Thursday, May 11, 2017

Going In Style

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Going In Style (WB, 2017) – Director: Zach Braff. Writers: Theodore Melfi (s/p), Edward Cannon (story). Stars: Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margaret, Michael Caine, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Lloyd, Alan Arkin, Matt Dillon, Maria Dizzia, John Ortiz, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Kenan Thompson, Katlyn Carlson, Josh Pais, & Nancy Castro. Color, Rated PG-13, 96 minutes.

This movie had a tough act to follow, being a remake of the 1979 film starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. Admittedly, this version is more sedate with many chuckles but the story is played out in the classic definition of a comedy. The all-star cast helps make it memorable.

Joe Harding (Caine) and his best friends Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are seniors who worked for the same plant and all are living from pension check to pension check. Joe’s situation is a bit direr. His daughter Rachel (Dizzia) and granddaughter Brooklyn (King) are now living with him after Rachel split up with her shiftless husband Murphy (Serafinowicz). An appointment with a banker at the Williamsburg Savings Bank doesn’t brighten his situation for he’s received notice that he’s about to be evicted.

Joe’s visit to the bank is interrupted by three bank robbers in black masks, one of who sympathizes with his monetary dilemma. The three make off with $1.6 million. This gives Joe an idea. When he and his buddies learn from a plant manager that all operations are being transferred offshore to Vietnam and that all pension payments are going to be discontinued, the idea blossoms. Rob the bank.

Willie is easy to convince because he only gets to see his family once a year on his limited budget but Albert is not about to go to jail. That is, until he learns that the plant is using their pension money to pay off its debts to the very same bank. The three try a practice heist at a grocery store but are hilariously caught by closed circuit cameras by manager Keith (Thompson), who lets them off with a warning and a book of coupons.

Meanwhile Annie (Ann-Margret), another worker at the same grocery is playing up to Albert and he’s constantly brushing her off, until he agrees to have dinner with her and stays the night. At the same time we’re learning that Willie has been going on dialysis and his doctor tells him that he will need a new kidney.

How to become bank robbers? “I know a low-life who may know someone,” says Joe. His daughter’s ex, Murphy, runs a Baskin-Robbins version of a marijuana store with over thirty-one blends. He agrees to give them quality weed to gain the services of Jesus (Ortiz), an experienced criminal. Joe, Willie and Albert go through an intensive training session including fitness, timing, alibis, inconspicuous getaway car, and how to case the bank. “You broke the first rule of bank robbery. Never rob your own bank.”

With their lodge hosting a charity bazaar for children, the three volunteer for the t-shirt making committee and eventually blend in with many people wearing the same yellow shirt and manning the ticket booth, cotton candy stand and house of horrors, solidify their alibis. They don “Rat Pack” masks (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.) and rob the bank, though it gets dicey when Willie’s weak kidney attacks him. The Access-A-Ride bus departs from the bank successfully.

Though the original was funnier I thoroughly enjoyed this reboot. Michael Caine is charming as usual, Morgan Freeman can do no wrong as an actor (never seen him flop, even in a sci-fi movie) and Alan Arkin is as constant as the speed of light. The real fun was having Milton (Lloyd) in the cast as a gullible, totally clueless, and partially deaf old man who is simply great. Ann-Margret is still lovely and alluring.

The film has only one F-bomb, but it’s delivered sweetly by an elderly lady when Joe steals her scooter. Otherwise, the movie is squeaky clean. I always look for the moment of pathos, and the teary occasion is there but it’s just before a clever twist of joy. And…how can I fault a movie that ends in The Boathouse in Central Park, one of the most romantic restaurants in New York?

Rating: 4 out of 5 martini glasses.
Taberna 97
97 St. Mark’s Place,  New York

Regular readers of this column may be surprised to learn that of all the various cuisines offered in the city of New York, this is only my second venture into Portuguese.

St. Mark’s Place has changed greatly since the ‘60s. The air is distinctly cleaner and the street hubbub resonates with the word “like” rather than “man.”

I loved the exterior design of the restaurant, with its heart-shaped mural (composed of many multicolored hearts that took me back 50 years) and a simple, walk-down entrance framed in a comforting Mediterranean blue.

Inside I waited until a tall, bearded young man greeted me, confirmed my reservation and led me to a table near the window leading to the garden in the back. Rather than white tablecloths, the tables were topped with white marble; rightly so, because the candlesticks were covered with candle-drippings right down to their bases. (Mine was stuck to the table top.)

I considered the port cocktail – ruby port, lillet rose, muddled orange and thyme – to be the appropriate beginner to my experience as the Portuguese practically invented port wine. It was sweet (not surprising) and only a little citrusy, with the thyme making for a nice accent.

The menu was mostly in Portuguese with English descriptions. My server helped navigate me through the difficult sections and made my decisions easier. Thanking him for his advice, I noted that I prefer heavier dishes and made my selections. Another server brought the bread accompanied by a smaller cylindrical bowl of olive oil.

The Caldo Verde (hot green) soup was first. The bowl was impressively deep, but was only two-thirds full of a hearty, beany broth with sliced sausage and collard greens. The side dish, Migas – collard greens, Portuguese corn bread, garlic and black-eyed peas – was served with the soup. I added some of it to the soup and it was wonderful.

By this time I had chosen my wine. They had a few selections from Portugal and one stood out. The 2013 Herdade do Esporão (vineyards), Reserva in the Alentejo region of Portugal (where the cork oak forests and olive groves also grow) is an eye-opening, spicy, full bodied, deep red. It was as exciting to drink alone as in combination with any dish. My server brought a glass right away. Not knowing that Esporão (Ish-por-ow) was the name of a vineyard, I asked my server what it meant in Portuguese. He said that the closest word could be esporas (Ish-por ahs) meaning “spurs.”

My appetizer, Almôndega de Alheira – pork sausage meatballs over charred broccoli rabe florets with a port wine-poached pear/cured egg yolk sauce – formed an attractive green triangle on the plate with the meatballs placed neatly on each side. Unlike Italian meatballs, these were light and airy. Normally, I’m not a fan of broccoli rabe but these were garlicky, a bit salty, and delightful when coated with the sweet sauce.

When I had finished the third meatball, my main course arrived. Picadinho Misto (mixed mincemeat) – beef, chicken, and merguez sausage with olives, potatoes, cauliflower and carrots – reflected the heartiness of my soup. Contrary to the meaning of picadinho, the three meats were in small, bite-sized chunks, not minced, and covered by the toasty-crisp vegetables and large Spanish olives. There is a reason why Portuguese restaurants do not put salt or pepper shakers on the table: It’s already in every dish and every dish is perfectly seasoned. The size of the dish was a bit large and I had my doubts about finishing it, but with sips of wine and bits of bread, it eventually disappeared.

Choosing a dessert was easy. Salame de Chocolate – dark chocolate, cookies, almonds, butter, eggs and port wine, sliced like real salami – was intriguing: it was chocolate, it was cookie, it was nutty and definitely a new experience. I loved it. Accompanied by an espresso and a glass of Calem late-bottled vintage port wine from the Douro region, my Portuguese adventure came to a satisfying end. 

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment