Thursday, 31 December 2015


Dinner and a Movie: Two Reviews

While we were washing up the dinner dishes Christmas night Stats Guy mentioned that he wouldn’t mind catching the new Star Wars movie. This past Tuesday Ann and I arranged to attend a matinee performance with him. We chose an early time because if The Force Awakens sucked as badly as the previous three prequel films to the original trilogy at least we wouldn’t have paid full price. Also, giving any amount of money to Disney makes me feel dirty, and I’ve spent 25 years in advertising.

I’ve never understood the allure of the Star Wars films. They’re well crafted flicks aimed at children or inner childs and so I find the fan boy thirst for the franchise’s Kool-Aid vaguely creepy. Admittedly this is a debate between Pot and Kettle as I’ve a few (somewhat healthier I’m certain) obsessions of my own. And I do have one Star Wars memory that unfailingly makes me smile. I saw Return of the Jedi in Montreal’s long departed York Theatre with two friends. We’d each eaten a gram or so of magic mushrooms and had choked the fungi down with multiple beers. Once we took our seats a voice in the dark to my right muttered, ‘These are useless. Do you have any more?’ The movie began to roll and a space ship entered the frame from the top. I next heard a giggle and a snort and, ‘Oh, wow.’ When the credits rolled we tumbled giggling onto St. Catherine Street. Outside A&A Records we encountered a woman walking a small anxious dog. ‘A rat! An ewok!’ We were comic geniuses.

The new movie is essentially a remake of the original from 1977 with one droid and two or three character substitutions. The Vatican’s official newspaper maintained in its review that the bad guy wasn’t evil enough; agreed, he’s a mere petulant child. I’ve since read at Rolling that Star Wars creator George Lucas is apparently miffed and moaning that Disney chose not to follow his perceived path of his epic’s sprawling mythology despite the involvement of Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote the screen plays for The Empire Strikes Back (the best of the bunch) and Return of the Jedi, and director J.J. Abrams who successfully recharged Star Trek’s dilithium crystals. Of course Lucas sold his Star Wars stake to Disney for some $4-billion and that will buy him a lot of Kleenex should he continue to weep over the fate of his baby.

Christopher Plummer having a lark as a Klingon aside, why is it that celluloid villains are unfamiliar with the arc of classic tragedy and specifically the crippling effect of ‘vaulting ambition,’ especially when confronted by a misfit band of plucky underdogs? A Death Star wasn’t good enough for the bad guys in The Force Awakens; no, naturally they had to have a Death Planet with a plot purpose-built Achilles heel. Our consensus after the inevitable sequel suggesting ending was that we’d neither wasted our time nor our matinee money. I venture that if you’ve already seen this movie more than once you have.

Next on the evening’s agenda were beers and a bite to eat. There is a faux Irish pub in the downtown mall. We’re all so sick of middling pub and sports bar fare even if everything is garnished with aioli and arugula. Ann suggested we cross the river and settle upon a place a little closer to our homes. Stats Guy drove us across the High Level Bridge and we decided upon the High Level Diner situated somewhat awkwardly on a busy corner at its south end. We passed the restaurant and then turned left and left again, parallel to the opposite way we’d come into an unlit alley and then right into a hidden parking lot behind the high-rises lining Saskatchewan Drive. The short walk in the dark was bone-chilling.

Inside the three of us shook off the cold and settled into a booth. The place was empty but it was Tuesday, traditionally a dead night for any business anywhere. The large 11"x17" laminated menus promised a unique and sophisticated twist on traditional diner fare. The only waitress in the precious joint slid by and wondered aloud if we'd like to have anything. Well, gee. Ann asked if they served beer. Our waitress pointed to a smaller digest menu already on the table. We perused it, craft hi-tests. Hmm. Ann asked if we could taste the Scottish Amber. No, it’s in a bottle. Well, do you have anything on tap? Yes, Yellowhead lager. I reread the liquor menu, no mention of beers on tap. Okay, three pints of Yellowhead, please.

I spotted the all day breakfast sandwich: meatloaf, ham, bacon, a fried egg and sharp cheddar, a fistful of everything in the barnyard with home fries which theoretically constitute a serving of vegetable matter. Stats Guy asked about the meatloaf plate, no, not the meatloaf sandwich. What were the side vegetables? Our waitress went away and then came back to tell him some vegetables were mixed into the meat and there were potatoes on top. Ann wondered what the specials were. Our waitress went away and came back again and confessed to Stats Guy that she had mistakenly described the shepherd’s pie to him. The meatloaf came with zucchini and stuff. Maybe potatoes too. She informed Ann that there were no specials. Ann asked what the soup of the day was. Our waitress went away once more. Stats Guy wondered if he should maybe ask her what kind of potatoes came with the meatloaf? Yukon Golds? Little red ones? I asked him if he needed that kind of pain. The waitress came back and told Ann that the soup of the day was one of the ones listed somewhere on the main menu, maybe the other side, near the top? Ann thought she’d have the beef dip. The waitress wondered if Ann would like the soup of the day with that? Ann decided French fries might be a better option. Stats Guy ordered a Reuben sandwich and then asked our waitress what kind of bread the pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss stack would be served on. He had to ask. Our waitress excused herself to go and consult the hash-slinging cook.

God love her, at least she got our three orders right. Our food was like the film we’d just seen, unremarkable and average; over promised and under delivered: a suicidal, death wish combination in the service and entertainment industries. Once Stats Guy, Ann and I had eaten I excused myself to wash the locally sourced, farmed and ranched sandwich grease from my hands. A sign in the men’s room trumpeted Tuesday’s fish and chips special. I supposed we might’ve enjoyed some battered haddock if we’d known it was available because that’s something you can’t reproduce at home. And Ann’s fries had looked pretty good. Oh well, just another night. No need to repeat any part of the activities.

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