Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The 5th Wave

Dinner and a Movie

The “Others” Are Coming, Unleash the Hounds!

By Steve Herte

I’ve heard that weather forecasting is not an exact science, but this is ridiculous. I checked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the weather. I was happy that the snow accumulations would be four to eight inches. Hmph! I shoveled 23 inches.

The 5th Wave (Columbia, 2016) – Director: J Blakeson. Writers: Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldman, & Jeff Pinkner (s/p). Rick Yancey (novel). Stars: Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez, Bailey Anne Borders, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Zackary Arthur, Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello, Dave Moldonado, Paul Ryden, E. Roger Mitchell, Charmin Lee, Parker Wierling, Alex Roe, Madison Staines, Nick Robinson, Maika Monroe, & Tony Revolori. Color, Rated PG-13, 112 minutes.

The words “low budget,” “too long,” “obvious models,” “stock dialogue,” and “disappointment” do not begin to describe this film. Based on a novel by Rick Yancey, this sad attempt at an alien invasion/world destruction flick can be seen in its entirety in the trailers.

And yet, the theater was half full on opening night to see Cassie Sullivan (Moretz) transform from a party-loving cheerleader into a Barbie version of Rambo. The film opens with a voice-over from a dirt-smudged Cassie as she cautiously crosses a litter-covered street toting a rifle. She’s heading to the Quickie-Mart of a gas station to get supplies. 

Inside, she grabs whatever is there she needs, and hears a man’s cry for help coming from the restroom. She opens the door carefully to reveal him (Zuk) sitting on the floor with his left hand on his chest and he’s obviously bleeding. She demands to see what he has in his left hand and as he slowly moves it, we see a shining glint of something and she shoots him. It’s a crucifix.

The scene reverts to the past and the events that led up to this moment. Cassie lives in Ohio with her dad, Oliver (Livingston), mom, Lisa (Siff), and little brother, Sam (Arthur). Everything’s normal with Cassie and her best friends Lizbeth (Lopez) and Julia (Bailey Anne Borders) at high school, texting during math class.

Meanwhile, on the news, a large metal object is detected in the sky and it’s slowly circling the world until it stops over Cassie’s street. Someone borrowed the spaceship from Independence Day and hung it like a chandelier over her town. Suddenly, the lights go out in the school and all the cell phones darken and are useless. Cassie and her friends run to the windows to see cars crashing into each other and an airliner dropping from the sky and bursting into flames on impact nearby. “That was the First Wave,” the narration goes.

While getting drinking water from a stream in the forest the next day, an enormous earthquake shakes the scene and Cassie and Sam are running for their lives, dodging falling trees left and right. When the ground stops shaking, a different roar comes from beyond the trees and Cassie and Sam are forced to climb a stout oak to avoid the tidal wave from Lake Erie. “We just had to deal with the lake. I can’t image what people had to deal with on the ocean” that narration continues. We see ridiculously large tidal waves wipe out a cheesy model of Miami, the Tower Bridge in London and a glass-fronted hotel in Thailand. The Empire State Building in New York still stands and so do many high-rise towers, but all the streets are flooded. “That was the second wave.”

Then she goes on to quote the statistics on how many birds there are in the world and how many per person. “We came to calling the invaders, ‘The Others.’” (How original! There was a movie by the same name in 2001, a TV series, and a term used in The Game of Thrones.) “They took the avian flu and genetically mutated it so that it was unstoppable. Some of us were immune to the virus.” (Not Cassie’s girlfriends or, eventually, her mother.) “That was the third wave.”

Oliver gathers up Cassie and Sam and takes them to a refugee camp. But not for long. A huge rumble is heard heading toward the camp. Army vehicles galore! (I thought the invaders turned off all the power, but no one questions this.) The Army takes over under the command of Colonel Vosch (Schrieber) and separates the children from the adults, shepherding the children onto school buses (how appropriate, they’re going to learn something) and corralling the adults into a hall “for a briefing.”

Sam forgets his teddy bear and Cassie goes to retrieve it. Looking in on the briefing, she sees one man rebel against being separated from his child. He pulls out a gun and there is a mass murder (including Oliver). Cassie has missed the bus, Sam is panic-stricken, and, totally traumatized, Cassie runs into the forest, toting the rifle we see her with in the beginning. “That was the fourth wave.”

The movie could conceivably have ended here, but it goes on for 52 minutes more. The children are recruited into a fighting force where they’re taught to shoot and fight. They get a “tracking device” injected into the back of their necks (Can you say Invasion of the Body Snatchers?) from Sergeant Reznik (Bello) and are told that they are the last defense against “the others.” They don’t even question where the U.S. Army got the technology to create a device that allows you to “see” the alien creature’s true form inside a human head.

Meanwhile, Cassie gets shot in the thigh while crossing a highway littered with cars and wakes up in a strange bed. It’s here she meets Evan Walker (Roe) and the movie jumps its second shark. Evan doesn’t tell her right away, but he’s a half-breed alien/human from the first invasion decades ago. But Evan rejects his alien heritage for his love for Cassie and agrees to help her save her brother.

At boot camp, the troops are ready for a foray into an “alien-infested” town. Hometown Ohio football captain Ben Parish, aka Zombie (Robinson), leads his squad (including, but not with, Sam, whom they dub “Nugget”). A Goth girl, Ringer (Monroe), has shown them the proper techniques of firing weapons, and they all receive helmets with a special “visor” that indicates “the others” (who glow green, of course). Ben is not your typical football jock, for he figures out that if the implant from the back of your neck is removed, you glow green too. The Army is really “the others,” and they are the “fifth wave.”

The only plus this movie has is its obvious allusion to recruitment of children by ISIS. Otherwise, I wish the audience who saw The Forest with me could have seen this one. They would have taken back their comment of the “stupidest movie ever” and rethought their opinion. It makes Norm of the North look like Academy Award material. The Fifth Wave had me groaning and rolling my eyes in amazement at how gullible the makers thought their audiences would be. It won’t even achieve the honor of being a classic B-movie. More than likely, it will be forgotten. That is until the Sixth Wave.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Houndstooth Pub
520 8th Ave. (at 37th Street)New York

Usually the word “pub” would not attract me as being a restaurant, but the photos posted on their website and the interesting menu items sealed the deal. The fact that it was also five blocks from the theater helped.

The bright streetlights of Eighth Avenue were dim compared to the row of hot incandescent bulbs outside this corner property. My camera almost couldn’t handle the glare. Above the glassed-in front on two sides was the name in classic white letters on a charcoal gray background. Inside, the horseshoe-shaped, marble bar stands on a traditionally English tiled floor and all the woodwork and paneling is mahogany. Two very attractive San Dimus chandeliers add to the old-fashioned, homey atmosphere and hang from 20-foot ceilings. The curtains in the windows and the placemats on the bare wood tables match in the same black and white houndstooth pattern.

The young lady at the Captain’s Station was doing double duty when I arrived and was attending to a take-out order. I waited until she noticed me and announced my reservation. It looked like every table was taken and I wondered where I would sit (hopefully not at the bar). She took a rather long time at the computer but eventually found me and led me to the perfect table (a little elevated) by the Eighth Avenue window.

My first server, Erin, (I had two) arrived with a glass of water and the menu and asked if I wanted a cocktail. Having looked at the specialty drinks and deeming them silly, I ordered my favorite martini and Erin went to fetch it.

The menu had the usual pub categories: Starters, Soups, Salads (there were an amazing eight of them, including a “Foghorn Leghorn” salad), Sides, Entrees, a Prix Fixe Lunch, Burgers and Sandwiches. When Erin brought my martini I was a little surprised that it was served in a “v” shaped tumbler rather than a proper, stemmed glass, but it was well mixed.

Erin helped me construct a three-course meal by ruling out two of the three appetizers (starters) that I wavered among. The stuffed artichoke hearts just missed being the first dish when she said that it was “a bit lighter” than the other two. I chose the English jackets – potato wedges smothered in Texas chili and sharp cheddar – because of the intriguing title. In actuality, they were potato skins I’m familiar with. But the chili was a good one and the cheddar was real, not American cheese.

The second course arrived with the first, even though I told Erin I had lots of time. Small matter. It was easy to see that the seafood bisque – smooth and creamy with shrimp, salmon and Maryland crab – would taste the worst cold and I worked at finishing it first. 

It was delightful (even though my least favorite fish, salmon, was a part of it) and was thicker than I expected bisque to be. But I liked the ceramic crock it was served in. The potato skins were accompanied by a small cup of sour cream which, when diligently applied, would not decrease their temperature. Pacing myself, I finished both dishes.

The next to arrive was the main course and the side dish. The shepherd’s pie – (made correctly) with seasoned ground lamb and sirloin (a surprise) in au jus and topped with a layer of whipped mashed potatoes – was great. The onion rings were enormous, deep-fried, and crisp but not greasy, just as they should be. I ordered a glass of their house Shiraz to go with this. It was a decent red with a medium body, good with the lamb.

It was then I noticed that my server had changed. The outfit was different, the skirt was shorter, the hair color had gone from red to black, even the accent changed. Lauren acknowledged the switch and asked if I needed anything else. “Not just now.” I was rapidly becoming full and wondered what happened to my appetite. But, choosing caution over not being able to have dessert, I had her bag up the delicious shepherd’s pie and onion rings to go.

Strangely enough, none of the desserts appealed to me. I had kept the wine and drinks menu on my table for future reference and it came in handy at dessert. I ordered the espresso martini – espresso-flavored vodka and Kahlua. I have to find out where they got espresso-flavored vodka. It was excellent.

When I was choosing my restaurant the words “gastro-pub” were used in reference to Houndstooth Pub, but “comfort food” more aptly describes what they serve there. The first term might apply to the stuffed artichoke hearts but not to most of the menu. It’s pub food to be sure, but served in a nicer way and with authentic ingredients, not American substitutes. I enjoyed my dinner and the people. I even complimented a woman on her fur coat as she was leaving. I’m still thinking of returning. If for no other reason than a salad named after my favorite Warner Brothers cartoon character: Foghorn Leghorn.

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