Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Planes 2: Fire and Rescue

Dinner and a Movie

Flying Fire Fighters and Fabrick

By Steve Herte

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a small family reunion at my sister's house in Milford, Connecticut.

My niece Julie and her husband James were up from Florida with their one-year-old daughter Annabelle. When they named her I immediately thought of the beautiful poem by Edgar Allan Poe. When I heard that her middle initial was "E" (for Elizabeth) the reference was complete - Annabelle E! She's a very serious looking child, absorbing everything in her surroundings, and not leaving Mommy or Daddy (she can walk) until she decides it's safe to do so. In that way she's like I was (and still am partially). My guard is always up until you prove trustworthy. Probably that's why I have less than 100 on Facebook. But being cautious has worked for me in general. The few real adventures I engaged in were exciting but not life threatening. But over the years I've gained the ability to trust certain sources that were reliably consistent. One of these is Pixar (even though the Mouse that Roared swallowed them up) and the other is David Burke. Which brings me to this week's Dinner and a Movie. Enjoy!

Planes 2: Fire and Rescue (Disney, 2014) - Director: Roberts Gannaway. Writer: Jeffrey M. Howard. Cast/Voices: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Cedric the Entertainer, Dale Dye, Danny Mann, Barry Corbin, Regina King, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Curtis Armstrong, Corrie English, Matt Jones, Fred Willard, Bryan Callen, Danny Pardo, Erik Estrada, John Ratzenberger, Rene Auberjonois, & Kevin Michael Richardson. Color, 83 minutes.

It’s always amazing when a sequel out-entertains the original because of the extreme rarity of the occurrence. Planes 2 succeeds where others fail through the professionalism of the film artists and animators at Disneytoons. Although both Planes movies are spin-offs of Pixar’s Cars, the production rights go to Disney Corporation under the directorship of Roberts Gannaway. When I was anticipating seeing this film it was for the spectacular camera angles that were so realistic they swept me into the action of the moment and made me forget that the characters were talking vehicles (there’s not a person nor animal in the entire flick). My expectations were met and exceeded. I was glad I didn’t see it in IMAX or in just 3D, when I joined the audience in following (or preceding) Dusty Crophopper (Cook) as he soared in daredevil maneuvers between pylons, under bridges and in loop-the-loop flying. It was breathtaking and a little dizzying.

Dusty’s days as a racer plane are over when he tries a stall climb and strips a gear in his gear-box and learns from his able mechanic, the forklift named Sparky (Mann) that the replacement part isn’t being made anymore. Though his friends Dottie (Hatcher), Skipper (Keach) and Chug (Garrett) try to console him, he leaves their company and goes flying after dark, trying to push his engine “into the red zone,” which he was warned never to do again, stalls out, and careens into the local gathering place for his friends, setting it on fire. Mayday, the fire truck (Holbrook) can’t put the fire out by himself and enlists the help of both planes and cars to topple the water tower and extinguish it that way. This sparks an investigation by Ryker (Richardson) of TMST (“This Means Serious Trouble” suggests one character) Transportation Management Safety Team, with the result being that Mayday needs an overhaul because of his age and the “town” needs a second firefighter. Feeling guilty for being the cause of this, Dusty flies off to Piston Peak National Park to become trained and certified as such.

There he meets Blade Ranger (Harris) a serious helicopter, Maru (Armstrong) a whiz of a mechanic forklift, Windlifter (Studi) an enigmatic and stolid Cherokee helicopter, and Lil’ Dipper (Bowen), a star-struck tanker plane who has followed Dusty’s career avidly. Also in this group are Cabbie (Dye) a huge transport plane, and the Smoke Jumpers, Dynamite (King), Pinecone (English), Avalanche (Callen), Blackout (Pardo) and Drip (Jones). After Maru trades his landing gear for refillable pontoons Dusty starts his training with the reluctant Blade Ranger.

Meanwhile, Park Superintendent Cad Spinner (Higgins), a fast-talking luxury SUV, is holding a huge gala at his lodge and is expecting attendees and celebrities from all over (including Boat Reynolds and the Secretary of the Interior – voiced by Willard) and he doesn’t want to hear anything about a forest fire heading straight toward his lodge. This becomes the major challenge for the fire-fighting planes and the still uncertified Dusty, who has to prove himself in a real emergency.

I loved Planes 2 for the sheer scope of the film and the cast of excellent characters and their famous voices. In addition to those I’ve already discussed, Stiller and Meara voice two elderly recreational vehicles, revisiting the place where they first met. Estrada revisits his television role as a Police helicopter side-kick Nick ‘Loopin’ Lopez in CHoPS with Blade Ranger. Ratzenberger revives his part as Brodi and Auberjonois joins the cast as Concierge, a French-accented forklift at the lodge.

Bring the children to this movie and have a great time, though I would not suggest bringing babies. There are several scenes with loud noises and the babies in my audience did not react well to them. The film is squeaky clean with regard to language and any sexual content and the violence is played down. The worst expletives I heard were “Chevy!” and “Stick Shifts!”

Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

David Burke Fabrick
47 West 38th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)New York

Having dined at david burke and donatella (yes, all lower case, but now the David Burke Townhouse), Fishtail, Kitchen, and David Burke Prime at Foxwoods Casino, I was delighted to see a new David Burke establishment called Fabrick in the Archer Hotel. You could say I’m a fan of the chef, especially after meeting him at Kitchen in the James Hotel downtown. He’s a great personality with a zeal for innovative cuisine. I really should visit his restaurant in Bloomingdale's department store, once called Le Train Bleu. It’s the only one I’ve missed.

The Archer Hotel is recessed from the main sidewalk on 38th Street to allow for a sidewalk café attached to Fabrick. Inside, the bright red chairs and yellow banquettes at bare wood tables are arranged informally to create an indoor “outdoor” experience. The dark wood and open brick walls lead to a beautiful skylight over the “shack” that is the kitchen in the back. The ceiling over my table was a colorful tapestry from which twin antique fans hung and spun. All of David Burke’s restaurants have some unusual decorative accent such as the glass “balloons” at Townhouse. Fabrick has a wrought iron chandelier enclosed in a birdcage hanging from a coiled rope that was purchased from an outfit known as Restoration Hardware. (Thus I was informed by my waiter Erik, with whom I was on a first name basis by the end of the meal).

After a fantastic Manhattan infused with maple syrup (the perfect Welcome Back drink after my stay in Vermont), Erik assisted me with the menu which was organized into four categories: Mostly Veg, Meat, Fish, and Sides with the smaller sized dishes listed first and the larger ones second in each half of a category. I told Erik what interested me, how big my appetite was and how slow an eater I am and that I was looking at a three-course meal. When he heard my choice of entrée, he added a course and I agreed. I asked for the wine list and chose the 2012 “Geyserville” Zinfandel from Ridge Vineyards in Sonoma County – a delicious deep red varietal consisting of mostly zinfandel (71%) and rest is Carignane, Petit Syrah, Alicante Bouchet and Mataro (Mourvèdre) – fruity yet authoritative without being heavy.

While Erik was off attending to my order the executive chef arrived with the Amuse Bouche, a delicately sliced fluke dish with a citrus sauce and basil olive oil – a nice beginning, understated but tasty. But then my first appetizer arrived – a Foie Gras Torchon (goose liver paté formed into a patty) on a small bun with a peach sauce – a special for the day. It was wonderful as well as strange. Really, eating foie gras as if it were a burger! But that’s David Burke. The two girls at the next table were being served the candied bacon suspended by clothespins on a miniature washing line.

Next came the dish Erik recommended, the Red Snapper Ceviche in a fiery grapefruit sauce and topped with fried plantain chips. I was amazed how something so fruity could be so spicy at the same time. Various spicy items raced through my thoughts as I tried to isolate what was causing the fiesta in my mouth (probably some hot pepper essence).

If you’ve kept up with my reviews you would know by now that octopus and I are old friends. The Angry Tacos featured grilled octopus with garlic, soft tortillas, an avocado purée, chipotle aioli, and pico de gallo. Though a bit messy to eat, they were fun to construct and delicious. I particularly loved the little iron pan the octopus was served in.

Erik brought a formidable steak knife for the main course bearing the David Burke logo on it. I would compare it to an amalgam of a steak knife and a meat cleaver. The Lamb Chops and Ribs were served on a cutting board with the grilled ramps. The curried shoestring fries were in a neat paper cone supported by a silver bowl nearby. As Erik advised, the Vindaloo barbeque sauce on the ribs was not the Indian style hotter-than-hot sauce but a respectable spicy topping. The curried fries however, were seriously addicting and the lamb almost did not need the horror-film knife.

Of course I was ready for dessert after this and normally I retain the slip showing what I had, but this time, for some reason I was really enjoying myself and neglected to do so. Let it just be said that in involved exotic fruit flavored sorbet, meringue and a slice of dense sweet pie looking like a sailing ship with caramelized sails. That and a cognac finished a truly David Burke dinner-experience. Fabrick has only been open for a month but I can see it going for a long time with Chef Burke at the helm.

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