Car Review: 2014 Kia Soul

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The new 2014 Kia Soul is a testament for just how far small utility vehicles have progressed in today’s market. We drove a solar yellow Soul for a week and discovered that this is not only a fun car, but refined beyond what we expected. The 2014 Kia Soul’s all-new take on design, driving dynamics and desirable features totally transform one of Kia Motors America’s best-selling cars into an urban utility vehicle that is as comfortable in the city as it is on the open highway.

EXTERIOR

When the wild Track’ster concept made its debut in 2012, Soul enthusiasts and pundits alike urged Kia to turn the aggressively fun fantasy into reality. With 18 months from design freeze to production, the stage was set for the all-new Soul, and many of the concept’s dramatic design cues can be found in the production vehicle. The upright stance, squared shoulders and distinctive fender flares are instantly recognizable as Soul. Combining a longer 101.2-inch wheelbase (up 0.8 inches), overall width that’s broadened to 70.9 inches (increased by 0.6 inches) and a reduced overall height of 63.0 inches (decreased by 0.4 inches) adds a more aggressive edge to the all-new Soul’s appearance. Likewise, the wraparound greenhouse, high-mounted tail lights and upright stance are all hallmark design elements. Premium touches such as available LED front positioning lights and rear LED halo lights help connect Soul to siblings within the Kia lineup that share similar design cues, such as the 2014 Sorento CUV and 2014 Forte sedan.

Exterior Track’ster similarities are easy to spot. The large trapezoidal lower air intake is nearly a direct carryover from the concept, and the location of the available fog lights – down low and pushed to the leading edges – mirror those found on the Track’ster. Kia’s signature grille is present, but it’s been reworked to more closely resemble the concept. Adding a touch of flair, the unique “floating” body-color panel inset into the lift gate originated with the Track’ster as well. Subtle enhancements include a wider (by 2.4 inches over the previous Soul) opening for the lift gate, allowing Soul to swallow more stuff. There is a smooth feel to the skin of the 2014 Kia Soul that exudes confidence and appeals to the eyes. The Soul Exclaim as tested adds to the Plus, with standard features like 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R-18 tires, fog lights, body-color bumper “tusks,” projector head lights, front LED positioning lights and rear LED halo lights.

INTERIOR

Our test model was equipped with extra options from head to toe, and we appreciated them more and more as the week moved on. Overall, the design paid particular attention to instilling a more premium look and feel to the 2014 Soul’s interior. Liberal applications of soft-touch materials are found on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. Details such as our media car’s leather trimmed seating with improved lateral and thigh support, and the use of high-gloss piano-black trim pieces on the center console and dash, elevate the Soul’s interior to new levels of sophistication. The panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade was spectacular, navigation with a whopping 8-inch screen was bright and clear, and the Infinity audio system was spot on with a strong bass!

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to August

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This has been one of the worst summer movie seasons in recent memory, and while it would take something really special to turn it all around, there are a few new releases this August that could at least make it a little less forgettable, including Marvel Studio’s most ambitious film to date, new installments of “The Expendables” and “Sin City,” and the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen.

“GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY”

Who: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel
What: When space adventurer Peter Quill steals an orb coveted by a treacherous villain, he must find a way to rally a quartet of ragtag rivals to save the universe.
When: August 1st
Why: A few months ago, most people had never even heard of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but that’s quickly changed following the launch of the film’s marketing campaign, which suggests that director James Gunn (perhaps Marvel Studio’s biggest risk yet) has absolutely nailed the offbeat tone of the comic book. This has been on my must-see list ever since it was announced, and that excitement has only grown with each new reveal, from the casting of Chris Pratt in the lead role, to landing Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper to voice the movie’s CGI characters, to the strong buzz emerging from early screenings that have pegged it as one of the studio’s best films to date. In other words: get ready to be pleasantly surprised.

“GET ON UP”

Who: Chadwick Boseman, David Andrew Nash, Nelsan Ellis and Viola Davis
What: A chronicle of James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.
When: August 1st
Why: The music biopic is one of the most formulaic subgenres. They’re essentially all the same – a rags to riches story where the subject overcomes some kind of personal demon, usually drug addiction) – and Taylor Tate’s “Get on Up” doesn’t appear to buck that trend. The fact that the script was written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (the sibling duo responsible for the excellent “Edge of Tomorrow”) instills some hope that it won’t be a complete waste of time, but James Brown’s life doesn’t really interest me, and the decision to cast Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul feels a little weird after playing another black icon so recently in “42.” What’s next for the actor? Movies about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse Owens?

“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”

Who: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub
What: Four mutant warriors fight to save their city from an evil kingpin.
When: August 8th
Why: There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film – after all, we’ve seen what producer Michael Bay did to the “Transformers” franchise and director Jonathan Liebesman doesn’t have a very good track record – but the kid in me still can’t wait to see the Turtles back in action on the big screen, even if they don’t exactly look like the ones from my childhood. In fact, they look downright ugly with those oversized frog lips, leading me to wonder how that design ever made it out of the concept stage. The decision to cast a Caucasian actor as Shredder is also a bit worrying, as is Megan Fox’s involvement, but maybe, just maybe, it won’t be so bad.

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A chat with Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”)

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Eric Stonestreet is America’s favorite homosexual, even though he isn’t gay – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Stonestreet plays Cam on the hit television show “Modern Family” and has won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series as a result.

But before the breakthrough role, Stonestreet spent over a decade acting on notable TV shows like “Monk,” “CSI,” “Malcom in the Middle,” “Party of Five” and “ER.” We had the chance to chat with Stonestreet recently about his new partnership with Swiffer, playing Cam on “Modern Family” and fielding questions about Sofia Vergara.

Is “Stonestreet” your real last name? Because that’s a badass last name.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty good last name. When I was a kid, I used to get made fun of for it.  And then I became an actor and everyone wanted to know if I made it up.”

It’s sort of like the Simpsons episode where Homer changes his name to “Max Power,” a real heavy-handed last name. You could be an NFL linebacker if the TV stuff doesn’t work out.

“Yes, absolutely perfect – for my age. A 42-year-old rookie middle linebacker.”

Tell me about your collaborative effort with Swiffer and the “Swiffer Effect” video with your mom.

“The Swiffer Effect campaign is letting people know that roles are changing in families and in respect to cleaning as well. With the Swiffer Effect, they’re trying to get the word out that Swiffer is more effective and more fun than the old dust pan and broom. So, they asked me to team up with my mom. Check out the viral video so people can see a little humor with their cleaning.”

Hashtag let’s go viral, Eric.

“Hashtag let’s do it.”

Can we talk about the groupies, Eric? Do women just throw themselves at you now that you’re everywhere?

“I guess you could say that, but I don’t really take advantage of it like most guys would. You have to keep a bit of a classy demeanor. But yeah, things changed once I got on TV.”

As far as the sexual aspect of your character Cam, how difficult is that to play as someone who isn’t gay?

“It’s not that much of a deal because I’m an actor and play all kinds of roles. The fact Cam is gay doesn’t have much to do with anything. I played bad guys on TV before, other guys before, so it’s a character I get to play and never really thought too much about it.”

How many Sofia Vergara questions do you field in an average day?

“Uh, well, so far five today.”

Are you on your average for this point of the day? Or are you low?

“When I’m doing media, that’s how it usually goes. But she is an awesome person, she’s a force. She’s a cool lady.”

  

Blu Tuesday: Noah and The Other Woman

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Noah”

WHAT: Noah (Russell Crowe) receives a message from the Creator to build an ark that will harbor the innocent (his family and the planet’s animals) from the impending apocalyptic flood designed to cleanse the world of wickedness. But when the self-appointed king of mankind, Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), learns of Noah’s plans, he leads a massive army to overtake the ark and seek refuge from certain death.

WHY: This isn’t the first time that Darren Aronofsky has tackled something as ambitious as “Noah,” but unlike his experimental time-traveling drama “The Fountain,” this movie already had a built-in audience of sorts with varying ideas of how it should be told. And since Aronofsky has taken more than a few liberties with the source material – including a race of fallen angels called the Watchers that look like stop-motion rock monsters straight out of Ray Harryhausen’s workshop – he’s received a fair share of criticism for his efforts. As someone who isn’t religious, it’s difficult to be too damning of how Aronofsky has interpreted the text, but while it’s not quite the sacrilegious disaster that many feared, it isn’t very good either. Though Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson deliver some good performances, you don’t really care about any of the characters, expect perhaps Watson’s orphaned Ila. The decision to turn the story into an epic adventure movie with a big battle sequence as its centerpiece was likely intended to add a little excitement to the proceedings, but it’s still a fairly dull affair that’s hampered by the lame attempts to make it an allegory for the current state of our planet.

EXTRAS: Sadly, there’s no audio commentary by director Darren Aronofsky, but the Blu-ray does include a two-part featurette on the construction and filming of the ark and a behind-the-scenes look at location shooting in Iceland.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“The Other Woman”

WHAT: During a surprise visit to her boyfriend’s house, Carly (Cameron Diaz) discovers that he’s already married to suburban housewife Kate (Leslie Mann). The two eventually bond over their shared hatred for Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and when they learn that he’s cheating on both of them with another woman (Kate Upton), they team up with her to plot their revenge.

WHY: “The Other Woman” is one of the worst movies you’ll see this year – the kind of film that gives female-centric comedies such a bad name that it’s no wonder Hollywood doesn’t make them more often. Though not quite as misogynistic as some have claimed, it’s basically just a bunch of girl power drivel that doesn’t empower its women so much as make the two-timing Mark such a massive asshole that his punishment seems justified. (For the record, poisoning someone is not cool, no matter what they’ve done to you.) The movie also thinks so little of its female characters that they’re not given any depth beyond generic labels like “wife,” “lawyer” and “boobs,” while poor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is forced to do some pretty embarrassing stuff involving female hormones and laxatives. The biggest problem, however, is that none of it is funny. Director Nick Cassavetes seems to think that he’s making a light and fun romp about women getting sweet revenge, but there’s nothing entertaining about a couple of insecure women bickering with one another for 109 minutes, especially when it’s as mind-numbingly stupid and boring as this.

EXTRAS: There are some deleted scenes and a gag reel, but that’s all.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

Rutini Trumpeter offers delicious values from Argentina

I don’t know about you, but Malbec is the first grape that comes to mind when discussing Argentina. It’s their signature varietal and as such has received some serious attention over the years. When it’s done right, Argentine Malbec is as good as examples from anywhere in the world. That said though, there’s a lot more to Argentine wine than just Malbec. When I started drinking wines from Argentina in the mid 1990s, it was Cabernet Sauvignon that got my attention, Chardonnay soon followed. The point is that while the Malbec gets most of the attention, there’s a lot more to love. In the value category in particular, Argentina offers a wide swath of affordable wines. Here’ are four from Rutini Trumpeter that offer varietal character and value to boot.

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Rutini Trumpeter Chardonnay – The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Mendoza region of Argentina. It’s a 100 percent varietal wine, and 30 percent of the fruit underwent malolactic fermentation (a secondary fermentation process that converts the harsher malic acid to softer lactic acid). It was aged in a combination of new (50 percent), once-used (25 percent) and twice-used (25 percent) French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Apple and kiwi aromas emerge from the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate features both orchard fruit and pineapple characteristics. Both yellow and green apple flavors are in evidence on the finish, along with hints of limestone and white pepper. This is a clean, crisp Chardonnay, loaded with pure fruit. It would be a great choice to drink all summer and fall.

Rutini Trumpeter Cabernet Sauvignon – All of the fruit for this wine was picked by hand in the Mendoza region. It’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and all of it underwent malolactic fermentation. It was aged in a combination of new American (40 percent) and used French (60 percent) oak over a period of 9 months. It has a suggested retail price of $10.09. Red plum and black raspberry aromas are prominent on the nose. Those fruity characteristics carry through to the palate where it’s joined by hints of black raspberry and cherry. Vanilla bean, black pepper and a hint of cardamom are all in evidence on the finish. This wine is loaded with eager fruit flavors. It’s fresh and appealing; drink it in its youth for maximum pleasure.

Rutini Trumpeter Malbec – This 100 percent Malbec wine was produced using fruit sourced at the Tupungato vineyard in Mendoza. It underwent malolactic fermentation. Barrel aging took place over 7 months in a combination of new and used French and American oak. It has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Red raspberry and a hint of crème fraiche tell the story of the nose on this fruit-driven Malbec. The palate is juicy and studded with more of those characteristics, as well as red cherry and a hint of super ripe red wild strawberry. The finish shows off wisps of sweet cocoa and continuing fruit flavors. Pair this wine with something off the grill for a delicious pairing.

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