Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel

Dinner and a Movie

Steel Hibachi

By Steve Herte

This is officially my first transmission of my reviews from my new Lenovo laptop. I’m getting accustomed to Windows 8, WiFi, 4G and all things 21st Century. This past Friday was an adventure as it has been a long time since I visited the theater in Fresh Meadows. When I ordered my ticket online the program asked me to select a seat. Really? For a movie? So I selected E17 - whatever. When I arrived at the theater I knew why this was done. Every seat was a plush, leather recliner complete with cup-holder and buttons to raise your feet to whatever level you desired. The rows were far enough from each other that people could pass in front of you at full recline. I was agog. Unfortunately, this hedonistic comfort could not outlast the movie and I found myself shifting positions a couple of times.

So, corresponding from the City of Brotherly Love I bid you all enjoy the latest.

Man of Steel (WB, 2013) – Director: Zack Snyder. Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Amy Adams, Dylan Sprayberry, Cooper Timberine, & Jadin Gould. Color & 3-D, 143 minutes.

Have you ever tried to cram over 30 years of one person’s life into 2 hours, 23 minutes? Extremely difficult, no? Well, this movie makes a valiant attempt and leaves the audience dizzy with the sheer amount of information and special effects. It begins of course on Krypton where Jor-El (Crowe) goes before the ruling council with his findings that mining the core of Krypton has gotten to the point where the planet will implode. They don’t want to hear a word of it. General Zod (Shannon), his number one Faora-Ul (Traue) and his followers try to stage a coup thinking Jor-El will join them. The planetary army thwarts the coup, with Zod and his cohorts are exiled to the Phantom Zone.

Jor-El and his wife Lara Lor-Van (Zurer) see no other option but to launch their infant son Kal-El to a planet they’ve found (Earth) where he can be a helper and guide to hopefully avoid the same fate as Krypton. The special effects on Krypton are dazzling and, after Jor-El’s death (Zod kills him), Lara speaks a monologue worthy of a classic Greek play and stands proudly while all about her is projectile flame and she is engulfed.

Now we watch as the movie flips back and forth through time in Clark Kent’s (Cavill) life rather than following a gradual sequence (which probably would have made the movie five hours long). We see him save the crew of an exploding offshore oil rig as an adult and save a bus-load of school children after it plunges off a bridge (due to a flat tire) at 13. This latter scene is the only place we glimpse Lana Lang (Gould). Clark meets Lois Lane (Adams) because of his many saving deeds and her nose for news. She follows him to Antarctica to a strange vessel encased in the ice where he learns of his true heritage and saves her for the first time from a levitating robot guardian. He saves her twice more.

When planet Krypton explodes (not implodes as predicted), Zod and crew are released and follow a beacon from the ship that brought Clark to Earth as a baby. They demand his surrender to them – else they will destroy everyone on Earth (not that that wasn’t their intention anyway). By now Clark/Kal-El has donned the blue and red garb (it was supplied to him in Antarctica) and Lois has named him Superman because of the “S” on his chest (which on Krypton is a symbol for Hope). Zod’s spaceship deploys the machine to the opposite side of Earth from where the main ship is hovering and the two machines start Krypto-fying Earth (increasing its gravity and changing its atmosphere) and there is a battle royal.

The areas where Man of Steel shines are the special effects (although some are difficult to see because of blurring and rapid motion) and in the performances of Cavill, Shannon, Zurer and Crowe – all of who are excellent. Costner and Lane are a great Jonathan and Martha Clark. Meloni plays a fabulous – though incredulous – Colonel Nathan Hardy, who fights on even though he sees that his puny weapons are having little effect. Perry White is now black as Fishburne takes on the role but he’s a much kinder, gentler man than the irascible original. Sprayberry and Timberine play Clark at ages 13 and 9 and do so splendidly. Only Adams stands out as the weakest link. She doesn’t come off as the stubborn, arrogant woman Noel Neill once played. She does go where she shouldn’t but it’s still not the Lois Lane I remember.

The fight scene between Zod and Superman is way too long, as is the lengthy scene where Superman tackles the machine at the other side of Earth. This latter scene is also the most eye-straining to see because of the writhing flashing metal and ultra-fast action. I found it distracting that Zod, Faora and Superman were all zipping around like the Road Runner and hovering in the air – but that’s just me. Man of Steel is an entertaining movie that definitely could have been made in less than two hours with 3D effects that worked, but only once made me blink. Rating: 3½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

Tokyo Hibachi Steak House & Sushi
184-16 Horace Harding Expressway, Fresh Meadows, NY

A few blocks from the AMC theater is the unassuming entrance to this Japanese restaurant, significant only in the name over the door in large red letters. Inside, the space is almost Zen. A large fish tank with sizable exotic fish sits in the front window. The walls are eggshell white accented by colored spotlights. To the left of a divider are the eight Hibachi stations where men in toques regale patrons by juggling their utensils and flipping food into their mouths. I found this entertaining once long ago but not now. I headed to the right of the divider, to the Sushi counter and sat at a table by the divider on which was perched a fanciful dragon statue.

A large, hot sake was my first order (and it was quite hot) while I read the menu (which had an amazing selection). There were Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Noodles and Fried Rice, Asian Fusion from the Kitchen, A La Carte Sushi, Regular Rolls or Hand Rolls, Sushi Bar Entreés, Vegetarian Rolls, Chef’s Special Rolls, Soft Drinks, Beers and Wines and Desserts as well as the Hibachi menu. I asked my waitress for help in choosing and she assured me that I could finish an appetizer, a soup and two rolls (“or even three”).

I started with the Tokyo Onion Soup – the name intrigued me – which was a basic clear, not too onion-y broth with caramelized onions in the bottom and decorative vegetables floating on top, very nice. The appetizer arrived with the main course but it wasn’t a disaster as one was cold and the other searing hot. The Crispy Duck Roll was basically two narrow egg rolls filled with shredded duck meat and vegetables, piping hot and served with (you guessed it) duck sauce.

I couldn’t help the Yin and Yang of the main course choice. The Black Dragon Roll with tempura scallops, eel and mango topped with black pepper tuna looked absolutely beautiful next to the White Tiger Roll, filled with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado and wrapped in white marble seaweed (soy bean nori). As with all sushi, they were accompanied by the thinly-sliced ginger and a small mound of wasabi. My usual procedure is to take a chopstick’s tip and add a dot of wasabi to each slice of the roll before dipping it in soy sauce and eating it. The rolls were fabulous, each in their own way, one sweet, once slightly spicy, and complimented each other as only Yin and Yang could. The big surprise was that the wasabi did not sting. For the first time in my dining career I finished all of it, taking bigger and bigger portions hoping to get that rush. It never came.

When I finished the main course I was still hungry and I told the waitress about the limp wasabi. The Sushi Chef looked amazed. She brought me a small dish with more wasabi and I ordered a la carte sushi – two pieces each of my favorites, Uni (Sea Urchin) and Masago (Flying Fish roe). The wasabi in the second dish was also unexciting. However the wasabi that accompanied the Uni and Masago hit the spot, clearing up my sinuses at once. I let the waitress know. “First one Eh, second one Eh, third one Ah!” She and the Sushi Chef exchanged incredulous looks.

When I finished my favorites, delighting in every bite it was time for dessert. The Tempura Banana with vanilla ice cream bounced off the page at me. I ordered it with a glass of plum wine. The Japanese have a wonderful way of understating their dishes. The whipped cream and chocolate drizzle almost obscured the bananas and ice cream and the large portion of plum wine in a handsome stemmed glass made my eyes widen. Both were excellent. The tempura wrapping the bananas stayed crisp throughout. The beautiful cerise color (almost purple) of the plum wine enchanted the eye as much as its sensuous, sweet taste.

Tokyo Hibachi Steak House elicited a wow from me and I did something I rarely do. I complimented the Sushi Chef telling him that the entertainment might be in the next room, but the true art was his. The manager appeared and thanked me, shook my hand and bid me good night (even though it was still daylight at 8:00 pm). I thanked him and my waitress, paid the bill and left feeling very satisfied.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

To read Jon Gallagher's review of Man of Steel, click here.

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