Sunday, April 2, 2017

Power Rangers

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Power Rangers (Lionsgate, 2017) – Director: Dean Israelite. Writers: John Gatins (s/p). Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney. Creators: Haim Saban & Shuki Levy. Stars: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Tyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Matt Shively, Cody Kearsley, David Denman, Robert Moloney, Anjali Jay, Sarah Grey & Morgan Taylor Campbell. Color, Rated PG-13, 124 minutes.

One of the best things I can say about this film is that it’s much better than the 1993 live action television series in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, an adaptation of the 1992 Super Sentai Japanese production. It was geared toward children and thus, incredibly corny, with the villains often looking like rubber-suited actors. Thanks to advances in computer generated special effects, the baddies in this story are all too convincing. There is still the element of corn sprinkled in the dialogue and the name (and acting) of the chief antagonist, Rita Repulsa (Banks).

The beginning of the movie explains that 65 million years ago, as a giant meteor was headed to Earth, the original crew of Power Rangers fought Rita for dominance of the planet. Red Ranger Zordon (Cranston), an Eltarian wizard, has his robot Alpha 5 bring the meteor down before breathing his last and blasts Rita into the ocean. From there the movie zaps into the present, in a small mining town called Angel Falls.

Five high school teens meet in detention for various offenses. Jason Lee Scott, soon to be the new Red Ranger (Montgomery), has blown a promising career as a football quarterback and wears a criminal ankle locator. Billy Cranston, the future Blue Ranger (Cyler), literally blew up his lunchbox. He’s a computer nerd and manages to trick the ankle device, thus freeing Jason. In return, Jason drives him to the gold mine outside of town where Billy believes he can set an explosive charge and free a lot of gold. Instead, he uncovers a wall of alien glass with five glowing crystals embedded in it. The other three, Kimberly Hart, the next Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott), Zack Taylor, who will be the Black Ranger (Lin), and the mysterious Trini Kwan the Yellow Ranger (Becky G.) each get the crystal matching their future IDs. These Power Coins give them super-human strength and agility.

Trini doesn’t want to be a part of a group and leaps over a very wide, extremely deep ravine to get away from them. Zack mimics the leap to get her back, followed by Jason and Kimberly. Billy hesitates and almost doesn’t make it. But in his ecstatic gyrations he falls backward into the ravine. The others think he’s a goner until they hear, “Guys! You’ve got to come down and see this.” At the bottom is a body of water with a top surface and a bottom surface. The group discovers a spaceship buried underground and wander into the Power Chamber where they meet robot Alpha 5 (Hader), who has uploaded Zordon’s consciousness into the computerized wall. Zordon awakes and tells the five that he buried the power coins at the end of the Mesozoic Era until they found the next set of Power Rangers.

He tells the story of Rita’s betrayal of the former crew (she was the Green Ranger then, not the witch she is portrayed as in the TV series) and she wants to exterminate all life on Earth. If she finds the Zeo crystal, she’ll have the power to do just that.

Meanwhile, Jason’s dad, Sam (Denman), a commercial fisherman, has to quickly take his last haul of fish onto his ship when a dangerous storm hits. Sorting out the catch, he finds the desiccated body of a woman (Rita), who, of course, is not dead. Now the Power Rangers have to train and train fast so that they can “morph” into full power armor, hop into their “dinozoids” (mechanical vehicles that look like prehistoric creatures) and stop her from calling up her titanic servant Goldar and finding the Zeo crystal (located beneath the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop). I told you there was corn sprinkled into this movie.

Power Rangers is actually the third movie in this genre following Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995) and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997). It is entertaining, with only a couple of slow spots. It has some clever humor as when Jason says, “Sorry Bumblebee!” after the Rangers’ Megazoid (all of the dinozoids in one huge transformer) steps on and throws a yellow Camaro during a battle scene. Or when Jason and a friend smuggle a bull into the school locker room and the friend claims he “calmed” the animal by milking it. Otherwise, this movie is clean in language and though the battles are violent, no blood is spilled. Kids will love it. I found it a little long at two hours and four minutes. Stay through the credits and see the obvious indication of a sequel. The principal is calling a Tommy Oliver to his office, a locker explodes and fans know the Green Ranger is on his way.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Fabio Cucina Italiana
214 West 52nd Street, New York

If you’re looking for somewhere special to dine, Chef Chicco Asante has just the place at Fabio. Though located in Midtown Manhattan, it’s far enough east to be almost secluded. I was surprised at the nearly empty main dining area at 7:30 pm on a Friday. The hostess gave me three options for seating and told me they were having live music that evening. I chose an alcove off the main area from which I could see the singer and hear the guitar, as well as admire the grand room. 

Across the room from myself, the marble wall had three sentences inscribed on it in Italian: Non si può avere la botte piena la moglie ubriaca. (“You cannot have your cake and eat it too.”), L’acqua fa male e il vino fa cantare (“Water hurts and wine makes you sing.”), and A tavola non si invecchia. (“A table does not age.”)

Vincent, my server and a man whose face bespoke a career of dining wisdom, brought me a perfect Beefeater martini and recited the day’s specials. When he confirmed that they made half orders of pasta I knew what my meal would be. After Vincent went to relay them to the kitchen, another server brought the bread basket filled with different slices of toasted bread and an olive tapenade in the separate dish.

Not too long after the singer had finished two songs in French, “La Vie En Rose” and “C’Est Si Bon,” Vincent returned with my 2013 Podere Castorani Montepulciano D’Abruzzi “Cadetto.” The deep dark red wine had a fruity, full bodied character that I loved. We left the wine to breathe as I still had some of my martini left. The singer sang a couple of songs in Portuguese (curiously, never in Italian) and my first course had arrived.

The appetizer was new to me. Called the “Panella Tartufata,” it’s a Sicilian fritter made from chick peas with a light avocado salad on top. The salad dressing was also very light and there was not enough of it to dampen the crisp fritter hiding beneath the greenery. At first, I thought they had the dish wrong, until I found it. Considering I had ordered four courses, I was glad that salad and appetizer were one dish.

In cold weather or hot, I love a good soup, and my next course was a daily special, “Cannellini Bean,” a hearty, honest soup, not too thick or thin and surprisingly, not flavored with any kind of meat. The beans were tender and not over-cooked and it went well with the wine.

Next came a half-order of “Tortelloni al Pomodoro,” fresh-made pasta purses filled with three cheeses and served in an equally fresh-made tomato sauce with basil. They were al dente, decadently cheesy, and graced by the sauce with small chunks of tomato.

My main course was another special – red snapper with scallops and crab meat in a pink sauce, accompanied by roasted potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, string beans, pearl onions and parsley flakes. It was a true taste of the many flavors from Fabio’s chef. The snapper filet was moist and delicate, as were the scallops, and the crab meat was a sweet little addition to the dish. The vegetables were excellent, with a crunch to their texture, and all had their characteristic flavors. Again, nothing was over-cooked and nothing was heavy. The Montepulciano accented everything nicely.

As I had room for dessert, I ordered the creamy cheesecake. It must have been made in a cupcake tin because that was the shape of it on the plate, next to a floret of whipped cream and a garnish of mint leaves. It was a very nice ricotta cheese cake. As I lingered over my double espresso and a snifter of Frangelico I noticed the Ultima Cena (the Last Supper) painting over the door to the kitchen and the copy of a Renoir where I sat. Fabio Cucina Italiana is a class act from start to finish. 

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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