Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Lone Ranger

Dinner and a Movie

The Rainbow Ranger

By Steve Herte

What a great surprise! Milford, Connecticut, has a decent (actually excellent) movie theater in the Westfield Mall and my sister and I were able to view the latest opening for $5 each (eat your heart out New York). So, in my tradition, I've pair the movie with the dinner we had the same evening. I would have preferred reviewing the restaurant at Foxwood's MGM Grand where we dined on Tuesday (and maybe I will later on) but I have no photos to share of it. For anyone thinking of staying at the MGM Grand, the rooms are very nice. Though I still prefer the Grand Pequot, I will admit they are comparable. On the way back from Foxwoods we played some more at Mohegan Sun and I had a great time, only making a $139 contribution to the Mashantucket tribe. For now, however, enjoy!

The Lone Ranger (Disney, 2013) – Director: Gore Verbinski. Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper, William Fichtner, & Mason Elston Cook. Color, 149 minutes.

“What’s with the mask?” is the running gag in this new version of a classic tale that ran on television from 1949 to 1957 (and on radio from 1933 to 1955) about a masked hero who rides with a Comanche and continually saves the day. Granted, there were no running gags in the original unless you count, “Who was that masked man?” I will be the first to admit my dislike for “Westerns” because I found them to have cookie cutter plots, situations and locations. The new film not only corrects those faults, but also pays homage to the great film Westerns of the past by shooting several of the opening scenes in Monument Valley, Utah. It was – and still is – the quintessential backdrop and the symbol of the wide-open spaces that spring to mind when we think about the Wild West.

Verbinski’s direction and the screenplay by the excellent team of Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio bring the larger-than-life characters of our collective memory flawlessly and believably into the 21st century. Every actor in the movie – not just the leads – plays his part credibly, and no one detracts from this tale. (I thought I’d never say that, but it’s true.) Even though there are comic lines throughout, the film never becomes campy, and considering it’s chock full of scenes featuring some unbelievable stunts, it still does not even elicit a “yeah, right!” sarcastic remark from the viewers.

The story begins in 1933, in San Francisco, with the incomplete-at-the-time Golden Gate Bridge looming in the background as Will (Cook) dressed in Lone Ranger costume pays his fare to visit a Wild West exhibit at a county fair. He passes a diorama of bison and one of a grizzly bear and stops in front of “The Noble Savage in his native habitat,” a Comanche – actually Tonto (Depp) greatly aged – who comes alive and tells him how the Lone Ranger became the legend that he is.

The scene flashes back to the old West in the jail car of a train, where Tonto and Butch Cavendish (Fichtner), a sadistic and cannibalistic outlaw, are being transported to trial. Prosecutor John Reid (Hammer) is on that same train and finds he’s in a car full of very religious Presbyterians. Butch’s gang springs him from the train and John’s brother Dan (Dale) deputizes John as part of the posse going out to retrieve Butch. But the gang ambushes the posse in a steep pass and all are killed (Dan most horribly, by Butch) except John. Tonto comes upon the scene and decides to bury the men (all the while “trading” items with them) until he comes to John who grabs his hand. The white horse that will be named “Silver” appears out of nowhere and proceeds directly to where John is lying. Tonto recognizes him as a “spirit horse,” and tries to talk him out of choosing John in preference for his brother Dan but the horse will have none of it. Resignedly, Tonto takes John into his care and revives him.

It’s not a match made in Heaven, and most of the time the two ride Silver everywhere. In the process of trying to find Butch and his gang they meet Red Harrington (Carter), the madam of a brothel who possesses an ornate ivory prosthetic leg that converts to a shotgun with the trip of a switch. She decides to help them because Butch made her what she is today.

Meanwhile, back at Dan’s house, his wife, Rebecca (Wilson), and son, Danny (Prince), are besieged by what they believe are Indians. In reality, it’s Butch and gang – who take them prisoner.

Added to that, the Intercontinental Railroad, being built and supervised by Mr. Cole (Wilkinson), will stretch right across the border (a deep gorge) and deep through Indian Territory. He and his cronies blame non-existent attacks upon the settlers on the hapless, already depleted Comanche tribe for “breaking” the treaties. We learn later that he’s in league with Butch, and both are using the U.S. Cavalry to get their way. The bottom line? When Tonto was a child, an enormous vein of silver was discovered and the young man unwittingly told the white man where it was in return for a “cheap silver pocket watch from Sears-Roebuck.” The upshot of it all was that Tonto’s entire village was slain and he was made an outcast.

I’ve mentioned before that a film needs to get a “Wow!” out of me before I award a perfect rating. Well, this one certainly deserves it. The special effects were startlingly real, the stunts spectacular, the make-up extraordinary, and the scenery breathtaking. The familiar “William Tell Overture” was placed so well in the story as to engender the maximum effect, evoking tears in one place, cheers in another. The remainder of the musical score was appropriate and enhanced the scenes. The two main characters, The Ranger and Tonto were superb. Hammer started as a pacifist greenhorn and evolved into the hero we all know and love. Depp was very convincing as an eccentric (and possibly crazy – which he has done several times before) Comanche whose only interest is Justice. As far as I’m concerned, The Lone Ranger is really the first summer blockbuster of the year to deserve the title. You should hear it nominated several times at the next Academy Awards ceremony. Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Rainbow Gardens Restaurant & Bar
117 North Broad Street, Milford, CT

Ever on the search for the unusual, innovative or charming, I found all three at Rainbow Gardens. Just off the extensive village green of downtown Milford is a beautiful Victorian house in pale yellow with white trim that was restored in 1995 to be the home of this “New American Cuisine” dining spot. Inside, one imagines what the rooms were like when the building was occupied by the family who previously owned it. One dining area was the front porch, one the living room, and one the den. There is seating on the lovely veranda and in the front garden below as well. Taking into consideration the warm, balmy weather and flying creatures, we opted to stay indoors.

A slim lady at the captain’s station lead us to our table in the corner of what might have been the dining room: a cozy room painted and decorated in shades of light pumpkin, bronze and copper, with bare-topped light wood tables and simple chairs to match. Our waitress presented us with the menu, cocktail list, and wine list. The first thing we noted was that there was no beer listed anywhere. When we asked about it we learned that there were indeed three beers on tap. My sister and brother-in-law both ordered one. Being the adventurer, I order the “Prickly Margarita” made with 1800 Coconut Tequila, Grand Marnier, and pineapple juice, and sprinkled with hot pepper flakes. It was served in a pint-sized plastic cup with sufficient ice and was the perfect deception. It was sweet, mildly spicy and sneaky (I had two).

Not knowing the size of the portions in Rainbow Gardens, we ordered two Caesar’s Court Salads, one a “classic” Caesar Salad with crisp Romaine and crunchy croutons tossed in their own version of Caesar dressing with parmesan cheese; and the other is called The Marrakesh Marketplace, and made with grilled eggplant and sweet pepper hummus spreads with a bounty of pita chips, olives and feta cheese. I put the word classic in quotes because, when I tasted it, I found it severely lacking in garlic, which makes it less than classic in my eyes but my sister and her husband found it to their liking. The two-tone hummus duet was perfect for me and presented in a mound in the center of the plate strewn with red and green olives, sliced cherry tomatoes and radiating upright slices of toasted pita bread.

For the main course, once again we had two agreements and one rogue (guess who?). We ordered two “Heaven and Earth” – Angel hair pasta with julienned grilled chicken, wild mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, leafy spinach and a “celestial” sherry stroganoff sauce ... sinfully delicious; and one “Beauty and the Beef:” a seasoned grilled filet of beef in a brown pan sauce topped with fire-roasted peppers, Gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and garlic mashed potatoes, accompanied by grilled green and yellow squash.

The 10-inch bowls of pasta and chicken were totally obscured by the rich brown gravy covering them. Both were very tasty and enjoyed by the diners but the portions were so large neither was more than half finished. My steak, though ordered medium, came out rare – luckily, just as I like it – and the squash was crunchy, and delicious. The garlic mashed potato mound with a stalk of rosemary sprouting from it, on the other hand was woefully lacked the necessary garlic and was all that remained of my dish at the end. All in all, the meal was well prepared and tasty, but all agreed there was much too much food. No one was ready for dessert.

Rainbow Gardens is a charming restaurant with innovative titles for their dishes and an eclectic selection of dinners with good food and drinks. The tab for three people with drinks was just over $100 – can’t beat that. Just remember to come hungry or be ready to take a doggy bag home.

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