Dinner and a Movie
By Steve Herte
Once again in my Ivory Tower on the 28th floor of the UN One Hotel (44th Street and 1st Avenue) I’m on my stay-cation for 2013. After breakfast tomorrow I head down to Coney Island to visit the Aquarium (or what’s been repaired after Super-Storm Sandy) and then hopefully ride the Wonder Wheel before singing karaoke on the boardwalk with my friends Scott and Mary. There are usually many singers available so I’ll be happy with my one signature song, “Jump In The Line” by Harry Belafonte. It’s fun to sing and the audience loves it, and . . . it’s appropriate for the beach. Then it’s back to Manhattan to maybe see a movie in my room and go to dinner at a little French Bistro called “Deux Amis” (two friends). Tonight, though, I’m going Italian at the Osteria Laguna. Ciao, and enjoy!
Smurfs 2 (Columbia, 2013) – Director: Raja Gosnell. Cast and Voices: Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Jacob Tremblay, Mr. Krinkle, Katy Perry, Christina Ricci, Jonathan Winters, J.B. Smoove, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, John Oliver, Frank Welker, Tom Kane, Fred Armisen, Gary Basaraba, Jeff Foxworthy, Alan Cumming, Paul Reubens, Shaquille O’Neal, & Jimmy Kimmel. Color, 105 minutes.
Gargamel (Azaria) is now a big performance star in the Paris Opera House doing a magic act using real Smurf essence as magic and amazing audiences. But this doesn’t mean he’s no longer after the Smurfs. He realizes that he needs Smurf essence to continue his act and ultimately take over the world, so he hatches a plot to kidnap Smurfette (whom he previously created to infiltrate the Smurfs, but who was made a good Smurf by Papa Smurf) and force her to reveal the secret recipe for the essence. He opens a portal between Paris and Smurf village too small for himself but not too small for Vexy (Ricci) and Hackus (Smoove), two other of his creations. But they’re not blue – hence naughty – and depend on him for drops of essence.
Smurfette (Perry) is successfully kidnapped when she leaves the safety of the Smurf village believing that everyone forgot her birthday. Papa Smurf (Winters) has a limited supply of magic crystals to form a rescue posse and wants to choose Brainy (Armisen), Gutsy (Cumming), and Hefty (Basaraba), but due to a ruckus winds up with Clumsy (Yelchin), Grouchy (Lopez), and Vanity (Oliver). They go to New York where their friend Patrick (Harris) lives, for they know that he is the only person who can tell them the whereabouts of Gargamel, and therefore rescue Smurfette.
Patrick, his wife Grace (Mays) and their son Blue (Tremblay) are living their life constantly catering to their circle of boring friends, even to the point of making a low-cholesterol, environmentally-friendly, organic, peanut-free birthday cake for their son’s party. Victor (Gleeson), Patrick’s stepfather, appears uninvited with a wagonload of gifts and a basketful of corndogs for all the guests. “Are there any peanuts in those corndogs?” “No, of course not.” And after all the children take bites, “They’re deep-fried in peanut oil.” Needless to say many children have allergic reactions and the party is over.
The Smurfs arrive, explain their plight, and an unwilling Patrick is “voted” into helping them. They go to Paris, where Gargamel turns Victor into a mallard; Smurfette learns the fun of being naughty from Vexy and Hackus; and the rescue team overcomes several obstacles in accomplishing their goal before Gargamel accomplishes his.
This sequel proves the rule that sequels in general are not as good as the original movie. Azaria is still fantastic as Gargamel. Harris reveals that he actually can play a straight, non-annoying role (even though he’s a bit wishy-washy at it), the computer graphic department does an amazing job with the interaction of the Smurfs and live people (and Azrael’s constant antics and laughs), but the dialogue is dull and the jokes more often than not are corny to uninspired. The best part of the movie is when Smurfette uses her new wand (a birthday gift from Gargamel) to speed up the giant Ferris wheel in Paris to the point of its coming off its axle and rolling through the streets. I’ve already seen a similar scene in the trailers for Sharknado so it wasn’t that novel for me.
It’s a good film for families and there was one in front of me in the theater. But I never heard the children laugh at the funny parts. Maybe they didn’t understand them, but they didn’t even laugh at the obvious humor, i.e., when Gargamel reveals a flight-suit to glide from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the portal below and instead goes ricocheting down the side of the tower only to find that the portal is only big enough for his head. I laughed a few times but not as often as I would have liked. Even the heart-wrenching scenes were not enough to evoke tears. Then there was the Hackus, who really became annoying after a while. Oh well, it’s a sequel. Rating: 3½ out of 5 Martini glasses.
460 Greenwich Street (at Debrosses Street) New York
Only the address and the sidewalk café let one know that this six-year old Argentine restaurant exists. The name is written in small letters on the windows to the left and right of the main door. It’s a small place with a small bar on the right and a small dining area in back, all in white with dark wood tables and chairs. There are no tablecloths and only a half-dozen bare-bulb swags lighting the place. A floor-to-ceiling wine shelving unit dominates the left wall and sound travels freely. There is no room for a captain’s station and it took several minutes for someone to notice me waiting there. But eventually I was seated at the first table between the bar and the dining area.
My waiter, Juan greeted me and brought a glass of water and the menu, which had the wine list on one side and the food on the other. He asked if I would like a cocktail and I chose the El Fuego (The Fire) which turned out to be a deceivingly sweet drink with a surprise kick served in a vintage champagne glass. After reciting the daily specials Juan asked me if I wished to compose a three-course meal and I agreed. After ordering a 2009 Malbec varietal wine from Hacienda Del Plata “Arriero” (Mendoza) and tasting its rich, sharp, full bodied flavor I made my choices.
The first course was one of the specials. In fact I had to ask Juan to repeat its name because what he said in his thick accent sounded much more interesting than Potato Leek Soup. In fact it was more interesting, a pale green and a slightly rough purée with a swirl of olive oil in the center. It was delicious. Juan brought the breadbasket and a small dish of olive oil with chimichurri (chopped parsley and oregano mixed with garlic). Guess who finished that?
The second course was Argentine Empanadas filled with ground beef, Manchego cheese, and black beans accompanied by a small dish of olive oil with chimichurri. These were excellent finger-foods and were just hot enough to taste all the flavors but not to burn one’s fingers. The cheese and beef were wonderful together in the crispy dough coating and when you spooned the chimichurri onto it, it became a little bit of heaven.
On the menu, the dish I originally craved, Parillada, a typical multi-meat Argentine dish, was for two people. Instead I chose the Grilled Short Ribs with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and – you guessed it – more chimichurri. Two impressive slabs of dark ribs cut across the bones instead of along them, both wearing a green overcoat arrived flanking an Everest of mashed potatoes. Both were delicious. The ribs were a little chewy and slightly on the gristly side but I enjoyed the crispy parts. The potatoes were tasty but, I don’t particularly like mashed potatoes (even garliced) and most of them remained on the plate when I finished the meat. The wine wove through the meal like an expert shuttle through a tapestry.
Good thing I didn’t attempt to finish the potatoes, for now I had room for dessert: a good-sized dish of Fig Ice Cream swimming in Port wine. Not only was this dish transporting, it made one of the waitresses jealous. Then, a double espresso and a glass of New Orleans 10-year-old rye and I was ready for the check. What made me think of as dining in Edith Wharton’s kitchen (I visited her mansion) became a possible return visit to an Argentine restaurant I had missed for much too long – especially considering that I had to visit two websites to view their menu.
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