Yesterday I celebrated Friday afternoon with a movie and supper at an Italian restaurant.
The movie was Stardust, based on a book I enjoyed very much, authored by Neil Gaiman. I have really looked forward to this film, and it did not disappoint. One of the truly spectacular adventure movies of the summer, it begins in a Victorian-era, English village called Wall. The town is so named because it stands next to a wall that divides England from a magic kingdom called Stormhold. An English youth gets past the 24-hour guard on a gap in the wall, has a dalliance with a pretty girl, and 9 months later receives a bundle of joy in a basket. That bundle grows up into a boy named Tristan, who gets the story going properly when he makes a bargain with a local beauty: if he can fetch her a star that fell on the other side of the wall in time for her birthday in one week, she must marry him.
Little does Tristan know that the falling star will take the form of a beautiful girl who will become the love of his life. Little does he know that his quest to fetch the star back to Wall will be tangled up in an evil witch's quest for immortality, an evil prince's quest for power, and a slave girl's quest for freedom. Tristan, in short, knows little...but in facing many dangers, the boy becomes a man.
It's an exciting, scary, funny, and romantic movie. It has some hideously evil bad guys. It has ghosts, murders, sleazy merchants, a flying ship full of lightning fishermen (led by a very surprising captain), humans transformed into animals and vice versa. It features great actors in small roles - such as Peter O'Toole (the king), Ian McKellen (the narrator), Rupert Everett (the prince who takes a plunge in his first scene), Ricky Gervais (the fence), and Sienna Miller (the spoiled rich girl). It features very good actors in medium-sized roles, such as Mark Williams (the goat man), Jason Flemyng (the prince who goes straight from the bathtub to the showers), Henry Cavill (the spoiled rich girl's other swain), and Robert De Niro (the show-stealing ship captain). And the main roles elicit stellar performances from actors of whom one has either never heard or never expected much: Michelle Pfeiffer (Lamia the witch), Claire Danes (Yvaine the star), Mark Strong (the last and nastiest prince standing), and Charlie Cox (as Tristan).
I mean, really! Who the heck is Charlie Cox? I've never seen him before. But he splendidly conveys down-to-earth goodness, with a screen presence ranging from bumbling, sad-sack comedy to sword-wielding, romantic hero. He holds the screen well against a multitude of scene-stealing actors who, collectively, create a film full of images and moments that sparkle in the memory like stars.
For dinner, I visited The Old Spaghetti Factory in Chesterfield MO. I don't believe I've been there before. It has a remarkable look, full of substantial, gorgeously stained woodwork, stained-crystal panels, and dead center a replica of a streetcar converted into dining booths. The service was excellent. The main dish (spaghetti in clam sauce) was next to ambrosia, though I should say the same about the nearest equivalent at Olive Garden and certain other Italian restaurants I have enjoyed. The bread was hot out of the oven and absolutely delicious. The salad was an interesting blend of greens with a creamy pesto house dressing that leaves 90% of Italian restaurants' "house dressings" in the dust. The meal even came with a scoop of spumoni for dessert (mmm! What's better than layers of strawberry, chocoloate, and pistachio ice cream?).
It also came with a souvenir glass, which is a nice memento of the Italian cream soda I had: club soda, half-and-half, and your choice of several flavored syrups (I picked strawberry), served on the rocks. Yum!