I continue to evaluate my weekly dining and entertainment column for ways to spread my reach. As much as I love rambling about the latest arthouse drama, I think there is potential to encompass more from a dining and entertainment spectrum.

With that said, I am starting my “Dinner and a Show” column series this week. This format will blend restaurant coverage with movie, TV and theater reviews into one article. To me, they are a perfect match. I often warmly reminisce about many lovely movie/dinner voyages I’ve had with my girlfriend and friends over the years. I hope this approach covers all bases for those in Western Massachusetts looking for an eventful night out.

Rail Trail Ale House, 23 Point Grove Rd., Southwick

Bar food is deceptively tricky to execute. The sinful decadence of a juicy burger or zesty wings can quickly turn into rancid leftovers in the wrong hands. In my experience, I have always appreciated the restaurants that incorporate craft and care into their comfort food staples.

Nestled in Southwick’s winding backroads, Rail Trail Ale House represents this magical formula in spades. The eatery welcomes patrons to a modern twist on the sports bar aesthetic. Walls are lined with luminous televisions cycling between the latest sports highlights, while the homey yet upscale decor sets a welcoming atmosphere to indulge in bodacious burgers and buckets of beer.

There are countless exemplary items on Rail Trail’s menu. The hand-breaded wings and chicken tenders capture a beautiful blend of rustic home cooking and upscale restaurant flair. They pair well with the trail’s spicy sauces, whether you are in the mood for classic buffalo or a garlic Parmesan dry rub. Other comfort food staples, like ooey gooey cheese fries and thin-crust bar-style pizza, also satisfy patrons’ cravings.

The Rail Trail Ale House has you covered if you want a mouth-watering meal in a cozy environment.

New to Theaters: “Bob Marley: One Love”

I know what you might be thinking, “Seriously, another music biopic?” Thankfully, “Bob Marley: One Love” sings a meaningful tune that eschews the all-too-common biopic contrivances, for the most part at least.

“Bob Marley: One Love” places its titular reggae star center stage in a refreshingly focused look back at an integral chapter in his illustrious career. As 1977 Jamaica falls into strife, Marley and his band, The Wailers, assemble an international music tour designed to combat their homeland’s senseless destruction with an uniting call for harmony.

Most biopics adhere to a copy-and-paste format, constructing a Wikiepedia-esque retelling that prioritizes streamlined highlights over substantial storytelling. In stark contrast, “One Love” harmonizes to the pitch of grander ambitions. “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green thoughtfully examines the intersection between Bob Marley’s pro-peace mantras against a society descending into violent upheaval. As countless parties impart their influence on Marley, the artist ultimately forgoes politicization and industry cynicism to create music that tears down the world’s divisive barriers. It is a joy to see a biopic reckon with the context surrounding its subject rather than forming a factory-assembled product.

Green’s portrait certainly endures inconsistencies; the film soars to an emotional crescendo in its first act that it never quite replicates for its remainder. While countless scenes of behind-the-scenes recording sessions are welcomed, “One Love’s” initially sharp political perspective erodes because of this diminishing focus. The third act is particularly hectic, sledgehammering in droves of exposition without giving these moments time to breathe.

Thankfully, the soulful performances always steer the film back toward genuine truths. Kingsley Ben-Adir delivers one of the better biopic performances in recent memory as the ubiquitous Bob Marley. The actor disappears seamlessly into his role, capturing the laid-back charisma and timeless idealism that made Marley so iconic. More importantly, Ben-Adir taps into Marley’s insular conflicts. Some of “One Love’s” best frames are when the actor conveys the weighty burden Marley faced in sharing the figure’s well-intended ideologies. Rising star Lashana Lynch is another standout as Bob’s partner and voice of reason.

“Bob Marley: One Love” does not revamp the biopic genre, but it does serenade viewers with a stirring, character-driven experience.

Matt Conway
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