Friday, May 27, 2016

Angry Birds

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Angry Birds (Columbia, 2016) – Directors: Clay Kaytis & Fergal Reilly. Writer: Jon Vitti. Voices: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Hannibal Buress, Ike Barinholtz, Tituss Burgess, Ian Hecox, Anthony Padilla, Billy Eichner, Charli XCX, Cristela Alonzo, & Jillian Bell. Color, Rated PG, 97 minutes.

Angry Birds has become quite a popular downloaded app. For instance, it has kept my great-niece occupied for hours. At first, I pooh-poohed it as a kiddie game. Then I downloaded it to my Kindle and discovered that it actually took some skill to play and win. I didn’t know why the birds were angry or what the pigs did to deserve their attacks, but it was fun destroying the pig city with the various capabilities of the different birds you hurled from a slingshot.

The movie provides the back story. Red (Sudeikis) is a loner who lives far from the main village on Bird Island. He’s sarcastic, cynical, self-centered and not too social. After ruining a youngster’s birthday party, he is sentenced to anger management classes held by Mathilda (Rudolph).

We learn in a flashback that Red was not always angry. He was bullied and teased as a young bird for his enormous black eyebrows and he was ignored by the females because he wasn’t tall and good-looking.

At Mathilda’s house, Red meets the other members of his anger group, Chuck (Gad), Bomb (McBride), and Terence (Penn). Chuck is the bird equivalent of Hammy the Squirrel from Over the Hedge and does everything fast, including talking. Bomb’s major fault is literally blowing up when excited. His topknot even looks like a fuse on his round dark gray body. Terence is a huge version of Red who generally growls and scowls menacingly.

One day, a ship arrives at Bird Island with pigs. Leonard (Hader), who we later learn is the king of the pigs, offers the birds gifts and entertainment, teaching them how to build and use a giant slingshot to get from one place to another quicker. (None of the birds on Bird Island can fly, the reason being that they don’t have to go anywhere.) Red is the only one suspicious of pigs bearing gifts. It’s not until the pigs provide a cowboy show and party for the birds while stealing all their eggs that everyone realizes that Red was right. Now he has to be a leader.

But where to find inspiration and wisdom? There is a legend on Bird Island about the Mighty Eagle, the one bird who can fly, and who lives near the Lake of Wisdom. Red concludes that if such a character really exists, he must live at the top of the central mountain of Bird Island (which looks suspiciously like a carving of an eagle’s head.) He, Chuck and Bomb start climbing and at last arrive at the Lake of Wisdom. Chuck and Bomb start swimming in it, drinking it and frolicking until the Mighty Eagle emerges from his cave and relieves himself in it.

Needless to say, Mighty Eagle (Dinklage) is a big disappointment to Red, who rallies the other birds to build a raft out of anything they can find to chase the pigs back to Pig Island (it’s easy, they just follow the waste trail the pigs left behind.). Those who have played the game know the rest.

I had wondered how a simple app would become an hour and 37 minutes worth of movie, but it worked. There were some slow moments unnecessarily emphasizing Red’s solitude, but the animation was excellent and the voice/character matches were perfect. I laughed at the photographer (Burgess) who inscribed pictures with his beak Flintstone style and the Mime Bird (Hale), who was always in the way.

The script was clever, with Red getting most of the good lines, and funny in several spots, especially his reactions to the diverse “talents” of his fellow birds during the battle with the pigs. Cinematically, it’s a beautiful bit of camera work including a gift; Red and Chuck are searching Leonard’s palace and come to a corridor full of doors. Chuck opens one to reveal two twin pigs dressed as little girls in pinafores (think The Shining). They quickly close the door.

Overall, Angry Birds is a fun movie, great for kids and adults who never forgot what it means to be a kid. Remember to stay through all the credits. There are two “afterwords” hinting at a sequel.

Rating: 3½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

Gabriel Kreuther Bar
41 W. 42nd St., New York

Gabriel Kreuther’s restaurant, located in the gracefully sloping and appropriately named Grace Building, will be a year old in June. I noticed the Alsatian newcomer back then, but didn't had an opportunity to get a reservation until now.

Though the website states that it “overlooks the greenery of Bryant Park,” it doesn’t “overlook” anything. The entrance is at street level and the windows face Bryant Park across 42nd Street. The entrance on 42nd Street is understated, but once inside, diners can view a scene from possibly a Japanese screen/room divider in black and white of birds, hills and rivers.

Inside, the restaurant is divided into the bar section on the left half and the dining area on the right half, sectioned off by light wood arches. My seating was somewhat disappointing, with a tiny, 18-inch diameter cocktail table in front of me, but I was nonetheless glad I came.

The food menu was quite straight-forward. After a quick consult with Luis, my server, I learned that the four categories were small plates and I asked if three smalls and a large was too much. He didn’t think so and I assured him of my good appetite. With the advice of Luis, I was able to make my selections and the order in which they should arrive. Looking at the ridiculous prices on the wine list, I decided to order by the glass, as they had a nice selection.

The first dish was king crab croquettes: nine one-inch crispy delights arranged like pool balls on an elegant brown ceramic dish. It’s a good thing I’m a big fan of king crab because ground up and flavored, these delicious tidbits could have been anything.

My wine for this dish was a 2012 Nathan Kendall Pinot Noir from the Finger Lakes region of New York – a light bodied red appropriate for appetizers.

My next course was called “The Hen of the Woods Mushrooms Tarte Flambé,” served with comté cheese (a Gruyere), chives, nutmeg and onion. I was amazed at how well the woodsy, earthy flavors mixed with the sharp accents of the other ingredients. The manager advised me to eat it while it was hot from the flaming process. (Unfortunately, they do not flambé items at tableside anymore due to fire codes.) To go with the dish I ordered a glass of 2011 Domaine de la Pinte, Pinte Bien, from Poulsard vineyards in Jura, France. 

The third course arrived under a beautiful glass shaped like a Turk’s cap. The server removed the cap and waved the bell under my nose so I could breathe in the delicious applewood smoke on the sturgeon tart with caviar mousseline. For those who have never eaten sturgeon before, it is not comparable to any other fish in flavor. It’s not oily or fishy, just pleasant with an almost vegetable quality. Caviar one either loves or hates, but I found mine neither salty nor fishy. I paired this dish with a 2010 Nervi Gattinara, a full-bodied red from the Piedmont region of Italy.

I had chosen the main course way before the others. Seeing it online, I had to have it: red wine braised tripe gratiné with de puy lentils (a marvelous French green lentil) and thyme, served in an immaculate white bowl. The grated cheese on top accented the red wine sauce and the diced pieces of tripe were so tender I almost couldn’t find them. Even someone who’s never had tripe would like this dish. The perfect marriage to this dish was the 2012 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Blend, a rich, full bodied, deep red wine with a memorable aftertaste from Napa Valley.

Surprisingly, I still had room for the grand marnier baba with fresh mango and vanilla ice cream. I have to dine at more Alsatian restaurants. This is only my third. Even the double espresso was special. I didn’t mind in the least that I was dining in a bar. The only difference could possibly be the white tablecloths in the dining area. But I would definitely return to this gem on 42nd.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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