Monday, August 27, 2012

ParaNorman in 3D

Dinner and a Movie

ParaNorman and the Copper Chimney

By Steve Herte

ParaNorman in 3D (2012) 

Welcome to the town of Blithe Hollow where we meet Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit­ McPhee) – the only person in town who can see and speak to the dead and zombies, and who sports a hairdo where every hair stands straight up as in fright (even when he combs it). His room decor is horror and creatures of the night. His mother, Sandra (Leslie Mann), is the ever-tolerant type who hopes he'll grow out of it, while his father, Perry (Jeff Garlin), would prefer it if he'd give it up and be a normal child. Norman has regular conversations with his grandma (Elaine Stritch), much to the dismay of his father and the embarrassment of his sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick). Norman is repeatedly bullied at school because of this gift by Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his schoolmates, whose idea of fun is to write "Freak" on his locker. His one friend is Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), the "fat kid" who also gets bullied constantly. His big brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) is a ripped vacant-headed body-builder, football-star guy and the object of Courtney's (Anna Kendrick) affection.

Blithe Hollow is a town that feeds off the tourism from the "Witch's Curse" and all the businesses have some form of creepy title (sort of a spoof on Salem, Massachusetts). What the townspeople don't know is that the witch's curse is real and if not for the efforts of Norman's Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), she would come back and raise the seven who condemned her as a witch back in Pilgrim days from the dead as zombies and create all sorts of havoc. In a very funny scene, Uncle Prenderghast dies (twice) and he appears to Norman in a stall of the boys’ restroom at his school. He tells Norman he has to keep the witch at bay by reading from the book his dead body is holding (another very funny scene) over the witch's grave. Apparently it puts her to sleep.

Norman doesn't know where the witch is buried, so he reads the book in the wrong place. The sun then sets and the dead are raised as zombies. He eventually finds the witch's grave (there's a tornado of fire rising from it - "Do you think that's it?" says his mother) and speaks to her. He convinces her that there are people who love her as well as people who were afraid of her and that he and she share that. She once again becomes the scared little Agatha Prenderghast (Jodelle Ferland), falls peacefully asleep on Norman's shoulder, and she and the zombies are released from this existence.

ParaNorman is a moral story of people who want to kill what they don't understand or fear (as the townspeople of Blithe Hollow try to do with Norman). It's also a tale of forgive and forget rather than taking vengeance. The animation is excellent; the voice characterizations are beautifully appropriate to the cast. The musical score accents the story without taking over and the 3D effects are controlled and not over the top. The only reason the movie did not get the fifth martini is that there is no way to rate the acting.

One last thing, a Cosby kid, Tempestt Bledsoe makes her voice heard as the big-bootied Sheriff Hooper and is hilarious. (Rating: 4 out of 5 martini glasses)
Copper Chimney
126 East 28th Street (Between Lexington and Park), New York City

After eating at more than 120 Indian restaurants, I thought I'd found them all until I received an e-mail from and read about the Copper Chimney. Being right in the heart of the Gramercy Park area abutting Kip's Bay, it was ideal for arranging my evening of movie and dinner. It's a simple storefront with a pink flag with white letters announcing its presence.

Inside, all is understated - cream walls with straw-colored cloth-covered sconces, dark­ wood-topped tables and chairs with steel legs and cream-colored banquettes. Aside from the Indian music softly piped through the place, there is no decoration to indicate its ethnicity. From the cocktail menu I selected "Liquid Copper" a surprisingly spicy drink made with mango-flavored rum, mango juice and spice (I couldn't isolate which, but it had a kick).

There were several dishes I have never seen on an Indian menu so I started with Tava Crab - a "House recommended!" dish of fresh flaked crab meat cooked with curry leaves, onions, tomato and ginger - served in a square bowl and looks like colorful confetti. It was wonderful and only slightly spicy. Next was the Mulligatawny Soup - described only as a soup made from lentils, "India's national soup" - it was different from every recipe I have had thus far. It wasn't as thick as some, wasn't served with a slice of lemon, but was a little spicier than most and had decent pieces of vegetables. It was served at the same time as the crab, but both dishes remained hot long enough for me to finish both and note that the spice factor from the two was cumulative, but pleasant.

I had advised my waiter that I intended to have a feast, so my main dish was Jardaloo Ma Gosht - lamb cooked with apricots in a saffron sauce and garnished with straw potatoes, a "Parsi specialty" - it was fabulous (and again, new to me). Fragrant Steamed Basmati Rice came with it. I ordered a side of Raita - cucumbers, onions and tomato in cold yoghurt - a good glass of Cabemet-Sauvignon, Onion Kulcha and cilantro-flavored flat bread. Everything was delicious.

There were only 13 tables (I guess the Indians are not superstitious about that number) so I got to meet some other diners. The couple across from me demurred at the waiter's offer of Indian Ice Cream until I explained to them that it contains neither ice nor cream and is not fattening. It should remain with the Indian name Kulfi.

I ordered my favorite, Gulab Jamun - malted milk dumplings in a honey and rose water syrup. They were hot and sweet, just as they should be. Now even though the menu states they serve tea, when I asked for Masala Chai (literally Spiced Tea - so Chai Tea is redundant, like Mount Fujiyama), the waiter told me they have no tea. An Indian restaurant without tea? What is this world coming to? No coffee either. I had to drink water with my dessert - the only disappointment. Otherwise, Copper Chimney was delightful.

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  1. Fine review Steve. This flick seemed to have plenty of fun with itself and made me laugh more than I actually expected. Problem is, it does take awhile to get it’s story going but once it does get going, it’s a fun little ride.

    1. From Steve:

      Thanks Dan. You're absolutely right. Paranorman does have great fun with itself and it does so with amazing stop-action photography. The movie industry has come a long way in that venue.