Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Star Trek Beyond (Paramount, 2016) – Director: Justin Lin. Writers: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, Roberto Orci, Patrick McKay & John D. Payne. Based on the television series by Gene Roddenberry. Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yeltsin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslima, Lydia Wilson, Deep Roy, Melissa Roxburgh, Anita Brown, & Doug Jung. Color and 3D, Rated PG-13, 122 minutes.

I have a confession to make: I’m a “Trekkie.” I have a complete set of action figures, starships for my Christmas tree and a Next Generation captain’s shirt. Though I don’t attend conventions, I followed the original Star Trek series, Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine and will probably follow the upcoming Star Trek Discovery next year. And yes, I’ve seen all 12 previous movies, with this 13th installment having both things to applaud and to wonder about.

We begin in the third year of the “five-year mission” and while relations between members of the crew are becoming strained, they’re heading for some “R and R” on an amazing artificial world dubbed “Yorktown,” described by Scotty (Pegg) as “a snow-globe with a city in it.” That’s putting it mildly. Yorktown is a gargantuan structure where skyscrapers sprout up, down and sideways, depending on which walkway one is using. Mass transit flashes by on a single rail and all “cars” fly (Jetsons, anyone?). A gate opens and the Enterprise flies straight into a tube leading to an internal docking point.

Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Pine) is being offered a Vice-Admiralty and Commander Spock (Quinto) is considering leaving the Enterprise for New Vulcan to continue the work of his father. Meanwhile, the crew gets relief from interstellar travel to meet and greet friends and family.

A distress call is received from a planet in an “Unstable Nebula” and the Enterprise is assigned to investigate. Forgive me, but I have always believed that nebulae were clouds of gas and dust illuminated by ionization, sometimes the result of a supernova, and where stars are born. All are expanding and none are truly what would be called stable. This one is more crammed with craggy rocks than the asteroid field in Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back, and looks more like an exploded planet than a star. But … this is science fiction.

Once past the nebula, the Enterprise is attacked by a huge swarm of jagged, pointy ships that easily punch holes in its bulkhead and discharge hordes of reptilian fighters. (Where are the Enterprise’s shields?) They’re looking for an ancient artifact called the Abronath that Kirk tried to offer to another alien race that looks like lions but are the size of pugs as a peace offering. This artifact is wanted by the fearsome Krall (Elba) to complete (what else?) the ultimate weapon to wipe out humanity. (Gee, that’s original.) It remains hidden until a traitor is unmasked, the alien Kalara (Lydia Wilson), who reveals the hiding place in the tentacles forming her headdress. The swarm of pointy ships slice and dice the Enterprise like an inter-galactic blender, the crew is taken hostage, the officers use escape pods and the ship crash lands on the planet Altamid. 

Sulu (Cho), Lieutenant Uhura (Saldana), and Chekov (Yelchin) are captured, but Sulu and Chekov later escape. Spock is impaled by debris when the escape pod carrying him and Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Urban) crashes. Thank goodness he had the doctor with him. Scotty lands near the edge of a cliff and meets Jaylah (Boutella), a skunk-striped alien who is also stranded. She leads him to her home, the old, warp-4 starship Franklin, formerly commanded by Balthazar Edison.

The dilemmas facing the heroes when they reunite on the Franklin are how to rescue Uhura, restart a grounded starship, and stop Krall and his minions from destroying Yorktown.

Though it sounds exciting, for Trekkies, there’s a lot of “been there and done that.” The cinematography is darker than a Thomas Cole painting (sometimes it’s difficult to see what’s happening), and the science credibility goes in and out of the fantastic. For everyone else, it’s a fast-moving picture with lots of action, relieved only in spurts by character development. Again, for Trekkies, it was good to see Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu and Chekov growing into the characters we know and love from the original TV series, right down to Doctor McCoy’s line, “In a pig’s eye!” Only Zoe Saldana has not grasped the majesty of being Uhura. I found it rather hilarious that the song “Sabotage,” performed by the Beastie Boys, is used to disorient the enemy fleet and more than a  little strange that Spock receives his own death notice as Ambassador Spock.

But it was good that, in this 50th Anniversary year, the film was dedicated to the late Leonard Nimoy and simply, “For Anton,” the late Anton Yeltsin.

Rating: 3½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

Did you know? Pine's grandmother as Anne Gwynne, Universal actress and World War II pin-up.

154 Bleecker St., New York

Surya, which means “sun” in Hindi, is doing well in its new locale. Its previous site at 302 Bleeker St. closed in 2012 as a result of rent increases and damages from Superstorm Sandy. 

Inside, all is golden, with tasteful, minimal ornamentation – framed photographs of the past, mirrors and statutes of Ganesha and elephants.

A young lady greeted me at the door and led me to a table where Shradha, my server, presented me with the menu and took my cocktail order. I chose the “Summer Delight Cocktail,” made with cucumber-flavored vodka, mango juice and cloves. Not too strong, it was an appropriately named drink.

Colonial Indian” is how Surya describes their menu, from a time when England, Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands influenced Indian cuisine with their own.

A young man brought out the papadum (a bread like a giant potato chip) with mint and tamarind chutney. Sometimes mint chutney can be spicy, but not this time, and tamarind is always sweet. I chose as my wine a 2014 Clos Du Mont-Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape, a wine I haven’t had in a long time and one that goes with Indian food.

My first course was the smoked tomato soup – smoked ripe tomatoes and cinnamon sticks garnished with sour cream and cilantro. It was delightful, as I could taste the smokiness of a wood fire.

Next to arrive were two of Surya’s baby lamb chops, wrapped in aluminum foil for easy handling, nicely charred in the tandoor oven, and tender, marinated in yoghurt and served with a warm special house sauce and side salad of shredded cabbage and arugula.

My main dish was one I’ve never seen before on an Indian menu: Halibut Moli, sautéed halibut in a ginger and coconut sauce., served with Basmati rice. It was amazing, the sauce went well with both the fish and the rice, as I spooned out some of the rice to my plate and spoon cut the fish onto the rice. Then I added some of the sauce onto the rice and added a slice of the Onion and Black Pepper Kulcha (a flat bread made in the tandoor). Everything was deliciously balanced in flavor, nothing was particularly spicy and I would recommend this dish to anyone prejudiced against Indian cuisine.

The dessert menu featured several of the desserts I know and love but one stood out. While I’ve had pistachio, chocolate, and plain Kulfi, I never tasted Malai Kulfi. I enjoyed this true departure from the original recipe with chocolate, raspberry and strawberry sauces artfully painted on the serving dish. I followed this with Masala Chai (hot spiced tea) and since they did not have evaporated milk I drank it without milk. 

Surya proved to be an intriguing choice, and though I like my Indian food to be more traditionally Indian, this colonial style is sure to please even the most spice-o-phobic New Yorkers.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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