Byblos – Toronto – February 18, 2017

Luxe, 2-story restaurant putting a contemporary spin on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine & cocktails.
Address: 11 Duncan St, Toronto, ON M5V 3M2

Website: byblostoronto.com

Google reviews: 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

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Momofuku Noodle Bar – Toronto

David Chang’s hip NYC export dishes up ramen, steamed buns & more in a multivenue glass-cube space.
Address: 190 University Ave, Toronto, ON M5H 0A3

Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Google reviews: 4.1 out of 5 stars. I actually think it should be rated higher than that.

 

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Movie Review

captain america winter soldier

Directed by the sure hands of Anthony and Joe Russo (TV’s Community) from an excellent screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is easily the best of the stand alone Marvel films and a thrilling action film full of big surprises and twists with far reaching consequences. A superior sequel like X Men 2 and The Dark Knight, it raises the stakes of good story telling and intricate adaptations of its comic book origins in the guise of a political thriller.

Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) continues his adjustment to 21st century life after his thaw from the deep freeze (in Captain America: The First Avenger) and befriends a fellow veteran, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). On a typical mission for S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) lead a team of agents to rescue a pirated ship which turns up an interesting bit of information. Meanwhile, as S.H.I.E.L.D. readies the major launch of a defense system in Washington, D.C., there are growing concerns expressed by boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to his superior, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). As suspicions multiply, all hell breaks loose when there is an assassination attempt on one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own. The conspiracy leads Captain America to a confrontation with a mysterious, formidable figure, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), whose strength and skills are extraordinary. With only a small circle of comrades, everything Cap has come to value comes crashing down. Loyalties are tested and just who will survive a major shift in the world order is just the beginning of an insidious plot.

For fans of Cap, these are grand times as the filmmakers have chosen a major story arc (The Winter Soldier) from his comic books and incorporated Silver Age characters like The Falcon (Mackie) and Batroc (GSP). Recently, super hero films have chosen to bend the rules and take chances with tradition. This film goes much further than any previous Marvel adaptation. It features a good mystery, topical subject matter on individual privacy, and significant plot twists so much so that it is essential for the viewer to watch them unfold without any spoilers. The smart script contains witty lines amid a pervasive feeling of mistrust and paranoia. When Cap responds to Fury’s state of the art weaponry to combat threats and says, “This isn’t freedom. This is fear,” it sums up the theme of the story. Think of this as homage to 1970s conspiracy classics like Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, and Marathon Man. The film also employs moments that references Mission Impossible, The X Files, RoboCop, and 24.

Acting is uniformly strong as some old, familiar faces return, and a few new ones get introduced. By now Evans has become the embodiment of the iconic hero, retaining his sense of justice, duty, and morals, virtues which are downright refreshing in a post 9/11 world. Rogers is a Rip Van Winkle out of his time and still learning to assimilate to changes in the world, and cultural references, with amusing results. Evans’ chemistry with Johansson is believable yet ironic since their two characters have vastly different backgrounds. In a co-starring role, Johansson’s Black Widow is resourceful, smart, and deadly as a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative whose history is only beginning to be explored. Jackson’s Fury has an expanded role and reveals more facets of his mysterious background. Robert Redford (All the President’s Men) has a significant, atypical role as a high level government official, and he is outstanding. His presence alone adds legitimacy and authority to the film. Mackie (The Hurt Locker) is an ideal buddy in arms to Evans. Emily VanCamp makes a good first impression as a young agent, and Cobie Smulders (returning as Agent Maria Hill) provides solid backup.

The many impressive action sequences are noteworthy for their ferocity and meticulous detail, but the standouts are a mad, opening car chase through the streets of D.C., and a remarkable fight in a glass elevator that surpasses the gem in Die Hard: With a Vengeance. There are moments of intense hand to hand combat that recall the best moments of the Bourne films on steroids. You’ve also got to love that shield; the film wisely displays all the creative ways Cap’s shield is employed in combat. The violence here is realistically depicted and not cartoonish which pushes its PG-13 rating. Extensive use of hand-held cameras and more live action special effects than CGI lend a stronger sense of realism. D.C. locations make a splendid backdrop for much of the film.

Taking super hero filmmaking to new heights, Captain America: The Winter Soldier successfully interconnects what we know from previous films and effectively challenges you to re-evaluate everything in the Marvel Universe. It certainly helps to have seen the previous films, but there is sufficient background and context that a casual viewer would still enjoy it. (Fans of TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will have a field day as the events tie in directly with the show.) Though the film ends with open ended story threads that beg for another installment, consider this as The Empire Strikes Back of Captain America. That’s not such a bad place to be.

 

10 out of 10 stars

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A Diet Rich in Nuts Improves Sperm Count and Motility

nuts

Improvements associated with better male fertility and explained by a reduction in sperm DNA fragmentation

Date: July 4, 2018

Source: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

Summary: The inclusion of nuts in a regular diet significantly improves the quality and function of human sperm, according to results of a randomized trial which measured conventional semen parameters and molecular changes over a 14-week study period. The findings, say the investigators, ‘support a beneficial role for chronic nut consumption in sperm quality’ and reflect a research need for further male-specific dietary recommendations.

Full Story: The inclusion of nuts in a regular diet significantly improves the quality and function of human sperm, according to results of a randomised trial which measured conventional semen parameters and molecular changes over a 14-week study period. The findings, say the investigators, “support a beneficial role for chronic nut consumption in sperm quality” and reflect a research need for further male-specific dietary recommendations.

The results of the study are presented today by Dr Albert Salas-Huetos from the Human Nutrition Unit of the Universitat Rovira i Virgil in Reus, Spain.(1)

The study was performed, he said, against a background of general decline in quantity and quality of human sperm, attributed in industrialised countries to “pollution, smoking, and trends toward a western-style diet.” (2) In this study subjects randomised to the nut group had significant improvements in their sperm count, vitality, motility and morphology (shape); these were consistent with improvements found in other recent studies with diets rich in omega-3, antioxidants (eg, vitamin C and E, selenium and zinc), and folate. Nuts are dense foods containing many of these nutrients and other phytochemicals.

The study was a 14-week randomised clinical trial in which 119 healthy young men aged 18-35 were allocated to either their usual western-style diet supplemented with 60 grams/day of mixed almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, or their usual western-style diet without nuts. In its analysis the study recorded not just sperm parameters (according to WHO benchmarks) but also changes in several molecular factors, including sperm DNA fragmentation.(3) Sperm and blood samples were analysed at baseline and after 14 weeks of intervention.

Results firstly found significantly higher levels of sperm count, vitality, motility and morphology in the men randomised to the 60 g/day nut diet than in those following their usual diets free of nuts. Improvements in the former group were by around 16% in sperm count, 4% in sperm vitality, 6% in sperm motility, and 1% in morphology. These four parameters, explained Salas-Huetos, are all associated with male fertility. Moreover, the subjects in the nut group also showed a significant reduction in their levels of sperm DNA fragmentation, a parameter closely associated with male infertility. Indeed, it was this change in the level of DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells by which the investigators explained, at least in part, the improvement in sperm count, motility and morphology.

Although these are statistically significant results from a randomised trail with a high level of scientific evidence, Salas-Huetos emphasised that subjects in the study were all healthy and apparently fertile men following a western-style diet. He thus warned that results cannot be extrapolated to the general population.

So should men hoping to conceive a baby — either naturally or with IVF — add nuts to their everyday diet? “We can’t yet say that,” said Salas-Huetos, “based solely on the results of this study. But evidence is accumulating in the literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern might help conception — and of course, nuts are a key component of a Mediterranean healthy diet.”

1. This was a collaborative study led by Dr Mònica Bulló from the Rovira i Virgili University and Drs Joan Blanco and Ester Anton from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The study was funded by the International Nut and Dried Food Council.

2. There remains some controversy over a decline in sperm counts in developed countries, mainly because of how the measurements were taken. However, a huge meta-analysis last year reported “a significant decline in sperm counts between 1973 and 2011.” The analysis, which included more than 40,000 men whose semen samples were screened in 244 studies, found the results “driven by a 50-60% decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.” The decline in sperm concentration was put at -1.4% per year and in total sperm count at -1.6% per year. (See Levine H, Jørgensen N, Martino-Andrade A, et al. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Hum Reprod Update 2017; 23: 646-659.)

3. The World Health Organization lists four semen quality parameters in its latest manual of 2010: concentration (ie, count, which should be a minimum of 15 million sperm cells per ml semen); progressive motility (32% minimum); vitality (58%); and morphology (4%). These are the main parameters measured to evaluate semen quality within a normal range. At the molecular level it has also been proposed that the genetic integrity of each sperm cell is essential for successful fertilisation; if DNA strands in the cell become damaged or fragmented, they will be unable or less likely to fertilise an egg and maintain embryonic development. It is believed that this DNA fragmentation is caused by oxidative stress as a result of environmental and lifestyle factors. Sperm DNA fragmentation can be tested by a range of assays.

Story Source:

Materials provided by European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. “A diet rich in nuts improves sperm count and motility: Improvements associated with better male fertility and explained by a reduction in sperm DNA fragmentation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 July 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180704112048.htm>.

 

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Patria – Toronto – October 24, 2016

Classic Spanish cuisine (from tapas to paella), wine & cocktails served in a stylish, airy setting.

Address: 478 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1L7

Website: http://patriatoronto.com/

Google rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars. I actually think it is better than this rating indicates. The atmosphere is outstanding and the food is very tasty. It’s a bit more of an upscale tapas experience than Barsa Taberna (which is also quite good). I’d give it a 4.7 out of 5 stars.

 

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Movie Review

captain america first avenger

Perhaps no member of The Avengers would seem more difficult to introduce to a modern audience than Steve Rogers aka Captain America. Seen as perhaps something of an artifact from a time gone by, here was a character whose jump to the big screen had long been stuck in development hell. Despite a somewhat ironic title (the irony being that this would be the last of the origin films released before The Avengers), 2011 saw Cap make the leap successfully to the big screen, bringing with him an interesting new angle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A large part of the success was due to the choice of leading man. Chris Evans was an initially controversial choice to play the role, due in large part to his already having played another notable Marvel hero in the two Fantastic Four films some years previously. Yet like Daniel Craig’s James Bond, once given the chance to see him in action the criticisms were largely silenced. Evans managed to successfully play not just the almost superhuman commando we’ve come to know and love, but also the man Steve Rogers was before that: a puny, young guy from Brooklyn who seemed to embody the old saying about nice guys finishing last. Evans keeps that good guy aspect of the character throughout the film, which is present in his interactions with fellow characters and his reactions to events. Evans managed to take a potentially clichéd superhero from another time and make him into a genuinely likable character.

For that matter, the film all around has a strong cast. Hugo Weaving makes a fine nemesis in the form of Hydra leader Johann Schmidt, bringing a suitably sinister air to the character right from his very first scene in the film to the dramatic moment about midway through when he reveals the Red Skull persona (itself a triumph of prosthetic makeup). Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes is notable as well both for his chemistry with Evans’ Rogers which makes their friendship believable even when their roles are reversed but for also firmly establishing an idea of the character in the mind of the audience (something even more important in light of where the character would eventually be developed in the future). Filling in more traditional roles with memorable performances are Toby Jones as Hydra scientist Arnim Zola, Tommy Lee Jones as the initially skeptical commander of the Strategic Scientific Reserve and Stanley Tucci as ex-pat German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine who recruits Rogers.

Though the film’s setting during the Second World War means that female characters are fairly few, the character from the film besides Rogers that stands out the most is Haley Atwell’s Peggy Carter. While she does, as she did in the comics, become something of a love interest for Rogers, thankfully there’s far more to the character than that. Atwell in interviews described the character as “She can do everything Captain America can do, but backwards and in high heels,” and the action sequences in which Carter appears certainly prove that point.

The film’s production values are strong, especially given its Second World War setting. Through its combination of script, production design and costuming, the film successfully blends the technology and weapons of that conflict with aspects of the previously established Marvel universe (both comic and cinematic, the latter perhaps being more as a result of Joss Whedon’s uncredited work on the script). In fact some of the seemingly more outlandish designs form the film such as the rocket like craft Schmidt uses at one point or the large flying wing plane where the film’s climactic confrontation takes place are in fact based on real life plans drawn up by the Germans during the war (the Triebflügeljäger fighter plane and the Horten H.XVIII respectively). Director Joe Johnston, whose previous films include period set works such as the cult film The Rocketeer and October Sky, was a perfect choice to direct the film which combines period setting and characters with action sequences (indeed The Rocketeer arguably bares some similarities to the film itself). The icing on the cake might well be the score from Alan Silvestri which manages to be exciting and yet timeless at the same time. The results make the film as strong as it is.

Despite the film really being done to establish the Captain’s origin story, The First Avenger is book-ended by two very important scenes in the present day. The first of which reveal the discovery of a mysterious object between Arctic ice (revealed late in the film to the Hydra flying wing) that sets up the journey the viewer is about to go on while the latter presents us with a sequence where Rogers finds himself in the present day which, as well as giving us the seemingly pre-requisite appearance by Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury, also firmly establishes that other iconic aspect of the character: that he is a man out of time. With that complete, the stage was set for The Avengers and the rest, as they say, is history.

First Avenger on its own though holds up quite well. Of the phase one Marvel films it’s one of the most successful in bringing its characters story to life while also presenting a genuinely enjoyable film in the process. The result is a strong, period based action film and one of the best Marvel films to date.

 

8 out of 10 stars

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Yorkville Exotic Car Show – Toronto – June 16, 2016

Each Father’s Day, Bloor Street in Yorkville, Canada’s most prestigious shopping area closes to traffic for the Yorkville Exotic Car Show. Walking along the red carpet stretching from Bay Street to Avenue Road, attendees have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most beautiful cars from manufacturers such as Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Acura and others. Emphasis is on the evolution of the marques with some of the finest early versions on display beside the more recent models. This is a chance to experience these rarely seen beautiful vehicles all in one location.

Website: https://yorkvilleexotics.com/index.html

 

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