Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Darkest Hour

Dinner and a Movie

Darkest Ocean

By Steve Herte

Note: Steve spent a week in Washington, D.C., visiting museums and other interesting sites. Of course, he also kept up with dinners and movies. From D.C., Steve writes: “I got to the International Spy Museum, a fairly new collection of stuff for a town that has been collecting stuff from time immemorial. For $22 dollars you are forbidden to photograph anything and are given a cover - mine was Dimitryi Ivanov, a 48-year-old fisherman from Kirov, Russia, visiting Boston for five days - then a briefing on being a spy, and being set on a mission while viewing the many gadgets used by actual spies in several countries and several time periods. I really hated the no-photo rule when I saw James Bond's Aston-Martin do a little performance while the theme music played in the background. From there, I went to the National Geographic headquarters and museum and viewed an informative (again, no photos) exhibit on Samurai Warriors featuring several sets of armor, swords and accoutrements. Also, they had an excellent exhibit (photos allowed, yea!) of the Titanic (a very large model), how it sank (an excellent video recreation), what it looks like on the ocean floor today.  You could even have your photo taken as if you were 'the king of the world' on the ship's bow.”

The Darkest Hour (2011) 

The trailers to this movie had me thinking, “invisible aliens, done before, teens saving the earth – ridiculous” and so I’ve resisted seeing it. The story starts with Sean and Ben (Emile Hirsh and Max Minghella), two best friends, going to Moscow to present some revolutionary business or communication concept (it’s never really clear what they invented) only to be shooed out of a meeting being held by Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) their Russian counterpart who has stolen their idea and made it his own. 

So, they go to a Russian disco to drown their sorrows and maybe meet some girls (which they do).  They meet Natalie and Anne (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor). All of a sudden, the lights go out and somebody mutters, “Welcome to Russia.”

Everyone goes out in the street which is entirely blacked-out and beautiful swirly golden lights are raining from the sky. It’s all pretty and amazing and everyone backs away when one lands in the street near them. A young Russian policeman edges closer with his night stick and, when it touches the alien, the policeman is shredded into atoms, to the horror of everyone else. Panic sets in, the crowd goes helter-skelter and aliens shred everyone they can reach. Our heroes and their girls go back inside the disco and head for the storage basement. Who joins them there? Why the Russian turncoat, of course.

After a few days of eating out of tin cans they decide to venture out when they can’t hear sounds of slaughter. They discover that the aliens give off electrical energy, so it is better to run while it is dark – if the street lamps light up one by one behind you, they’re coming, better run – and, the aliens cannot “smell” you when you’re behind glass. Upon discovering that the American Embassy has been trashed just like any other building in Moscow, they see a light in a downtown skyscraper and meet up with Sergei, a looney-looking Russian scientist (played by Dato Bakhtadze) who has made his entire apartment into a Faraday Cage that the aliens cannot see or smell. He has also created a “gun” that shoots microwave energy. This turns out to disrupt the invisibility shields on the aliens and they can then be shot with conventional weapons. 

Having swiped a transistor radio from the American Embassy they learn from Vika (Veronika Vernadskaya), a Russian girl who also found the crazy scientist, that there is a nuclear submarine in the river looking for survivors, and they decide to get to it before it departs for London. On the way they meet young Russian vigilantes who have decided to fight it out – on horseback. They also learn the reason for the alien invasion: mineral riches on Earth, as several towers of smoke and flame come from the sky and gouge into various places in town, crumbling buildings nearby.

It’s a more entertaining movie than I expected and I eventually stopped rooting for the aliens. Three survivors do make it to the submarine to tell the rest of the world how to kill the aliens and they sail off into the sunset. I must admit, there were no slow spots even though there were also no good acting jobs (but I didn’t expect any). I did like the aliens when they were vulnerable – they looked like rotating octopods with skull-like heads. There is one exciting scene in an electric bus with the hero and his girl against an alien. She has to drive the unstoppable bus while he fights off the alien – pure entertainment – no thought process at all.

1201 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

When my linebacker/waiter asked if I had dined at Oceanaire before, I countered with, “Does Boston count?” Admittedly, Boston’s décor is funkier than this sleek symphony in silver, white and blue. Even the chandeliers are white and silver balls hanging from a sky blue hollow in the ceiling, accenting the undersea atmosphere.

The menu, though on a single card with the wine list on the back is nevertheless extensive. Over a Beefeater martini I perused it while the crusty, soft bread arrived and a platter of crudités – a pickle slice, pickled tomatoes, carrot slices, radishes and black olives. It took me longer than I expected because there were three main courses I liked the sound of, so the waiter helped me choose. The appetizer was Ahi Tuna Poke served sushi quality and diced small with onions and peppers with a vinegary/wasabi flavor like a ceviché and stacked between layers of crispy sweet square wonton chips and Sriracha Crema (it was good, but I didn’t ask what it was). Once I figured out how to eat it I loved it, but didn’t eat the last chip because they were also very filling and the bread was good as well. And, I knew what was coming.

My waiter steered me to the Stuffed Canadian Turbot “Florentine” stuffed with crabmeat, shrimp and spinach which was a lighter flavor than the appetizer but still went well with the 2009 California Zinfandel I chose. The side dish was the killer, King Crab Meat Mac and Cheese – a bowl full of capelletti in a three cheese sauce sprinkled with King Crab meat. Yow! It was a meal in itself. I successfully finished the main course and the crab in the side dish but could not finish all the pasta and have dessert or I would have exploded.

When the dessert list arrived I remembered Boston, ignored all the heavy desserts and went for the Root Beer Float. I recalled waxing poetic about the one I had in Boston and this one was its twin brother – an old fashioned ice-cream parlor glass with French vanilla ice cream inside and an equally old-fashioned brown glass bottle of real root beer to pour over it. I needed nothing else. Oceanaire is consistently good in Boston and D.C. and I would trust it in other destinations as well.

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