Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ice Age: Collision Course

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Ice Age: Collision Course (20th Century Fox, 2016) – Directors: Mike Thurmeier & Galen T. Chu. Writers: Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, Yoni Brenner (s/p), Aubrey Solomon (story). Voices: Stephanie Beatriz, Robert Cardone, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Adam Devine, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Max Greenfield, Ray Romano, Jessie J, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, Jorge Lucas, Andrew Christopher Nichols, Melissa Rauch, Nick Offerman, Simon Pegg, Chris Wedge, Wanda Sykes, Nick Offerman, Keke Palmer, & Michael Strahan. Animated, Color, Rated PG, 94 minutes.

The fifth film in the Ice Age series begins with a serious monologue by Neil deGrasse Tyson about theories on how the solar system came to be in its current configuration. At the end he says, “Some are much dumber.” 

The scene quickly switches to Scrat (Wedge), who is still chasing the acorn and trying to plant it in the ice without disaster befalling him. This time, a hole opens up beneath him and drops him into a flying saucer encased in the ice. At first, he decides to plant his acorn in the saucer’s driving control, but he changes his mind and accidentally grabs the throttle, hurtling into space causing havoc with both planets and asteroids. In the chaos, two planets collide and the resulting debris starts on a collision course with Earth.

Back on Earth, Ellie (Latifah) the mammoth and her daughter Peaches (Palmer) are planning an anniversary party. As usual, Ellie’s mate, Manny (Romano) is clueless as to what is going on. Even consulting his best friend Diego (Leary) the saber-toothed tiger doesn’t help; and his mate, Shira (Lopez) is not about to give it away. But Manny has other problems. Peaches is in love with Julian (Devine), who is clumsy and hyperactive at the same time. They want to get married and move out on their own.

Elsewhere, Sid (Leguizamo) the ground-sloth is being dumped by girlfriend Francine (Rauch) and again mooning about having nothing left but his “boyish good-looks and a Mariachi band!” (which he hired for their wedding.) His Granny (Sykes) gives him left-handed advice which is useless at best.

On the day of the party, Manny realizes he forgot to get Ellie a gift and it’s at this point that the first scraps of the asteroid enter Earth’s atmosphere like fireworks. Ellie thinks it’s so romantic that he lit up the sky just for her when a major piece flames up and heads right for them and everyone has to run.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been following the five-movie series, in the underground Lost World where the remaining dinosaurs have survived, Buck the Weasel (Pegg) is rescuing a triceratops’ egg from three oviraptors: Gavin (Offerman), his daughter Gertie (Beatriz) and son Roger (Greenfield). As we now know about oviraptors, this trio has feathers, but unlike modern knowledge, these three can fly.

It doesn’t take too much time for Manny’s group and Buck and his pursuers to meet at the surface and figure out that a world extinction type asteroid is heading for Earth and together, they have to avert the collision. The raptors believe they can fly above the destruction and escape it.

Buck has uncovered an ancient monolith (who created it is a complete mystery) from which they get directions to the point where the asteroid will hit. Once there, they discover an asteroid already embedded in the ground. In its crystal-studded interior they meet Brooke (Jessie J), another ground-sloth who is just as looney as Sid, and they fall in love. Brooke brings them to the Shangri Llama (Ferguson) who has no idea as to how to stop the asteroid. 

The Ice Age series started off wonderfully with one and two, Meltdown (2006) and, though still entertaining, lost something in the writing and the attitude of the characters in three, four, Continental Drift (2012) and this one. Scrat remains the one consistently funny member of the cast, while the rest of the “humor” supplied is of the bathroom variety. Another problem is that that main characters have lost much of their personality. What almost makes up for this are three new characters conjured up by Buck; Pythagoras Buck, Robo Buck (both Pegg), and Neil deBuck Weasel (Tyson), who even sports a mustache and the little galaxy and stars vest Neil always wears. Inside the crystal of eternal youth, we find another funny and kind-of sexy character, a big blue bunny named Teddy (Strahan), who finds Granny to be very foxy.

Those who stay through the credits will see the final scene, which was made into one of the trailers: Scrat, his acorn and the sliding doors on the spaceship – still very funny. Kids will love it. Adults who saw all the previous movies will say, “What did you do with my characters?” I suggest the writers take a cue from the writers of the Madagascar series, which is still consistently funny and clever.

Rating: 3½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

2 Lexington Ave., New York

At the southern end point of Lexington Avenue is a sleek white stone building that houses Maialino. Though nondescript on the outside, the inside is like a tastefully decorated Swiss chalet with open beam ceilings, subtly netted lightbulbs in swags, and blue-checked tablecloths under white.

I was led to a table in the back that was perfectly situated by a sunny window. I chose the banquette side so that I could look outside as well be comfortable. I began with “The Bruno’s Buck Cocktail” – Tequila, Green Charteuse, Ginger and lime. It was a lovely pale green, and slightly spicy, but refreshing.

I was having déjà vu – I knew I had visited this place before. I asked Gabe, my waiter, if the Gramercy Park Hotel was right next door and he said it was. That was it! In one of my past jobs back in 1972, I went to lunch in the Gramercy Park Hotel restaurant, which at the time was only a small part of this large, el-shaped restaurant. Back then it was French and I remembered ordering the Sole Bonne Femme because I saw Julia Child prepare it on television.

I discussed various possible dinner selections with Gabe and stated that since Maiale means “pork” in Italian, one dish should be pork. He agreed and we soon had a three-course dinner chosen.

The wine was easy. Usually I’m a red wine lover who is very picky about whites. But when I saw the 2014 Pallavicini from Lazio, I looked no further. It’s fresh, crisp, good with any dish and even good alone with conversation. 

My appetizer, the Trippa alla Trasteverina – spicy Tripe and pecorino – was delightful, a little chewy and not spicy enough for me (I recommended pepperoncino to the chef), but after a liberal application of freshly ground pepper, it was almost perfect. It had none of the astringent effects of badly prepared tripe and all of the good flavor.

The pasta dish was one I’ve never tried before: Garganelli con Coniglio, braised rabbit, tomato and Castelvetrano olives, and it was another gastronomic adventure. The pasta was al dente and the tender rabbit meat was cut to resemble the pasta. It was a surprise in every bite. (Garganelli is a large, ribbed tubular pasta similar to penne.)

Due to a misunderstanding, Gabe brought the dessert menu early. “What about the main course?” I asked. After the apologies, I received the house signature dish, Maialino al Forno – what they call a “four story” suckling pig with rosemary potatoes. It was appetizing, glassy-crisp skin that hid sinfully rich fat and delicate, tender pork with three rib bones at one end.

The dessert choice was much easier. Another new dish for me was Pistachio Budino (very much like a mousse) with Amaretto cherries and dark chocolate pistachio clusters and whipped cream. The budino tantalized me with nutty flavor and the cherries provided a symphonic background and, like bacon, everything goes with whipped cream.

To accompany my white peony tea, I ordered a glass of Brachetto d'Aqui, a reddish pink sparking wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. Even with my fond memories of 1972, Maialino added new ones and the desire to return.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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