Skyfall into Blue Water
By Steve Herte
After a much needed day at work (I never thought I would ever say that) it was good to indulge myself in a wonderful movie and an equally wonderful reliable restaurant. I guess the "being back at work" represents a return to normalcy for me and I really like my routine. If I want my routine broken, I'll do it myself, thank you Mother Nature. That said, please enjoy the latest Dinner and a Movie.
Skyfall (MGM, 2012) – Director: Sam Mendes. Starring Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes.
The long-awaited next episode in the James Bond series featuring Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s unbeatable operative opened to packed theaters (including the one I was in) and delivered the action-packed thrill ride everyone expected. The opening scene in Istanbul explodes onto the screen with an incredible car chase. It changes to motorcycles on narrow rooftops and through the crowded bazaar, to a white-knuckle fist-fight on top of a moving train going through several tunnels and over an impressively high viaduct. That’s where Bond is picked off by another operative, Eve (Naomie Harris) trying to shoot the man he’s fighting but fires on orders from “M” (Dame Judi Dench). As Bond falls into the raging river and sinks below the surface, the theme song for Skyfall begins and the audience knows that this is a James Bond film in the traditional sense from the kaleidoscopic special effects throughout the richly-arranged song, sung alluringly by Adele.
But fear not, James is not dead. He is nursed back to health by the beautiful Tonia Sotiropoulou and he’s perfectly content to stay with her until the new villain, Mr. Silva (Javier Bardem) attacks MI6 headquarters with a remotely operated computer system that causes a disastrous gas explosion orchestrated so that “M” would be able to view it, rather than be the victim of it. MI6 is forced to relocate underground “in Winston Churchill’s secret bunker” to continue functioning and Bond returns only to face the fact that he has to pass several “tests” to be re-approved for field duty.
Meanwhile, Silva has obtained the file containing the names and information on all of the top field agents operating all over the world and intends to publish them, five at a time per week, on the internet, thus ensuring their capture and execution. If that weren’t bad enough, the prime minister has convened a review board to determine the effectiveness and necessity of MI6 and its “antiquated” and now deadly failed methods, forcing “M” to fight for her organization before the committee, led by member of Parliament Clair Dowar (Helen McCrory).
“M” gives Bond a “by the skin of your teeth” passing rate on his tests and sends him after Mr. Silva to prevent him from publishing any more names. Ralph Fiennes plays Gareth Mallory and is brought in to assist Bond. Ben Whishaw plays the outrageously young “Q,” a computer genius who supplies Bond with a pistol that is coded to his palm alone and cannot be fired by anyone else and a matchbox-sized radio which, when engaged, acts as a beacon to locate him. Needless to say, Bond is not impressed.
The scene changes to modern Shanghai, China, and we are treated to stunning nighttime shots of the glittering towers and gaudy neon displays as Bond stealthily creeps up on an assassin on the 72nd floor (he hangs on to the underside of an elevator to get there) through a glass maze while garish advertisements play from the building next door. The scene is artfully done and the tension is built by both the lighting and the background score. Unfortunately, the assassin claims his victim and falls to his death before Bond can learn anything from him except that the next stop is Macau.
There is much traveling back and forth through fabulous places photographed so well one wishes to go see them in person until we learn that Mr. Silva was the top agent in MI6 before Bond and he felt betrayed by “M,” who is his major eventual target. James drives her (in his traditional Aston-Martin) to the lonely moors of Scotland, to his boyhood home, Skyfall – a crumbling mini-mansion standing alone in a desolate landscape. When they arrive they are greeted by Kincade (Albert Finney) who has been the caretaker since James was a boy and together, the three of them fight of a small army of Silva’s men using shotguns and dynamite against a military helicopter and automatic weapons.
When Silva destroys Bond’s beloved car he really gets mad and rigs the whole house to blow, killing all but two of Silva’s men and Silva. Again, the audience is heaped with more stunning cinematography and artful camera angles. As Bond runs to escape the inferno we hear, “I never really liked that place.”
Skyfall is the link between the three prequel movies starring Craig and the rest of the Bond series. It has everything a great movie should have. The love scenes are not prolonged and the action scenes are. Judy Dench does her usual great acting and Craig is Bond, no doubt about it. The only thing I regret about Skyfall is that there are no characters I could identify with. Even Silva is not quite villainous enough (in fact he’s somewhat effeminate). The story is great, the writing is very clever (“I like you better without your berretta.” – Bond to Sévérine, played by Bérénice Marlohe, in her shower) and the scenery and photography is spectacular.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini glasses.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini glasses.
“M” dies at the end and is replaced by Mallory. Eve comes out of field duty to become Eve Moneypenny, and the links to the other Bond films are forged.
Blue Water Grill Jazz Room (downstairs)
31 Union Square West (16th Street), New York City
The Blue Water Grill has been serving excellent seafood for a good many years now and is a staple in the Union Square area. Its nearness to my movie theater precipitated my return visit as well as the curiosity about the “Jazz Room” which I had not experienced the first time.
The large blue and white banner between the marble columns outside welcomes you and you are directed down a flight of stairs to the glossy golden room where jazz hangs out. After my coat and bag were checked I was led to a table directly in front of the small stage where a three-man combo, two guitars and a drummer would play selections like Little Red Rooster sounding like a smooth melding of Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. I had to wonder what part of rhythm and blues was actually jazz, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
After explaining to my lovely, vivacious waitress, Caitlin that I was the opposite of James Bond – gin, not vodka, stirred, not shaken – she brought me a satisfactory Beefeater martini (a little too much ice was used to chill it) and presented me with the menu and listed the specials. The menu is divided into Raw Bar, Sushi and Sashimi on the left and Appetizers, Entrees and Sides on the right. I decided to start with a Maki Roll called “Rainbow” which features five fish, tuna, hamachi, salmon, fluke and tobiko, rolled with cucumber, avocado and rice, topped with red caviar. The combination of flavors and textures were as delightful to eat as they were beautiful to look at, being neatly arranged on a long, narrow porcelain plate. I asked Caitlin for a Chablis to accompany the meal and she immediately brought the wine list and indicated a choice of two – including my choice, the 2010 Le Fevre – crisp, light and medium bodied and perfect.
When she gave the specials, Caitlin caught my attention with the Special Caesar Salad which was made with Brussels sprouts, so I chose that, and for my main course I selected the Crisp Golden Snapper – served with Swiss chard on jalapeño whipped potatoes and grain mustard in a red wine jus. The Caesar Salad was like none I’ve had before. It was finely chopped and the main flavor was the Brussels Sprouts instead of the garlic dressing. Anchovies were nowhere to be found (good, I don’t care for them) and the “croutons” were two halves of a toasted slice of baguette. I loved it. The snapper was an inch high rectangle of juicy flakey fish topped by a crispy crust surrounded by the spicy whipped potatoes and tender Swiss chard – an excellent dish.
I had room for a side dish, so the Three Cheese Polenta made its glorious appearance in a steaming hot iron dish topped by crisp bacon. My waitress stated that she could eat a bucket of it and, after tasting the pull-y, cheesy, bacon-y decadence that it was, I agreed.
The music was mellow, the wine was mellow and so was I as dessert time arrived. Advised by Caitlin I chose the trio of sorbets – Key Lime, Concord Grape, and Coconut – a perfect follower for my meal. The key lime was tart, the grape was not quite Welch’s but good and the coconut was creamy and full of coconut flavor. I ordered a double espresso and a fine glass of Peller Ice Wine and thoroughly enjoyed my remaining time at Blue Water Grill’s Jazz Room before heading home for the night.