Thursday, May 12, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

My choice of what movie to see was a no-brainer even though I had my “druthers” about it. After seeing Batman and Superman duke it out I was not ready for an all-out war, but consider the other option – Elvis & Nixon. Hollywood needs ideas. Enjoy!

Captain America: Civil War (Marvel Studios, 2016) – Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (s/p), Mark Millar (comic book), Joe Simon, Jack Kirby (characters). Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, & Frank Grillo. Color, PG-13, 146 minutes.

The term “hero” certainly has changed, having evolved from a mythical girl’s name to the main protagonist in a drama set against the villain, to something called an “anti-hero,” to this film’s definition. Here we have 10 “enhanced” human beings, each of whom should be a hero and yet, none of them are. Each one believes he or she is doing the right thing, but none of their decisions end well.

How many times does one hit a guy in the head before he goes down for the count? The answer, in this movie, is unlimited times, even with a fist made (literally) of iron. Unless you’re a fan of violent kick-boxing matches, you will get tired of seeing these so-called “good guys” pummeling the living daylights out of each other for two hours and 26 minutes. I, for one, made sure I saw it in a theater with super-comfortable seats. It was still hard to watch.

Even the one “bad guy” isn’t exactly a villain.

The film starts in 1991 with Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Stan) being given a string of Russian words that will program him into being a raving, merciless sociopath. He ambushes a Cadillac on a dark country road and kills the elderly couple inside. He opens the trunk revealing a metal briefcase with six mysterious blue packets inside. These he delivers to his master. When he’s not a larcenous lunatic with enhanced strength (and don’t forget that metal fist), he’s good friends with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans).

Captain America is still having difficulties wrapping his World War 2 way of thinking around the modern concepts of dealing with crime. His inability to resolve the “no collateral damage” with “use any means to stop the evil” is the main cause of the entitled Civil War.

After the severe destruction and loss of innocent life that were the results in New York, Washington D.C., Sokovia, and most recently, Lagos, Nigeria, several countries complained about The Avengers’ seemingly willy-nilly use of their powers. The United Nations convened and drew up an accord requesting the “enhanced” beings to submit to oversight and control. Tony Stark/Ironman (Downey Jr.) sees the wisdom in this action and he, along with Lieutenant James Rhodes/War Machine (Cheadle), Vision (Bettany), and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Olsen) sign the agreement.

King T’Chaka of Nigeria is a major proponent of this accord, but he is killed by an enormous explosion just outside of United Nations headquarters. His son, T’Challa/Black Panther (Boseman), an enhanced human being himself (surprise), swears to avenge his death. You seriously have to keep a scorecard in this movie. The security cameras reveal that it was the Winter Soldier who set off the bomb.

Captain America does not believe that his good friend Bucky (it comes from his middle name, Buchanan) would such a thing. He, and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Mackie), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Renner) disagree with the accord, believing that they are the only hope against super criminals running loose in the world. They recruit Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Rudd) to be a part of their team.

Stark and Rogers are supposedly good friends, but their ideals serve two different goals and their egos are way too inflated to reason with each other. When Captain America and Falcon go off on a hunting trip for the Winter Soldier on their own, Ironman sees it as a break of the accord (which they didn’t sign, mind you) and battle lines are drawn.

Tony sees that his side is one hero short, so he and Wanda pay a visit to the improbable May Parker (Tomei) and even they stare in amazement at how beautiful and young she is (really, this is such a stretch for comic book fans). Their purpose is to recruit her nephew, Peter Parker/Spiderman (Holland). Now the sides are even.

Captain America eventually learns the truth about the 1991 incident, that the blue packets were the means to create six more Winter Soldiers worse than the first and that the couple who were murdered were in fact Howard and Maria Stark, Tony’s parents. But does he discuss this with Tony? No, of course not. And the battle begins.

So who’s the real villain? Again, not a real villain at all. Zemo (Brühl) and his family lived just outside Sokovia before the disastrous upheaval there and he lost everyone. But he’s not evil.

Do you see my perplexity? Everybody deep down inside is good but nobody does the right thing. I was amazed that some people applauded this movie. For me, it just became a same-old, same-old thing. People zipping and zooming around, toppling structures and flinging each other into buildings, groaning in pain, but getting up again for more. It seriously became tiresome.

Chris Evans looks great bulked up in costume, but his wishy-washy acting style makes him dull and uninteresting. I was rooting for Robert Downey Jr. until his pompous, self-interested attitude became intolerable. Elizabeth Olsen was lovely and I wished everyone listened to her character’s reasoning. But then, the movie would only be an hour and a half long. My favorite characters were Paul Bettany (another character with the voice of reason who went unheeded) as Vision and Tom Holland who, though a little younger than I expected, did a great job as the ever-wise-cracking Spiderman (the one truly entertaining character in the film). Look quickly and you’ll see William Hurt as Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross.

Special effects, there were plenty, but nothing eye-popping. The 3D was just used to enhance the story, not to throw anything at the audience. Story? I’m not sure why it had to be that way. Comic book, for sure. Believable, no. Parents, if your child is used to gratuitous violence, they won’t be affected by this movie. If not, judge accordingly. There might be a sequel. You need to stay through the first set of credits to know why.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Martini glasses.

El Quinto Pino
401 W. 24th St.New York

Thinking about a place I could dine for the day after Cinco de Mayo, I found this promising Spanish/Mexican place in Chelsea only three blocks away from the movie theater. The Five Pineapples is a tiny bar that has just recently opened a new dining area called “El Comedor,” accommodating 12 tables of diners at most.

Inside, the small bar takes up most of the space in the first room with a couple of half-tables squeezed against the wall. The bronze chandelier however, is a nice touch and matches the sconces on the wall behind the bar. The wall behind the banquette where I was sitting is dominated by a huge wall-hanging incorporating weaving with a little macramé, It undulated across the space like dunes in the Sahara and matched the sandy color of the room.

One glance at the menu presented by my server, Georgi, and I realized that this was indeed a Tapas restaurant (several small dishes, no real entrees). She asked if I wanted a cocktail. I chose the Monserrat – Vermut Negre (a bitter herbal wine), Aperol (a bitter orange flavored aperitif), and Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine), garnished with a Spanish olive and brandied kumquat. With two bitter ingredients, it was surprisingly refreshing and fruity and a lovely reddish-gold color.

Georgi told me that most people choose three dishes for their meal, but there were so many interesting selections when the specials were included that I eventually decided on four, telling Georgi that I would be taking my meal one dish at a time. 

I started with the picos y taquitos – imported chorizo (a hard Spanish sausage), za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mixture) marinated manchego cheese, house-made spreadable sausage, artisanal olive oil, and doughnut-shaped breadsticks. Using a knife to spread the menorcan sausage onto the crispy little breadsticks, I experienced a savory, spicy flavor like none before. When I combined a piece of cheese with a piece of chorizo, I was in cold-cut heaven.

My wine was a 2014 blend of equal parts Merlot and Syrah called “Lazarus” (from Somontano in Northern Spain), a deep red with a slightly acid nose. It’s fruity and medium bodied, perfect for a Tapas dinner.

My second course was pinchos moruno – Moorish spiced lamb skewers that are a favorite in Andalusia and Madrid. The two skewers were jammed into a slice of baguette.

Next I had the bomba toledana – “shepherd’s pie” style spiced beef croquettes, topped with habanero vinegar and set in sweet pea sauce. These soft, beefy patties explode in the mouth like small fireworks. Easily the most colorful dish, and although not extremely spicy, the spice is there.

Having once tried my hand at fishing, the title of the next dish intrigued me. It was one of the daily specials and was called crispy dogfish tostada. It was delicious – a nicely browned, soft tostada containing crisp, flakey fish beautifully placed along with lettuce and parsley. A spicy yellow sauce made the flavor jump out, and a slice of lime was provided to moderate the fish flavor, but the lime went unused. It was by far the spiciest dish I had but at the same time, the most fun.

My dessert does not translate into English. Called greitxonera on the menu, it was macerated pineapple and mandarin orange pieces with two scoops of French vanilla ice cream and a wafer cookie. Spanish desserts are usually simple and wonderful and this was no exception. A double espresso and a nice glass of La Garrocha Amontillado helped finish a lovely Tapas dinner.  

After I paid the check I asked for a business card at the bar and was presented with three, for it seems they have two sister restaurants, a Basque place called Txikito where I’ve already dined, and La Vara in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. The hospitality didn’t end there. The young lady at the Captain’s Station walked with me to Ninth Avenue, where she pointed out another sister restaurant that she claimed was “better” than El Quinto Pinos. I thanked her profusely.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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