June 10th, 2013

Iron Man Three

On Sunday, June 2nd, we caught up with "Iron Man Three." We enjoyed it very much. The best thing about the "Iron Man" movies is the development of Tony Stark's character--I'm not necessarily going to say "growth," but he does change and adapt as the story goes on.

At the beginning of this installment, Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is working through his post-traumatic stress after the events of "The Avengers," being somewhat freaked out that he is an "ordinary guy" (where values of "ordinary" include super-rich, super genius, and getting it on with Gwyneth Paltrow) dealing with aliens, monsters, gods, and super-soldiers. He's becoming increaingly withdrawn, begining to interact even with Pepper (Paltrow) through his suits as a mask. He's shaken out of his shell (so to speak) when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is critically injured in an explosion attributed to terrorist "The Mandarin." He unwisely calls the Mandarin out, with dire consequences.

The character of the Mandarin, as given to Sir Ben Kingsly to play, is rather a cross between Osama Bin Laden and "Bane" from "The Dark Knight Rises." Comic geeks get a major hint that this isn't the classic Mandarin when A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) is referenced early on: also well-known Marvel bad guys, they never worked with the Mandarin in the comic books, so what does happen with him is a suprprise that I did not see coming.

It strikes me that a major factor that makes the "Iron Man" trilogy (so far) better than the recent Christian Bale "Batman" trilogy is that Tony Stark spends most of the movies being Tony Stark and only suits up for the action sequences, whereas in Batman, all the interesting stuff happens when Bruce Wayne is being Batman, and we don't see as much in the way of character interaction. In Iron Man Three, Downey gets an extended sequence of wisecracking with Ty Simpkins as the resourceful boy he ends up relying on for help. These scenes establish that, while Stark is still a jerk, he's a mellowed jerk--.

There's of course the obigatory whiz-bang final battle with some genuinely formidable villains, and a very interesting ending which puts the future of "Iron Man" in question (although the end credits advise us, James-Bond-style that "Tony Stark will return").

A very good, and strong entry for fans of the Marvel Movies.

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Dining: Devon Seafood, and Le Reve

Tuesday night, June 4th, we went out to dinner at Devon Seafood and Steaks, located in Bayshore Town Center, the "New Urbanism" style development adjacent to Bayshore Mall. (While not unpleasant, this is basically another mall turned inside-out. Imagine a small-town urban center made up almost entirely of chain stores, which is kind of creepy in a "Stepford Wives" kind of way--.)

Devon Seafood was very nice. We got there at 5:00PM, which allowed us to take advantage of their "fashionably early" menu. This was a good deal with starter (soup or salad) and entree for $19.95, plus specials on wine by the glass and desserts. I opted for the Lobster Bisque to start, and Georgie had the Baby Greens salad, both of which were excellent. The restaurant states on the menu that they will make adjustments to accommodate dietary restrictions, and had no problem leaving the feta cheese of the salad.

For entree, Georgie had the Almond Crusted Tilapia, which came with orange beurre blanc, grilled asparagus, and seasonal berries. This was also excellent, although they could have gone a bit lighter on the beurre blanc. I had the Seared Whitefish, which was perfectly done, and accompanied by my choices of parmesan roasted potatoes (lightly cheesy), and apple-celery root slaw, both of which were very good. We had a glass of a very nice Pinot Grigio each. I can't can't remember when's the last time I saw a restaurant serving baking powder biscuits as bread, so these were a treat, and I was also impressed that we were offered more during the meal. I would have preferred regular butter with a meal to the honey butter that was provided, but that's the only quibble. Service was fast and attentive. We will be going back.

On Wednesday, June 5th, we went to Le Reve French restaurant, located in "The Village" of Wauwatosa, to sample their desserts. (Coincidentally, Wauwatosa's village area is the real thing of what Bayshore Town Center pretends to be--). We tried their Chocolate Raspberry Dome (pistachio cake, raspberry mousse, dark chocolate mousse, raspberry gelee, and dark chocolate glaze), Chocolate Mousse, and a Chanson Aux Pommes, a glazed pastry with a tart apple filling. The Chocolate Raspberry Dome was almost unbelievably good, being very light, moist, and entirely delicious. The Chocolate Mousse was very smooth and rich, but being a bit lighter on the chocolate and sweeter than I would have preferred. The Chanson had a light flaky crust and very flavorful apple filling. service was cheerful and showed no displeasure with us just wanting desserts. We will definitely be coming back here, too.

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Milwaukee Art Museum, "Mr. Layton's Gallery"

2013 is the 125th anniversary year of Milwaukee's public art museum, originally the Layton Art Gallery, which was a mile or so away from the present Milwaukee Art Museum, on Cathedral Square. The first Gallery housed the collection of Fredrick Layton, philanthropist and collector, who decided to open his collection to the public in 1888. When layton died in 1919, he left his artworks to become the foundation of what would become the Milwaukee Art Institute, and eventually the Milwaukee Art Museum we know today.

The "Mr. Layton's Gallery" tribute to the founder takes up one of the larger galleries, and is densely hung ("salon style") with works that were added to the collection by Layton. These include pieces that have been on permanent display, such as "The Last Spartan" sculpture, and paintings "The Woodgatherer," and some that were taken from the vaults. Masters such as Winslow Homer ("Hark, the Lark"), Bouguereau ("Homer and his Guide") and Alma-Tadema ("A Roman Art Lover") are all represented.

It is very interesting to compare this exhibition with the "Treasures of Kenwood House," which covered a roughly equivalent period of individual collecting. By contrast with Lord Iveagh, Fredrick Layton seems to have had a more classical and less sentimental aesthetic. Although Layton shows a typically Victorian preference for landscapes either beautiful or dramatic, absent, at least from this selection, are any pretty children, and the portraits seem to have been chosen more for their interest than for their beauty.

This one gallery provides a very interesting sample of the Museum's early permanent collection, and of Milwaukee's cultural history.

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