Monday, June 29, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for July 1-7

July 1–July 7


THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE (July 4, 1:30 pm): Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas co-starred in a number of excellent films, but besides Seven Days in May, this is their best. The Devil's Disciple is a delightfully funny and fun story of a straight-laced preacher (Lancaster) and a colonial rebel (Douglas) during the Revolutionary War. Add Sir Laurence Olivier as British General John Burgoyne and a screenplay based on the George Bernard Shaw play and you've got an outstanding film that's a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a film fan. The chance to see Lancaster, Douglas and Olivier together is reason enough to see this. On top of that, it's lively, filled with action and incredibly entertaining.

THE GREAT DICTATOR (July 5, 9:30 pm): TCM shows this 1940 Charlie Chaplin masterpiece on a regular basis so it often gets overlooked. As he did in so many of his roles, Chaplin brilliantly portrays the film's protagonist, known as "a Jewish barber," with great empathy and humility while still being funny. And when you mention funny, his impersonation of Adolf Hitler - the character in the film is named Adenoid Hynkel - is spot-on and highly entertaining. The film, made before the United States was at war with Nazi Germany, has several iconic scenes, including Hynkel playing with a bouncing globe, and a chase scene between the barber and storm troopers. Chaplin's brilliance lied in his ability to make people think about the world while making them laugh. There is no finer example of that than The Great Dictator. The ending is beautiful. It's too bad life rarely turns out to have a happy Hollywood ending, but that doesn't diminish from the entertainment and importance of this landmark film. 


1776 (July 4, 1:30 am): A musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You’re kidding, right? No, we’re not kidding, and furthermore, it’s quite good. Based on the play, it retains many of those originally performed it. William Daniels is splendid as John Adams, Ken Howard makes for a most effective Thomas Jefferson, and Howard DaSilva is the spitting image of Ben Franklin. Throw in Virgina Vestoff as Abigail Adams and Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson, and the film really rocks. Watch out, however, for John Cullum as Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. He brings down the house with “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” Other numbers to look for include “But Mr. Adams,” “Cool Cool, Considerate Men” (my favorite), and the heart tugging “Mama Look Sharp.” American history was never this much fun.

DUCK SOUP (July 5, 8:00 pm): There are very few comedic masterpieces in film history. This is one of the best and probably the best antiwar movie ever made. Imagine - Groucho becomes dictator of Fredonia at the whim of Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), to whom the government owes large sums of money. Chico and Harpo work as spies for Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) of neighboring Sylvania, which has its eyes on Fredonia. Trentino hopes to marry Mrs. Teasdale and take over Fredonia, but Groucho stands in his way. Eventually their rivalry leads to war. And what a war! Every vestige of nationalism is lampooned, from Paul Revere’s ride to the draft. It has great dialogue and sight gags galore, each managing to top the previous one. It’s incredible to believe, but this film bombed at the box office so badly that Paramount cancelled the Marx Brothers’ contract. Today it’s a classic of the genre. With the gorgeous Raquel Torres and the hysterical Edgar Kennedy, whose encounters with Chico and Harpo are truly side-splitting.


ED: A. This is a remarkable fantasy film, all the more so in that it was made in the days before CGI, using incredible Technicolor photography by Georges Perinal and Osmond Borradaile. (Oscar winning, by the way.) The production design by Vincent Korda is just as impressive. This is not a remake of the Douglas Fairbanks silent, but introduces a totally new story, also drawing from the Thousand-and-One-Nights tales. And the story chosen is both remarkable and enthralling, starring producer Alexander Korda’s discovery, Indian actor Sabu, who plays Abu, a thief amongst the many merchants that make up the marketplace of Bagdad. He and Prince Ahmad (John Justin), the rightful ruler of Bagdad who was overthrown by his evil Grand Vizier, Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) fight to vanquish Jaffar, who also has designs on the Prince’s love, the sultan’s daughter (June Duprez). Along the way we are treated to such visual delights as a flying carpet, a deadly six-armed dervish, a full-size mechanical horse, a stolen all-seeing ruby eye, and the Genie of the Lamp, played by the great Rex Ingram, who walks away with the picture despite the best efforts of Veidt. It’s one of the few pre-1960 films parents can show their children, as it’s made in Technicolor and is one helluva an adventure. And the score by Miklos Rozsa fits the film perfectly and enhances our viewing pleasure.

DAVID: B-. This is one of those films that should be great fun with colorful characters and costumes in an exotic location with a story filled with action and adventure. Don't get me wrong, it came close, but fell short of my expectations. Conrad Veidt as the evil Jaffar is wonderful as is Rex Ingram as the genie. Sabu is also quite charming as Abu, the boy thief. The biggest problem with this film is the love story between Ahmad the Prince (John Justin) and the Princess (June Duprez). Movies like this have the cliche love story between the naive, beautiful princess and the handsome prince who's been wronged as a central focus. The film is supposed to be exciting, but it sacrifices some action for romantic scenes – the kind that make kids say, "Eww, that's gross," and make adults wonder "What is this silly love story doing in a film for kids?" So it loses points because of that. However, there are plenty of great moments as Ed mentioned. The flying carpet is cool as is the ruby eye and the genie. Lose the love story focus, edit it down another 15 minutes and you'd have a real winner of a movie.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Little Facts Mean A Lot

By Jon Gallagher

A long time ago (20 years), in a galaxy far, far away (Galesburg, Illinois), I did a radio show once a week called the J. L. Newton Rock ‘n’ Fun Show. I had started doing the show as a non-traditional student on the college radio station in town (WVKC – the VOICE of Knox College), and when I graduated, a local FM station contacted me to continue the show on commercial radio (WGBQ-FM, Q-93).

On the show, I played oldies, introduced songs with bits of trivia about the song, and even took trips in our Magical, Mystical, Musical Time Machine back to whatever date we were on, to a year somewhere between 1960 and 1985. I’d play the top 20 songs in countdown order from that date, looked at magazine covers that had come out that week, read the top stories that had appeared in both local and Chicago newspapers, and covered what movies were at local theaters (most of which didn’t exist anymore) and TV shows that were on that night. It took a lot of research, but it was a ton of fun, and it gave me four hours a week on Sunday nights to relax with music and escape from life. Even after I became a high school English teacher (after all, I had gone to college for that), I continued to do the show (without my students knowing it) because it was so much fun. I’d probably still be doing it today if the owner of the station hadn’t sold it to a company I wouldn’t have worked for no matter what kind of money they paid (I’d have done the show for free for the first owners – and practically did!).

I bring all this up to give you a rather long-winded explanation of how I came across what this particular entry is about. I miss doing the show and the trivia that goes with it, so at the suggestion of a few friends, I put together a Facebook page called the Rootin’ Tootin’ J. L. Newton Rock ‘n’ Fun Show page where each morning I post an almanac of what happened on that date, plus trivia and a song of the day.

When I wrote the June 8 entry, I found that Ghostbusters had come out 31 years ago on that date. Ghostbusters is a timeless classic (that will be remade and released in 2016 with female stars) that is just as good today as it was 31 years ago. While researching it, I found out a lot of things I didn’t know.

The movie was conceived quite differently than the finished product. Originally named “Ghost Smashers” by writer Dan Aykroyd, it was supposed to take place in the future, not the present, and Ghostbuster units were to be found at every fire station, just like paramedics and other first responders. John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, and Aykroyd were to star. The problem was, with all the special effects written into the original futuristic version, the budget would have been (according to director Ivan Reitman) over $300 million in 1984 dollars!

Instead, they decided to make it present day. The ghostbusters would wear SWAT uniforms and instead of carrying bulky equipment, they would dispel the evil spirits with special magic wands.

While retooling the original, Belushi died from a drug overdose, and Chevy Chase was offered his part. He declined because he felt the original script was “too dark.” Bill Murray stepped into the Belushi role, but only under the condition that the studio remake the movie Razor’s Edge with him as the star. John Candy signed on, but quit the cast early on when he felt that his ideas were not being used. Murphy was offered Beverly Hills Cop, so Ernie Hudson took his role. Michael Keaton was offered a part as either lead character, but he turned it down.

John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Walken, and Jeff Goldblum were all considered for a role in the film, but Harold Ramis, one of the writers, finally decided that he himself was best suited to play Dr. Egon Spengler.

Whenever things would happen unexpectedly on the set (whether by accident, or accidently on purpose), the cast and crew would blame it on the ghost of Belushi. More than once, someone said that they hoped that busting the ghosts on the film would hurt John’s ghost.

Although there was a script, a good part of the movie was improvised. In fact, Murray never recited a single line the way it was written. He had ad-libbed his way through Caddyshack four years earlier and it worked so well that they allowed him to do it in this film as well.

During a battle with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Aykroyd’s character mentions roasting marshmallows at “Camp Wokanda” when he was a boy. Camp Wokanda is one of our local parks, a former Boy Scout Camp just a little ways north of Peoria, about 35 minutes away from where I now live. I always enjoy hearing about nearby locations in movies.

The Ghostbusters theme song was also interesting. Huey Lewis was approached (as was Lindsay Buckingham) to write the theme, but he turned it down. Ray Parker Jr. took the job and didn’t have much done on it as the deadline approached. Parker saw a late night TV commercial for a New York plumber with the phrase “Who you gonna call?” and he took off from there. Ironically, Huey Lewis would later successfully sue Parker for plagiarizing his song “I Want A New Drug” with the Ghostbusters theme.

Parker rushed his song into production and he used anybody he could find for the chorus. Even his young girlfriend was used for the group that chants “Ghostbusters!” at the appropriate time in the song. Whatever he did must have worked because the song spent three weeks on the top of Billboard’s Hot 100.

The video for the song had a long list of celebrities making cameos, and a whole list of stars who didn’t make the cut for some reason or another. Appearing in no particular order: John Candy, Irene Cara, Chevy Chase, Melissa Gilbert, Al Franken, Ollie E. Brown, George Wendt, Jeffrey Tambor, Carly Simon, Danny DeVito, Terri Garr, and Peter Falk.

Director Ivan Reitman made the comment on the DVD commentary that he was so rushed to get the movie finished that many of the special effects were left unfinished. He notes several shots where wires are showing, for example. The thing is, he noted, no one really cared.

There’s even more, mundane as it may be, trivia about the film, but I’ve whetted my own appetite. I wonder if I can find it somewhere online to watch. The video store is about 20 miles away!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Laura Antonelli: In Memoriam

Italian Cinema Sex Symbol

By Ed Garea

Laura Antonelli, a self-described “ugly duckling” as a child who later became one of Italy’s top sex symbols in the 1970s, died June 22 at her seaside home in Ladispoli, west of Rome. She was 73.

Roberto Ussia Spinaci, the councilman in charge of social services in Ladispoli, confirmed her death, attributed to a heart attack. (She was found by her housekeeper.) Since 2009, he said, she had been a ward of the city, unable to care for herself.

Beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing for almost a quarter-century, Antonelli appeared in more than 40 films, beginning in 1964 with an unbilled appearance in The Magnificent Cuckold and continuing through Malizia 2000 in 1991. Her breakthrough to stardom came in the 1973 erotic comedy Malizia (“Malicious”), a coming-of-age film where Antonelli’s sexy housekeeper seduces a young man and his widowed father, a performance that won her a Nastro d'Argento award in 1974. The film broke box office records in Italy and established Antonelli as a major attraction. Other notable films included Till Marriage Do Us Part (1974), The Innocent (1976), Wifemistress (1977, in which she played a repressed wife experiencing a sexual awakening), and Passion of Love (1981). Antonelli was in the mold of other sex symbols such as Brigitte Bardot, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, and Monica Vitti, who reigned in an era when the sex was more suggestive and left to the imagination. Her career faded when sex comedies went out of style in the 1980s.

She said in an interview that she never thought of herself as being particularly sexy, but added that she had no qualms about being considered a sex symbol or appearing in the nude. “If I manage to communicate a kind of sensuality on the screen, it must mean that there is something in me that I can express,” she said. “I am proud of it. After all, sex is a reality which lives in our dreams, in our sentiments. The important thing is to use it well and never let it degrade into pornography. Naked beauty without intelligence fades quickly.”

She was born Laura Antonac (or Antonaz) on Nov. 28, 1941, in Pola, which was then in Istria, Italy. (It was later occupied by Yugoslavia and is now part of Croatia.) After the war, her parents fled, living in Italian refugee camps in Genoa and Venice before settling in Naples, where her father became a hospital administrator.

While in her teens. Antonelli wished to become a math teacher, but in an interview she said her parents had other ideas about a career. They hoped that she would develop some grace, feeling she was clumsy and ugly. Towards that end, she took hours of gym classes, where she concentrated on gymnastics, excelling in rhythmical gymnastics, a form of dance. She graduated as a gymnastics instructor and took a job in Rome, where a desire for a modeling career led her to meet people in the entertainment industry.

From there she appeared in television commercials, including one for Coca-Cola, and worked for a month as a television announcer before being fired for what was described as a wooden delivery. However, a soft-drink commercial she made attracted the attention of a film director, who was taken by her physical charms.

This would lead to minor roles in such forgettable fare as Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), where she had her first credited role as Rosanna. She first attracted attention for her role as Wanda von Dunajew in the 1969 erotic drama Devil in the Flesh. It was filmed for the German market and didn’t make its Italian debut until 1973. The Italian authorities wasted no time seizing it under pornography laws and the film didn’t see the light of Italian theaters until 1975, when it was released with the sex scenes cut and replaced with plotless judicial scenes. Customs authorities in both the United States and England also confiscated it in 1969, later allowing it to be released with all sex scenes cut, trimming the film by as much as 45 minutes in some cases. But it did get Laura Antonelli on the silver screen radar and would lead to bigger and better roles. In 1975, she played a seven-minute nude scene in The Divine Nymph, with Terence Stamp, which was unheard of at that time.

While most of her film career was spent in Italy, she did a handful of films outside the country, including A Man Called Sledge (1970), a Western co-starring James Garner, made in the U.S., and Swashbuckler (1971) with Jean-Paul Belmondo, filmed in France and Romania.

A marriage to publisher Enrico Piacentini ended in divorce, after which she took up with actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, with whom she starred in several movies.

The quality of her movies declined during the 1980s as she starred in erotic films and comedies, eventually landing on television miniseries.

Her life was turned upside down in 1991 when she was arrested with cocaine in her home in Cerveteri. Police, acting on a tip, raided her apartment in Rome and found a small quantity of cocaine. She was accused of drug dealing and, after a long trial, sentenced to three years in prison. The verdict was later commuted to a form of house arrest. Humiliated and ostracized within her industry, Antonelli never made another film. She was later diagnosed as suffering from acute depression. She challenged her conviction, which was overturned in 2000. She then sued for 1,000,000 Euros in compensation for her lost career and ruined health. The Italian Supreme Court awarded her 150,000 Euros. She later faced further tragedy when a botched facelift left her disfigured. In November 1996, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a clinic in Civitavecchia.

In recent years, she sued her son and housekeeper for misappropriating funds. In 2010, her friend, actor Lino Banfi appealed to the state to help relieve her economic troubles. She then withdrew from public life entirely, issuing a statement, "Earthly life no longer interests me." 

She is survived by her son, and a brother, Claudio.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Inside Out

Dinner and a Movie

Inside Out and Outside In

By Steve Herte

What an interesting weekend! I tried to write my movie review Saturday after my gardening was finished but I was dissatisfied with it. I was gushing and I can’t think straight when I do that. Knowing that my family was going to get together at my brother’s house for Father’s Day I wanted to get my writing done early but it didn’t sound right. I gathered all the facts I needed, saved what I had and put it aside.

It wasn’t any easier picking it up after a dinner of sauerbraten, red cabbage, potato dumplings and potato pancakes with apple sauce, three bean salad, chicken in gravy, good wine and three-layer chocolate mousse cake. But I kept at it. Friday’s movie lived up to every bit of hype I’ve seen (an extreme rarity in today’s movie world) and I was energized. Now it’s your turn. Enjoy!

Inside Out (Pixar/Walt Disney, 2015) - Directors: Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen. Writers: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen (story). Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley & Pete Docter (s/p). Cast/Voices: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Paula Poundstone, Bobby Moynihan, Paula Pell, Dave Goelz, Frank Oz, Sherry Lynn, Lariane Newman, Lori Alan, John Ratzenburger, & Josh Cooley. Color, 94 minutes, PG.

Riley Anderson (Dias) is born and opens her eyes on her delighted Mom (Lane) and Dad (MacLachlan). The scene changes to the control headquarters inside Riley’s head. As a baby, the first emotion to appear inside Riley is Joy (Poehler) and she has to learn how to work the control panel. She pushes a button and Riley smiles at Mom and Dad. Then Sadness (Smith), who cries when hungry or wet, joins Joy. That's followed by Fear (Hader), caution crossing a wire with her wagon; Anger (Black), when she doesn’t get what she wants; and Disgust (Kaling), while she’s being fed broccoli for the first time – which Joy counteracts with encouragement on the “airplane into the hanger” motion initiated by Daddy. Joy’s control builds “core memories” (golden globes stored in Headquarters central) and they in turn create causeways to “islands” leading from the tower and floating above the Pit of Forgetfulness.

Everything is peachy while Joy rules in Riley’s mind, until the family has to move to San Francisco. The new house is a real fixer-upper and the movers are delayed for nearly a week (Riley has to use a sleeping bag on the floor) but Joy keeps Riley upbeat. Sadness keeps trying to touch the “golden” memories Joy has stored up, making them blue and melancholy, and in one scuffle, both are accidentally sucked up the tube leading to the endless maze of Long Term Memory. Fortunately, Joy had convinced Sadness of the fun it is to be read the manuals and she now knows the way through the maze. Unfortunately, Sadness has gone into despair mode and has to be dragged by Joy.

It’s Riley’s first day of school and starts off fine, until Sadness touches a core memory and Riley turns melancholy. The tussle between Joy and Sadness happens before Riley goes home, and Fear, Anger and Disgust are left in charge. This makes her moody and her attitude cues Mom’s version of Joy (Lynn), Fear (Newman) and Sadness (Alan) to try involving Dad in the non-conversation. Dad is clueless and the result is an argument, ending in Riley being sent to her room.

On their way back to the Headquarters, Joy and Sadness meet the Forgetters, Bobby and Paula (Moynihan and Poundstone), who are busy vacuuming gray memories from the shelves, sending them down into the Pit of Forgetfulness. Also on their way they meet Bing Bong (Kind). He was Riley’s childhood invisible friend. His head is a pink elephant, his body is cotton candy, and he has a cat’s ringed tail, and can make dolphin sounds. She and he traveled in his “rocket” – actually a red wagon with two brooms attached to the sides.

Bing Bong seems to know the way but whoops, he cannot read. “This is a short-cut. I take it all the time. See? (he spells) D.A.N.G.E.R., Short-cut!” This takes the trio into Abstract Thought and the maintainers arrive shortly after they enter and shut the door, intending to clear out the contents. This transforms Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong into Picasso-esque versions of themselves. “That’s the first stage of three!” cries Sadness. Then, they become two-dimensional abstract figures and lastly single lines before they figure out how to climb through the door on the other side of the enormous building. But they miss the Train of Thought. They have to travel through Imagination Land and Childhood Memories to get to the next stop.

Meanwhile, under the manipulations of Fear, Anger and Disgust, Riley is becoming more distant from her parents and friends; the islands of Goofball and Friendship crumble, and she eventually steals her mother’s credit card to buy a ticket back to Minnesota and the Island of Honesty crumbles. The journey’s getting harder and harder for Joy and Sadness because the causeways are disappearing along with the islands. Not only that, but when Riley falls asleep, the train stops and they have to awaken her with a scary dream to get it started again.

Bing Bong gets arrested when he’s blamed for stealing a piece of a cloud house owned by Fritz (Ratzenberger) and is imprisoned with all of Riley’s fears in her Subconscious. Sneaking down the long stairway, Joy and Sadness get the two Subconscious Guards (Goetz and Oz) to lock them up as well. Inside, there’s a huge stalk of broccoli, grandma’s vacuum cleaner, and the solution to their problem, the scary and huge Jangles the Clown (Cooley) asleep with Bing Bong imprisoned in a cage made of balloons. They escape with the unwitting help of Jangles and achieve the scary dream, waking Riley – much to the dismay of the Dream Director (Pell). But things are getting worse. The last island, the Island of Family, is beginning to crumble, the train runs out of track and crashes, Joy and Bing Bong are hurled into the Pit of Forgetfulness and Sadness is crying her eyes out while floating on a rain cloud.

Inside Out is easily the best creation to come out of the minds at Pixar. It’s the perfect entertainment vehicle: no violence, no sex, no vulgarity. It’s tremendously funny, ingenious, exciting and clever, colorful to the extreme, and engaging. Even the baby in the theater stopped crying to watch. Finally: a new concept for a plot in a desert of remakes and unoriginality, which includes a maximum “Wow” factor. I laughed a lot, got teary-eyed and was on the edge of my seat. I’ll admit, it surpasses Ratatouille as my favorite Pixar film so far. One of my favorite scenes is when Joy and Sadness finally splat on the window of the Headquarters Tower, Disgust insults Anger until he blows his top and she uses him as a blowtorch to break the window and let Joy and Sadness in.

A big lesson learned by Joy is being taught to the audience. Sometimes Sadness is the emotion to take the controls. Make sure to stay for the credits. The camera takes us into the minds of other characters, a dog, and (funniest) a cat, to see what’s going on in their heads. For this marvelous film not to affect you, you would have to be either comatose or deceased. This film is a definite must-see.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

The Chester
45 East 33 rd St. (between Madison and Park Avenues) New York

The Chester has two locations, one in Chelsea and this one on the East side. The website makes the place look very attractive and the menu has enough interesting dishes to lure me there.

Outside, it’s all glitz. The silver marquee over the door sports the name embossed in gold, as do the window tops. The front windows are open to the street (called natural air-conditioning in New York) and I enter through the main door and walk up to the Captain’s Station. The young lady leads me to a table by the window with a view of potted boxwoods and the closed liquor store across the street.

The two young ladies at the next table greet me, and Christine, our mutual server, arrives with a bottle of tap water and the menu. Christine is not your usual waitress. She’s savvy, perceptive and down to Earth. “Talk to me!” she says. “Do you have Beefeaters?” I ask. “Yes.” And I order my favorite martini. It’s perfect, except for the glass. I explain to the ladies at the next table, “It’s hard to look like James Bond when your martini glass has no stem.”

Sipping my drink I look around. The Chester is an airy bistro walled in medium dark wood with comfy chairs and bare-topped tables. There are six video screens on the two walls of the bar at the other end of the room showing various sporting events but not competing with sounds, thank you very much.

The menu is a two-sided card with Oysters, Starters, Entrées, Pasta, Artisanal Pizza, Salads, Desserts, and Sides on one side and drinks and wine list on the other. There is only one drawback: The font for the descriptions of each dish, drink or wine is somewhere below eight points and impossible for me to read. Thank goodness the ladies at the next table have better eyes than mine and were kind enough to read what I couldn’t.

Not wanting to impose on the ladies too much, I told Christine I had a good appetite and planned a three-course meal – no matter what the description said. Christine asked me the order in which I wanted the dishes and I told her, explaining I eat slowly and had lots of time. I had also chosen a wine, the 2011 Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from Ravines vineyard, Finger Lakes, New York. Having been to the winery on one of my summer trips I knew it would have deep fruit flavor with spicy, smoky overtones. And, yes, it did.

My first course, meatballs – slow braised, dense, flavorful globes, drizzled with panko (Japanese wheat bread-crumbs), Parmesan, and ricotta in a rich, thick tomato sauce – got approval nods from the ladies at the next table and they giggled when I tasted them and said, “Oooh! They’ve got a lot going on!” Indeed they did. Obviously a combination of more than one meat, they required a knife to cut them, and the sauce gave them a piquant tartness. The toasted baguette slices helped get every drop left in the square iron skillet they were served in.

The next dish was pesto pappardelle – homemade noodles green with a five-herb pesto, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon. Served in an artistic over-sized bowl it was a unique experience. Normally, a pesto dish is on the sweet side, but the five herbs added an intriguing spicy flavor that hinted at bacon (even though no bacon was in the recipe). Delicious. I could tell it was homemade because I had to cut the noodles. They must have been a foot long or more, but were no problem for me.

The main course was the only one I chose that fit the “Traditional American” cuisine advertised by the website. It was “stout-braised short ribs” – on a bed of puréed parsnip, pear, beet oil and herbs. The meat was nicely blackened and crisp on the outside and collapsed with a fork into delectable shreds. I almost wished I had ordered a side dish. When I finished it, Christine came over to check up on me and said, “You’re my hero! Any dessert?”

Online, the only dessert I wanted was the one I ordered, the s'mores – Classic s'mores, bruléed marshmallows in graham cracker sandwiches with rich dark chocolate sauce. It’s the ultimate finger-food sweet. I didn’t even have to think about an after dinner drink. Christine was already there. “Espresso Martini?” “Yes!” The great finish to an amazing dinner, it consisted of Ketel One vodka, Godiva Kahlua and espresso coffee.

When these two were finished, Christine repeated her plaudit of admiration and I thanked her. The Chester was a wonderful dining experience but Christine and my two dining friends made it homey and welcome. I was so happy I forgot to ask for a business card.

I’ll just have to return sometime.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for June 23-30

June 23-June 30


ENTER THE DRAGON (June 25, 12:00 am): Enter the Dragon is not only the most influential martial arts movie ever made, it is also one of the finest action films you'll see. It was groundbreaking as the first Chinese/Hong Kong martial arts film co-produced by a major American studio, Warner Brothers. Bruce Lee, who died six days before the movie's release, is dripping with charisma – charisma that was already big at the box office. Had Lee lived, he likely would have been cinema's greatest and most successful action hero. Not only was his martial arts ability on another planet, but his ease, charm, intensity and sense of humor makes it impossible not to love his character. In this film, he plays Lee, a Shaolin martial artist recruited by British intelligence to infiltrate an island owned by Mr. Han, a wealthy major drug dealer and a former Shaolin student kicked out for violating the code of conduct. Han has an international martial arts tournament on his island in which only the best compete for huge prize money. The movie has many fantastic action scenes including the final showdown between Lee and Han in a room of mirrors. I've seen this film at least 20 times, and love it every time.

JULES AND JIM (June 28, 3:45 am): I don't have a favorite film, but this one is easily a top 5. Directed by the brilliant Francois Truffaut, this 1962 film takes place over a period of about 25 years before, during and after World War I. It's about an intense friendship between two men – Jules (Oskar Werner), an Austrian, and Jim (Henri Serre), a Frenchman – that is stronger than many marriages, and how it evolves because of the presence of Catherine (Jeanne Moreau, one of cinema's all-time best actresses), an impulsive, captivating and enchanting woman. Catherine loves both men, marrying Jules before the war – he and Jim are fighting for opposing countries and fearful they'll meet in combat. After the war, Jim visits Jules and Catherine, who have a daughter. But things aren't good between the couple and Catherine, who's had several affairs, falls for Jim. Jules' love for her is so great that he agrees to divorce Catherine so she can marry Jim with all three of them, and the child, living together. But that marriage also has its problems. The acting is extraordinary and the voice-over narration by Michel Subor greatly enhances the storyline. Everything works to perfection from the beautiful cinematography that uses photos, freeze-frame, archived footage and tracking shots to  Georges Delerue’s soundtrack to the incredible ending. 


THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (June 26, 6:00 am): This is the original – and the best – version of James M. Cain’s classic novel (which also inspired Albert Camus, by the way). When it comes to noir, one would think that the MGM gloss was off-putting, but I think it actually helps the film. John Garfield has never been better and Lana Turner has never been more gorgeous. Not only can we see that they’re going to hook up, we can understand why they must hook up. The performances from the supporting cast are superb, the photography by Sidney Wagner is sharp and inviting, and Tay Garnett’s direction workmanlike, as he keeps the characters and the story in constant play. Despite the complaints of the changes in Cain’s original story (for censorship purposes), the film still outdoes the 1981 Nicholson-Lange remake in terms of the heat between the stars, not to mention the fact that Turner, while hardly a serious actress, ran rings around Lange’s performance.

BAND OF OUTSIDERS (June 28, 2:00 am): This film represents director Jean-Luc Godard at his best, exploring the petty crime scene and his fascination with pop-culture. Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) are two lowlifes that like to quote and re-enact B-movies. They meet Odile (Anna Karina) at an English class and a plot soon becomes hatched to steal the money that Odile’s father has embezzled from the government and hidden inside their house. But as with anything else by Godard, it is not so much the destination as the journey that is interesting. The interaction between the characters as they run about, dance, read newspaper stories to each other and pretend to have shoot-outs is augmented by Godard’s voice-over narration and his habit of letting the characters talk to the camera. Look for the “Madison dance” sequence where the three dance in a cafeteria. It was a definite influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.


ED: A++. This is one of the seminal films in the history of the cinema, having influenced many other directors, such as Ozu, Bresson (whose The Trial of Joan of Arc runs a good second in my estimation), and Godard (who used it in his Vivre sa Vie), among others. It has also been praised by critics from Pauline Kael to Roger Ebert as one of the masterpieces of film. It was voted as number 9 on a list of the 50 greatest films of all time in a 2012 poll of 846 critics, programmers, academics and distributors for Sight & Sound. Part of the reason for its extraordinary influence is that film does not contain one establishing shot, instead relying on a series of close-ups and medium shots as director Carl Theodor Dreyer (who tossed out the screenplay in favor of the actual transcripts of the trial) tries to get to the essence of Joan of Arc, who she was and her suffering during the trial. And he does this brilliantly, creating an atmosphere of threatening intimacy, in which the suffering of Joan at the hands of her tormentors will leave no viewer unmoved. Dreyer also makes extraordinary use of editing techniques, breaking down the film into a series of images, allowing him to avoid the tranquility one can usually find in a historical drama. He wants us to concentrate on the trial, not the scenery, costumes, or any other distraction. Seem in a theater, as I first saw it, the result is startling and almost mind bending, as there is nothing else to distract us. As for the acting, the performance of Renee Maria Falconetti, a famous actress of the French stage, is nearly flawless, thanks in large part to Dreyer filming the same scenes over and over again until he found the right nuance in her facial expression, one in which the emotion had been drained, leaving only the suffering. Falconetti wore no make-up, though Dreyer did shoot her in softer grays to distinguish her from her tormentors. Hers became a performance for the ages, though she never performed in another film again. In my mind, any grade for this film lower than as “A” is an act of sheer vandalism and a sign the critic hasn’t really understood the film. (Well, it doesn’t have an car crashes).

DAVID: C. It's probably – definitely, according to Ed – sacrilegious for a film lover to not think highly of The Passion of Joan of Arc. Because I respect Ed so much, I stayed up late Thursday to watch it again. It worked to a certain extent. Based on my recollection of seeing the film in the past year, I was going to give it a C-. Instead, I'm giving it a C. There's too much "talking" for a silent film. As a print writer, my goal is to show and not tell. It isn't always possible. Carl Theodor Dreyer is doing the opposite in a visual medium with this movie. Lips are moving at the speed of light at times and Dreyer provides plenty of dialogue cards yet not a whole lot is happening – and what we see isn't terribly compelling and, at times, repetitive. Dreyer was an excellent director, made a number of classics and inspired others, but he missed the mark here. It's not awful. The cinematography is impressive at times, particularly the way the camera frames Renee Maria Falconetti, who plays Joan. But, overall, the film is slow moving, which is particularly distressing as it's only 82 minutes in length. A minor point on the use of the actual trial transcript: I question the accuracy of the document. There weren't tape recorders or even pens and pencils at the time of the trial. The transcript came from notaries who were at the trial and took daily notes using quill pens. As for Ed's criticism that those who don't love this film don't understand it, he's just trying to bait me. He loves this film. He's also well aware that I am a fan of Ozu, Bresson and of Godard's earlier works (before he made films that few understand), and that I love cinema that is open to interpretation such as the works of Ingmar Bergman. And, like Ed, I enjoy a good car crash on the big screen, but it's definitely not a requirement needed for a quality movie. I know I go against the grain with my opinions of this film. It's not the first time I disagree with cinema experts and certainly won't be the last.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Christopher Lee: In Memoriam

Remembering a Psychotronic Legend

By Ed Garea

Christopher Lee, one of the giants of psychotronic films, has passed. A man who breathed new life into the Prince of the Undead and went on to lend his distinguished looks to a slew of films, both of the A and B variety, died June 7 in London. He was 93.

An official for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London confirmed his death, attributed to respiratory problems and heart failure, according to the Associated Press.

Although he made acting his life’s work after the war ended in 1945, it took 11 years until he made his breakthrough in 1956 playing the Creature in Hammer Studio’s The Curse of Frankenstein. The next year he starred in Hammer’s remake of Dracula. Released in 1958 as Horror of Dracula, the movie made him a worldwide star, and he never looked back.

He was born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee in London on May 27, 1922, the son of Lt. Col. Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a professional soldier, and Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, a member of an old Italian family.

He grew up along with older sister Xandra in the fashionable Belgravia neighborhood. His parents separated when he was four and divorced when he was six. His mother later married (and later divorced) banker Harcourt George St.-Croix Rose, and uncle of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The family settled in Fulham, where his stepfather maintained their extravagant lifestyle until his bankruptcy in 1939.

After attending Wellington College from age 14 to 17, Lee worked as a clerk for United States Lines and later Beecham’s. When Beecham’s moved out of London, Lee joined the Home Guard until he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1941. A failure of his optic nerve grounded the would-be pilot and he volunteered with RAF Intelligence and the Special Forces during World War II, serving in Rhodesia, South Africa, North Africa, and Italy. After the war’s end, Lee, who spoke fluent French and German, worked at ferreting out high-ranking Nazis in occupied Germany before retiring from the RAF in 1946 with the rank of flight lieutenant.

After the war’s end, Beecham’s offered him a job with a large raise, but Lee didn’t want to be tied down to a desk. A cousin suggested that he try acting, and introduced him to people at the Rank movie studio in London. He was signed to a seven-year contract and joined the Rank Organization in 1947, training in their “charm school.” Because of his height (6’5”), his appearances were limited. In his film debut, Corridor of Mirrors (1948), Lee, playing nightclub customer Charles, remained seated throughout his appearance, lest he tower over his fellow actors. Later in that year he was seen in an unbilled role as a spear-carrier in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.

His career through the mid-‘50s saw him cast in small roles in films as diverse as Scott of the Antarctic with John Mills (1948), to 1951’s Captain Hornblower, R.N., with Gregory Peck (He was cast after the director asked if could speak Spanish and fence, both of which he was able to do) to 1952’s The Crimson Pirate with Burt Lancaster. He supplemented these tiny roles with appearances in television shows.

In 1956, at the age of 35, Lee auditioned for and won the role of The Creature in Hammer’s color remake of Frankenstein. Released in 1957 as The Curse of Frankenstein, it was a runaway hit. For once, Lee’s height didn’t work against him, but he was disappointed when he found he had no lines. He complained to co-star Peter Cushing about this during a break in filming. Cushing gently replied, “You’re lucky. I’ve read the script.” This exchange would cement a close friendship that lasted until Cushing’s death.

Satisfied with his work, Hammer offered him the lead role in their color remake of Dracula. Though the role only paid 750 pounds, it did offer stardom, and based on the returns of his previous film, looked to be another mega-hit.

With the use of color, Hammer could no longer rely on what sustained horror films in the age of black and white – shadows. Instead, blood became the new barometer of horror as color filming meant brighter lighting. Just as the role of the vampire count made Bela Lugosi into a sex symbol, so did the role make Lee a sex symbol. Seizing on the sex appeal potential of Lee, director Terence Fisher amped up the volume on the erotic, telling actress Melissa Stribling, who played Mina Holmwood, that after the scene where Dracula seduces and bites her, to exit her bedroom imagining she had just experienced the best sex of her life. She did as he suggested and the scene was done in just one take.

For his part, even co-starring with Cushing, Lee only had 13 lines, all of them in his scenes with John Van Eyssen, who played Jonathan Harker. The rest of his time was spent glaring, jumping and hissing.

Again, the film was a huge hit, and Lee began to be typecast into horror roles. He played Kharis the Mummy in 1959’s The Mummy, the heel in a French remake of remake of The Hands of Orlac, and a murderer who sells bodies to Boris Karloff in Corridors of Blood. Even when he played Henry Baskerville in Hammer’s color remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles, he still found himself in a horror-tinged film. He also played Chinese master villain Fu Manchu in a series of German-produced films in the ‘60s.

As for Count Dracula, he was far from bring done with his most famous portrayal. He would play the Count 10 more times, 7 of them for Hammer in a devolving series of films during the late ‘60s to early ‘70s with such titles as Taste the Blood of DraculaDracula A.D., 1972, and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. During his appearance with Cushing on the talk show Tomorrow with Tom Snyder, Lee reflected on the paltry salary he received on the Dracula films while they reaped multi-millions for the studio. Cushing remarked that the series kept becoming sillier and sillier, finding he, as Van Helsing, was chasing the Count in worse and worse movies. “What next,” he remarked, “Dracula in the Dark, Search the House for Dracula? Thankfully they ran out of ideas.”

Lee’s roles in the Dracula films gave him no lines to speak. Again he hissed his way through. Stories vary as to the reason: Lee claims that he refused to speak the lousy dialogue he was given while screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims there were no lines for him in the script. It has also been suggested that the reason may have been that, according to union rules, the more lines and scenes an actor has, the more he or she is to be paid. That may be one reason why his appearances in the sequels were brief.

In an interview with Total Film ( Lee stated that he was virtually blackmailed by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films: I did have a big problem after the first two. I said to my agent, 'I don’t want to do this part again.' Because all they do is write a story and try and fit the character in somewhere, which is very clear when you see the films. They gave me nothing to do! I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written. Occasionally, I sneaked one in. Eventually I told them that I wasn’t going to play Dracula any more. All hell broke loose. I got frantic telephone calls from [Hammer honcho] Jimmy Carreras saying, 'I’m begging you! I’m on my knees. You’ve got to do this film!' I asked why and he said, 'I’ve already sold it to the American distributor with you playing the part.' Then he said something I’ve never forgotten because it was sheer blackmail: 'Think of the people you’re putting out of work.' That’s the only reason I did the last few Draculas. I didn’t want to be the reason for a hundred people not working.”

Lee did gain revenge of a sort when he starred in director Jesse Franco’s Count Dracula in 1970. It was faithfully based on the Bram Stoker novel and Lee got to speak Stoker’s lines.

Seeking to move away from the horror genre, Lee took on other roles, notably as Mycroft Homes in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), and a cameo as a gunsmith who builds Raquel Welch a special revolver in Hannie Cauler (1971). He also played the swashbuckling assassin Rochefort in director Richard Lester’s remake of The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel The Four Musketeers (1974), and notable Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). 

One of his favorite roles was that of Lord Summerisle, the hedonistic pagan chief who rules over an island where free love, public nudity, and ultimately, human sacrifice, is practiced in the 1973 cult classic, The Wicker Man. In interviews, Lee noted that, although it was his favorite role, most remembered Britt Eklund and her nude dance.

In 1973, he founded his own production company, Charlemagne Productions, Ltd., for whom he starred in the films Nothing But the Night (1973) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). Meanwhile, he continued to move away from his horror image, even spoofing his most famous role of Count Dracula in the weak French comedy Dracula and Son (1976).

Lee moved to Hollywood in the late ‘70s, and while he remained a busy actor, the bulk of his film and television appearances were rather unremarkable. An exception was his appearance as guest host on Saturday Night Live in 1978. The highlight was his portrayal of Mr. Death in a sketch where he apologizes to a little girl, (Laraine Newman) for taking her dog. The two then get into a long conversation of why he has to do what he does. When asked about his portrayal in The Seventh Seal, he replies, “Ingmar Bergman makes movies I’ll never understand.”

In the 1990s, he decided to branch out into music, embarking on a music career including concerts and recordings. His material ranged from arias to show tunes, and in 2010, what he called “symphonic metal” with the album “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.” He released a follow-up album, “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death,” in 2013. Lee could be described as a frustrated musician. In his 30s, he applied to study at the Royal College of Music, but was rejected as being too old.

The dawn of a new century brought about a revival in Lee’s movie’s fortunes. He landed the role of the dangerously charismatic wizard Saruman, set on destroying the “world of men,” in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and would repeat the role in the other two chapters of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit movies. He also played the treacherous Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), and reprised the role in 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. He also played Dr. Wonka, the father of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). In 2012, when he turned 90, he appeared as Clarney in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

Lee lived in Switzerland and California before returning to England. On June 16, 2001, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to drama. On June 13, 2009, he was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List for his services to drama and charity, knighted by Prince Charles, and in 2011, he was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

In 1960, a Danish friend and his wife introduced Lee to Danish painter and ex-model Birgit “Gitte” Kronecke. They were engaged soon after and married on March 17, 1961. Their daughter, Christina Erika Carandini Lee, was born in 1963. Both survive him.


In 1962, Lee auditioned for a part in The Longest Day, but was turned down because he did not look like a military man.

Lee appeared on the cover of the Paul McCartney & Wings album “Band on the Run” (1973). Also appearing on the cover were talk show host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, actor James Coburn, boxer John Conteh, and pundit Clement Freud.

He was named 2005’s “most marketable star in the world in a poll conducted by USA Today on the strength of his appearances in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit series and the Star Wars films.

He and wife Birgit were listed as among the 50 best dressed over 50 by the Guardian in March 2013.

Lee was far from the occult characters he portrayed in movies. Despite rumors, he did not own a vast library of occult books. When giving a speech at the University College Dublin on November 8 2011, he said: "Somebody wrote I have 20,000 books. I'd have to live in a bath! I have maybe four or five [occult books]." Lee told them he had met "people who claimed to be Satanists. Who claimed to be involved with black magic. Who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it." He added: "I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind, you'll lose your soul."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jurassic World

Dinner and a Movie 

Dinosaurs and Dragon Rolls

By Steve Herte

All is well with the world. My basement and garden are under control, the vegetables and flowers are all growing nicely, nothing aches (knock on wood). I’ve finished a mind-numbing project at work that took two days to complete and nobody bothered me, and I’ve finally seen a blockbuster movie with the “Wow” factor. Why didn’t it get five martini glasses? The science was hilariously wrong, but that added amusement to the film. For instance, what do you get when you splice frog, octopus and velociraptor DNA onto a T-Rex and then super-size it? Answer: A mean, oversized carnivore that kills for sport, can change color to disappear into its surroundings, change its heat signature, and talk to other velociraptors. Ha! I want one. Enjoy!

Jurassic World (Amblin/Universal, 2015) – Director: Colin Trevorrow. Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, & Derek Connolly (s/p). Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (story). Michael Crichton (characters). Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Nick Robinson, & Katie McGrath. Color and 3D, 124 minutes, rated PG-13.

Parents, would you send your teenage son and his pre-teen brother to a remote island where there were live (larger than life) dinosaurs, even knowing that Aunt Claire ran the place? Admittedly, Zack (Robinson) and Gray (Simpkins), Mitchell’s mom and dad are going through a difficult time in their relationship, and Gray is totally addicted to all things prehistoric. However, what were they thinking?

It’s 22 years after the disaster at Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica, but true to John Hammond’s vision, there is now a thriving theme park called Jurassic World. It’s complete with scientists and geneticists making new combinations of DNA splices to create bigger, scarier dinosaurs and incubators to hatch various species’ eggs, to maintain record-paying crowds. The park features monorails, an amphitheater to view the vastly over-sized Mosasaur chomp a full sized great white shark (which looks suspiciously like Bruce, the mechanical shark from Jaws), dinosaur rides for the children, and a petting zoo. Those who wish to roam among the herbivorous dinosaurs can take spherical transparent gyrospheres (two-person vehicles) and roll close up to them.

The more dangerous predators like the Velociraptors (Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo – yes, they have names as well as intelligence), the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the latest genetic freak, the Indominus (properly Indomitosaurus-Rex, “Unconquerable Lizard King”) are kept in paddocks miles north of the park proper to keep them from their natural prey.

The movie opens with a close-up of two hatching dinosaur eggs. A fearsome black claw emerges from one and soon, an eye peers out and the camera zooms in on it. The scene changes and a monstrous three-toed black foot is pounding the ground before us. The camera zooms out to reveal it as a black bird on the lawn in front of the Mitchell residence.

Zack would much rather stay with his girlfriend than travel with his weird dino-loving brother, but off they go. From Costa Rica. they board a special tri-hulled speed ferry to Isla Nublar. On arrival, Zack is dismayed that their aunt, Claire Dearing (Howard), is not there to greet them. She has sent her assistant, Zara Young (McGrath), to take care of them. Gray is a bundle of enthusiasm and anticipation. “Can’t he slow down?” says Zara. “No” is Zack’s frustrated answer. She directs them to their hotel room and Gray cannot wait to open the shutters to the balcony overlooking the park. Zara gives the boys their special wristbands entitling them to free run of the park and in no time loses sight of both.

Meanwhile, Claire is boarding a helicopter flown by Simon Masrani (Khan), an employee of InGen, the company sponsoring and supplying Jurassic World. She learns soon to her terror that this is only his second time flying one and there are several funny moments when he almost loses control. They are going to inspect the progress of the Indominus, alone in its enormous paddock. From their protective glass viewing station they see nothing but jungle. “Where it she?” Claire asks. Suddenly the trees part, the bushes move, and this monstrous face – a combination of Carnotaur and T-Rex, but larger – glares at them. “Why is it white?” Simon asks, as the huge beast moves off camera to another part of its enclosure. Wisely driving a park vehicle back to her headquarters, Claire receives a call from Zack’s and Gray’s mother, Karen (Greer). The boys told her that Aunt Claire was not with them and she insists Claire live up to her promise.

In another paddock, we then see Owen Grady (Pratt) demonstrating his control over the four Velociraptors like a dinosaur whisperer. He’s holding them off and speaking to them, calling each by name. Vic Hoskins (D’Onofrio) is enthralled with this interaction. He secretly sees a future for these creatures as weapons of war and he wants to know if the “big one” can be directed as well. (What fools these mortals be!) Later on, when the boys arrive at this paddock and Owen introduces them to the beasts, Gray asks, “Which one’s the Alpha?” “You’re looking at him,” replies Owen.

Claire and Owen have a “history” and are cautious around one another, but as she needs his talents to evaluate the capabilities of the Indominus, they both go to its paddock. On her first inspection with Simon, she notices the semi-shattered protective glass. This time, Owen notices the claw marks on the wall, as if it had climbed out of the enclosure. Checking the infrared scanner, they discover the beast is nowhere to be found. Owen and a few men enter the paddock to inspect the clawed wall. Suddenly, the control room receives a heat signature. The monster is in the paddock with them. Owen escapes but two of the men become dino-snacks.

This creature is intelligent. It not only figures out a way to escape, but it also rips out the tracking device embedded in its skin. That’s when all havoc breaks loose. All rides and amusements are closed, the visitors are advised to congregate within the confines of the park itself, and the military-like security team is sent out after the Indominus. You just know where this is going when Owen shouts, “You sent them out with non-lethal weapons? They’ll all be killed.” And one by one, the life sign monitors in the control room go to flat-line on the entire team.

The boys are in a gyrosphere when the first alarm goes off closing the rides, and Zack gets the great idea to go where they shouldn’t. Yes, they get to see the Ankylosaurs in the forest, but no, they also meet up with Indominus in a hilariously horrific soccer game with their vehicle being the ball. This scene has a great camera angle as well as dialogue. Zack: “There are only six dinosaurs here.” (Gray counting) “One, two, three, four, five, six” – and we see the reflection on Indominus on the glass, Gray points to it – “seven!”

The rest of the movie is “what do we do now?” The boys temporarily escape by jumping over a waterfall, Claire and Owen join forces to find them, Simon tries to help by once again piloting the helicopter with reinforcements, but crashes it into the “aviary,” releasing the terrified pterodactyls and they (of course) fly into the park proper, causing a frenzy with the attendees. One Pteranodon snatches Zara up by the heels but only makes it as far as the Mosasaur pool before she and it are gobbled up.

Jurassic World is an excellent adventure and stands alone nicely without previous knowledge of the first three films. It kept my attention and sometimes had me on the edge of my seat. The sound effects were not overdone, and the music ranged from majestic to nail-biting excitement. I never once thought about green screens and the CGI seemed as real as the holograph in the main lobby seemed to one of the velociraptors toward the end. They were my favorites and believe it or not, I identified with them. You could see the look of intelligence in their eyes and attitudes – beautifully done.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were perfect in their roles, but the real stars were Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins – both totally believable. Vincent D’Onofrio proved he was equally good at playing an annoying, misguided hawk as he was at playing an annoying, know-it-all detective on Law and Order. Speaking of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, it was nice to see BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu defending his genetic marvels to Hoskins. And the cute little control room romance between Lowery (Johnson) and Vivian Krill (Lapkus) lightened some of the heavy scenes.

Needless to say there’s a lot of violence in this film. Thankfully, most of the worst kills occur off-screen (especially Hoskins), but there is gore, so judge well. On the other hand, there is a tender scene between Owen and Claire and a dying Brontosaur (I checked, it was not an Apatosaurus). I did have questions, however: What did Claire do with her high heels when she realized she needed to run through the jungle? How did the Mosasaur know there was food (Indominus Rex) on the edge of her pool? And why didn’t the T-Rex easily overtake Claire and eat her instead of being led to the Indominus Rex? Otherwise, I had a great time.

Rating: 4½ out of 5 martini glasses.

Chef 28
29 East 28th St. (between Madison and Park Avenues)New York

Timing was a little tighter than I would have liked and Jurassic World increased my appetite – seeing all that chomping and swallowing. I thought (and loped) like a velociraptor and made it from 31st Street and 2nd Avenue to 28th Street and Park in 15 minutes, only 3 minutes late for my reservation. Knowing that “fashionably late” is later than that, I was proud of my achievement, and hungry.

Chef 28 is an old restaurant for New York, and when I learned that it’s been around for 15 years I was not surprised. Outside, the gray and black-framed windows are proudly crowned with the name in big block letters, highlighted in purple neon. Inside, past a wall constructed of lath with Styrofoam balls and backed by leaf-less birch branches, was the Captain’s Station. I announced my reservation – but I don’t think the girl actually paid attention – and was led to a table toward the back of the main area, across from the end of the rather long bar. The stools at the bar looked comfortable but I was glad I had a table. The walls are painted brown with a slightly lighter ceiling and red swag lights over the bar, giving it an atmosphere of a Chinese speakeasy, but not as dark. The chipped paint on the wall near my table attested to the age of the restaurant.

In no time my waitress, Rina arrived, presenting the all-inclusive menu and taking my water preference. She asked if I had a reservation and I affirmed it. (I knew the other girl was not paying attention.) Knowing that the drinks/wine menu was the first couple of pages I was ready with my cocktail order when she returned. Their “specialty” cocktails were ordinary in my experience but I saw they made an apple martini and I was in the right mood for one. Rina left to input the order.

Chef 28 is a combination of Japanese and Chinese cuisines and the menu is an impressive book encompassing everything of both. It’s huge. The selections started with Chinese: Rice & Noodles, Noodle Soup, Appetizers, Dumplings, Soups, Salads, House Specialties, Chef Specialties, Poultry, Beef, Pork, From Our Steamer, Seafood, Bean Curd, and Vegetables.

Then came Japanese: Soup, Salad, Appetizers Sushi Bar, Appetizers Kitchen, Sushi Bar Entrees, Roll or Hand Roll, Sushi or Sashimi A La Carte, Chef’s Special Rolls, Entrees From Kitchen, Bento Special Combination Box, Tempura, Noodles, Donburi, Nabe Mono, Japanese Party Tray, and Side Orders. You get the picture?

With nearly all of my favorite dishes from both cuisines listed, I admitted to Rina that I felt like a kid in a candy shop. At the same time the red light was going off in my head saying, “Too many items on a menu indicate that most of them are not good.” It was tough choosing and I used Rina as a sounding board often. She asked if I wanted to start off with something and I ordered my favorite Japanese dumplings, shumai – tender rice dumplings filled with shrimp and steamed, then served with a simple soy sauce for dipping.

The shumai were delightful, as good as I’ve ever had them in the best Japanese restaurants and I was encouraged. I decided to maintain the menu at my table and choose dishes one by one (to keep them from all coming to my table at one time.) When my second apple martini was finished, I surprised Rina in ordering a bottle of 2012 Le Colline Di San Giorgio Pinot Grigio. I chose it because of the flavors to come in subsequent dishes (if made correctly). The crisp, light taste of this fine Pinot grigio reminded me of the first time I ever loved this wine (The Jones Beach Restaurant). So far, so good.

I love how inventive Japanese sushi chefs are with hand-rolls and I asked Rina’s help in choosing between the “Volcano Roll” and the “Crazy Roll.” Though the first was spicy I opted for the second because of the description – gently fried oysters, sliced avocados and mayo wrapped in seaweed then covered in rice and topped with wasabi and caviar with mayo sauce. I admit I’m a bit of a hedonist, and oysters and caviar locked my attention, but mayo on a sushi roll? Let me tell you, it was nothing at all like the oozing white ingredient we think of as Hellmann’s. In fact it was not even visible. The net flavor was a little salty, a little sweet, and a little spicy as it melted in my mouth. The caviar was the color of tiny peridots. Yes, green. I learned later on that it was not fish eggs at all but a species of seaweed called “sea grapes.” How beautiful it looked sparkling on the white rice. And tasty too! This is dish took no time to finish and the wine complimented it perfectly.

At this point, I switched to the Chinese side of the menu and was torn between “Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce” and the “Crab Rangoon.” Trying to avoid ordering too much food (kid in a candy shop) I remembered how large my past servings of the cold noodles were and how filling a dish it was. I chose the crab rangoon – crabmeat mixed with cream cheese in triangular fried crusts of rice dough. They were light, crunchy, easy to eat (finger food) and sweet inside. My instincts were paying off. While I was eating this dish I heard a couple at the bar talking about the beastly preparations of crab and I nodded to the girl. She looked my way and I told them about the video I saw where the chef took a pair of poultry scissors and snipped the face off of a live crab. “You saw that one?” “Yes, I did. And Helene and I decided not to have crab that night.”

The main course was another major choice between curry chicken with onions and Peking duck – which had the added enticement “as available.” Again, I consulted Rina and when she heard Peking duck, she said, “Yes, available!” Ok, let’s do it. I’ve been craving this dish for a while now and my benchmark for it is at a restaurant called Hunan Garden, which no longer exists, in Rye, New York.

Here, the Peking duck is one half of a roast duck, off the bone, with crispy skin served with steamed pancakes, scallions, fresh cucumbers, and special sauce (hoisin). I’m used to not having to assemble this dish but I watched closely every time I had it in Rye. You take a pancake, slather it with hoisin sauce, sprinkle the scallions and cucumbers on the sauce, layer some duck meat and at least one piece of crispy skin, fold it side to side and fold up the bottom (so that none of that notorious stain-causing sauce leaks out when you bite into it) and enjoy. It wasn’t exactly like my benchmark but darn close and delicious.

Both Japanese and Chinese cuisines have the usual ho-hum desserts but Chef 28 had one of my favorites, fried banana with honey walnuts – rice dough coated bananas deep fried. If they had fried sesame bananas, that would have won out over this dish, but this was good enough. I didn’t need the vanilla ice cream I expected. These two hefty rolls were full of yummy hot banana and I was happy enough to talk like a Minion (they love bananas).

To wash everything down there was iced Japanese green tea – not sweet but refreshing. It didn’t come with sugar and I strangely didn’t need any. I was so delighted I didn’t even think of an after dinner drink (although I could have). It was getting on to 10 o’clock and I should be going. I got the check from Rina and thanked her for all her help. Chef 28 will be a haven for several return visits.

And check out the bathroom sink.

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