Dinner and a Movie
By Steve Herte
The Dark Tower (Columbia, 2017) – Director: Nikolaj Arcel. Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel (s/p). Stephen King (novels). Stars: Katheryn Winnick, Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Jackie Earle Haley, Abbey Lee, Nicholas Hamilton, Dennis Haysbert, Claudia Kim, Tom Taylor, Fran Kranz, Jose Zuniga, Victoria Nowak, Ben Gavin, Stephen Stanton & Michael Barbieri. Color, Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.
I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart. The Code of the Gunslinger.
When I started reading the Dark Tower Trilogy by Stephen King, I was wrapped up in the saga of The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain of Eld, and how he traveled worlds through “portals” to recruit his three traveling companions in the second book, The Drawing of the Three and their adventures in The Wastelands the third book. I was eager to see how it all ended when the third book had all four companions in an exciting, life and death situation right to the last page, where it stopped.
After a brief rant at the author for not finishing a story, I continued on through four more voluminous, hard-covered books (the first three were paperback) until I reached the conclusion in the seventh book, The Dark Tower. The other three were Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, and Song of Susannah. I thought I was finished, but then King produced an eighth book whose story fits between numbers four and five entitled The Wind Through the Keyhole, and I found a short story, “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” which fits between five and six.
The Dark Tower is obviously King’s magnum opus spanning over thirty years of his life –The Gunslinger was published in 1982 and The Wind Through the Keyhole in 2012. I followed the fascinating tale through Mid-world every step of the way and was very interested to see what the first movie would produce visually, to compare it to the images in my mind.
I never expected Idris Elba to play the role of Roland. I pictured more of a Clint Eastwood/Lee J. Cobb type. You know, the gangly, tall, scruffy outlaw who outguns all the bad guys but never gets the girl? He doesn’t even wear a plainsman’s hat. But I was pleasantly surprised how well Elba performed (with the help of some fabulous stunt-doubles, special effects and slow-motion photography).
At one hour and forty-five minutes I knew that the whole series would not, could not, fit in the time span. Indeed it was only the first book, The Gunslinger with some cinematic enhancements to make the portals more fantastic than in the book, as well as the terrible magic powers of the evil sorcerer, The Man in Black (McConaughey). Both were impressive. Matthew McConaughey plays a perfect villain, confident, heartless and cruel to both friend and foe. Why Stephen King gave him the name Walter O’Dim, I’ll never understand.
Jake Chambers (Taylor) has been a misfit in his New York school as well as his home since his father died a year ago. He envisions a strange dark tower and a man in black trying to destroy it and a gunslinger trying to protect it. His stepfather and mother Laurie Chambers (Winnick) and various psychiatrists pooh-pooh all this and accredit it to trauma. Then one day a pair of “workers” from the psychiatric clinic (sent by Walter) arrive to take Jake away, he knows who they really are and escapes to an abandoned house he saw in one of his visions and finds a portal to Mid-world, where he meets Roland.
At first, Roland wants nothing to do with Jake, but as they travel together, he realizes that the boy has something special about him, the thing that Walter wants, “The Shining” (sound familiar?). Yes, Jake has superior mental telepathic powers, and, if hooked up to Walter’s doomsday machine, could destroy the Dark Tower. The rest of the movie is the push and pull to see whether or not that happens.
I found the film engaging and just as exciting as the book, even with the enhancements, i.e. the portals having to be powered up and created rather than just mysteriously “being there” and the monsters who finally reveal themselves and have to be fought off. An excellent cameo was performed by Dennis Haysbert as Roland’s father, Steven. Toward the end of the movie the “Wastelands” is mentioned and reference is made to a character who will be discovered by then, my favorite, a “bumbler” named “Oy.” There’s even humor in the movie. At one point, Jake hands a hotdog to Roland, and gets the reply, “Savages! What breed?”
The violence is virtually bloodless and the story is relatively close to the book. Though not a tale for little kids, it might entertain pre-teens. I’m looking forward to any and all sequels and hope they are made for the big screen, not for television.
Rating: 4 out of 5 martini glasses.
10 Murray Street, New York
Working downtown, I’ve passed this one-year-old Northern Indian restaurant several times before the opportunity presented itself to dine there. Formerly, the uninteresting Muscle Maker Grill, a health-food oriented eatery, it avoided my attention for many months.
The menu was truly varied and several dishes were new to me. Prashant, my server, dropped off a basket of Papadum with mint and tamarind chutneys, a traditional pre-appetizer I haven’t seen in a long time. The papadum was crisp, the mint chutney was mildly spicy and the tamarind chutney was sweet and tart at the same time. He suggested I start with an appetizer or soup.
I ordered a nice bowl of mulligatawny soup – chicken, lentils, coconut and curry leaves – and recalled the first time I ever had the soup and loved it. It was mildly spicy and had a good body without being thick. There was a lemony flavor that precluded using the slice of lemon accompanying it. Per Prashant’s recommendation, my appetizer arrived simultaneously with the soup. The seekh kebab, made with sautéed ground lamb was amazing! Tender enough to cut with a fork the tubes had spices that were tantalizing and the meat was savory and delicious.
Having had many opportunities to speak with Prashant I learned that they have two tandoor (clay ovens), one for bread and one for the meat dishes. My main course was something I haven’t had since that first restaurant in the 1970’s, the “Tandoori Mixed Grill” – assorted grilled meats, lamb and chicken two ways each. It was served with saffron rice and a mild spiced sauce. Everything was juicy and not overcooked, redolent with spice and crisp from the oven. Not to gild the lily, I ordered the steamed Basmati rice with peas, cooked to perfection. And, I made apologies for ordering the Peshawari naan stuffed with dried fruits and pistachios. Why? Because I know Peshawar is in Pakistan, not India. Still, it was delicious.
Prashant and I learned that we lived near each other in Queens as I ordered the White Chocolate Rasmalai for dessert. Rasmalai is homemade cottage cheese, but it was the white chocolate sauce that made the dish unique and wonderful. And no Indian dinner is complete without a cup of Masala Chai, mildly spice tea. I could taste the cinnamon and cardamom.
Aahar only has a beer and wine license to date but Prashant could tell I was a foodie and gave me a taste of his favorite cabernet as an after dinner drink. It was very good.
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