Thursday, February 18, 2016


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Deadpool (20th Century Fox, 2016) – Director: Tim Miller. Writers: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (s/p).  Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefield (characters). Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Kyle Cassie, Ed Krein, Gina Carano, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, & Leslie Uggams. Color, Rated R, 108 minutes.

After a list of joke opening credits, including “Written by: The True Heroes of this film,” the scene opens inside a cab driven by Dopinder (Soni). His only passenger is Deadpool (Reynolds). Lonely, Deadpool climbs through the tiny window into the front seat and starts giving Dopinder advice on getting his girl back from his best friend. He stops the cab on a highway overpass, pays Dopinder with a high five, and waits on the railing. Breaking the fourth wall for the first of many times in the movie, he explains that he’s not a hero, just a “bad guy kicking the asses of badder guys,” and he leaps onto a passing black panel truck and starts a battle that ends with a huge car crash and bodies littering the roadway.

The theater was a large one and was nearly full. This is amazing to me considering I had no idea who (or what) Deadpool was and they obviously did. For those of you in as much darkness as I was, I learned that back in the 1990s, two writers, Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza created the character for Marvel Comics as a super-villain with a mouthful of ferocious pointed teeth. But with the advent of the X-Men, in particular, Wolverine (whom Deadpool alludes to in one of his conversations with the audience), he evolved into an anti-hero. I was attracted to this film by the trailers and his unbridled wit. In the comics, Deadpool’s insensitive and sometimes insulting (but always funny) sense of humor brought him the title the “Merc with a Mouth.” And I just thought he was an amalgam of Spiderman and Groucho Marx.

The film now does a backtrack to when Wade Winston Wilson (real name of Deadpool) was a highly-skilled mercenary fighter with lethal weaponry acumen. His best friend goes by the handle of Weasel (Miller), a bartender in Wade’s favorite hangout. Over the bar hangs a blackboard “Dead Pool” showing how many bets were made by the patrons on who would die next. Fights break out in the bar for the least reason and Wade starts one by sending a drink called a “blow-job” (kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and whipped cream) to the biggest guy there. Everyone is disappointed that no one is killed at the end of the fight.

Wade meets the love of his life, Vanessa (Baccarin) – you might know the actress for her portrayal of the leader of the Visitors in the television series (2009), or as Detective Gordon’s true love, Dr. Leslie Thompkins on Gotham, or as the evil Erica Flynn on The Mentalist. Their mutual insanity and unpredictability is what draws them together. But when Wade is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he has second thoughts about staying with her and “pulling her into this.” After learning that Weasel bet on him in the Dead Pool and might win his bet, Wade meets Gavin Merchant (Cassie).

Wade makes several Men In Black jokes about Gavin’s resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones before he hears that Gavin knows someone who can cure his cancer. With no explanation, he leaves Vanessa and soon is introduced to “Doctor” Ajax (Krein) – real name, Francis, but he hates it – who is no more a doctor than I am. But he wins Wade’s trust and subjects him to whippings, dunking in gooey slime, ice baths, and vicious torture to “jump start a mutation” in him. The last treatment is an oxygen deprivation tube that deforms Wade’s skin as it eventually cures his cancer and grants him hyper-healing powers. Per Weasel, “You look like an avocado who married and uglier avocado…” But the sadistic Ajax leaves Wade in too long. Before being locked in a second time, Wade head butts Ajax’s wooden match-chewing assistant Angel Dust (Carano) and swipes a match from her mouth. He uses this to blow up Ajax’s entire laboratory through the oxygen feed pipe. The two fight in the burning building with Ajax using his super-strength (he’s also a mutant) to impale Wade on a rebar, and escapes.

But, Phoenix-like Wade rises from the ashes and is determined to find Francis (he calls him this just to annoy him) to either have his looks restored or to kill him. Because of his deformity he hesitates going back to Vanessa and the scene reverts to the beginning. He’s found Francis and has pinned him to the guardrail on the highway with one of the crossed swords he wears on his back.

The plan is interrupted by two X-Men who believe Deadpool’s talents would be better channeled toward doing good. One is an enormous metallic CGI muscleman with a Russian accent named Colossus (voiced by Kapicic). The other is a young girl with closely cropped black hair calling herself Megasonic Teenage Warhead (Hildebrand). They unintentionally distract Deadpool from Francis long enough for him to escape while he makes Sinead O’Connor jokes about the girl and, referring to the character Ripley from Alien. Colossus hand-cuffs Deadpool and starts dragging him off, but Deadpool escapes by cutting off his own hand with surprisingly minimal gore.

Since he won’t go back to Vanessa, Wade is staying with Blind Al – short for Alice (Uggams) and he returns there until his hand grows back. Meanwhile, Francis has moved his base of operations to a decrepit, rusting, grounded aircraft carrier and has kidnapped Vanessa to get Deadpool to come to him. The final battle scene is almost hilarious as Deadpool fights Francis and his men, Colossus is evenly matched with the seemingly indestructible Angel Dust, and Megasonic pitches in where needed.

The comic opening credits promised a villain with a British accent (Ajax) and a gratuitous famous cameo. This came during a scene in a strip club where the DJ, Stan Lee (the legendary former head of Marvel Comics), gets everyone on the dance floor.

Were not for the main character’s constant quips, insults and malaprops (“What’s a nice place like this doing in a girl like you?”), this movie would be unbearably brutal. The action scenes are filled with characters being slammed into and by enormously heavy things, blades thrusting into various body parts and numerous crotch shots as well as over-the-top pummelings. The vulgarity is kept to a surprising minimum as is the gore but the violence is exceedingly high (it got the movie banned in China). Parents, take this into consideration before taking sensitive children to this one.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing, though sometimes crude, most times very funny. I understood the character Deadpool, though did not identify with him (or any of the cast for that matter). It’s not a movie I would own, but I might watch it again to catch some of the funny lines I missed.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Martini glasses.

32 W. 33rd St., New York

I love cajun cuisine. It’s perfect for the Lenten season, when I forgo meat on Fridays. And the location was a surprise as well, being in that area of Manhattan in the West Thirties I refer to as the “restaurant desert” (not too many good ones).

Looking down the south side of 33rd Street, you won’t see CajunSea until you’re there. Though the name is engraved on the glass above and on the two doors, and is also in blue neon in the main window, it’s an understated entrance. Inside, is an attractive black and white tile floor leading past a long seafood bar edged with clams on ice with fragile-looking aluminum stools (some backless). There was no one at the Captain’s Station and I waited patiently until a young woman asked if I were being helped. I confirmed my reservation and she indicated that I should wait while she checked availability.

After a protracted communication problem with the staff over seating, I chose to sit on the caramel-colored banquette side.

The room was walled on two sides with a colossal wine rack decorated with red, heart-shaped balloons for Valentine’s Day. The back wall sported a giant terra cotta crab and matching lobster flanking the window into the kitchen. My server, Nathalie, soon arrived, presented me with the two cards (one for drinks and one for food), and took my water preference. When she returned with the water, she asked if I wanted a drink. Having already determined that the restaurant has only a beer and wine license, I asked for a glass of the Martin Codax Albarino from Spain. She was back in a minute to tell me they were out of Albarino, but that the Gavi was almost the same. Not wanting to discuss the fact that no wine is “almost the same” as any other, I conceded.

The Gavi from San Matteo, Italy, is a nice, crisp white wine with a light golden color. Made from the Cortese grape in Piedmont Region, it’s a good pre-meal drink.

As I searched the menu for spicy and Cajun, I was sadly disappointed at not being able to order any of my favorite dishes, as everything had Andouille sausages in them. Nathalie returned well before I was ready and I mentioned that it would take a little longer because I can’t have the sausages. She made no suggestions and left.

At long last, I came up with a three-course meal and cited my choices to Nathalie, explaining that I had a good appetite but was a slow eater. Aside from jotting down my choices, she paid no attention to what I said and made no question as to which dish should come first. I caught the wine list before she could take it away.

I knew the first two courses would arrive simultaneously, and they did. The two cajun lobster balls on a long, narrow dish were served in a tomato sauce, with the spicy Manhattan clam chowder in a ceramic crock. Nathalie placed the chowder before me and the lobster balls farther away. 

I asked her which of the two dishes would get cold faster and she pointed to the chowder. Wrong! When I tasted the lobster balls, I easily determined that they were already losing heat while the chowder was still hot. Paul Prudhomme would not be proud of either of these two dishes. There was nothing “cajun” in the lobster balls and nothing spicy in the chowder. The only flavor in the lobster balls came directly from the lobster, with nothing from the breading, and very little from the tomato sauce. Well, at least I won’t get heartburn.

The clams in the chowder were on the rubbery side and the main ingredient, potatoes, were almost underdone. Manhattan would disown this chowder. When Nathalie came back, I ordered the Malbec. Thinking I would get the 2013 Kaiken Malbec listed on the menu, I was surprised to see the 2015 “Coleccion” from Bodega Norton. Both are from Mendoza, Argentina, and both are good, but as I said before, no wine is almost the same as another.

The only non-cajun dish was the main course and I had high hopes for it. Two steamed Alaskan king crab legs straddled a long ovoid metal platter with boiled potatoes and corn on the cob and a ramekin of drawn butter between them. Nathalie supplied me with the requisite seafood fork, a shell cracker and something I never saw before, crab scissors. For those not in the know, crab scissors have one long, thin blade with a forked tip for sliding into a crab leg and a short blade for cutting the shell.

The crab legs were delightful, the corn was sweet (though I prefer not to have it on the cob) and the potatoes ordinary (they were just there; I ordered a second ramekin of drawn butter to help with them). The big surprise was that I was still hungry after three courses.

Nathalie was soon at my side touting dessert. I told her I was still hungry and could finish a bowl of crawfish (dumb idea, not on the menu) but it was like talking to a computer. No suggestions, only a short dessert list. I like bread pudding but was suspicious about having it here. I asked if the beignets were light and crispy and Nathalie said yes.

I ordered the bread pudding, as did the woman at the table next to me. It looked good. I asked how it was. She liked it. I asked her where she had her favorite bread pudding. “Washington Heights!” I told her briefly about Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans and how bread pudding should be and figured my dessert was doomed to failure. I saw the young lady at the table on my other side had ordered the beignets. They did not even resemble the ones I had in New Orleans, but instead looked like they came out of a box and were heaped with powdered sugar.

My bread pudding arrived. It was attractively served in an oblong crock and was steaming hot and sweet. The bread was cut in cubes like croutons and the main flavor was vanilla (no liquor license, remember?). No espresso machine either, regular coffee. Not bad, just not transporting. Nathalie told me that the restaurant has been open a little over two years. If I return, it will not be on a Friday in Lent. Hopefully, their jambalaya is more authentic.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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