By Steve Herte
The Avengers – 3D (2012)
To avoid crowds I purposely held out seeing this first of the blockbusters of the year (many would disagree with this being the first, but it’s the first that wowed me) so that I could view it in 3D in relative comfort, and it worked. The theater was still crowded but not with the riff-raff who talk, text and kick your seat while eating vile-smelling, noisy garbage from the concession stand. Where to start?
The movies that preceded this one, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man 1 & 2, were adequate preparations for this film. Loki, Thor’s brother (adopted, according to Thor) makes a deal with an alien race to capture and use the tesserat (a sparkling, glowing sky blue plastic cube – source of unlimited power) to create a wormhole to Earth, through which their hordes could swarm and conquer and name him lord of all.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) meets Loki (Tom Hiddleston) when the tesserat goes super special effects and Loki is transported to Earth. The tesserat is swiped, Loki gets away and everyone has to scramble to escape the complete implosion of their secret compound. Captain America is brought out of cryogenic sleep (he’s literally on ice), Black Widow attempts chasing Loki but falling debris hampers her vehicle and Nick realizes he needs a team to find Loki, stop him from whatever he’s going to do and retrieve the tesserat (which he intends to use as the ultimate military weapon, not the source of providing endless renewable power for all on Earth).
The team is far from that in the beginning as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) doesn’t play nicely with others, by his own admission; Captain America (Chris Evans) – a rather corny, confused soldier from a previous century trying to adapt to this one; David Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is doing good curing decease in India while keeping stress to a minimum; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) goes after Loki solo believing he is solely responsible for protecting Earth; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansonn) – one of the two least developed characters – is working for Nick Fury but unaware of his ulterior motives; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – the other least developed character – has already been bedazzled by Loki’s scepter and is working for him and shoots a mean bow and arrow, and are basically all loners and divas.
Fortunately, the movie’s 2 hours and 23 minutes supply ample time for them to realize they have to work together to not only stop Loki but fight the endless stream of alien creatures on aerial ski-mobiles and snaky armored monsters flowing from the hole in the sky terrorizing and devastating New York City. (Did you know that Stark Industries bought the MetLife building and replaced it with their new tallest building in New York?)
It’s pretty much non-stop action throughout without any dead spots. Even the slow scenes are interesting. The dialogue is well written, very clever, most of the good jibes are given to Downey, who executes them beautifully, and the script is good. The special effects in 3D are eye-popping and – believe it or not – I had no problem with the science accuracy. The only thing that keeps The Avengers, which I rate four martini glasses, from the fifth is the cast.
Iron Man – excellent, Hulk – another excellent although David Banner is not, Captain America – eh in the beginning but he grew into the part, Hawkeye – needed more, not enough exposure, Black Widow – lost in the shuffle, Nick Fury – definitely the Marvel Comics character. Otherwise, The Avengers is great family entertainment – no sex or obscenities – but beware parents, lots of gratuitous violence. At one point Loki makes the mistake of demanding that the Hulk treat him like the god he is. The Hulk picks him up by his feet in one hand and repeated slams him on the concrete and walks away.
The Statler Grill
136 West 33rd Street (6th / 7th), New York
The Statler Grill is named after Ellsworth Statler who ran the Hotel Pennsylvania from 1919 to 1945. With 40 years of restaurant business experience, it amazes me that this mid-sized steakhouse escaped my notice, considering how many times I came to the Hotel Pennsylvania for karaoke (they had it every night, seven days a week) but I’m glad I finally dined there.
About mid-way on 33rd Street between 6th and 7th avenues, you see the gray awnings announcing its presence. Inside, a charming young lady led me to my table, which actually was a black leather banquette for two with dark wood “arm rests” on either side surmounted with brass rails – looked like a throne to me. The décor makes good use of mirrors and shaded chandeliers to give the “goes on forever” look to a coffee colored, homey maze of tables and niches.
My waiter was a sturdy, stereotypical steakhouse attendant, built like a linebacker and wearing the standard nearly-floor length apron. When I told him to compliment the bartender on the fifth best martini in New York, he revealed that he had made it – I was agog. Another server brought a half-loaf of bread on a cutting board with the knife jutting out of it. It turned out to be more than half-stale, but I got two decent slices from it, not intending to fill up on bread. That was the only downer.
The chalk board above me announced Oysters Rockefeller as a special while the video screen facing me played the Rangers/Devils game (an embarrassing performance by the Rangers, by the way). After determining from my waiter’s advice that the “Hash Browned Potatoes” were not shredded, and therefore not Hash Browns, I ordered the Oysters Rockefeller, an 8-ounce Filet Mignon (Black and Blue), a side of Truffled Sauteed Mushrooms, and a bottle of 2010 “Passo Double” Argentinian Malbec. The oysters were tender and buttery and the spinach and breadcrumb topping an ideal accent, not a competitor for flavor. The Filet was an inch-plus thick, blackened on the outside and rare inside, grilled perfectly and delicious. The side dish was an erotic mélange of crimini, Portobello, and shiitake mushrooms scented with white truffle oil, almost gilding the lily. The wine made the meal. I have become quite a fan of Malbec and never been disappointed.
Since there was nothing exciting and different on the dessert menu (and I was full, anyway), I finished with a good cup of regular coffee. I was still amazed that a restaurant, especially a steakhouse, could exist in the same neighborhood as Keens Steakhouse, and Nick and Stef’s for so long and escape my visit, but I intend to return.