Now and Then/ Burntwood Tavern

Now and Thenburntwood-tavern-cuyahoga-falls


By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

Film : Now and Then (1995)

Stars : Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson

Four lifelong friends look back on a summer of maturity growth in this coming-of-age tale about the bonds that we never forget about. Author Samantha Albertson (Demi Moore), actress Tina Tercell (Melanie Griffith), gynecologist Roberta Martin (Rosie O’Donnell), and housewife Christina DeWitt (Rita Wilson) are friends from childhood who get together for the first time in years when Christina is about to have a baby. Seeing the old gang sends Samantha down memory lane, as she recalls the summer of 1970, when the girls were 12-years-old and edging into womanhood.

We can all relate to a time when life was easier and friendships seemed to last forever. What i really love about Now and Then, is it’s ability to give us two films working together simultaneously. While it is narratively being told by the adult women’s point of view in present day, it’s mostly acted out in the 70’s with these girls on the cusp of everything changing internally and externally in their lives. Whether you are a male or female, Director Lesli Glatter is a student of teenage adolescence, and her script will have the audience reflecting on past adventures. There is also a nice “Wonder Years” kind of feel with the backgrounds. The houses are new and colorful, and everything looks a lot cleaner in an almost Pleasantville kind of setting. The film will serve as a bit of a surprise for how the script (like the girls) mature before our very eyes. The movie begins as a bit of a childish comedy, complete with tongue and cheek jokes. But by film’s end, the movie centers on a heartfelt epiphany with these friends realizing they are the best part of each’s life.

A film like this really shouldn’t have much appeal to me with my taste in film, but the 70’s soundtrack complete with dream-pop sounds, gives the film an irresistable magic to such campfire tales. Glatter’s script feels like a female version of the 1986 classic, Stand By Me, but it never feels like it’s stepping on any toes creatively. If you seek a cult film appealing to generations young and old, Now and Then will serve as a welcoming reflection.

Feast : Burntwood Tavern

If you seek a one of a kind Summit County dining experience, complete with rich and luxurious tastes at affordable prices, check out Cuyahoga Falls crown jewel, The Burntwood Tavern. The building which was originally built in 1914, and served as the powerhouse building for the Cuyahoga River Dam. The restaurant took over the building in 2010 and has since gained a reputation for it’s nourishing foods with a breathtaking view overlooking the river below. This place has many tastes for every meal of the day, sure to satisy hunger cravings big and small. From signature steak dishes, to original rich tasting appetizers that go above and beyond just another meal starter. This place has stress free dining down to a tee, and it all starts at the door with their convenient valet parking.

Film Freak Suggestion – I could easily craft a menu for any of the three meals of the day. For breakfast, check out the Breakfast Burrito, three eggs, bacon, hash browns, black beans, avocado, queso fresco & sriracha aioli complete an early bird’s dream to get the day started right. Complete the deal with a Bloody Mary serve-it-yourself bar. For lunch, start off with a side of Tavern Tator Tots. Think Hush Puppies meets Hash Browns, and you have an edible paradise to prepare you for a unique taste right around the corner. Order the Tavern Dip, a prime rib, au jus, complete with swiss cheese and horseradish sauce. For dinner there is only one choice for this taste critic; Asiago Crusted Chicken. Delicious crispy potatoes, spinach & fresh arugula tossed with house vinaigrette & topped with marinated tomatoes. I have given you three amazing reasons to check out this jewel, but you will have many more for years to come.

You can find The Burntwood Tavern at:
2291 Riverfront Parkway
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44221

You can find The Film Freak’s film reviews at

Oxygen/ Diamond Deli



By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

Film : Oxygen (1999)

Stars : Maura Tierney, Adrian Brody

In this high stakes crime thriller, Madeline Foster (Tierney) is a no-nonsense New York police officer who suffers from her own demons outside of the job. Her day is about to get a lot worse however, as she finds herself assigned to an unusual kidnapping. The wife of a prosporous businessman has been buried alive by a mysterious maniacal madman, named Harry Houdini (Brody). It soon becomes clear that Harry knows who Madeline is, and for him this isn’t an ordinary kidnapping but an elaborate psychological game; which makes it all the more fascinating for him.

What works about writer/director Richard Shepard’s script, is the suspense our characters deal with while working against a clock that is constantly ticking. As the movie paces on, you feel the real sense of despiration to save this woman’s life, but with each new branch to the character’s backstories, the mission becomes tougher and tougher. I thoroughly enjoyed Oxygen for it’s refreshingly original ideas on a genre that is very overdone in today’s world of TV. Today, it’s common to find a CSI (fill in the blank for city) on every hour of the day, but a film like Shepard’s was ahead of it’s time for real human-like responses and a building of suspense reminiscent of Shakespear proportions. The film’s score is impactful, the camera shots capture the claustrophobia of being buried alive from the woman’s point of view, and the movie’s pacing is constantly moving at a brief 87 minute run time. It all makes for a chess-move finale that will have you inching on the edge of your seats in breathtaking anticipation.

The film certainly isn’t without it’s surprising coincidences with it’s behind the scenes notes.The on-screen chemistry between the film’s two protagonists is remarkable considering they only spent three days together during filming. The brilliance of a method actor is also present in Brody’s performance, as he had real braces put on his teeth for his role as Harry, rather than get fake ones put in every day.

Feast : The Diamond Deli

As a worker and patron of Downtown Akron, there is only one place that i find myself fantasizing for a taste that gets my taste buds almost romantically: The Diamond Deli. Opening in 1997, by brother and sister, Chad and Lynda Magilavy during a time when the Main Street landscape was changing for the better, the restaurant has gained a reputation for one of Akron’s most dependable eateries for their wide variety in menu options, as well as their dedicated hospitality for customer satisfaction. The building breathes history, as a lot of the locals frequent it daily with stories of happenings in and around the Rubber City. The restaurant offers any kind of sandwich that you can think of, from juicy meats like their famous Reuben’s, to their Chicken Salad with swiss cheese sandwich called “Zach’s Yeah Right Dad”. I certainly love a good story behind every sandwich name, and this Deli is second to none in original creativity. They are all based off of family members with their own humorous stories. With it being less than a mile from The Nightlight, it’s the perfect tag team for culture and cuisine.

Film Freak Suggestion : It’s hard to pick just one in a place i frequent so often. The best experience i have had so far though, is the “Manny’s B-17”, a smoked turkey, ham, honey mustard, tomato with Scallion cream cheese on rye bread. If you’re a turkey sandwich fanatic like me, you will be brought to melodic moaning with each irresistable bite. If turkey isn’t your thing, take a look at the “Here’s The Beef”, a Roast beef, beef brisket, Colby cheese, topped with cole slaw, 1000 island dressing on grilled rye bread. For a compliment to the nourishing sandwich, i recommend a cup of the Diamond favorite “Matzo Ball Soup”, made fresh daily. If you crave something sweet after the meal is complete, enjoy a nice piece of Cheesecake. You will be raving to your friends and family about a dining experience that can only be found in such a city known for it’s delicacy in culinary tastes.

You can find The Diamond Deli at:
378 South Main Street
Akron, Ohio, 44308

You can find film reviews from The Film Freak at:

Akron Adolescence – The Rubber Bowl


By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

Ten hours at The Rubber Bowl

When i look back on it now, Ozzfest 98 was probably a rough first concert for a 13-year-old. I had just gotten into Rock/Alternative music fresh off of my country music phase, when my best friend, Jeff Gill invited me to the biggest music festival of the year. When thinking about where the road would take me, my mind wandered to exotic lands that i have never been to. Places like Detroit, Pittsburgh, or Columbus was where i was expecting as the nearest venue to host such a huge event. As it turned out, my entrance into the rock-and-roll world was a mile from my house. A stone’s throw away from the safe haven that i had experienced up till that time in my bubble of protective childhood. This magical place was called the “Rubber Bowl”

It seems mind boggling today to think that big name music concerts were the everyday occurance at The Rubber Bowl, but at the time it was Akron’s biggest venue. It opened in 1940, and stood as the home of Akron’s college football team, the Zips. Besides the Zips, the bowl hosted local high school football games, including the City Series Championship game, every Thanksgiving, two Cleveland Browns regular season football games in 1941, and 1942, and many must see concerts that included Metallica, The Rolling Stones, and Alice Cooper. I remember attending for many Akron Vs Kent State matchups, one of which included an overtime thriller won by the Zips with a long field goal. The Rubber Bowl was Akron’s biggest claim to fame in an era when stadiums were being built to bring outsiders in to enhance their big city experience.

I arrived to the stadium around noon, and was greeted by many sights and smells forbidden to a teenager exploring his adolescent voice. As it turned out, that voice went from alto to bass as many good looking women scantily dressed graced my peripherary. I won’t get into the details, but i will just say that women became cootie free that day for this Akronite. Tickets were $32, which seemed like a lot of money at the time, but the lineup has yet to be topped by any of the 80 concerts that i have seen since. Tool, Limp Bizkit, Megadeath, and Ozzy Osbourne were just a few of the names to melt the rubber city that day. General admission granted you a come-and-go choice between sitting in the stands, and standing on the same turf that the Zips invaded every Saturday. I took the latter because the thrill of standing in the endzone to watch my biggest rock idols, seemed too good to be true.

As the night hours approached, i became drained both mentally and physically from a lack of liquids, to the amount of energy that i spent moshing around with grown men as big as pro wrestlers. By the time my favorite band (Tool) hit the stage, i got the blast of energy that i needed to get through the final two hours. People were passed out on the turf from a hard day of rock and roll, but i raged on, as i ran along the field like a football player to get to the front of the crowd. Did i succeed? One fat lip and a black eye later, i was jamming out painless (Until the next morning anyway) to cap off a day that prepared me for many shows for years to come. Since then, i have been to every venue in Northeast Ohio, but none of them will ever hold a place in my heart like the Rubber Bowl did on that hot and sunny Sunday afternoon in 1998.

The Rubber Bowl was left vacant in 2008, with the Zips opting out for the brand new Infocision Stadium on Exchange Street. It was purchased by Team1 Marketing Group in January 2013 for $38,000. With rumors of a USFL Pro Football team taking over the stadium, perhaps some new life has been injected into the crumbling ruins of one of Akron’s biggest landmarks. People love their history, and the Rubber Bowl is etched in it for generations past, present, and future.

Got any Rubber Bowl Stories? Leave a comment below.

You can find The Film Freak’s film reviews at:

Mr Nobody/ Crave Restaurant

cr4Mr Nobody

An artistic view of film and food
By Chris Kessinger

Mr. Nobody (2009)

In a Tweet : Belgian film director, Jaco Van Dormael, makes his on-screen debut crafting an original look at the elements of free choice and what comes from the decisions we make every step of the way.

What it’s really about : Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) stands on a station platform as a train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother (Natasha Little) or stay with his father (Rhys Ifans)? Infinite possibilities arise from this decision. As long as he doesn’t choose, anything is possible. All of this is, however, a memory to Nemo’s current life in 2092, where he’s living as a 117 year-old test subject on an unknown planet. Nemo’s study catches the curiosity of the quasi-immortal people living around him as they search for answers about Earth life before such scientific advancements in immortality became available. ‘Mr Nobody’ is part passionate love story and part inquisitve study about the big bang theory.

Why it’s good : The story, which takes on such original concepts, is told from a teacher and student viewpoint.  This is something that we as a viewer do not normally receive, but ‘Mr Nobody’ explains it’s concepts with a creative charm, while giving us a look at a future that doesn’t seem as far out as the eighty years it forecasts. The artistic touches in cinematography are breathtaking in beauty, with a piano driven score by Pierre Van Dormael (director’s brother). Warm, colorful backgrounds offer visual compliments to such a thought provoking script that never stopped enhancing intellectually. The film is loaded with so much great content that it demands more than one showing.

How it’ll surprise you : Free movement across time is a recurring theme of the film. The central character’s name is Nemo, which spelled backwards is ‘omen’, a foretelling of the future. Further, his main love interest is Anna and his daughter is Eve, both of which are the same when read in reverse. It’s also very refreshing to see a European touch on a big budget (47 million dollars) Sci-fi film in an American dominated market. Van Dormael opens the viewers eyes for self reflection and makes the Nemo character relatable, despite a look into a world that is anything but.

Art Among Symbolism : Nemo’s three love interests, Anna, Elise and Jean are all often dressed in colors related to their story with Nemo. Anna is dressed in red, which is commonly associated with love, Elise in blue, which represents depression, and Jean in yellow, the color of deceit.

Local Craving : At the heart of Akron’s art district, is a restaurant that offers a new and exciting look for hunger satisfaction. Crave Restaurant opened in 2005, and has been the prime cut in Akron dining for rich tastes at affordable prices. Offering a wide variety of menu selections featuring stylishly stacked meat dishes tenderly cut, as well as many vegetarian dishes sure to satisfy even the toughest crowds to please. Their gluten-free menu offers the widest range of healthy dishes that I have yet to see in the city. The drink menu will relax your senses, while infusing your mouth with a fruity originality to classic favorites. Everything from Martini’s -Key Lime and Creamsicle to name a couple- to a delicious house made liquor that you won’t find anywhere else- Crave has it all, so treat yourself to a night of savory eats in a museum-esque setting.

Film Freak Suggestion : Go into this one very hungry, because I have a three course meal that will send you singing to the heavens of tasteful nirvana. Start with the Steak Skewers dressed in a delicious Guinness garlic gaze and smoked gouda fondue. The first bite will give you taste goosebumps before the main course. For the main dish? Pork Tenderloin seasoned with bacon salt, chipotle whipped butternut squash, and apple butter veal glace. The tenderloin is so succulent in taste that you will not need a beverage to enhance this meaty mecca of nourishing delight. Desert is right around the corner with a chocolate peanut butter brownie that is the sweet sayonara to a night in one of Akron’s finest establishments.

Crave is located at
57 East Market Street
Akron, Ohio, 44308

You can find more of my film reviews at:

The Nightlight: Celebrating a year


By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

When the lights go out on another hard working day for Akronites, there is one place that owns the night for Akron’s motion arts. The Nightlight movie theater opened on July 1st, 2014, and for the last year it has showcased some of the very best in independent cinema. The intimate yet immersive one screen theater, neighbor to Akron’s historic district, was put together as an idea by a group of film fanatics called “The Akron Independent Movie Lovers”. This group met weekly for films at the Akron Art Museum, and their vision for downtown Akron’s first Independent movie theater has instilled a taste of culture, both in their film selections and their deliciously tasty snack bar, that will refresh the memories of anyone yearning for a feel of cinema’s made popular during the age of the black-and-white pictures. “The Welcoming City” opened it’s arms, as such big Downtown businesses like The Summit Artspace and a Kickstarter campaign that raised $17,000 two months before the theater even opened.

My appearance tonight is a sitdown meeting with Executive Director (Non-Profit) Steve Felix. The theater is showing a short film part of the Akron Gay Pride Film Series, called “Bridegroom”. Immediatly i am greeted with friendly service, as i enjoy a beer and hum the atmospheric tones of Amy Winehouse. As far as personalities go, there was something very comfortable and humbling upon meeting Felix, a Doylestown native who moved and attended college here in 2009 as a financing major. His passion for film hit very close to home with me. “We were all film buffs, and we saw a gap for cinema in the city. We felt the best way to keep the city together was to open a theater to keep the community together”. That community has thrived resulting in many sold out shows that already has Mr. Felix talking expansion. “We would like to see it expand beyond one screen. Cleveland’s independent theaters sport six screens, so support is huge”.

One thing that makes The Nightlight so intriguing is their selection of films, which includes an upcoming Midnight Classics Series which includes “Kids” (June 12th), “Top Gun” (June 19th), and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (July 10th) to name a few. Besides this, it’s housed many Oscar winning films like “Whiplash” and “Birdman”. The theater is very open to festivals, as well as rentals by local sponsorships like the Akron Art Prize, and the Cleveland film festival. One real cool theater idea that has the local musicians buzzing is an annual musical scoring event. The theater takes a silent film and invites musicians from Akron to score the film, twenty seconds apiece. “It’s a shared and creative experiment”, says Felix.

Not to be outdone by the captivating cinema onscreen, the snack bar offers a tasty beverage or a desert treat for anyone with a sweet tooth. What’s amazing here is that every beer selection and every dessert offering is Ohio crafted. “There’s so many local beers that we wanted to feature in one spot. Beers like Great Lakes, Hoppin Frog, and Thirsty Dog offer such a wide selection”, raves Felix. The theater also just introduced cake push pops from Sugar Love, in Cuyahoga Falls. You can only find them at the theater, and will have your mouth tingling in sweet nirvana. The snack bar also offers popcorn, as well as peanuts from Akron’s own “The Peanut Shoppe”.

Going forward, the projection for the theater is very bright. Steve’s goal is to have a minor expansion which includes a second screen. “We certainly are exploring a room in the back with definite possibilities”. This place has certainly come a long way. A sort of little engine that did, if you will. In an era where the multiplex is dying, one theater in Akron is thriving with a simple formula: a love for film. To finish our interview, i asked Steve to define Akron in five words or less. “Full of possibility and opportunity”.

How right you are Steve.

You can find The Nightlight at:
30, North High Street
Akron, Ohio, 44308

You can find more film reviews from The Film Freak at:

500 Days of Summer/ Hartville Kitchen

500 Days of Summerhartville kitchen 1

Summer comes early with home fried cooking.
By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

500 Days of Summer (2009)

In a Tweet : Brilliantly original and tastefully relatable, 500 Days Of Summer is the perfect on-screen deconstruction of a relationship, and the step by step process of such a misery.

What it’s Really About : Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who currently earns his living as a greeting card writer. Upon encountering his boss’s beautiful new secretary, Summer (Deschanel), Tom discovers that the pair have plenty in common, despite his inability to function around her. Tom believes deeply in the concept of soul mates, and he’s finally found his. Unfortunately for Tom, Summer sees true love as the stuff of fairy tales, and isn’t looking for long term. Unaffected by his lover’s casual stance on relationships, Tom summons all of his might and courage to pursue Summer and convince her that their love is real.

Why it’s Good : This was Director Marc Webb’s first feature film, and in his debut he showcases a knowledge for relationship patter that very few have captured. The on-screen chemistry between the two protagonists is believable because of it’s familiarity to the highs and lows of relationship’s past. Webb’s stylish cinematography is presented in backgrounds being drawn before our very eyes. Our characters and their stories are presented in a storybook telling of sorts that is beautifully eye appeasing. On top of it, there is a killer soundtrack of classical and modern among the likes of The Smiths, The Temper Trap, and Regina Spektor to name a few.

How It’ll Surprise You : Most Romantic comedies are disliked because of their predictability, but this film totally takes the opposite direction. While it is romantic and a great watch for couples, it has no problem playing for laughs while casting an awkward aura in the room with the couple’s on going trysts. The film plays love for being the single greatest force in the universe, but it never feels sappy or degrading to it’s characters. The ending is totally against anything you will ever see coming, and keep your ears open for a wink to the audience coincidence in the movie’s final line.

Symbolism In The Film : Red is intentionally not used, and the colour blue is often conveyed to represent love or happiness. Also, The film’s blue-centric color scheme was done to intentionally bring out Zooey Deschanel’s eyes.

Farmer’s Feast : With this being the Farmer’s Edition for the paper, there is no place more capturing of the agriculture of farming than the Hartville Kitchen. A relaxing and peaceful drive down State Route 619 will transport you to a land of fields as far as the eye can see, and some of the best home cooking that Summit County has to offer. Hartville Kitchen opened in 1966 as a Mom and Pop owned small restaurant. It’s influence in Hartville and surrounding cities has grown immensly when word broke of it’s deliciously hunger quenching soul food, as well as tasty deserts to buy that will have your memories lasting for days. The portions are generous, and the prices are cheap enough to lure you into their country gift shop full of sweets and irresistable goodies.

Film Freak Suggestion : You have to go with the delicious fried chicken if you are a first timer. Summit County has always been famous for producing some of the very best chicken that the country has to offer, and a lot of that comes from this true gem in Hartville. Complete the experience by adding on some of their savory Mashed Potatoes and Jojo’s to complete a three piece hunger healing. Be sure to save room for desert however, as the pies are entirely out of this world. The Black Raspberry or Dutch Apple is a safe bet, but the Cherry pie offers a sweet taste of what this township really has to offer.

Hartville Kitchen is located at:
1015 Edison St
Hartville, Ohio, 44632

For more film reviews visit :

Q&A with Director Ernie Smith/ “Christine at the Crossroads” review


Film Review : “Christine at the Crossroads”

One person’s exile from the truth not only burns them from the inside, but it can do damage to those they love. This is the center of the struggle Christine faces in “Christine at the Crossroads,” a short film written and directed by Ernie and Heather Smith. In the movie, Christine (Diane Sokolowich) is a top notch businesswoman with a loving, supportive husband (Brett Moye), and a beautiful home. She has everything she ever wanted, but happiness. She is trapped inside of a personal prison that she has created within herself to be someone she is not. Christine has known since she was a little girl that she was a lesbian, but due to an unsupportive family and fears of being different, she has ignored her real feelings all of her life. When she meets Jen, a new co-worker who ignites the passion in her hidden feelings, Christine is faced with the choice that will shake the foundation of everyone in her life.

I really enjoyed the film for its bravery and social commentary to expose the treatment that many gay and lesbian people go through on a daily basis. The movie packs so much of a personal punch in such a short amount of time (54 minutes) without needing much filler in between to represent what direction our characters are heading. Much praise also goes to the wide range in performances from the actors who The Smiths have cast. Many of the lead actors have been in the film world for fewer than five years, but their emotional depth combined with exceptional line read timing (especially Moye) is impeccable. I noticed a lot of great symbolism in the film representing Christine’s emotional struggle. A reoccurring theme is Christine putting together a puzzle, and the pieces don’t fit until the pieces with her own dilemma fit. It’s a nice artistic touch that cost little to add to the film

5 Questions with filmmaker Ernie Smith

Chris: Can you explain some of the developmental processes to getting this made, and where it all started?

Ernie: The movie had its beginnings at the end of our last feature film four years ago. I had an idea for a shot in mind, so we tested it (it’s the shot early on where we see “Christine” in bed staring at the camera while someone has sex with her). It was a powerful image, but we weren’t sure what the story was at that time. A few years later, during a conversation with my daughter, I asked her when she felt like she knew she was gay. Her answer, kindergarten, stunned me. Even with very liberal parents, she kept herself closeted well into her twenties, after being married and having a child. That is when Heather realized what the story was that went along with that powerful image we had. Heather began writing and as word got out locally what we were getting ready to shoot, more and more of our gay friends started relating their stories to us. It was shocking how similar they were. We incorporated many of their stories, along with my daughters into the final script. Once the script was finished and we had our cast, it took us maybe twelve days to shoot.

Chris: This film is playing in film festivals this year. Where else besides Akron will the film play?

Ernie: So far, we have screened in Virginia twice, Oklahoma and California and North Carolina. In Oklahoma we won Best Romance/Drama Feature at the Bare Bones International Independent Film Festival. In the month of June, besides Akron, we will be screening at festivals in North Carolina, New York City and Springfield, Massachusetts. We are trying to line up a screening in Columbus during their Pride Festival and we have a repeat screening here in Hampton Roads

Chris: You tackle a lot of negative issues that come from outsiders unfamiliar with the Gay/Lesbian lifestyle. Were your scenes based on a personal experience with a friend or family member?

Ernie: Our script was definitely based on personal experiences, besides those of our daughter. Both Heather and I have had close relationships with gay and lesbian friends and family all our lives.

Chris: What do you expect people to gain the most from seeing your film?

Ernie: I just hope that we give people some idea of what it’s like to have to deny your true self and maybe offer hope to those that are living a lie right now. We’ve had people come up to us after screenings and thank us for telling “their story” and even one who told us that she was currently going through events like those in the movie. We seem to be touching people of all persuasions, which is very gratifying as a filmmaker.

Chris: What’s in the future for you and S.Kelly Films?

Ernie: The future is unwritten, isn’t that what they say? We have our next project in mind, but it probably won’t get started until later this year and once again we’ll be tackling some personal issues. I want to get “Christine…” out there to as many festivals as I can, and am really thankful to Jill for giving us this opportunity to screen it. Much thanks also goes to Gerard Dominick for introducing our team to Jill. We are a small, small fish in a very big ocean, so getting any movie we make out in front of people is a daunting task.

Chris Kessinger is our resident film writer. You can find more of his reviews at

More Than A Game (2009) & Swenson’s Drive-In

More Than A Gameswenson-s-drive-in




By Chris Kessinger

FILM : More Than A Game (2009)

In a Tweet : Today, Lebron James is the greatest basketball player in the world, but where did it all start? “More Than A Game” takes a look at the origins of Akron’s Favorite son.

What it’s really about : Five talented high school basketball players from Akron, Ohio,  star in this remarkable true life coming-of-age story about friendship and loyalty in the face of great adversity. Coached by a charismatic but inexperienced player’s father, and led by the future NBA superstar Lebron James, the “Fab Five’s” improbable seven-year journey leads them from a decrepit inner-city gym to the cusp of a national high school championship. Along the way, the unity of the team is repeatedly tested, both on and off the court, as James exploding worldwide celebrity threatens to destroy everything they’ve set out to achieve together.

Why it’s Good : It’s nice to see a documentary that’s not afraid to explore the good and bad sides of a city like Akron with such honesty. For any Akronite, there are plenty of recognizable landmarks that make the city a character in the film itself. Kristopher Belman wrote and directed this documentary that sometimes feels like a movie, but the film has a shocking way of bringing you back to reality to show that these men are playing for their futures. It’s easy to focus a film on the biggest star in the world, but the stories about the other four men is something that you don’t hear often. The home movie footage casts a wonderful progression giving the audience a never-before-seen look into the lives of these superstars.

How it will surprise you : Belman has a way of getting James to open up unlike anyone before him. The story of James family’s troubles to find a stable residence, as well as James lack of relationship with his father, gives the audience a very original story to the documented superstar. This isn’t just a film about basketball, or about friendship, it contains two main underlying messages : Always strive for more, and never let where you came from define who you are as a person. Perhaps I was most surprised about the under-the-table offerings that were presented to these young men; it’s a dirty side of sports that we don’t often see in documentaries.

Soundtrack Extras : The song, “Forever” by rap artists Eminem, Drake, Kanye West and Lil Wayne was inspired by this film and can be heard during the film’s closing credits.

FEAST : Swenson’s Drive-IN

It has been well-documented that Lebron James has one place in mind when he’s back home, cruising the streets of Akron, in search of the taste that defines this city: Swensons Drive-In. Wesley T “Pop” Swenson began selling his delicious hamburgers in 1933, out of the back of his station wagon at the newly built Buchtel High School. The next year, Swenson opened the first Swensons on South Hawkins, near Market Street. He owned the restaurant until 1949 when he sold the business to Robert Phillips. In 1952, a second location opened on East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue. For more than 80 years, it has been a destination for Akronites and the city’s visitors.

Film Freak’s Suggestion : While this place has everything from fried chicken dinners to garden salads, I’ve always enjoyed a simple and practical choice: The Galley Boy. This double-cheeseburger garnished with an olive is topped with two secret sauces and encased in a lightly buttered bun. The fries are wonderful, and the onion rings are an edible time-machine back to the 1960’s car hop joints, but if I only have a couple bucks in my pocket, I choose the Potato Teezers. This tasty potato and cheese combo gets it’s zesty kick from a touch of Jalapeno, and it’s the kind of thing of which dreams are made. Finish off your meal with one of Swensons 18 flavors of deliciously creamy milkshakes; strawberry and banana are this critic’s favorites.

You can find Swensons in the Greater Akron area at :

40 South Hawkins Street………..330-864-8416

658 East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue…………330-928-8515

40 Brookmont Road……….330-665-1858

Akron Adolescence


By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

The year was 1989.

The place was the Lyn Theater. A one screen movie theater in Akron’s eastside.

I was four years old on the lap of my father trying to see over a seat that was clearly taller than i was. This aging memory is one i have kept with me nearly 26 years later, as it is the site of my first theater experience of my life. I was seeing “Prancer”, a film that was magical for children, but anything but for the adults who accompanied them. While the movie served as a magical remedy for anyone struggling with insomnia, the real treasure was in the experience of a theater whose days were sadly numbered.

The Lyn opened in 1947, and serviced many memories for Akronites, as it was one of the first indoor theaters in the area during the post war era. The design of this monument is something that is only viewable by checking out still standing theaters like “The Highland or The Lynda Theaters”, today. The curved marquee, the indoor structure of Art Deco in colorless picture times, and the marble tile floors that stretched through the lobby and into the powder rooms. The theater only had one screen, but it’s audience was never lacking, as many opening night presentations always sold out. The theater had a solid reputation during a time when many people were staying at home due to the birth of color televisions. You could purchase tickets at the snack bar, while ordering a delicious scoop of butter melting popcorn that you could only get at such a magical place. A look to the right showcased a set of stairs where you could view the movie in an almost opera setting with a balcony that peered over the viewing patrons below. Complete with restaurant style seating where you could enjoy your purchases and watch the film without worrying about talking over the movie.

I saw many movies here, but for some reason, i only ever remember my first. It was on that day in 1989 that i fell in love with the bright lights, the folding plush seats whose comforts i only felt in my living room at that point, and the dimming darkness of a massive auditorium with the only light coming from the screen. The theater has always been a place that commands attention (Pre cell phone era anyway), and that presentation is something that always gives me chills to this day. That is why the Lyn was so special to me; it was really the first time where i knew that movies were going to be a huge part of my life. It opened my eyes for the first time as a child, in the same way a kid watches Michael Jordan and wants to play basektball because of it.

All was well until the 90’s when many key contributing factors led to the closing of the theater in 1991. Ticket prices leapt overnight from $2 to $7 to compete with new multiplexes that were being freshly built in the area. The wear and tear on a theater whose best days were behind it were viewable in vandalization that was a reflection of the times. Many people didn’t know that the Lyn Theater was a real diamond in a city that was slowly getting rough. To add insult to injury, the theater was torn down to make way for a new Blockbuster Video store. If video didn’t kill the radio star, it certainly killed the place where many Akronites went to get their culture. The building of that structure still stands to this day, and serves as a Buybacks trading business.

Even though the Lyn has been gone for almost 25 years now, i will continue to owe that institution a debt of gratitude for instilling many dreams in a four year old who gained a lot of knowledge in a 90 minute sitting.

Thank you Dad

Got any memories of the Lyn Theater? Leave them below. I would love to hear them.

Butter/West Side Bakery

MV5BMTQxMjY1NzI4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg4MTMzOA@@__V1_SX214_AL_West side bakery (2)

Butter (2012) & West Side Bakery

“Butter” & Spice makes everything nice

By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

Film : Butter (2012)

In a tweet : The world of competitive butter carving rises to the top in director Jim Field Smith’s flick featuring many twisted characters.

What it’s really about : The film follows an overly ambitious woman (Jennifer Garner) who is married to Iowa’s reigning butter sculpting champion (Ty Burrell) but decides to enter the race on her own when he is forced into retirement. She’s the favorite until an eight-year-old foster child, Destiny (Yara Shahidi) discovers she has an uncanny talent for the odd dairy art. Controversies surround the contest and embroil our characters, taking them to hostile levels they never thought they’d reach in order to win the town’s praise.

Why it’s good : Garner’s win-by-any-means-necessary mentality is splendid and beyond anything we have seen her in before. She’s a ticking time bomb that no one can defuse. The on-going and emotional plot with Shahidi’s character feels like it comes from a completely different movie, but her charisma creates a heartwarming bridge in a competitively chaotic setting around her. There’s also a noteworthy supporting cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde, and Rob Corddry.

How it’ll surprise you : Despite it’s silly premise, the movie is layered with varying storylines to make the 85 minute sit go by quickly. The film also offers a peek inside a subculture of sculpture art that few outside of Iowa may even know exists. The actors had to learn knife-sculpting crafts to prepare for filming. Kate Hudson was originally up for Olivia Wilde’s role, but backed out due to time constraints while shooting “Something Borrowed”. Also, Ty Burrell beat out Jim Carrey for the role of Bob Pickard.

Bonus Points : Butter-sculpturing dates back to the 1890’s. The landscape of the art form was changed in the 1940’s as refrigeration became widely available. This brought a marketing revolution to the American Dairy Industry, as they would promote sculpture as a way butter bests alternatives like margarine.

Feast : West Side Bakery

Save Your Sweet Tooth

Explore the sweet side of Akron after you watch “Butter” by visiting the West Side Bakery. This award-winning bakery offers a wide range of temptation for the dessert lover in all of us. When you walk through the door, take a minute and let the rich aroma of cakes, pastries, cupcakes and everything in-between transport you to a delicious paradise of rich flavors that isn’t just tasty, but artistic in design. Owners Steve and Barbara Talevich invaded Pilgrim Square in 1995 and changed the looks and designs locally of how we view this tasty tradition. What I find truly different about their shop is that their menu goes far beyond just desserts, as they have some of the most diverse lunchtime sandwiches that I’ve found in the city.

Film Freak’s Suggestion : Pay a lunchtime visit to enjoy the best of everything they have to offer. Start off with the roasted turkey on ciabatta bread. The homemade break conquers midday hunger satisfyingly enough but leaves just enough room to treat you palate to the real reason you came here : Dessert. Specifically, the New York Style Cheesecake. As you enjoy the first bite, expect your mouth to take over and make all of the decisions for you until you finish. The portions for the cheesecake are fair to the customer while also not breaking your wallet. It’s all a sweet deal.

West Side Bakery

2303 West Market Street

Akron, Ohio, 44313

High Fidelity/ Mr Zub’s Deli

high fidelitymr zub's

“High Fidelity” & Mr Zub’s Deli

Pair this film adaptation of Nick Hornsby’s love letter to music with Mr Zub’s movie-inspired sandwiches on this upcoming Record Store Day

By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

Film : “High Fidelity”

In a tweet : Director Stephen Frears uses strong comedic performances and an eclectic soundtrack for an intriguing love-on-the-rocks story.

What it’s really about : Rob Gordon (John Cusack), a record store owner in the slums of Chicago, is a music junkie whose knowledge of song couldn’t rescue any of his past relationships. Troubles with his current girlfriend force Rob to take a closer look at himself, so he calls on his former lovers to find out where he keeps getting it wrong. On top of this, Rob’s two bickering employees, Dick and Barry (Todd Luiso, Jack Black) not only push him another day closer to quitting, but reflect some of the immaturity he’s trying to escape in his own life.

Why it’s good : We all have that friend who points the finger instead of owning up. Slowly, the pieces unfold for Rob Gordon and that transformation puts Cusack front and center in a role he owns. Memorable quotes X Kickass tunes = multiple viewings.

How it’ll surprise you : At the center of all this reflection on past miseries, there’s a charming and beautifully constructed love story between our two central protagonists. Also, Jack Black is at his comedic peak. As a musician, his role as Barry is rude and crude, but honest to the roll-your-eyes customers he serves daily.

Bonus Points : Record Store Day is right around the corner on April 18, so the film would make for a great main event after making all of your vinyl purchases.

Feast : Mr Zub’s Deli

Restaurant Recommendation : On the prowl for a meal worthy of such musical immortality? Seek out Mr Zub’s Deli in the heart of Highland Square. With their movie themed sandwiches and comparatively low prices, Mr Zub’s first gave Akron new favorites like “Rocky Balboa” (Cheesesteak) and “Uncle Rico” (Roast beef and tater tots with chives) about a decade ago. For beverages with a twist, follow the hold in the wall over to The Matinee, the appropriately named bar next door.

Film Freak’s Suggestion : While I have a long list of personal favorites, there are a couple options that never do me wrong. Start out with some delicious Potato Teezers (Has browns infused with a spritz of Jalapeno Cheese). Have no fear, it’s not too hot for the tender taste buds. Then squelch what remains of your hunger with either the “Louis Winthorpe” (Chicken Philly) or the “Tommy Boy” (Meatball sub). For the hungriest (or most foolhardy) of challengers, try to tackle the breathtaking “Frank the Tank”. a triple cheeseburger squeezed between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mr Zub’s Deli

812 West Market Street

Akron, Ohio, 44303


The Way Way Back/ Luigi’s





The Way Way Back and Luigi’s

By Chris Kessinger (The Film Freak)

Film : The Way Way Back (2013)

In a tweet : Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take us back to the legendary summers where life tasted the sweetest when it was floating by too fast

What it’s really about : A funny and poignant coming of age story about 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) Summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell), and his obnoxious sister,  Steph (Zoe Levin).  Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in personable grown up, Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz Water Park. Through his funny, eye opening friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up to and begins to finally find his place in the world.  All during a Summer vacation he will never forget.

Why it’s good : There’s something that hits close to home when it comes to Faxon and Rash’s script. It feels like an accurate Summer account at a point in our lives when we all feel immortal. The movie makes us feel like anything is possible with a little help and guidance. That is a lost art in modern film.

Who You’ll remember : This is a comic coming out party for Rockwell. His sarcastic wit in the script’s dialogue is something that deserves to be seen by everyone. Carrell gives an unlikely antagonist turn as the metaphorical fork in Duncan’s road to happiness. It’s a rare opportunity to see a different side of the usually comedic Carrell.

How it’ll surprise you : There’s a touching message hidden softly underneath the surface. Sometimes we just need a little motivation to show our true colors.

Bonus Points : The script is a perfect mix of drama and comedy that uses both genres effortlessly well in it’s attempt to showcase the psychological harm that is keeping this boy bottled up.

Feast : Luigi’s

While at the video store, order from one of Akron’s most prominent downtown eateries for Italian nirvana, Luigi’s. Complete with a colorful array of tasty wines and delicious Italian foods, this almost 70 year old Akron institution is a favorite among Akronites stories and legends. Daytime specials like the slice and salad, pasta fagoli, and soup du jour will have you planning future visits even before you get home.

Film Freak’s Suggestion : Start with a cheese salad. It’s a perfect addition to the complimentary homemade bread that’s warmth will melt butter instantly. The special salad dressing alone will have your mouth watering, and sets the perfect precedent for a main course. The entrée-what else? Pizza. I personally recommend the large pepperoni and mushroom pie to share with a friend or significant other. Your facial reactions will tell it all in an edible transformation to a time when Akron was discovering it’s personality for great Italian. Close the deal with a red wine. The rich aroma of a Pinot will set you in the perfect mix of edible satisfaction and liquid relaxation. A must experience for every Akronite.

Luigi’s Restaurant

105 N Main Street

Akron, Ohio, 44308