Strange (Marvel/Disney, 2016) – Director:
Scott Derrickson. Writers: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (comic book). Jon
Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill (s/p). Stars: Benedict
Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads
Mikkelson, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott
Adkins, Zara Phythian, Alaa Safi, Katrina Durden, Topo Wresniwiro,
Umit Ulgen & Linda Louise Duan. Color, Rated PG-13, 115 minutes.
I’ve been waiting
for a long time for a movie to blow me away and this one did it in
spades. The special effects alone are mind-boggling. I’ve never
been on a drug trip, but I can imagine one now. Combine elements of a
kung-fu film with an Escher masterpiece and sprinkle in a little
Harry Potter, then put it all in a blender and splash it on the
screen. It’s the first blockbuster to deserve the title this year.
And to think the character Dr. Strange first made his appearance in
1963 in Marvel Comics when I was three years old.
Dr. Stephen Strange
(Cumberbatch), who bears a striking resemblance to Vincent Price, is
a consummate neurosurgeon and he knows it. His operations are just as
much a stage show as a life and death situation. When fellow surgeon
Dr. Nicodemus West (Stuhlbarg) fails to accomplish a procedure,
Strange publicly embarrasses him in the operating theater. Strange is
super-confident and full of himself. That is until he drives way too
fast in his sports car in the rain, and has a horrific accident which
leaves his hands virtually useless.
fellow surgeon Christine Palmer (McAdams) loves Strange and has been
patient with him up to this point. But she leaves him when he seems
completely out of touch with reality. Strange learns of a paraplegic
Jonathan Pangborn (Bratt) who was completely cured after all medical
knowledge failed him and begs him to reveal how. (Strange refused to
operate on Pangborn because the case wasn’t high profile enough.)
tells him, but with a warning, to seek out the Ancient One (Swinton)
who lives in a hidden compound called Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, Nepal.
He spends the last of his savings to get there, pretty much insults
the Ancient One by expecting her to be a man, and is thrown out after
getting a small taste of her powers. (She temporarily separates his
astral form from his body.)
Kamar-Taj has its
own problems though. Master Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) has led a small
rebellion against the Ancient One and has stolen pages from a book of
spells which will open up a doorway to the Dark Dimension and allow
Dormammu, a powerful evil into the world. Of course this means
killing the librarian at Kamar-Taj. Here the movie almost echoes Star
After nine days of
entreaty and desperate banging on the door to Kamar-Taj, Strange is
allowed in again and is permitted to train with Karl Mordo (Ejiofor).
His impatience and thirst for knowledge lead Strange to the library
and the new librarian, Wong (Wong) tries to dissuade him from
learning too fast without knowing the consequences of this knowledge.
But when the Ancient One strands him on Mount Everest and he’s
forced to use his training to create a “portal” to get back, he
uses this power to swipe books from the library.
As a part of his
training, Mordo informs Strange that each master has a special
weapon, and it’s the weapon that chooses the master, not the other
way around. When Kaecilius and his followers attack Kamar-Taj, a red
cape floating in a display case chooses Strange – the Cape of
Levitation. There’s some hints of Harry Potter here
as well. We follow Strange in his mystical progress as he unwittingly
becomes a kind of superhero who uses the Eye of Agamotto, a pendant
containing an infinity stone to reverse time and fight off Kaecilius
and his minions.
Dr. Strange is
a visually stunning, sometimes dizzying movie with the forward motion
of a runaway train down a mountain. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the
best role I’ve seen him in and nails the part. He has the kind of
look you want to trust but know you shouldn’t, but you like him
anyway. Rachel McAdams is good at portraying the long-suffering,
faithful lover who would still do anything for this self-involved
genius. Tilda Swinton is a great choice for the Ancient One. She’s
inscrutable, yet vulnerable, intensely focused, yet tempted to
distraction around Strange. And Mads Mikkelsen is such a
stereotypical villain, one expects him to say, “Nyah-ah-ah!” and
twirl a long mustache.
Like Tony Stark, Dr.
Strange has all the comic lines and sarcasm in the well-written
script and some of them are really funny. When Mordo shows Strange
his room, he hands him a card on which is written the word
“Shambala.” “What is this? My mantra?” says Strange. “It’s
the wifi password. We’re not savages,” answers Mordo. The Ancient
One gives new meaning to “It’s not all about you.”
The only thing this
movie is weak in is pathos, otherwise it’s excellent. The 3D
effects work well without throwing something at the audience, the
blood is kept to a minimum and there’s no vulgarity that I noticed.
Children who can understand what’s going on will love it. I kept
thinking how the last scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey would
go from lame to “Wow” with today’s technology. And…there will
be a sequel. Stay through the first set of credits at the end for
proof. My question is, how can they top this film?
It’s been four
years since Superstorm Sandy devastated downtown Manhattan, with
South Street Seaport and Pier 17 beating the brunt of it. The
rebuilding process has been long and laborious as well as costly.
Some businesses never reopened.
But one month ago,
The Tuck Room was established in the newly-renovated Fulton Market
Building in South Street Seaport. It was from the east side of this
building that the Fulton Fish Market operated until it was
transferred to The Bronx. I remember that I could still smell fish
when I crossed South Street at lunch time. The three restaurants that
were in the market building are long gone, but the place is bustling
I saw the restaurant
name in art deco letters over the entrance a little to the right of
the main doors to the market. Two escalators later I was at The Tuck Room. The
one wall completely made from stacked books. An artist had painted a
dance scene over some of the bindings representing two women dancing
with three men who had animal heads; a bear, a horse and an elephant.
A bubbly blond
server, Larissa, introduced herself and presented the menu book,
bound in leather. She gave me a little time to look through it before
asking if I wanted a drink. I exclaimed that it wouldn’t be right
to pass up a drink with a name (and detailed description) of Empire
State of Mind Manhattan – Hillrock Hudson Valley Estate 20-year
Oloroso Sherry, Cask Finished Solera Bourbon, Balsam New York State
Single Vineyard sweet vermouth, homemade maraschino cherries and
Truffe Amere Winter Black Perigord truffle bitters. It was everything
promised, not your usual sweet flavor, but a mature, rich slightly
While waiting for
the first course I selected my wine – a 2013 “Baby Amarone”
blend “Palazzo Della Torre” from Allegrini vineyards in Veneto,
Italy. It’s comprised of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5%
Sangiovese grapes for an earthy, mild spice, all-purpose, delicious
red table wine. The wine steward proudly brought it out for tasting
and offered to decant it. I agreed. It was lovely.
The first dish to
arrive was my appetizer. The six “Reuben Croquettes,” basically
potato croquettes with crispy pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and
a “Thousand Island” sauce provided an unusual twist to a fairly
ordinary appetizer. I enjoyed them, very different.
I decided to test
the restaurant for the next dish. I haven’t had a Caesar salad in a
long time and the reason is that it’s never made right. The Tuck
Room calls theirs the Classic Caesar with hearts of Romaine, garlic
croutons, shaved parmesan, and Caesar dressing. It was almost
perfect. The romaine was crisp and fresh, the cheese visible and
sliced right, and the croutons fresh also, not hard as rocks. The
best part, no anchovies in sight!
My main course was
the Chinatown Duck – shredded with pickled vegetables in a
hoisin-sesame glaze with scallions, garnished with watermelon
radishes, sided with three ginger and carrot bao (Chinese buns) and
served on a cutting board. It was almost like a deconstructed Peking
duck and was as much fun to eat as to look at. The buns were exactly
as the Chinese would make, soft and moist, the duck tender and savory
and the pickled vegetables mixed with the tart/sweet hoisin sauce to
create a circus of flavor.
The mixologist at
the bar has a device called a Heizenberg that uses liquid nitrogen to
cool the drinks and Larissa treated me to their “shot” with the
main course. I tasted mild vodka and something like flat ginger ale.
It was indeed very cool and it complimented the duck nicely, but I
stayed with my lovely wine.
three desserts on the menu all sounded too large; maybe next time. I
was too interested in this Heizenberg thing. I ordered “the
cocktail” as a dessert drink. It was strong, citrusy and refreshing
and had a large slab of pineapple as a garnish. I definitely have to
return, if for nothing else to explore the Market Building and