

I open up the burger and realize the chef spent 30 minutes not making me a new one, but barely scraping off the cheese from the old one. (After I told them the effect eating cheese would have on me.) The patty was the same and had chunks of cheese cooked into it, fried twice-over. I immediately noticed on my first bite something wasn’t right and asked for the check, telling them I’ll be leaving. (Their “short-cut” caused me intestinal damage and digestive pain later that night.)

To top it off, they had the indecency to charge me for 2 orders of fries (1 of which I didn’t touch because it was the 1st order that they bungled up) and to not refund me my burger, which both times was again, and I can’t stress this enough, NOT what I ordered.

I hope nobody has to experience paying $40 to take one bite out of a burger that makes them vomit. I learned my lesson and felt compelled to warn anyone on the fence about this restaurant.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER eat there.

Hard to digest, both experientially and physically – 0 stars 

Classic films: The Red Balloon

In this fantastical short, a young boy in postwar Paris befriends a big red balloon with a mind of its own. Treated as something precious that needs protection (cleverly passing from umbrella under umbrella) but also faces rejection (like the child’s mom at first, who throws it out the window). But the beauty of this movie is that the red balloon can mean anything. As with all great art, the creators allow us to interpret it as we wish, holding our hand along the way. Is it a metaphor for childhood innocence, for hope in a gray and gritty post-wast city, or our hopes and dreams, collectively fraught with society? That is for us to decide.

Like a painting, color is very important in this movie. The boy is wearing gray at all times, the backdrop of the buildings and streets are gray and most characters sport muted tones in the same conformity. The red balloon is cartoonishly big and a bright scarlet red. It’s almost poetic how whimsical it is amongst a sea of faded colors. Goes to show how much a little thing like color can go a long way, if used with a purpose. In this case, to make it stand out (red balloon is the title after all, and the central focus). It is worth noting that the effects of the balloon moving in its sentience hold up today. We truly believe it listens to the child when asked to stay put; while also purposely coming close and cheekily turning away at times when the child tries to grab its string, ever-so-slightly out of reach.

As this movie is mostly silent, the storytelling is mainly visual; but we do get a gentle soundtrack that enhances the sweetness of certain moments as well as the roughness of others. It is a constant, ever-impactful background.

The cinematography is simple and effective as well. Each aspect contributing to the larger atmosphere. Succinctly echoing the simplicity of the storytelling. There are moments of innocent humor, like when the boy steps into a house to hide and the camera stays on the street waiting just long enough to see the boy kicked out. Or the scene with the girl with the blue balloon, brimming with insouciance.

French cinema seems to be good at portraying childhood, in all its complexity, ringing true to its heroes and getting into the kids perspective (more on that in future classic film reviews). The Red Balloon, moreover, serves as a discourse on childhood, affectionately unfolding true emotions from children without dipping into the melodramatic. It shows childhood’s whimsy and innocence but also its intolerance and cruelty.

But just like in the movie, there is a world of hope, joy and color beyond any temporary loss or ephemeral sadness which serves as a reminder that through its ups and downs, bobbing like an inflated balloon, life is beautiful. 

It’s concision and execution is worth striving for, so I will take a lesson from it and stop here. You can make the red balloon whatever you want, so I’m making it five stars. 

A beautiful movie with artful visual storytelling and an engaging emotional reflection on life, childhood and hope – 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈 (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Lighthearted idea but confused in its execution. Be prepared to be disappointed if you are a fan of the Beatles.

Yesterday is one of those movies that feels as though it was thought up by a child in a daydream. “What would the world be like without the most famous band of the 20th century?”, this kid muses to themselves as they look through the window during a particular boring class. This movie is the fruition of that thought and much like a child’s story, with all its sweetness and innocence also comes the blurry trappings of unconscious storytelling with an incoherent tonal structure.

It feels as though Yesterday was built from the dictionary of other movies, asking a lot of questions but not following through with many answers.

Let’s explore some of these unanswered questions.


Is this a romantic comedy or a revealing insight about the ownership and authenticity of art? The trailers would have you believe it’s the latter.

Why then does there need to be a love interest? This shoehorned love story seems a little melodramatic, bordering on the hardly believable. In one instance Ellie tells Jack: “I’ve been waiting 20 years for you to wake up and love me.” She may be British and possibly reserved, but why won’t she shoot her shot then? If she likes him so much, ask him out. It’s 2019, you don’t need to wait for anything anymore. Lily James plays Ellie as best she can, but her character is severely underdeveloped and is only in service to Jack’s character, being his forever cheerleader.

The authenticity of art idea could have dissected Jack’s fame and his guilt for taking credit of the songs. Instead, the film goes another direction and decides to pin him against modern day UK superstar musician, Ed Sheeran. While Mr. Sheeran certainly acted his part well, it was confusing to see why he was there. The only expositional line being: “You’re Mozart and I’m Salieri”. But would that REALLY have been the case?


The thing Yesterday missed about the Beatles is that they were a product of their time. They were the breath of fresh air English teens needed in post-war Britain. They changed the game for rock music and paved the way for UK artists to be taken seriously overseas.

Their songs are undeniably great, and that’s why they’ve stood the test of time. But the reason they shot to superstardom was also a result of the band’s aura and the era they were in. The later drug albums worked because it became more acceptable to do drugs in the late 1960s and the psychedelic phase was in full effect.

How would the music industry treat The Beatles like musicians nowadays? Now THAT would have been an interesting exploration. Sadly that avenue was not pursued much. If this movie were a little more curious about the inner-workings of the music industry, the thought process behind marketing the band like todays artist could have served up some moments of humor. A teaser for “Eleanor Rigby” on an Instagram story, perhaps?


One thing that bothered me is that it doesn’t look like our protagonist is having fun performing the songs. A big reason the Beatles became so popular was their personalities. Offstage they were cheeky in interviews, their legendary “roles” were cemented in movies like “A Hard Days Night”, (Paul was romantic, John was a rebel, George was quiet and Ringo was always down to party) and onstage it just seemed they were having fun! Many subsequent musicians claimed the main reason they chose that career path was because of seeing the Fab Four making music fun. The oohs and aahs went a long way and without the fun of the whole band our lone protagonist seems a little bereft of enthusiasm.

Furthermore, I did not get to hear some of my favorite Beatles tracks like “All my Loving” “Here, There, Everywhere” “Blackbird” and the list goes on …. but they played “Back in the USSR” twice. Did they not have the rights to the whole catalog??

Why would “Back in the USSR” work in modern times? It cleverly lampoons 60s era Beach Boys surf songs with the California sound bassline and the back up harmonies. Mixing American sounds with Soviet Union references (see: “Georgia on my my my mind” refers to the Ray Charles song and Georgia the country). And all this in the midst of the cold war. It was very much a product of its time and don’t think people would relate so much to it now.

Also the Beatles evolved. To my understanding, Jack is releasing old Beatles song and new Beatles songs mixed together on a double album which is at most, what, 50 songs? What happened to other 150? Not worth saving? I don’t think mixing old and new material would work but I would’ve loved to see an explanation for him trying to justify “Revolution 9”, “Lovely Rita” or “Happiness is a Warm Gun” to studio execs, along with the other more experimental or controversial songs. Though it’s not a fan favorite, “Why don’t we do it in the road” is just as much the Beatles as “Here Comes the Sun” is. And The Beatles could get away with that because they were already iconic musicians when they did more experimental songs whereas Jack is barely breaking onto the international scene in this alternate world, which in itself is also quite confusing.


Jack: This was my last gig. If it hasn’t by now, it’ll take a miracle.
Ellie: Miracles happen.”


One thing that is nice is seeing what an old John Lennon would would like. It actually made me emotional. Thinking of all the life experiences he would’ve had if had hadn’t been tragically murdered and also all the music we would have enjoyed.

However, the old John Lennon did not seem to be quite musical. It seems that in this other world the Beatles members still lived, just didn’t make music. We don’t see why they didn’t get together. Did they try and fail? Did Johnny and the Moondogs or the Silver Beatles never happen? It’s hard to believe some of the most accomplished pop songwriters of the 20th century wouldn’t have had an aching to create music in this alternate universe.

For music nerds: would someone else have introduced stuff Beatles introduced to pop music? Would bands borrow from the parallel minor key, a Beatles staple very clearly heard in songs like “I’ll Be back” or tried unusual time signatures like the 7/8 of “All you need is Love”? Or going to 3/8 in “Here Comes the Sun”?

Does Charles Manson not commit murder because he never heard “Helter Skelter” and think of it as a call to action and a sign of the end of days?

We find out Harry Potter and Coca-Cola aren’t in this world either. Is Jack going to reproduce JK Rowling’s opus and remember all seven Harry Potter books as best he can? Will he somehow re-invent the secret Coke recipe for the good of the world or will he stick to what he knows? Is this his life mission now? Give the world what they lost?

Yesterday does not answer any of the questions above and there are no real-life consequences for him playing Beatles songs: he’s never taken to task for it. At one point, Jack thinks he will be arrested before the big beach concert, but instead is greeted by the only other people who remember the Beatles. The only reason he decides to tell the world of his fraudulent act is not out of artistic merit but instead in an attempt to “get the girl”. We do not see his inner qualms, which, arguably is not very cinematic.

Apart from all these unanswered questions, some characters shine through. Rocky, the bumbling roadie, provides much needed comic relief to Jack’s confusing seriousness. And Kate McKinnon does a good performance as she delivers lines with sly confidence and hyper-overexplaination, such as “We’ll take most of your money”, which her character says as she asks to sign on Jack as a new artist. Americans never seem to be too bright in Richard Curtis’ films.

One thing is for sure, though, I really wouldn’t want to live in a world without the Beatles and this movie confirms that.

Entertaining premise but don’t go in wanting to feel more connected to the Beatles once the movie is over. – ⭐⭐



This Venezuelan cafe and restaurant is one I always come back to. One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, it’s cooked simply, with powerful taste, leaving you with a full and satisfied stomach. I’ve only been to the original Ravenswood location and cannot speak for the smaller one in the Loop.

As with any ethnic cuisine, it’s worth sampling traditional menu items as to appreciate meals you wouldn’t be able to eat otherwise. Here’s a guide to the best dishes on the menu.


The main item on the menu that Bien Me Sabe boasts is “arepas”. An arepa is similar to a sandwich bread, though it’s made of corn. If you’re having trouble imagining it, think South American corn pita and that should do the trick. Since it’s made of corn, it’s entirely GF, which I never would have guessed with that hearty dough. Their arepas have the right balance of soft and crunch.

Often times, I’ve found, the fewer ingredients- the better. This is true with the arepa. If you add too much to it you cannot focus on the ingredients in front of you and notice each different taste. The perfect combo (after many attempts) seems to simply be bread, beef, avocado and a sauce that resembles a light garlic aioli [pictured above]. With just those 4 ingredients, you appreciate each bite immensively, each part complementing the other in flavor.

There are arepa options as well for people with food restrictions and specific diets.

  • BEST VEGETARIAN AREPA: Caribbean Arepa
  • BEST VEGAN AREPA: Tropical Vegan Arepa


One of my favorite things on the menu is tostones (fried plantains), a staple of Central/South American cuisine. They are easy to share and wets the appetite whistle just enough to be ready for the main course. These ones come with some sauces and toppings, so it looks like a min open-faced sandwich.

For any pescatarians there is a great traditional fish stew that looks just as colorful as it tastes [pictured below].


There is no better word to describe these other than tasty. Not often do I get to order yucca fries at a restaurant, so I jumped on the chance to order these salty treats and was very pleased! They are perfectly crunchy, and the exact size for dipping in their light guasacaca sauce (a sort of avocado salsa). The papelón tastes like a thick lemonade, sweetened with what taste like sugar cane extract. Strong and sweet, which balances well with the salty fries.

But, what Bien Me Sabe boasts in taste, they lack in customer service. I went on a weekday and it was not busy. And they took my plate the second i took my last bite. I felt rushed and with barely any time to enjoy my experience while waiters hovered over my half-finished plate. (They even took a dish that wasn’t finished and brought my fork along with it- I had to find another one).

That being said, it is worth it just for the food, just be on your toes and don’t be surprised if you feel like you are eating fast. Take the time- this food deserves your full attention!

If you have any room left for dessert the Tres Leches is worth a try and the Quesillo is a traditionally Venezuelan Flan- if you want to stick to purely Venezuelan cuisine.


  • Start off with Tostones + sauces
  • Build-your-own Arepa with Beef and Avocado
  • Papelón (Venezuelan Lemonade) to drink

Come hungry, leave satisfied! – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Learn more here: https://bienmesabechicago.com