Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Dinner and a Movie

Looper from San Marino

By Steve Herte 

Looper (DMG Entertainment, 2012) Director: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo, & Jeff Daniels. 

Suspend your scientific facts all who enter the theater! Although the opening monologue to Looper states, “time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it will be…” this movie goes beyond improbability right to temporal paradox. We definitely will find this title in the dictionary under “science fiction.”

 Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the part of a man named Joe whose job it is to kill and dispose of “criminals” from the future, sent through a time machine that is similarly constructed to a 1910-era diving bell to his year, 2044. Apparently, there is nowhere in 2074 to dump bodies (this is not explained), so they send them back in time (which is illegal, so it’s essentially a mob hit). His weapon of choice is a “Blunderbuss” (another anachronism) which is a tricked-out, army-issued telescope you just aim and shoot – it emits a loud, thudding sound and powerful blast, and the victim is dispatched in one shot. You roll him over to retrieve your pay for the hit in silver bars packed into a backpack strapped to his shoulders. (Does any of this remind you of Judas?) You celebrate the “closing of a loop” at a local bar and get your next assignment and its location.

Our main character (and several others of his time) is addicted to an unnamed drug that is induced through eye-drops. That, and the weapon are the only futuristic gimmicks (aside from the time travel machine itself) in the film. People who think vulgarity is funny will be delighted that 30 years into the future they still haven’t found a new word to replace f***. A Looper knows his own loop is going to be closed when the future thugs send themselves back – enter Bruce Willis, Joe plus 30 years – and on his back are gold bars instead of silver. The Looper then has 30 years left to live it up, unless, of course, he lets the target run. Bruce pops out of the time portal, turns his back to himself, the gold protects him from the Blunderbuss’ blast; he throws something at young Joe, knocks him out and runs.

From then on, Bruce tries to redirect young Joe’s life to avoid the future. He tells him of a mob boss called simply “The Rainmaker” (a super-telekinetic Capo-di-tutti-capi), who is responsible for the hapless time travelers. Bruce figures out that there were three children born in 2044 who could possibly grow up to be this character and he intends to kill all three to change the future. Meanwhile, in his race to escape the other Loopers trying kill him for failing his latest job, young Joe finds and endears himself to Sara (Emily Blunt), the mother of Cid (Pierce Gagnon), the exact child Bruce wants to kill.

At this point, a cheerleader’s head would be spinning. It’s an interesting movie with good acting jobs by the main characters (although Gordon-Levitt vacillates between good and wooden). It also boasts impressive stage sets (Shanghai is amazing in 2044!), some good special effects, and a non-intrusive musical soundtrack (you know it’s there but you don’t remember it). Bruce looks and acts better than ever, even though he’s played this character over and over. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is well cast to be his younger self, right down to the squinty eyes.

Spoiler alert: at the end of the movie, young Joe sees Sara’s point and has a view of the future old Joe didn’t and he turns the Blunderbuss on himself and dies, causing old Joe to disappear. We however, must only guess that the future is saved. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 Martini glasses.

San Marino Soho
66 Charlton Street (Varick), New York

This self-described “Ristorante elegante” caught my attention with the photo of the main dining room on its website. The deep cherry-wood and glass walls and peaked glass ceiling with a beautiful, complex glass chandelier mysteriously suspended from it immediately caught my eye. Located in the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton, I almost missed it when walking by. The somewhat narrow bar is set back from the sidewalk behind an outdoor café and leads to the Captain’s station. From there it opens up to the bar dining area and farther to the main room, and a short left to the private party room. I was seated under the central chandelier and had a good view of the entire space. The upper wall leading to the private room is crowned with a beautiful mural depicting a large Italian family at dinner. A party of four was dining to my left.

After assuring me that the bar had Beefeater’s gin, Miguel, my waiter, cordially took my martini order and gave me the menu. Shortly after it arrived a younger server brought the breadbasket containing three different breads – all slightly less than fresh – two wrapped pats of butter and an attractive bottle of spicy olive oil. This made the bread a lot better. The martini was very nice. The wine list featured several affordable and choice wines. I chose a 2010 Malbec from Mendoza vineyards to accompany my meal.

The menu is divided into Appetizers, Salads (Insalata), Soups, Pastas, and Main Courses and had several enticing dishes, including a favorite of mine, Saltimboca ala Romana. However, I wanted to try something unique. Miguel advised me of the specials, a double-cut veal chop which was impressive from his description and a Tuna dish. He also assured me that half-orders of pasta were available. So, I decided to make it a “mushroom night.” The wild Portobello Mushroom appetizer with Buffalo Mozzarella melted perfectly on top and drizzled with juices from the Portobello as well as Truffle Oil. They were a little smaller than I’m accustomed to but they were juicy and full-flavored and, as it turned out the perfect size for an appetizer.

The Ravioli della Nonna stuffed with fresh ground veal and in a lovely Morel (the American truffle) cream sauce was definitely erotic, especially mounded with freshly-shaved parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The bread helped finish every drop.

My main course, Scaloppini Al Marsala con Tre Tipe de Funghi (the first word misspelled in the title on the menu), was an excellent dish. The veal was pounded flat and tender, and as well as being juicy, it was literally invisible under a blanket of sliced shiitake, crimini and Portobello mushrooms in a wonderful Marsala wine sauce. Flanking the veal were three quarter-potato slices deep fried and crispy that helped to get every drop of the sauce.

Now some may say that Tiramisu is the best Italian dessert, but it turns up too often and not just on Italian menus. My favorite is Zabaglione, but I didn’t let Miguel get to the end of the spoken dessert menu. When he said “Tartuffo” I knew what I wanted. Yes, it’s a simple vanilla and chocolate ice cream molded around a maraschino cherry and covered in chocolate, but I don’t often see it and I love it (especially when I don’t have to cut it open, as was this case).

The party of four had long since left so I enjoyed a double espresso and a nice glass of Port wine to finish a wonderful meal and wonder why San Marino isn’t packed on a Friday night. I also wondered how Miguel knew I was going to write a nice review.

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