Thursday, August 16, 2012

Total Recall

Recalling Linda

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Note: Being safely ensconced in my Ivory Tower (the 36th floor of the Millennium Hilton U.N. Plaza) with a sweeping north view of Manhattan (enjoying a Stay-cation), I've checked on the movie capability of my TV. Though limited, there are a few choices and it's working! My Dinner and a Movie resulted in two pleasant surprises. I hope you enjoy them as well.

Total Recall (2012)

Having not seen the original version of this screen adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” I knew neither the story nor what to expect. So many science fiction stories suffer when they get to the big screen and this one had an established fame with Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, the trailers were intriguing, so I took the chance. 

It literally blew me away.

The movie opens with a view of Earth from space with a narrator telling us that living space is at a premium considering the population growth and that there are only two territories left, the UFB and The Colony (which look remarkably like the United Kingdom and Australia. There is only one mode of transportation between the two called The Fall, a monstrously large, multi-story contraption that free falls through the Earth past the core and decelerates out the other side. The story is of a man who thinks he’s Douglas Quaid, (Colin Farrell) happily married to his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), works at an assembly line making robo-cop clones and wishes there were more to life. He hears about Recall, a company that can implant memories of any exciting or adventurous episode directly into your mind so that you believe you actually experienced it.

When he goes to Recall, he chooses the one memory he shouldn’t: a secret agent/spy memory. The operators at Recall advise him not to choose a memory of something he already was, but he doesn’t know that he was a highly-trained top secret agent named Hauser and that his current life was programmed into him to keep him from being a danger to the ruling organization led by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), who is currently planning an invasion and racial cleansing of The Colony to make more space for his people. The hook-up at Recall stirs up memories of his real identity and he finds himself reacting to danger fast and furious. It scares him at first but as time goes by (and his loving wife tries to kill him when she suspects that he knows who he really is) he regains more and more of his previous identity. He learns that he must find a man named Matthias (Bill Nighy), the leader of the resistance to Cohaagen. He links up with Melina (Jessica Biel) in a fabulous hover-car chase that ends when he re-adjusts the car’s mechanism so that he can leave the highway and plummet to the street surface, only to re-engage the floating mechanism at the last second.

You have to keep on top of things in Total Recall because things are not always what they seem, but that in itself retains your interest. The stage sets and models are excellent, complex and exactly what one would expect in a future where space is desperately needed. In fact, these stage sets were what I expected in The Dark Knight Rises but weren’t. Total Recall is the very definition of an action film with only a few breathers and several white-knuckle moments. It’s exciting, visually stimulating and (surprise, surprise) well-acted. I believed every character portrayal, even when they changed personality. My only problem was with the final fight scene between Hauser and Cohaagen. How many times can you hit a guy in the head before he goes down for the count? And Cohaagen is an older man who fights as if he were much, much younger. Oh well, it didn’t hurt the plot, but it did add a little unnecessary length to a one-hour and 58-minute movie. 

Nevertheless, I got a “Wow” out of Total Recall and am interested to see the 1990 version.

Super Linda
109 West Broadway (Reade Street), New York City 

When this Latin Grill opened in October 2011, I had my doubts about it. First of all, it was occupying the space previously graced by Delphi, my benchmark Greek restaurant. Delphi was in that space before 1973, when I started working in downtown Manhattan (yes, I’ve been working for the same organization for more than 38 years) and I had dined there pleasurably several times. Secondly, I have a suspicion about anything using the adjective “super.” I believe you are either a “star” or you’re not. There is no such thing as a “superstar.” But that’s just me. Thirdly, a co-worker described Super Linda as a diner. This did not add any attraction for me. So, I didn’t know what to expect.

Entering from Reade Street, I was greeted by a young man who appeared at what was probably a coat-check room, but reminded me of a Punch and Judy show booth. A young lady led me to a table in the enclosed sidewalk café area right next to the waiters’ station (Red Flag, I’m in Siberia!) but I was not ignored. Quite the opposite. My waitress was a perky, friendly person who was genuinely glad to see me and was always alert to my possible needs. She brought me one of their original cocktails, the Savage Detective – a Mezcal Old-Fashioned with Sherry, Maple Syrup and Charred Pineapple – and I enjoyed it while reading the menu.

The menu is divided into Ceviches Y Mariscos (Seafood), Shared Plates, Entrees, From Our Grill, and Sides. I asked if I should choose one each from the first three, would it be too much and she said no, only if a chose the Ensalada Picada, which was large. Great! So I started with the Roasted Corn Soup with Huitlacoche cream and salsa. It was a wonderful yellow puree with the dark fungus cream swirled throughout giving it a musky overtone and the salsa sprinkled in the center added a nice spicy bite.

Next was the Crab and Uni Tostadas – two two-inch rounds of crispy tortilla topped with finely ground crab meat flavored with habanero and lime and crowned with a piece of Sea Urchin. Even though this dish should have come first – being a cold appetizer – I enjoyed every bite of it along with my main course (which arrived at the same time). The main course was a good-sized piece of Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin) crusted with plantains and served on a bed of green rice with baby peas and an onion salsa. The meat was flaky and perfectly cooked, and the spice added by the salsa was befriended by the rice so that it never became oppressive. A 2009 bottle of Argentine Malbec brought the whole meal together. Through the window to the street I watched people come and go while I had these wonderful Latin flavors and good wine.

Of course I had dessert, a lovely little cheesecake swirled with raspberry syrup and a guava sorbet, the perfect ending to a Latino meal. The Cappucino was no ordinary coffee, being spiked with Kahlua and Brandy. I left Super Linda with a new respect for the restaurant and a new place to enjoy a dinner.

For the Dinner and a Movie Archive, please click here.

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