Monday, December 19, 2011

Dinner & A Show

Watching the girls grow up and become more independent is bittersweet to be sure, but one of the fortuitous ancillary benefits is no longer needing to find a babysitter, allowing Audrey and I to step out and splurge for a change.

After getting the girls' dinner sorted out we went to Lazia for our own evening victuals.  An excessively modern Asian fusion restaurant with imaginative food and a comprehensive cocktail menu, even though I opted for their house lager, Drunken Master, brewed for them by Big Rock.  Audrey had a creamy macadamia nut concoction served in a martini glass that was delightful, and then another, as we were attending a movie afterwards just across the parking lot, so there was no need to drive anywhere anytime soon.

We shared an order of kung pao chicken hand rolls, served with crispy noodles and lettuce leaves to bind them up.  This is by no means a practical means of attaining sustenance, but it was messy, fun, and altogether tasty, with the cool, crisp lettuce providing a nice counterpoint to the spicy chicken and cashews.

For dinner, Audrey had the catch of the day, cod served with mesquite grilled prawns.  Seeing the wisdom in her seafood inclination, I ordered a seafood rice bowl teeming with mussels, prawns, and whitefish, served with a mild coconut curry.  The service was excellent, and the food arrived so quickly, we even stayed for dessert to kill a little time, which had not been our intention.

After dinner we meandered to theater and enjoyed a game of air hockey and dinosaur safari in the amusement parlour and then took our seats for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

As with most sequels attempting to build a franchise, the primary rule appears to be "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and that aphorism is clearly in play here.  There is very little new here, and in some ways it feels as though the original bromantic comedy has simply been extended by a few extra reels.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!  Robert Downey Jr. plays yet another reflection of himself as Sherlock Holmes; a tortured genius who just might be too smart for his own good.  Jude Law remains dapper, jaded, and if not unflappable, certainly flap-resistant as his companion and partner, Dr. Watson.

The welcome newcomer is Jared Harris as the diabolical Prof. James Moriarty, Holmes' nemesis, and possibly the archetype for a thousand pulp and comic book villains in the century that followed his original literary incarnation.  Harris plays Moriarty with sufficient charm but without ever losing the ineffable sense of menace that such a character should exude.

The period references are again very well done, and movie serves admirably as a time machine to Victorian Europe, and the international strategic posturing familiar to students of history and those who play the game Diplomacy.  Sticklers for historical accuracy however, should be forewarned that they could very easily have called this film Steampunk Holmes.  All the hallmarks are here: anachronistic weapons, pernicious automata, gilded lethality, and, yes, brass, and goggles.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!  It has never been the intention of director Guy Ritchie to faithfully recreate the period , setting, or even the plots of the original Sherlock Holmes writings, but to capture the flavour and essence of them, and repackage them in a way palatable to audiences grown jaded with mere fantasy, but inoffensive to fans of the original works.  It is a difficult balancing act and there will be many who say he has failed, but I think Guy Ritchie has pulled it off once again.  His action set pieces are balletic and mesmerizing, and more than his camera work and use of slow-motion, it is his sonic artistry that continues to impress me, using all manner of sound effects and audio cues layered over rapid cuts to simultaneously mislead and provide insight to the viewer, often in a time-delayed fashion.

Simply put, if you enjoyed the first one, it is probably worth a trip out to see it on the big screen, and more importantly, on a good sound system  Audrey and I saw it in one of Cineplex's AudioAVX theatres, which provides a generally excellent viewing experience, in addition to reserved seating (for an expected premium in price, obviously).

All in all, a wonderful evening, and a very suitable way to spend our 19th anniversary.  When we were married, having a number of the wedding party still in school meant scheduling our wedding after the end of exams, and perilously close to Christmas, which has since resulted in more than one year where we have had no choice but to honour only the smallest of observances, and to take a rain check on proper festivities that did not always come to pass.

Spending time in a restaurant far more trendy than we are, sipping drinks and sharing reminiscences as well as forkfuls of food from each others' plates, and then curled up together in a theatre watching a hip incarnation of a classic detective story that has at least as much to do with affection as it does with deduction, was not only a welcome departure from many previous years, but it might have actually been ideal.

Happy anniversary Audrey; here's to 1.9 decades of honeymooning!

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