Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (WB, 2016) – Director: Zack Snyder. Writers: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer. Based on characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger (Batman) & Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster (Superman). Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, Brandon Spink, Michael Cassidy, Kevin Costner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, & Alan D. Purwin. Color, Rated PG-13, 151 minutes.

You can’t tell the next generation of Waynes…Lord knows if there will ever BE a next generation of Waynes…” Wise words from Alfred Pennyworth (Irons).

The big question I had when I first saw the trailers for this film was: why Batman would ever have to battle Superman? One is in Gotham City, the other is in Metropolis. Each have their own set of villains to oppose and both are good guys on the side of justice, no? Not from each other’s perspective.

For one thing, Metropolis and Gotham City are nearer to each other than Philadelphia and New York (I never knew that). And the opening scenes depict the destruction resulting from Superman’s last battle with General Zod, including buildings being sliced by Zod’s spaceship and Superman’s x-ray vision. Metropolis is a mess. The town council under Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) is considering limiting Superman’s freedom. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) stands a short helicopter ride away viewing Superman as a menace to society. Clark Kent/Superman (Cavill) and Lois Lane (Adams) are still trying to depict Superman as a hero and a necessary asset to the city, but Perry White (Fishburne) will have none of it.

On the other hand, Superman and the governing body of Gotham City see Batman as a renegade vigilante with no supervision. He views him as nothing more than a thief. There’s no Commissioner Gordon in this movie (I checked) to stick up for Batman and his reputation is sinking fast.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Lex Luthor (Eisenberg), a wealthy young upstart and CEO of Lexcorp, has managed to get a hold of a large chunk of kryptonite salvaged from the Indian Ocean and he hatches a plan to pit the two heroes against each other. He frames Superman with killing American soldiers in the African country of Nairomi (as opposed to the city of Nairobi), kidnaps Martha Kent (Lane) as a hostage, and gains access to General Zod’s (Shannon) body and crashed spaceship (although why Metropolis has it enshrined in a large, inflated dome similar to indoor tennis courts, I have no idea) – and is planning worse havoc.

At one of Lex’s benefit galas, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne meet for the first time. Bruce is there to discover what mischief Lex might be up to and he plants an elaborate version of a flash drive on his computer system (with remote help from Alfred). Superman hears the two communicating, but is interrupted in stopping the cyber thievery by Lois’s dilemma in Nairomi (wouldn’t you know she’d be there). However, when Bruce goes to retrieve his device, it’s already been removed by Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot). “You’ve never met a woman like me. And besides, I only borrowed it.” They both learn a part of Lex’s plans and are united in the effort of stopping him.

Batman steals the kryptonite from Lex, Superman nearly wrecks the Batmobile and the stage is set.

Who is the hero of this film? At one point, it’s Lois. But she’s still partly the same Lois Lane that Noel Neill played back in 1948 and who always goes where she shouldn’t. Jesse Eisenberg approaches brilliance in his portrayal of Lex Luthor. He’s somewhere between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Matthew Gray Gubler’s Dr. Reid on Criminal Minds. Henry Cavill makes a good Superman (they forgot the curl on his forehead) who is beginning to have his doubts about what he stands for. Ben Affleck has bulked up considerably for his role as Batman – as well he should, considering his adversary – but is not the lovable character we all know.

There are interesting flashbacks to the funeral of Thomas and Martha Wayne (Morgan and Cohan) as young Bruce Wayne (Spink) runs off into a forest in his grief, falls down a well and we discover how he chose the name Batman. On a snowy mountaintop, there is a meaningful conversation between Clark and Jonathan Kent (Costner) – probably the smallest role for this actor. Where was Jimmy Olsen (Cassidy)? Here and there.

The big problem with this movie is the two-and-a-half-hour length. There’s only so many times you can watch one guy bashing another around before it becomes routine and boring and you just don’t care anymore. The special effects are all familiar, nothing new. The 3D is good but not innovative (not Avatar – still the best use of the technique). The dialogue is predictable with the exception of Alfred’s lines. He’s my favorite character. Gal Gadot makes a really sensual Wonder Woman. Parents: beware, there's a lot of brutal violence in this film but surprisingly only one four letter word (shockingly, spoken by Batman). Movie lovers, according to a now bald Lex Luthor, there will be a sequel. “He’s coming!”

Rating: 3 out of 5 Martini glasses.

187 9th Avenue, New York

For a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore like myself, there is no greater penance (I thought) than going to a vegan restaurant on Good Friday. Not only would there be no meat, there is not even a tasty bit of fish to enjoy. The online menu for Blossom, however, was intriguing and I thought, what the heck, blow me away.

The dark blue and white striped awning announces “Organic Vegetarian Cuisine” after the name in big white letters. Inside, past a heavy velvet drape, is a charming cream-colored space lit by ceiling spots and minimally decorated with various shaped mirrors. Twenty or so tables are polished and bare-topped with yellow votive (electric) candles providing a soft glow.

I didn’t see a Captain’s Station upon entering but there was a young woman awaiting a table. The hostess arrived and greeted us. I indicated that the lady was before me. She didn’t have a reservation and the hostess led her to a table in the back. Thank goodness I made a reservation. I was led to a brighter-lit table near the kitchen – not usually a great location, but better than for the non-reserved. Most of the tables were occupied, including a table for four near myself, and soon, the table next to mine.

My server introduced himself simply as “Stone” and brought me the Beer and Wine List, the Food Menu and a glass of water. The food menu featured Starters (including the soup of the day), Salads, Entrées, and “Snacks and Sides.” The beverage list was not what I would call a cocktail list, but they did have an impressive variety of beers. I chose the Sixpoint “Sweet Action” beer, brewed in Brooklyn, N.Y. It was a refreshing and easy drinking.

I told Stone of my usual habits – the three course meal and my slow eating – and that I had a good appetite. “Then you came to the right place!” he said. I made my selections and told him I would choose the wine after I finished my beer.

I concluded that every dish served in this restaurant was made fresh by the time it took to be served, not just to me, but to the diners nearby. That’s a good thing. My Butternut Squash Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, red cabbage and spinach in a cashew cream sauce arrived just as I was finishing the beer. It was remarkable, sweet, dense and very filling. I was glad it was just a starter. The cantaloupe-colored dumplings were literally made (not stuffed with) from squash mixed with potato.

I ordered the 2013 Zinfandel Trentadue, (Italian for Thirty-two) Sonoma, Calif. Stone approved. It’s his favorite. Once again, I was amazed that a great, rich, full-bodied red with a spicy nose and tantalizing aftertaste should come from a screw-top bottle. I heard the young lady at the next table ask her companion what Zinfandel was. I was compelled to intervene and sing the praises of the uniquely American grape. She thanked me.

I knew what my quinoa salad would look like because the same person I just spoke to had ordered one to start. I was curious how anyone could make a salad out of a seed (technically) masquerading as a grain. The salad contained fresh greens, black beans, sweet corn, diced bell peppers, watercress, toasted pumpkin seeds, and guacamole, with a tahini dressing. Quinoa was sprinkled throughout but it was not the main ingredient. I loved the mixture of flavors, nutty, tart, sweet, and sour. The young lady next to me was still hungry after the salad but I assured her, after she finished the gnocchi – I heard her order it – she would be full. She said, “Perfect!”

I saw my main course arrive at the round table along with the “lasagna,” which I was glad I didn’t order. The lasagna appeared to be too big a dish after that filling gnocchi and the mound of salad and it didn’t have an appetizing color. Maybe in a future visit. 

The pine nut crusted eggplant with roasted Yukon gold potatoes, rosemary and shredded herbs garnish in a light cream sauce was exactly what I wanted. The two square eggplant patties were stacked on top of crisp spinach greens in a sea of pink sauce. I don’t usually prefer Yukon gold potatoes, but these were well prepared and were not the main event on the plate. I would have preferred French tarragon to the rosemary, but I loved it anyway.

I heard the couple next to me deciding on dessert from the choice of five. I distinctly caught the word “cobbler” and thought peach? No, it was apple. The young man ordered the chocolate ganache with a peanut butter drizzle and vanilla ice cream, and I had to ask if he could taste the peanut butter. Not only did he confirm that, but he stated that “usually vegetarian restaurants fail miserably on chocolate desserts, but this one is really good!” That sold me. It was. The oblong box of dark chocolate was rich with cocoa butter and yes, the sauce was unmistakably peanuty. The vanilla ice cream was equally as good. I ordered a French press coffee to accompany it and was further delighted.

Blossom has three locations in New York but this one is the first and has been open for a little over ten years. It bears revisiting. Before I left, I asked Stone the question, “If this were a French restaurant, would I call you Pierre?” He laughed and said yes.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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