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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dinner and a Movie: Thai Sticks & Fantastic Four

This post marks the first installation of what will be a weekly feature called Dinner and a Movie. Once a week I'll be reviewing a local restaurant and a film from a regular guy's perspective, then submitting my expense report to Dan as "Research, miscellaneous." This will not be a frou-frou Ruth Reichl-meets-Eric Harrison endeavor. If it's good, I'll plug it. If it sucks, I'll slam it. Please feel free to email me with your movie and restaurant picks. Sometimes the dinner and movie will be related (think Ninfa's and "¡Three Amigos!" , and sometimes they won't. And now, on to the review. Last night, a stunning redhead accompanied me to Thai Sticks on Montrose, followed by a showing of "Fantastic Four". Thai Sticks is located on Montrose, just south of Richmond. Parking is a bit sparse, so you might have to walk a block or so. The dining room is dimly lit, but the available lighting illuminates the tabletops well. The decor is interesting, with impressionist paintings (for sale, only $5,000!) and inviting white linens. The place had a fairly extensive wine list, unusual for Asian cuisine, though many of the wines were obscenely overpriced. I started off with a bowl of tom kha kai, a rich coconut-milk based soup with chicken and mushrooms. The soup was hot and satisfying, with large, tender chunks of chicken. It had a pleasant, lingering heat from little bits of red chilies lurking below the surface. While I tried to avoid biting directly into the peppers, every now and then one would sneak onto my spoon, inavde my mouth and remind me why I don't eat Thai food very often. And this was "medium hot," according to the waitress. Yikes. Diane had tom yum koong, a hot-and-sour soup with large shrimp, lemongrass and red chilies. It was a bit oily, though spicier than my soup. Decent, but nothing to write home about. We then dug into a green curry and prick khing. The green curry was okay, with more large pieces of chicken and some crisp string beans. Again, this was a dish based on coconut milk, but with a more golden hue. The sauce had a pungent taste that I couldn't quite identify (saffron, maybe?) and a strong latent spiciness that crept up on me as I reached for the third bite. It could have used more green peppers. But overall, the prick khing (no, I don't mean Ted Kennedy) was the star of the evening. This dish contained very tender slices of pork and perfectly cooked green beans in a paste made of red chilies. Despite the large quantity of peppers, the dish had only a slight heat, and a suprisingly rich sweetness. The service left a little to be desired. We were not offered the eclectic martini list, which I noticed on my way out, nor were we offered the fairly standard dessert menu, which I also noticed on my way out. Come on, do I really look that cheap? All in all, great food, mediocre service, and entrees around 15 bucks. Verdict: (out of four). On to the movie. Let me preface by saying that I love comic book movies. I grew up reading comics (mostly Marvel), so I came into this movie as a big fan of the Fantastic Four. The flicks basically deals with the Four's coming to terms with their newfound powers, gained after exposure to cosmic radiation while on a space mission. The bad guy, Victor von Doom, likewise develops powers, and predictably uses them to wreak havoc on the innocent and vengeance on the Four. The film takes place primarily in New York City, with well done sets. Real-life landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge intermingle with structures from the Marvel Universe, including the Baxter Building and the headquarters of Von Doom Enterprises. Ioan Gruffudd ("King Arthur," "Black Hawk Down") plays an appropriately geeky Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards. (Well, maybe not appropriately, since the film Reed went to MIT, whereas the comic Reed went to Caltech. I know: I'm a dork.) Reed discovers his ability to stretch and contort himself into all sorts of weird positions and blank stares. Jessica Alba ("Sin City") is pretty hot as Sue "Invisible Woman" Storm, Reed's one-time girlfriend who's being pursued by egomaniacal businessman von Doom. Fortunately, the director kept the invisible scenes to a minimum, and character development and dialogue on her part is virtually nonexistent. Good call. Chris Evans ("a bunch of movies no one saw") plays the hotheaded (get it?) Johnny "Human Torch" Storm (Sue's brother), who can fly and become swathed in flames at will. He's a young punk who plays with his powers, rides motorcyles and picks up chicks. I liked him intensely. Again, virtually zero character development. Girls and fire. Michael Chiklis ("The Commish") is Ben "The Thing" Grimm, a former astronaut tortured by his warped appearance after the cosmic rays turn him into an enormous man made of orange stone. Really, what's not to like about that? The character is very faithful to the comic books, full of good-natured gripes and back-and-forth insults with Johnny Storm. It was great to hear him say "It's clobberin' time!" and even better to hear him say it only one. Julian McMahon ("Nip/Tuck") is Victor "Dr. Doom" von Doom, a vain, egomaniacal businessman who snaps after losing his girl, his IPO and his good looks in rapid succession. His body becomes infused with metal, and he's able to summon lightning at will, which he uses to zap the hell out of anyone in his way. The climactic battle at the end is rushed, and almost seems an afterthought to the discovering-their-powers plotline. There's also a lame, terribly executed love story. (Seriously, Hollywood, stop putting those in every single movie. They usually suck.) Overall: bad dialogue, unknown actors, great special effects and a faithful representation of a beloved comic book franchise. Shakespeare it ain't, but it's one hell of a comic book movie, and I love comic book movies. Verdict: (out of four). Next week's free date valuable entertainment review will be dinner at Niko Niko's and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."


At 7/15/2005 4:10 PM, Blogger Rob Booth said...

The missus and I are going on a date to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Alamo Drafthouse. Dinner, movie, booze, all in one place.


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