Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Storks (WB, 2016) – Directors: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland. Writer: Nicholas Stoller. Stars: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Awkwafina, Ike Barinholtz, Jorma Taccone & Amanda Lund. Color, Animated, Rated PG, 89 minutes.

Eighteen years ago, Boss Stork Hunter (Grammer) shut down the baby delivery system for an Amazon-like package mailing service called The Corner Store. Why? Because Jasper (Trejo), one of his employees, fell in love with the baby he was scheduled to deliver and accidentally broke the device that would tell him where to deliver her. Thus, Tulip (Crown) grew up on Stork Mountain and is now 18. She hasn’t been an asset to the company. Every time she attempts to help it ends in a disaster. For instance, she straps jet-packs onto a quail, an emu and a chicken to give them a taste of something they cannot naturally do – fly. The resulting crash sets fire to half the warehouse.

A young and up-coming stork with several successful flights to his resume is called into Hunter’s office by boot-licker and boss-wannabe, Pigeon Toady (Glickman). Junior (Samberg) is almost overcome by the honor of meeting the boss. Hunter plays on Junior’s ambitions and dangles the carrot of eventually being the “Boss” if he fires his friend Tulip.

Instead of firing her (a word he fails to even pronounce), he promotes her to the Letter Sorting Room, a huge space with a table and chair and nothing to do (all letters are being intercepted and stored in a large bin). The one caveat he gives Tulip is to not leave the room, ever.

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, real estate agents Henry and Sarah Gardner (Burrell and Aniston) are too busy with their endless clients to play with, or simply pay attention to their imaginative son, Nate (Starkman). On a drive in their car, Nate sees another little boy happily playing with his brother in a nearby vehicle. When he asks Mom and Dad if he can have a little brother, he gets surprised looks and “You’re all we need” from them. Back at home, Nate finds a brochure for the Stork Baby Delivery System. He writes a letter and mails it, efficiently delivered to Tulip, who is overjoyed to finally receive a letter.

While Hunter is discussing how great his life could be as Boss, Junior sees Tulip getting dangerously close to the baby-making machine on the many computer monitors and manages to shut them off before Hunter can see what’s happening and hurries down to her. But she wants to do her “job” and puts the letter in the slot before he can stop her and the magical machine starts up. The bright red “off” button is protected by a series of mangling gears and Junior disables his right wing pushing it. But it’s too late. An adorable red-headed baby girl has been produced by the Rube Goldberg device and is awaiting delivery in an Apollo Mission-like capsule.

Junior knows he has to deliver this baby before Hunter finds out that the machine has been restarted, but how? He can’t fly. Tulip is a tinkerer and has built a plane, and they’re off on the adventure that is Storks. Neither is prepared for crashing into a frozen wasteland, meeting a pack of hungry wolves led by the Alpha Wolf (Key) and his Beta Wolf (Peele) and being pursued relentlessly by the wacky canines. Nor are they prepared for the devious detective work of the nefarious Pigeon Toady, who discovers their breach of the rules.

Warner Brothers studios are one of my favorite sources of animation. They gave us Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, the Animaniacs, and Pinky and the Brain. The quality of their animation is legendary and, even though the eyes are drawn a bit too large in this film, it’s still a masterpiece of animation. Voice matching to the characters is hard enough when the speakers let each other finish a sentence. Here we have several arguments between Junior and Tulip where their lines overlap and it’s still comprehensible – and very funny. The various crazy scenes are hilarious without the wolf pack acting like army ants and forming themselves into whatever shape the Alpha wolf commands.

There are only two draw-backs: Pigeon Toady has a weird California/English accent and many of his lines are garbled, even when he sings a verse from “How You Like Me Now?” If he said anything comic, it was lost. The other is a little more concerning. The film is beautifully made with a great soundtrack and begins by debunking the myth of babies being delivered by storks. However, it reinforces it towards the end. If you’re the kind of parent who wants your child to know the truth, you might think about how well adjusted your child is before seeing this film. I loved it and really wanted to believe the myth upon leaving the theater. It was that well done.

Rating: 4½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

Lion’s Beer Store
104 Second Ave., New York

As I was born under the sign Leo, I cannot resist any restaurant using “Lion” in their title. Located in the East Village, the Lion’s Beer Store has been in business for six years. As I soon discovered, it is a place where “informal” is more than a word. I was given my choice of tables, inside or out, and chose one that was virtually inside at the front end of the l-shaped bar, which faced the avenue.

The server presented me with the food menu card tucked in a plastic sleeve and the beer Mmenu, which was every bit as large as a wine list in a good restaurant. It’s pages sorted according to type with 350 beers (some non-alcoholic) and six ciders listed with brief descriptions and origins, 16 of which were on tap. 

Asked if I’d like to start with one, I ordered the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, which hails from the oldest brewery in Germany in the town of Freising. When my beer was almost finished, my server asked if I’d like another. Since my date was still a half hour away, I asked which beer was his favorite. He recommended the Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen, again from Germany. It was an amazing delight, with the slight bitterness of beer modulated by real grapefruit juice. I tried to sip it slowly.

When I was about halfway through the beer, it was timer for an appetizer. Another server had brought an intriguing dish to a couple in front of me. It smelled wonderful and I ordered it. Banger Salchipapas – pan-fried sliced beef sausages with thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes in a light, spicy sauce and drizzled with cheddar cheese; a Colombian/Peruvian dish. My date arrived just as it was served. I ordered a Schofferhofer for her and the evening began as we shared the good-sized appetizer.

She was as surprised by the selection of beers as I was and suggested my next draught: the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale from Delaware. It was stronger and redder than what I just finished with a slightly spicy overtone from cloves that complimented the appetizer nicely.

Next we ordered the Greek salad – a lovely (and big) bowl of cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, onions, red olives, olive paste and feta cheese. To accompany it, I chose the Bosteels Pauwel Kwak from Buggenhout, Belgium, a dark, strong beer served in a unique auto-horn-shaped glass that needs to be propped up by a wooden gantry.

For the main course we ordered the moules frites – mussels in a buttery Belgian pilsner reduction and shoestring fries sprinkled over the top. At first, my date didn’t know what to think, but she enjoyed them when I told her to combine the mussels with the sauce and maybe one or two fries. I loved it, and we both finished the sauce as a soup. Since the sauce was made with pilsner, I ordered the Lion Imperial Pilsner from Sri Lanka, a light and thin beer that didn’t interfere with the flavor of the mussels.

When my date asked me if I wanted a dessert, I suggested a dessert-like beer: the shake chocolate porter from Boulder Beer, Colorado. It was the perfect end to a beer-accented meal, with a definite chocolatey flavor to its semi-sweet porter tang. We both had a lot of fun at the Lion’s Beer Store. We took selfies with the server and met a couple from Seattle before leaving. I have a suspicion I will return. So many beers, so little time.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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