Thursday, October 18, 2018


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Venom (Columbia/Marvel, 2018) – Director: Ruben Fleischer. Screenplay: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg. Stars: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed. Color, Rated PG, 1 hr, 52 minutes.

Anti-hero: A protagonist in a story lacking conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality. I found this summation from Wikipedia pretty accurate in the case of Eddie Brock/Venom (Tom Hardy). Eddie is a fearless reporter when exposing injustice but he takes it to foolhardy levels. He’s not physically strong and he’s not particularly suave with the love of his life, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), an up and coming lawyer. His latest broadcast makes accusations against the powerful Carlton Drake/Riot (Riz Ahmed) and results in both he and Anne getting fired.

Drake’s experiments with human/symbiote meldings horrifies scientist Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) and she agrees to smuggle him into the company headquarters to, hopefully, clear his name and get Anne back (she’s also left him). It’s there he discovers the alien creatures Drake has been bringing to Earth for human hosts as an advance party for a full-out invasion and it’s there he’s paired up with Venom. Eddie is now a kind of superhero, except without a secret identity or alter-ego. He’s literally two beings in one.

Venom is all for the extermination of weak, human life until he spends time actually walking in Eddie’s shoes. He’s always hungry and humans are delicious, “Eyes! Lungs! Pancreas! So many snacks, so little time!” He’s extremely powerful and can re-form any part of his body into a weapon. When he gets angry with you he can, and will, bite your head off. His natural form is a sticky, clingy black ooze that is as mobile as an amoeba and fast moving.

In her time apart from Eddie, Anne starts dating Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott). Eddie’s strange behavior while Venom is in him causes her to think he’s got a parasite. (Note: Never say that word in Venom’s presence. It disturbs him greatly.) Dan persuades Eddie to submit to a full body MRI which sends Venom convulsing in an epileptic-like seizure. The results of Eddie’s blood tests make Dan very concerned when everything is off the charts. They both try to help Eddie until Anne witnesses the change from Venom back to Eddie after a massacre.

Drake sends his drones and minions, including Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) to capture Eddie, marveling in the success of the human/symbiote experiment. Meanwhile, Riot, the leader of the invasion force is in Malaysia and travels from host to host and eventually settles in Drake. On a humorous note, one of the hosts is a Papillion dog. Riot wants to start the invasion and use one of Drakes rockets to alert the rest of his kind and Venom/Eddie now are simpatico and decide to stop him. And the big chase scene and final battle are on.

Venom is a good movie, not a great one, but good. It has no dead spots whatsoever and is entertaining from end to end. The humor is on the dark side, but it breaks up some of the serious violence going on. I particularly liked Venom’s confession to Eddie, “On my planet, I’m kind of a loser, like you.” Tom Hardy is such a lack-luster actor the audience couldn’t wait until he transformed into Venom. Michelle Williams walked her way through the script occasionally sporting emotion but was mostly not believable. Riz Ahmed played the cartoon villain to the hilt. All he lacked was the evil laugh, something Hugh Laurie does perfectly. And what would a Marvel Comics movie be without an appearance by Stan Lee as a Dapper Dog Walker whose advice to Eddie/Venom is “Don’t give up on her. Either of you.” (Referring, of course, to Anne.)

If you want more of Venom, be sure to stay through the initial credits and see the next challenge to the unlikely duo.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 martini glasses.

 Bedford & Co.
118 East 40th Street, New York

Bedford & Co is located in the venerable Renwick Hotel, listed in Historic Hotels of America, a place that once hosted John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The menu was all on a single side of a large card and had several interesting appetizers and main courses. I ordered a Negroni – Tanqueray gin, Campari, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and orange zest. Having never tasted a Negroni before I realized I had almost created one when I had my first cocktail. Before the classic martini was my favorite, I was mixing gin with sweet vermouth as a teenager. I liked it. The Campari gave a novel bitter twist to the flavor.

I started with the Fairy Tale Eggplant – grilled with roasted pine nuts and a garlic aioli garnished with parsley. These delicate little finger-long eggplants were sliced in half, cooked to juicy tenderness and topped with crunchy pine nuts. The aioli was almost secondary the flavor of the first two, yet added a sophisticated note.

My choice of wine was a varietal, the 2013 Spring Valley Vineyard Frederick, from Walla Walla, Washington – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot. It accented the dishes with spice in them and backed off on those that didn’t. A very accommodating red.

Next came the Spanish Octopus – wood-grilled with cucumber, chili and squid ink vinaigrette – was, once again, remarkably tender and with a nice smoky flavor from the wood that mixed nicely with the sweet cucumber and spicy chili. I never cease to be amazed at how a dish so easy to make wrong can come out delicious so many times.

I was interested in the Duck Breast entrée but it was sided with kohlrabi on the menu, which I never liked. However, listening to the conversation with diners near me, I learned that the dish was prepared a different way that night and it involved black cherry sauce and spinach. Much better! The large slices were dark pink and juicy. The nearly black spinach mitigated the sweet cherry sauce and the net flavor was heaven.

My dessert looked and tasted like – for lack of a better description – a S’Mores Cupcake. The chocolate and graham cracker cake part was topped by a fluffy, singed marshmallow meringue. It was no too much, just the right size and decadently sweet at the same time. A double espresso cut that sweetness right away. But then I saw the list (yes a list) of about seven Absinthes. I chose the Jade 1901 Absinthe and my server brought out an ornate (probably antique) Absinthe preparer. It looked like a silver space ship filled with ice water. Four spigots projected from its lower end, one poised over my glass of Absinthe. A slotted spoon rested across the mouth of my glass with a sugar cube on it. It was fascinating as the water dripped from the spigot over the sugar and into my glass as it turned the clear golden liquid to smoky green. Lovely. I can see why this drink was banned in so many countries on the suspicion that it drove people mad.

I had a delightful time dining at Bedford & Co. and who knows? Maybe I’ll stay at the Renwick Hotel on my next stay-cation.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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