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This old west melodrama could do with more bullets and less monologues

When Jane Hammond’s (Natalie Portman: A Tale of Love and Darkness) husband returns to their remote homestead full of bullet holes, she knows that the Bishop Boys have found them at last. These outlaws have searched for years for the couple, vowing bloody vengeance. With her husband wounded and bleeding in their bed, Jane must leave to seek help.
    Taking her daughter to a friend’s home for safekeeping, she tracks down former fiancé Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton: Black Mass), a gunslinger whose talents earned him fame in the Civil War. Bitter that Jane married another man, Dan  tells her she’s on her own.
    Wasting its potential, this Western drama needs more grit and fewer flashbacks. Director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) fails to offer a strong point of view. He’s made a love story, a revenge story, a survival story and a Western. He overreaches. By including everything, there’s little to care about in a plot so thin.
    Jane’s character is especially undefined. She veers from delicate, traumatized flower to grim-jawed gunslinger. There’s no justification for her moods, and her reactions are often out of sync with her previous behavior. She has no problem shooting a man in one scene, then argues the sin of killing. Portman does what she can to keep Jane consistent, but it’s a losing battle.
    Most unforgivable is the grand showdown between Jane and the Bishops. O’Connor builds up to the gunfight admirably, but the confrontation gets perhaps 10 minutes of screen time.
    Neither effective melodrama nor thrilling Western, Jane is the type of film one might watch on a lazy Sunday when the remote is too far out of reach to bother flipping channels.

Fair Western • R • 98 mins.

Bay Weekly’s Dining Guide takes the guesswork out of where to go

You and the groundhog may disagree about how much more winter we’ll have.
    You may rejoice, or wince, at the decisions of caucusing Iowans.
    But no matter your views on politics or weather, I bet you’re tickled at the suggestion to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
    Then comes the tough question: Where will we go?
    Read on to answer that.
    Like Groundhog Day, Bay Weekly’s annual Dining Guide comes to you at the halfway point through winter. Your spirits need shoring up. By now, your snowbird friends have all flown to warmer climes. Cold has spent its bracing effect. You’ve seen about all you need of snow. Your woodpile is diminishing and your heat bills soaring. Your endurance is fraying. You’d really like to get away — were it not for the chains that bind you.
    An hour or two’s excursion for a good meal: That’s a renewable prescription for treating the midwinter blahs and brightening the seasonal-disorder blues.
    Our annual Dining Guide maps your way to eating out through much of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties. Each of the spots you’ll learn about in these pages will satisfy you in some special way.
    For relief from the midwinter blues, February ends with Annapolis Restaurant Week. From February 22 to 28, 42 Annapolis restaurants offer special prix fixe menus at lunch, dinner and, at some, breakfast.
    Speaking of breakfast, you’ve got choices near and far. In Severna Park, we recommend two of contributing writer and breakfast-out lover Bob Melamud’s favorites, Garry’s Grill and Cakes and Confections, both places where breakfast is only one option.
    In Annapolis, Chick & Ruths Delly is a natural. But have you thought of John Barry Restaurant & Bar
at O’Callaghan Hotel? Brunch at Metropolitan is a treat. In Galesville, Sunday brunch at Pirates Cove. In Deale, Happy Harbor serves breakfast seven days, and Dockside does on weekends.
    In Huntingtown, try Chessie’s or carryout at Bowen’s Grocery.
    Lunch and dinner? Depends on where you are and what you want.
    Want comfort food and the friendliness of a neighborhood tavern? Try Babes Boys in Upper Marlboro, Happy Harbor in Deale and Anthony’s in Dunkirk.
    Wanting to introduce visitors to Chesapeake ­specialties? You’ll find just what you want at Pirates Cove and Thursdays in Galesville.
    Want pizza? Try Rocco’s in Annapolis, Angelina’s in Edgewater, Chessie’s in Huntingtown or Brick Wood Fired Bistro in Prince Frederick. Have your pizza flatbread style at Metropolitan in downtown Annapolis.
    Want classic American? How about Preserve, in Annapolis, named for a focus on pickling, preserving and fermenting? Or Brick Wood Fired Bistro, where, says owner Jason Nagers “we’re all about fire.”
    Want ethnic? For Italian, try Luna Blu in Annapolis or Angelina’s.
    For Irish, try John Barry in Annapolis and Babes Boys in Upper Marlboro.
    Want Swiss, sort of? Try The Melting Pot.
    Want German? Naturally, it’s The Old Stein Inn and Bier Bär in Edgewater.
    For French, it’s Café Bretton in Severna Park.
    For Spanish, Jalapeños. For Mexican? Jalapeños again, when you’re in the white-table-cloth mood. In the cantina mood, try Rivera’s Tex-Mex café in Severna Park.
    Want sushi? Tsunami, of course, in Annapolis, but you’ll also be pleasantly surprised at Umai Sushi House in Deale, where Korean cuisine is the other specialty.
    Want Thai? Lemongrass in Annapolis.
    Want Chinese? Try Hunan L’Rose in Odenton.
    Want fun with your food? Try Anthony’s Bar and Grill in Dunkirk.
    Want sports while you eat and drink? There’s Dockside and ­Thursdays in Owings.
    Need fish and meat to cook at home? Bowen’s Grocery features an old-fashioned butcher shop plus fresh oysters and crabmeat. For more fresh seafood, try Chesapeake Seafood in Edgewater. For locally raised beef, pork, chicken, lamb and eggs, the place is En-Tice-Ment farm-raised meats in Harwood and at farmers markets.
    How about some of the best baked treats in town? Cakes and Confections is the place.
    All of these special places share one particular ­quality to recommend them to you as a Bay Weekly ­reader: They’re our partners in bringing you this weekly paper. Without them, there’d be no Dining Guide or Free Will Astrology for you. No News of the Weird or Creature Feature. No 8 Days a Week or Sky Watch. No Bay ­Gardener or Sporting Life. And in their place, you’d have to find your own.
    So use your Dining Guide. Keep it for future reference. Use it to figure out where to go out. Enjoy your meals, and — please — say Bay Weekly sent me.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Four Coast Guardsmen attempt an impossible rescue in this stirring drama

In an intense Nor’easter, The Pendleton cracks in half off the coast of Cape Cod. The men on the stern watch in horror as massive swells swallow half of their oil tanker. As they’re taking on water fast, engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck: Interstellar) knows that they have only hours afloat.
    But all the Coast Guard’s large boats are working to save another oil tanker.
    A small Massachusetts town sends out the only boat left, a 35-footer captained by Bernie Webber (Chris Pine: Z for Zachariah). Webber and his team of three volunteers know the mission may mean death. Even if they can pass the treacherous breaking waves at the mouth of the harbor, their tiny boat will be tossed like a bath toy by the 40-foot swells.
    With thrilling cinematography, stirring performances and lots of over-emphasized Massachusetts’ accents, The Finest Hours is a crowd-pleasing drama. Director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm) contrasts the human drama with the vast sea, its relentless power gorgeously shown in the initial breakup. Like the crew, we watch helplessly as water surges into the ship.
    Gillespie relies on archetypes to expedite the plot. Bernie is a quiet, almost timid man seeking to prove his mettle on this mission. Sybert is a stalwart engineer who refuses to give up. The performances of Pine and Affleck go a long way to humanizing these familiar types. Affleck in particular infuses Sybert with a crushing sense of reality. He holds little hope, but he also knows that panic will worsen their last hours.
    As Bernie, Pine plays surprisingly well against type. In a Jimmy Stewart-type role, he drops his usual confidence to offer a good take on an aww-shucks hero.
    Not high art or metaphor, The Finest Hours is a modern rarity: a good movie with mass appeal. Thrilling sea rescues, rolling waves and heroic performances offer a two-hour excuse to gobble popcorn and root for the good guys.

Good Drama • PG-13 • 117 mins.

Five planets shine at dawn

Sirius the Dog Star, blazes high in the south by 10pm. The brightest star, Sirius is easy to spot, but if you have any trouble, follow the three belt stars of familiar Orion down and to the left.
    Last week we traveled the Great Winter Circle, which encompasses Sirius. The Dog Star also anchors another asterism, the Winter Triangle. The other two points are Betelgeuse, marking Orion’s upper shoulder, and Procyon, the Little Dog in Canis Minor, which together with Sirius, the lowest of the three, form a near-perfect equilateral triangle.
    For the first time since 2005, all five naked-eye planets are visible, aligned on the arc of the ecliptic before dawn. This week they are joined by the moon, as well.
    Jupiter leads the way. Old Jove in fact rises due east a little after 9pm and as dawn approaches is high in the west-southwest. Friday you’ll find the moon midway between Jupiter and Spica, the first-magnitude star of Virgo. Then Saturday the moon is less than two degrees to the upper left of Spica.
    To the east of Spica is Mars, which rises around 1am. Sunday before dawn the last-quarter moon is midway between Spica and Mars. Early Monday morning, the moon is just a few degrees to the upper left of Mars. Keep an eye on the red planet, as it draws closer to earth — and brighter — over the coming months.
    Saturn is next in line, rising in the east-southeast after 3:30am. Before dawn Tuesday the moon is between Saturn to the east and Mars to the west. Wednesday the ringed planet is just a few degrees beneath the waning crescent moon.
    Venus rises in the southeast around 5:30am, and once it’s crested the horizon there should be no mistaking this morning star, which is brighter than all but the sun and moon.
    The last planet, Mercury, is another matter, rising in the southeast amid the gathering glow of dawn. While brighter than most stars, the innermost planet is so tight against the horizon that you’ll have an easier time spotting it with binoculars. This week Mercury is within 10 degrees of Venus but will close the gap in the coming week, climbing higher and growing brighter before daybreak.

Here’s how I know which to trust

In winter’s grip, there is nothing like a good nursery and seed catalog, full of colorful pictures of thriving plants, to put you in the mood for digging in the soil. These books may even encourage you to build a small greenhouse or hot bed to get started early.
    Which is why mailboxes fill up with seed and nursery catalogs this time of year.
    I receive many more catalogs than I keep because I discard those with altered images or illustrations to describe what they have to offer.
    There’s a difference between an honest-to-goodness nursery or seed producer and the books sent by wholesale distributors. Most wholesale distributors publish thin-paper catalogs full of pictures that have been enhanced using intensive colored ink or have colorful illustrations of plants and fruit. They also tend to run specials such as two to three plants for the price of one or two to three packets of seeds for the price of one.
    On the other hand, a quality nursery or seed catalog business will most often provide a business history, including location and the number of family generations involved. They will also include information on breeding and propagating practices and photographs of their fields and staff. Most of this type of information is missing in catalogs of wholesale distributors.
    Did you know that by law, catalogs that advertise plants must include in the ad the scientific Latin name of the plant, including genus and species. This is because the English name of plants can change from one part of the country to another, while the Latin name never changes.
    I save good seed and nursery catalogs for at least three years, using older ones as references. All nursery and seed catalogs have sensational new introductions every year, most often posted on the first few pages. To learn if the variety has survived the test of time, I locate the new and improved variety that appeared three years earlier and see if it appears in the 2016 catalog. If I find that variety in the 2016 catalog with even more glorious description, I know that it has gained good reviews and they are bragging. If the description has not changed, it means that the variety is still under study.
    Seed and nursery companies are in business for making money. Their intent is to offer only what sells. Since thousands of dollars are spent in developing new varieties, they cannot afford to carry varieties that do not sell.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

The waterfowl hunter is a different sort of man — or woman

The sound of a half dozen rapid shots followed by a pause, then two or three more measured reports rolled in from the nearby Magothy River. I was drinking my first coffee that morning, still in my bathrobe and looking out the front window when I heard the gunfire. It was bitter cold, windy, overcast and an altogether miserable morning. The duck hunters must be in heaven, I thought.
    Foul winter weather drives migrating waterfowl down the Atlantic Coast. It also moves birds that have already arrived off open wind-riven waters to seek shelter and food along the shoreline coves and the tributaries. That’s where these specialized hunters wait, crouching in blinds or shivering in layout boats next to scores of decoys, fingering long, slender shotguns and waiting for their quarry to be attracted into range.
    Waterfowl hunters are not like normal people. During duck and goose seasons, spates of sunny days and moderate temperatures send them into irritable funks. Forecasts of storm warnings and gusting winds, snow or rain, overcast skies and plunging thermometers cheer them and lighten their step.
    Waterfowling is a sport only for the hardy, those inured to harsh, frigid conditions and ready to expend any amount of effort in preparing for their sport. They must also be immune to long days of inaction, for experienced gunners know well that often the birds do not come to the hunter.
    The sport requires specialized hard-weather clothing, tough waterproof coats and trousers with heavily insulated cores. All come in camouflage patterns designed to make the wearer as inconspicuous as possible to the migrating ducks and geese. Those birds have virtually telescopic vision.
    It takes strength and good physical condition because gunning the Chesapeake requires an inordinate amount of hard labor. Preparing blinds and duck boats, lugging any number of decoys, setting them out before sunrise and carrying bags of gear: That kind of effort will raise a sweat and exhaust many before the first shot is even fired.
    Challenges are often extreme. The hardy, long-traveling, powerful birds that test these gunners do not seem bound by the normal physics of flight.
    I remember gunning many years ago on Lake Erie. I was in a layout boat behind four-dozen decoys on a blustery day inside Presque Isle Bay. A string of a dozen canvasbacks had plummeted in from on high. I rose up to lead the first duck by at least a half-dozen feet. My shot struck the water just behind the trailing duck as they flew off. If those geese weren’t exceeding 100 miles an hour, I’ll eat my hat and yours as well.
    In spite of the challenges, this sport has long had a hard corps of dedicated practitioners. And make no mistake, it isn’t strictly a man’s sport. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially these days, when the women in our military are earning Army Ranger badges and queuing up to compete for the most exclusive areas of Special Forces.
    Woman or man, the waterfowl hunter is a different sort of individual.

Make a habit of carrying out lunch, and you’ll be as bad as Jonas

Talk about leaving behind litter!    
    Snowstorm Jonas has left us tons to recycle. Mother Earth will do much of the job, melting the snow and filtering it into groundwater aquifers. Where the piles rise into mountains — as in RFK Stadium where D.C. snow is dumped — a tractor-trailer-sized melter hired from Indiana is speeding up the return of snow to water, which will then be treated before entering the stormwater sewer system that eventually leads to the Bay.
    However all this snow melts, much of it is Chesapeake bound, sped along by our rooftops, driveways, sidewalks and roads.
    Of course Jonas will stick us with the bill.
    Stormwater is a recycling issue for which we’d rather not be held accountable.
    On other recycling fronts, we’re much more responsible.
    At household recycling, many of us are champions. Throughout Anne Arundel County, yellow 65-gallon cans line our roadsides on recycling day. Second nature as that recycling seems now, it didn’t happen by accident. Anne Arundel County has waged a two-decades-long campaign to achieve 44 percent recycling. We’ve had lots of help in learning our lesson: tutoring, free ever-larger recycling containers, curbside pickup.
    Yet there’s a backside to that success story. Over half of Anne Arundel household waste ends up as trash, no matter how easy it’s been made for us to avoid that sad ending for the discards of our purchases.
    Old habits are hard to change, and new ones even harder to form.
    Retraining ourselves to restrain our carryout lunch waste is the challenge we take on in this week’s feature story, Lunch to Go.
    The story was born in our own habits. On most any given day, two or three people in the Bay Weekly office order carryout — with all its packaging.
    Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat?
    Reducing our carryout waste, Knotts writes, begins with a pledge to make lunch greener, starting with small steps.
    As an office, we’re creating our own habit-changing support system. Our waste inventory was Step 1, this story Step 2 in building self-awareness of our habits. Next comes stepping up to a commitment to reduce our waste.
    We have Fiesta Ware dishes and our own flatware. So we’re reminding ourselves and one another to tell restaurants to skip the utensils. We’ll be asking restaurants that use polystyrene to make the switch, and we’ll avoid them if they won’t. We’re handing out this article to managers when we pick up carryout.
    We’re also asking what each of us can do personally, based on our own habits. Some pledge to carry personal to-go kits, so we can package our own leftovers when we eat out.
    Kathy’s seen the video of a sea turtle having a straw forcibly removed from its nostril. So she pledges to buy and use a glass or metal straw instead of grabbing the hard-to-identify plastic straws at restaurants. (There are plenty of places to buy reusable lunch ware; her favorite is reuseit.com.)
    What can you do to green your lunch? How far are you willing to go? Write kathy@bayweekly.com or visit the Bay Weekly Facebook page.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Now at home in Maryland Zoo

He wasn’t a fish out of water, but just the same, he was not where he should be. The young sandhill crane was discovered in western Maryland, walking down the center lane of a highway and hanging out in a Home Depot parking lot.
    The tall, gray birds with long necks and legs are normally found this time of year in the southern portions of the U.S. and northern Mexico. They are not endangered, and populations thrive in their natural range, sometimes in huge flocks. They are infrequently seen this far east, although Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports that their range is gradually spreading east. Last summer one breeding pair nested in Garrett County. Perhaps they were the parents of this wanderer?
    “Our response team received multiple reports of the crane before we were able to get our hands on him,” says Karina Stonesifer, associate director of Maryland Wildlife and Heritage. “Every time we would get to the site, he’d be gone. We finally met the bird about a week later, and he was pretty funny, coming toward us as if wanting to be acknowledged and then quickly dipping off and running. This was the first time any of us had ever handled this species in the wild.”
    The 18-month-old bird, named Garrett for the county of his discovery, was eventually captured and brought to the Maryland Zoo for medical ­attention.
    Healthy but thin, the bird appeared unafraid of zoo staff, opting to follow them rather than keep his distance. The bird was probably being fed by humans, according to Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager at the Maryland Zoo. Thus Garrett cannot be released into the wild.        
    The zoo has given him a permanent home in its Maryland Wilderness Marsh Aviary.
    “We have a wide array of native birds in the aviary,” says Kottyan, “and Garrett seems to be settling in nicely.”

Take the bus instead of riding with this comedy

Rookie cop Ben (Kevin Hart: Get Hard) is still hoping to prove himself to his future brother-in-law James (Ice Cube: The Book of Life), one of Atlanta’s toughest cops. Ben’s urgency to insert himself in James’ cases typically ends in gunfire.
    When a mission ends in disaster, James has one chance to salvage his drug case: travel to Miami to apprehend a hacker who knows who’s supplying Atlanta’s dealers. James prefers to work alone, but he acquiesces to his sister’s pleas and takes Ben along.
    Will he kill Ben on the way?
    Bland, unoriginal and offering barely a laugh, Ride Along 2 is so perfunctory that it’s a wonder the actors don’t have scripts in their hands. The film rehashes the plot of the first film, losing the chemistry Ice Cube and Hart built.
    Director Tim Story (Think Like a Man Too) doesn’t bother with pace, plot or scene, though he does lovingly pan over wet bikini bodies every few minutes to make sure people are paying attention.
    Hart, who has made a career of being the shortest, loudest person in the room, continues his shtick. He screams, flails, bugs his eyes out and falls over. Though the physical gesticulations are eye-catching, Hart seems oddly flat. As he mumbles his way through the dialog, you can almost see him calculating the residual checks he’ll earn from this heartless sequel.
    Story seems to have an odd effect on funny men, sapping their timing. Hart isn’t the only struggling comedian. Neither can Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken) find a consistent tone. Sometimes sleazy, sometimes hysterical, his hacker is unfunny and perplexing.
    Oddly, straight man Ice Cube is the best comedian, as he growls at Jeong and snarls insults with just enough venom to get laughs.
    Ride Along 2 is typical of the mid-January junk studios dump on unsuspecting viewers.

Poor Comedy • PG-13 • 102 mins.

The Great Winter Circle beckons

The cold crisp air that might otherwise keep you inside provides some of the clearest and darkest skies of the year, so even with this week’s bright moon, some major stars and constellations stand out against its glare.
    Sunset Thursday finds the near-full moon high in the east, between Betelgeuse, the shoulder of Orion, below, and the twins of Gemini, Pollux and Castor, above. From these two stars wends the stars the Great Winter Circle, more aptly called the Great Winter Hexagon, which contains seven of the 23 brightest stars.
    To trace this asterism, begin with blueish-white Pollux (17), then look to honey-orange Castor (23) higher in the north. From there shoot to the northeast to golden Capella (6) of the constellation Auriga the charioteer. Next, drop southwest to red Aldebaran (14), the eye of Taurus the bull. Now shift your gaze to Orion’s foot, blue-white Rigel (7). Farther south is the hunter’s great dog, Canis Major, marked by Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. Back to the northeast you’ll find the Little Dog Canis Minor and its lead star Procyon (8). Return to Pollux and you’ve closed the loop. While not part of the circle, Betelgeuse sits right in the middle and is the 10th brightest star.
    As the sun sets Saturday, January’s full Wolf Moon climbs into the eastern sky, trailing Castor and Pollux and to the left of Procyon. By Monday the now-waning gibbous moon has left behind the Great Circle and is just a few degrees to the south of another stellar luminary, Regulus (21), the heart of Leo the lion. Tuesday the moon is midway between Regulus to the west and Jupiter to the east. Wednesday night through dawn next Thursday, the moon is 10 degrees below Jupiter.
    Brighter than any star, Jupiter rises due east just after 9pm and is at its highest in the south at 3am. By that time Mars, rising around 1:30am, will be well above the southeast horizon. Saturn rises just after 4am, followed 90 minutes later by Venus, brighter than all but the sun and moon. Saturn and Venus are about 15 degrees apart, but the Morning Star sinks lower day by day while Saturn inches higher. As the coming sun starts to glow in the east, see if you can spot Mercury low against the horizon; binoculars may help spot this last of the naked-eye planets.