Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Ghostbusters (Columbia, 2016) – Director: Paul Feig. Writers: Katie Dippold & Paul Feig. Based on the 1984 film Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Ackroyd & Harold Ramis. Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Neil Casey, Sigourney Weaver, Andy Garcia, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Zach Woods, Ed Begley, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Charles Dance, John Milhiser, Ben Harris, Cecily Strong, Karan Soni, Bess Rous, Steve Higgins, Dave Allen, Robin Shelby, & Katie Dippold. Color, Rated PG-13, 116 minutes.

Helene once told me to expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed. That’s how I approached both my movie and my dinner.

What has oceans of slime, galaxies of neon blue and green lights and so-so acting? Only the third sequel I’ve seen this year that didn’t need to be made. Actually, it’s not a sequel. It’s a remake, and we know how they can turn out. The original team of Ghostbusters: Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson have been recast with Kristin Wiig as Erin Gilbert, Melissa McCarthy as Abby Yates, Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzman, and Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan. The original cast had Annie Potts for their not-so-good secretary Janine Melnitz and the new one has Chris Hemsworth as the totally incompetent but good-looking Kevin.

The story is different in a few places, however the end result is the same. The opening scene sees a tour group in the Aldridge Mansion and Museum and the tour guide, Zach Woods, gets a little more spookiness than he had written into his script.

Gilbert is a physics and mathematics teacher who is up for tenure at Columbia University when she learns from Ed Mulgrave (Begley Jr.), curator at the Aldridge Mansion Museum, that “Ghosts of Our Past” the book she co-wrote with Abby (and tried to squelch) is suddenly popular on the Internet and has sold more than the two copies she remembers. 

He came to her as an expert on the paranormal. When she confronts Abby about this potentially career-ruining publication, she meets the weird and wacky Jillian tinkering in Abby’s lab and has to make a deal with Abby to investigate the ghost sighting in the mansion.

The three go to the museum and meet the malevolent spirit of Gertrude Aldridge (Rous). Erin is convinced to join Abby and is subsequently fired when the news media airs the story. Abby and Jillian are booted out of their lab as well and the three abscond with the equipment. Where to go? They are shown the firehouse previously used by the original Ghostbusters team but the rental is way over their budget. They settle for the upper floor of Zhu’s Authentic Hong Kong Food.

When interviewing for a secretary, they meet Patty Tolan who tells them of the apparition she encountered in the mythical Seward Street subway station on the Upper East Side. They bring their ghost capturing tools to the subway but are unable to contain the electric phantom. However, Jillian knows how to increase the power of their equipment.

Meanwhile, the often bullied and constantly ignored Rowan North (Casey) is planning to open a portal to let all ghosts back onto the streets of New York to haunt the entire population. (Sound familiar?) He’s planted devices in several focal places, one of which is a rock concert in a venue similar to Irving Place.

The now quartet of Ghostbusters figure out the location and bring their improved capturing apparatus. The winged gargoyle is entrapped; the audience is thrilled beyond belief (they think it’s a part of the act), and the team members are arrested and brought before Mayor Bradley (Garcia) and his chief spin-doctor, Jennifer Lynch (Strong). Together, they give a cover-up story to the media and discount the Ghostbusters as a hoax. Does this sound even more familiar? (At the exit of the rock venue, look for a cameo by Ozzie Osbourne.)

If that weren’t bad enough, who shows up at their office but Martin Heiss the paranormal debunker (Murray). He pushes all of Erin’s buttons and she releases the gargoyle to prove they captured it. Bad idea. It flies at Heiss, pushes him out the window and out of the film.

Eventually, the girls figure out Rowan’s scheme and where “ghost central” will be – the non-existent Mercado Hotel (possibly the Conde Nast Building?) – confront Rowan, who appears to commit suicide by electrocution, and are able to shut the machine down. But once again, Lynch trumps their success as an obvious hoax, and the public is unaware of the disaster they just averted.

But wait, there’s more. Rowan’s ghost possesses Kevin and restarts the machine unleashing a torrent of ectoplasmic apparitions, including a ghostly Thanksgiving Day Parade of phantom balloons with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in the rear. (Hmmm) The girls have their work cut out for them.

Except for the special effects and the eye-popping 3D, this movie has a been-there, did-that feel. Instead of an ancient god releasing the ghosts, we have a disgruntled employee doing it. The re-orchestration of the familiar theme song was effective, especially the dance routine during the credits led by Hemsworth. A running gag in the film featuring Bennie the delivery boy (Soni) who repeatedly delivers the wonton soup wrong to Abby is fun, but most of the jokes fall flat from faulty delivery. I laughed five times in the hour and 56 minutes.

But seeing the original cast in cameo roles was refreshing. The desk clerk at the Mercado Hotel was Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd was a cabbie (as well as being the executive director), the funeral director who unknowingly supplied the hearse – plated “Ecto-1” (Hmmm) – was Patty’s Uncle Bill (Hudson) and, at the end, Jillian’s mentor is revealed to be Rebecca Gorin (Weaver). I didn’t see any memorial or reference to Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis was noticeably missing. It was cute that Slimer found a girlfriend in Lady Slimer (Robin Shelby) and Fox 5 News Anchors (Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly) were a surprise along with Al Roker playing himself.

If you don’t remember the first movie, you will find it entertaining. The dialogue is squeaky clean. Your kids would enjoy it without getting scared. Me? I just sighed and wished the original cast could have taken over.

Rating: 2½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

109 Washington St., New York

Sometimes the first restaurant you investigate is the one you want. But there are times when the right restaurant is the one located conveniently and has an opening at the right time even though it’s not the one you would pick first. 

Schilling is a two-month-old Austrian restaurant almost hidden away on the east side of Washington Street amid scaffolding and aged buildings. The location is a tenement building dating from 1871 and looks it. The once white exterior of a retractable garage door and the two columns flanking the door is faded and chipped. However, inside is a tastefully decorated bistro with a 24-seat communal table in the middle of the room leading to the aluminum bar at the far wall. Tables with white chairs and brown banquettes line the two side walls. Real votive candles and wildflowers in small vases line the center of the tables.

The young lady who greeted me would eventually become my server. When she asked if I wanted a drink, I chose the Aviation Cocktail – gin, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice. It was citrusy and refreshing.

My first dish was roasted artichoke hearts with baby carrots and short ribs. It was delightful. The artichokes were crunchy and nicely blackened, the carrots sweet and tender right to the green tips and the pieces of short rib a little salty but juicy.

The accompanying wine was a fine 2013 pinot noir “Mayer am Pfaarplatz” from Austria, a very nice medium-bodied red that went well with all my dishes, especially the next one: grilled quail with sautéed marbled potato, broccoli rabe and dandelion pesto. The quail was crispy skinned, easy to pry apart and tasted wonderful. I have to admit, the potato and the broccoli rabe, which I would normally eschew, were equally good with the pesto.

My main course was something I would never expect on an Austrian menu: braised lamb shoulder with Israeli couscous, mustard greens, and cherry tomatoes. It was as delicious to eat as it was to look at. The attractive presentation left no doubt that it was one of the most popular dishes on the menu. The mustard greens were an inspiration. I ordered curried peas as a side dish, and to my surprise they were snow peas topped with filaments of fried onion and in the lightest curry sauce ever. Even someone who hates curry would love the taste of this dish.

For dessert I had apple strudel with fresh vanilla ice cream and strawberries. It was far from ordinary – delicate in both texture and flavor. I finished with a double espresso and a thistle glass of Austrian brandy. I found Schilling was worth every penny and way beyond its dowdy exterior. It deserves a return visit.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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