Monday, June 12, 2017

The Fate of the Furious

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

The Fate of the Furious (Universal, 2017) – Director: F. Gary Gray. Writers: Chris Morgan (s/p), Gary Scott Thompson (characters). Stars: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kristofer Hivju, Scott Eastwood, Patrick St. Esprit & Janmarco Santiago. Color, Rated PG-13, 136 minutes.

Keeping up with this series of movies based on international thefts and ridiculously equipped car races is about as easy as racing the main character, Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and winning. 

It’s the seventh sequel after The Fast and the Furious (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), Fast & Furious (2009), Fast Five (2011), Fast & Furious 6 (2013) and Furious 7 (2015). All of them promise an insane amount of action, incredible heists and excitement and all deliver an incredible amount of wrecked vehicles, though I would propose that this latest one tops them all. I was gripping my seat arms nearly throughout the film and only occasionally wondered where (and when) it would end.

After honeymooning in Cuba, Dom Letty ‘Ortiz’ Toretto (Rodriguez) rejoin the team, comprised of Dom, Letty, Roman Pearce (Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), and beautiful, computer genius Ramsey (Emmanuel) are recruited by Diplomatic Security Services Agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) to assist in swiping an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) device in Berlin. But unknown to the other team members, international cyber terrorist Cipher (Theron) has convinced Dom to “go rogue” and they make off with the device.

The team are now on Interpol’s Ten Most Wanted List (except for Roman, he’s number eleven and is insulted by the fact) and Hobbs is imprisoned in the same high security prison holding Deckard Shaw (Statham), who still holds a major grudge against Hobbs for putting his younger brother Owen in a coma (Fast & Furious 7). A prison break is staged and both Hobbs and Deckard are recruited by Frank Petty/Mr. Nobody (Russell) and his slightly inept assistant, Eric Reisner/Little Nobody (Eastwood), whose lack of diplomacy almost gets him killed by Hobbs. Through Deckard they learn of Cipher and her capabilities with the EMP, the Nightshade Device she employed Owen to steal (it can blackout an entire country) and the team uses Ramsey’s program – dubbed “God’s Eye” – to track Dom down. Unfortunately, they track him to the same building they currently inhabit and Dom and Cipher break in and steal the God’s Eye program. Things are looking worse. Now Dom cannot be tracked.

We learn that Cipher is holding Dom’s previous lover, Elena Neves (Pataky) – she lived with him in Fast & Furious 6 – and she now has his infant son with her. Both are threatened with death unless Dom does Cipher’s bidding. Dom hangs the cross pendant he got from Letty on the bullet-proof wall enclosing Elena and son. Now Cipher wants a nuclear football containing the codes for all Russian missiles possessed by the Russian Minister of Defense, currently in transit in a motorcade in New York. To cripple the security police, Cipher hacks into the computers of all autonomous cars in the area, literally making it “rain” cars from a multi-level parking facility onto the motorcade. Dom only has to threaten to explode the gas tank to get the briefcase.

The plot? Cipher wants “accountability.” Any nation that does something she doesn’t like will be nuked. Though Ramsey’s computer skills are formidable, it takes the rest of the team to disarm the nuclear missile controls on a submarine Cipher manages to hack and launch remotely. And the chase is on across the ice over the Barents Sea near Alaska.

Though the threat to the world seems dark, the flip levity scattered throughout lightens the mood and the sheer improbability of the computational powers adds an element of fantasy. Take that and Roman’s insistence on driving a $100,000 neon orange Lamborghini Murcielago across ice while being pursued by a nuclear sub and you cannot help but laugh.

The team fit their roles admirably, but the acting nomination goes to Charlize Theron. She is perfectly evil and hateful in her confident arrogance. And there’s an element of class. Helen Mirren cameos as Magdalene Shaw, mother to Deckard and Owen, and assists the team.

Fate of the Furious has multiple explosions, gunfire scenes, as well as huge piles of twisted metal from vehicle crashes. With all the violence, there is surprisingly little blood. It moves with the force of a hurricane with only a few slower moments to give the audience time to breathe. And the surprising twists that enable the team to succeed were masterful. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’ve heard that Dwayne Johnson is interested in making another one. Stay tuned.

Rating 2.5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

The Sugar Factory
1991 Broadway, New York

From the street, the 20-foot-high, all-glass façade of The Sugar Factory is deceiving: a hospital white interior with a few tables hinting at nothing but an incredibly sanitary sidewalk gelateria, almost like dining inside a refrigerator. Walk to the back of this cavernous ice cube, however, and one finds the Captain’s Station. I was led to the main dining area (another high-ceiling room) and was seated on a black leather banquette at a white marble-topped table, where the white and black motif is continued throughout with red accents. A huge crystal chandelier shares the ceiling with the largest gold disco ball I’ve ever seen. Naya, my server handed me a thick, plastic coated menu book and soon I understood why.  

On almost every table there are six-inch diameter goblets filled with dry ice and ingredients. The servers pour the drinking contents over the ice and they smoke like cauldrons in an Addams Family episode. There are several pages in the menu devoted to these oversized cocktails, which can be alcoholic or not. But I just found them too conspicuous. 

I hesitantly ordered the “Sour Apple Lolly.” It was a pleasing shade of green, and there was no doubt about the sour apple flavor, but it was sweet and what vodka may have been in it was barely detectible. The sweetness was increased by the bright green sugar rimming the glass and, what looked like a cherry was really a sour apple lollipop.

Since the first drink was so mild I decided to try another flavor. The “Watermelon Burst” was undoubtedly watermelon flavored, but the drink had no kick whatsoever, and the garnish was two jelly candies shaped like sugar-coated watermelon slices. Now I knew why there was so much activity among the many children celebrating birthdays there, always with a flare-like sparkler in whatever dessert they chose. The restaurant is well-named, as there is sugar everywhere.

As it was time for food, I chose the “Baked Brie Wrapped in Puff Pastry,” served with apricot jam, apple slices and a warm toasted baguette. The cheese was wonderful and warm, the bread crispy and the apple slices great. The apricot jam was intensely sweet. I liked it, but it was filling me too soon.

I told Naya that it was time for a serious cocktail. They didn’t have my favorite gin (no surprise) but they did have Stolichnaya vodka. The resulting martini was watered down (again no surprise). I figured that I should have a main course before I filled up on sugar. Having waffles or pancakes for dinner is not my style and the Monster Burgers did not attract me. Crepes? Maybe. 

But I saw the dinner on the table to my left and chose the “Mediterranean Chicken Pappardelle,” with sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, fresh herbs, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic and toasted pine nuts. It was the best thing I tried. The pasta was obviously not pappardelle but it was al dente and the combination of ingredients was flavorful and filling.

It was so filling I feared ordering a dessert. Instead, I asked Naya what her favorite chocolate martini was. She chose the “S’Mores Chocolate Martini” – marshmallow and chocolate liquor with graham cracker rim and flaming marshmallows garnish. Nice gimmick, but it was back to sugar again. I was finished.

There was definitely no room for Ice Cream Sandwiches, Chocolate Fondues and especially not the Insane milkshakes. They’re not kidding. These eight-inch-tall glasses not only have a milkshake inside, but a chocolate coating on the outside of the glass and a tall candy garnish towering over the rim. Diabetics, be afraid, be very afraid. If your health can handle it, the Sugar Factory can take you back to your childhood, literally. Would I go back? Maybe for breakfast.

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