Monday, August 6, 2012

Batman - The Dark Knight Rises

Dinner and a Movie

Bale Versus Bane and SamSara

By Steve Herte

Note: Have you ever miscalculated the time of a movie and wound up past your reservation time at the restaurant across town?  It just happened to me. Thank goodness for cell phones. I called the restaurant and resolved the problem in minutes. Wow! Just one more work week and my Stay-cation begins. Trust me, I will make sure the On-Demand works in my room at the Millennium Hilton U.N. Plaza before I start the week. However, I'm definitely taking their advice one day and using the 27th floor pool at sunset no matter what I think I look like in a bathing suit.

Batman – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

It’s movies like this one that makes me wish I had read the original DC Comics versions just to understand why it was made. The third in a dark (both in mood and in lighting) trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, this film had tremendous boots to fill after No. 2 and it was not up to the task. It took two hours and 44 minutes to tell the tale of a vengeful character named Bane (Tom Hardy) who takes the entirety of Manhattan hostage by blowing up all bridges into Manhattan (except the Queensboro) while telling the people he’s “giving it back to them” with the caveat that if anyone tries to cross the remaining bridge, he will detonate a thermo-nuclear bomb and destroy everything (which is due to go off whether someone crosses the bridge or not).

That’s it.  We see a mustachioed, bearded Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), a virtual hermit hobbling around his mansion like Gregory House due to a leg injury he received in the previous film (who remembers?) – and this guy is going to be Batman and fight the bad guy? We know obviously that Gotham City is indeed New York City. No pretenses or fabulously tall additions or stage-sets to make us suspect otherwise where created. We even see the incomplete Freedom Tower in a couple of scenes, and when the bridges blow, they do so in order from downtown on up. We hear Alfred (Michael Caine) begging Bruce not to continue on the crusade and get a nice girl, get married and settle down – except for the British accent, he came off like Molly Goldberg. Catwoman, Selina Kyle, (Anne Hathaway) is beautiful and sexy but down-played as a mere cat burglar who never purrs or meows or even looks like a cat until she flips her goggles up and they become “ears,” but she still doesn’t hide her desire for Batman.

The dialogue is almost as corny as the Batman TV series but not as well-written or delivered. In fact, it is extremely difficult to understand what Batman or Bane is saying. Christian Bale rasps so much, his speech is garbled and even though amplified, the mask on Bale distorts his speech. The best performance in the movie is given by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and supported well by Morgan Freeman as Fox, Batman’s gadget creator.

Speaking of gadgets, the only notable ones were vehicles. Batman has a flying hovercraft that assists in saving the day at the end and a tricked-out motorcycle on which Catwoman teams up with him. The other vehicles look like leftovers from Operation Desert Storm. Utility Belt? Fuggetaboutit! The most Batman throws at Bane is a handful of tiny fire crackers. He has to fight someone who looks like a huge refugee from World Wrestling Entertainment nearly bare-handed and is almost killed the first time and nearly fatally stabbed the second. I kept wondering when he would trip over his cape (which also does nothing spectacular). The Batman hero has turned into a myth. Even when he hooks the nuclear device to a cable attached to his Bat Flyer he bangs and drags it before it becomes airborne, leaving the audience to wonder if his handling would detonate it way before he got it to safety.

Again, all praises to the DC Comics fans who got to read the originals. It looks like there will be another Batman movie. Because, at the end the hot-headed cop who helped and stood up for Batman throughout the movie, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is revealed to have the first name “Robin” and he discovers a brand new Batcave.

277 Water Street (at Peck Slip), New York City

When I first encountered this restaurant on I thought the name was an amalgam of the owners’ names, but when I asked someone if she was Sara, I found out differently. Samsāra comes from Sanskrit and means “continuous flow.” It figures highly in Mandalas and Hindu culture. But SamSara is far from being an Indian restaurant.

When (and if) you find this two-month-old place nearly tucked under the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side, you might – as I did – try to enter by the wrong door. If you see a flight of stairs, go one door to the left and you’re there. The décor is cozy in shades of warm gold with cherry-wood slatted ceiling, black stone tables and multi-colored pebble swag lights over the bar. The staff is young, fresh and friendly, and eager to serve. Note: there were six people at the bar and only one other table was occupied the whole time I was there.

The menu is diverse enough and leans toward Italian most of the time. Sipping my Beefeater martini (which had a little too much vermouth) I decided to make it a three-course night. There was the option of a four-course prix-fixe dinner, but the main course I wanted was not included. When the youngest member of the staff brought out the foccacia with sea salt and olive oil dip and cued me in to the best way of enjoying it, I knew I would like this place. My waiter was delighted when I chose the Tuscan Steak and White Bean Soup – a nice soup with ample vegetables and fresh arugula in a tasty broth which I kicked-up a notch with freshly grated cheese – as it was his favorite. I found a bottle of 2008 Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany my dishes and it did so beautifully.

The next dish was Stuffed Fried Artichoke.  I love artichoke and wondered how big this would be, or not. What arrived were two golden balls a little larger than handballs, which when cut open revealed the chèvre cheese inside, and resting in a smoked tomato sauce – delightful and not too filling. Another winner coupled with the wine.

The main dish was Pan Roasted Monkfish with wild mushrooms and escarole fricassee in a champagne beurre-blanc. The combination of the fish, the slightly-musky mushrooms and the tang of the escarole danced with the buttery undertones to create a taste party. That and the side dish of sweet bacon-y collard greens truly made me wonder why this restaurant wasn’t packed.

The conversation at the bar was entertaining in a Brooklyn sort of way (the accents gave them away) and added a New York charm to SamSara when it was dessert time. I told my waiter that I had only noticed three desserts on the menu and asked if their Bread Pudding was anything like what I had in New Orleans. He told me they have more desserts and brought a separate menu where I found the Inner City S’Mores! In no time at all an old-fashioned style glass arrived with graham cracker crumbs in the bottom, a dark chocolate/marshmallow cream swirl on top of that and three jumbo toasted marshmallows and two graham crackers protruding from the top as if caught in quick sand. It was gooey, sweet, crunchy and fun.

Lastly (yes, I still had room) a double espresso and a SamSara Sexy Kiss – an after-dinner drink composed of Chambord (a raspberry liqueur), Chocolate Vodka, Frangelico and Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine) with a Hershey’s Kiss at the bottom. Thank you, SamSara. Your continuous flow made me forget the ache in my bottom from sitting through Batman. I will return with friends.

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