Thursday, July 23, 2015

Terminator Genisys

Dinner and a Movie

Genisys and Genovese

By Steve Herte

Terminator Genisys (Paramount, 2015) – Director: Alan Taylor. Writers: Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier (s/p). James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd (characters). Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee, Michael Gladis, Sandrine Holt, Wayne Bastrup, Gregory Alan Williams, Bryant Prince, Otto Sanchez, Willa Taylor, & Matty Ferraro. Color, 126 minutes, PG-13.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger groaned, “I need a vacation” in Terminator 2: Judgment Day while battling the T-1000 Terminator, played by Robert Patrick, he didn’t know he would be making two more movies. Or, maybe he did. In fact, this movie is the fifth installment in the series. To bring you up to date, there was the original The Terminator (1984) where Arnold was the bad guy, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) where he was sent to protect Sarah Connor against the T-1000 liquid metal Terminator, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) where he battles a female liquid metal Terminator, and Terminator Salvation (2009) where the survivors of Judgment Day fight the machines and confront a giant robot without Schwarzenegger.

If you totally ignore the impossible science of these films and just sit back and enjoy them, they’re definitely entertaining. There’s lots of action, lots of things being blown up or destroyed, endless fight scenes where combatants are incapable of winning, and remarkable three dimensional effects. My recommendation would be to ignore the temporal anomalies and confusing time traveling back and forth and get some chuckles from the intentionally funny (I believe) dialogue.

Terminator Genisys begins with John Connor (Clarke) and his army on the verge of destroying Skynet, but just before they do, the first Terminator is sent back to May of 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Clarke). OK? We now have a prequel to movie number one. John knows all sorts of things about time and what will happen when and his men consider him a prophet and well as a military leader. It is decided to send a man back to the same time to protect Sarah. His best friend, Kyle Reese (Courtney) volunteers. But just as he’s about to be transported he sees a Terminator disguised as one of the Resistance attack John with a glowing hand over his mouth.

The scene switches to 1984 as the first Terminator (Model T-800), played by Azar (his body but with a CGI “Arnold” head), arrives much like Arnold did in the first movie and is confronted by the same three punks. But this time Sarah and “Papa” Guardian (Schwarzenegger) are ready for him and together they dispatch him. The second movie is thus incorporated into this one. Papa has been with Sarah since she was nine years old (Taylor).

Kyle zaps into 1984 and lands in a dreary alley, where he is confronted by police, and steals the pants from a vagrant. The policeman turns out to be a T-1000 Terminator, the liquid metal kind (Lee). Kyle links up with Sarah when she drives an armored truck into the department store where he’s hiding and he gets in. It takes some convincing to keep Kyle from trying to kill Papa and to accept that he’s been reprogrammed. They get away, but the T-1000 left a part of himself on the door latch as a kind of GPS locator. A big chase scene later and they arrive at Sarah’s hideout. The T-1000 easily follows them and she leads him into a large chamber with barrels of corrosive acid overhead. With Papa’s help the T-1000 is melted like the Wicked Witch of the West.

It seems that Sarah and Papa have built a time transporter without the help of MacGyver using 1984 technology (Gee, I want them for my mechanics!) but it only has power to send two people on a one-way trip. Sarah wants to travel to 1994 to stop Skynet from being formed but Kyle now has two sets of memories and knows that that date is no longer valid. (Must be all this back and forth time warping that caused that.) He eventually convinces her to go to 2017 just before an application called “Genisys” will come online and put the machines in power. His memory is from his childhood where he (Prince) learns that Genisys is Skynet. Papa agrees to find them when they get there.

Sarah and Kyle materialize in the middle of a busy highway and are arrested by the police for “being naked and exploding a bomb in a public place.” At the stationhouse, Mr. O’Brien (Simmons) recognizes them both from 1984. He was the real policeman in the department store chase whose life they saved from the T-1000. Meanwhile, who shows up but John Connor? He spirits them all to the parking garage where he drops a huge revelation on Kyle by calling him “Dad.” But Papa interrupts that awkward scene by shooting John. When John easily recoups from the shot, Sarah and Kyle know he’s now a “Morg” – not a man or terminator, but an amalgam of both; the first of his kind created by Skynet (technically, a T-3000). We learn later that this was what was happening to John while being attacked during Kyle’s transport. He’s also the chief engineer and impetus behind the Genisys project at a company called Cyberdyne.

Confused yet? The good guy is now the bad guy while the former bad guy is now the good guy. Sarah, Papa and Kyle have to destroy the underground mainframe computer and prevent Genisys from going online and creating Skynet. There is an amazing helicopter chase, a dive-bomb scene by Papa Arnold, and a battle royal at Cyberdyne where even the computer fights back. Papa manages to pin Cyber-John in the almost finished time transporter being built there. Kyle turns it on, much to Sarah’s horror (nothing can survive the field unless clothed in flesh), and John is disintegrated; but most of Papa is thrown into a pool of liquid metal. (Hmm.)

Just like in Frankenstein, the whole place explodes and the buildings collapse, Sarah mourns for Papa and he walks out like nothing happened. “Let’s say, I was upgraded,” he wryly states.

I mentioned time anomalies, right? Not only does Arnold battle his younger self, but Kyle meets and talks to his younger self – admittedly without revealing who he is. This is how he knows that Genisys is Skynet. But, that aside, this scientifically inaccurate and complex movie is still fun to watch. There is an appearance by former Law and Order star Courtney B. Vance, who plays one of the heads of Cyberdyne, Miles Dyson. Even though this film ends seemingly happily and with nothing more in the story to tell, I have it on good authority that there will probably be a Terminator 6 and 7. They’re in the works for 2017 and 2018. What in the world could they be about?

Rating: 3 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Patzeria Family & Friends
311 West 48th Street (8th Avenue)New York

Those of you who know me, as well as those who’ve been following my column (thank you for that) are familiar with my attraction to the new, the unusual – perhaps bizarre – and forward-thinking chefs and restaurants. I love the undiscovered, the adventurous side of dining and am not afraid to pay for it. And you might ask, “Steve, what made you choose an obvious pizzeria with a cobbled-together name that presents itself to the public in a blatant display of ethnicity?” (The awning is green, white and red.) You are right to ask, realizing that I don’t generally go to pizzerias or fast-food places because I do not consider them “restaurants” (Sorry McDonald’s). I do not like dining at counters or bars and will avoid places that do not have tablecloths or wine lists.

This four-year-old Italian is not how it appears from the street view. Inside, it’s cozy, not too brightly lit, there are posters for various Broadway shows on the walls, and there is a stunning emerald green tiled bar curving gracefully into the dining area. There are no tablecloths, but the wine list is impressive and completely affordable. And the best part is that the restaurant is easy walking distance from the movie theater. I guess sometimes one has to come down from his or her ivory tower and join the multitudes to have a good, honest, no-frills meal once in a while.

The lovely young lady at the Captain’s Station acknowledged my reservation (another thing pizzerias do not offer) and gave me a choice of two tables. I chose the one by a faux fireplace near the front of the bar to give me a full view of everything happening at the 20-something other tables. I was presented with the food menu, the drinks/wine list and the specials of the day menu, all in neat plastic folders.

When my server, Igor (definitely not an Italian name), assured me they had Beefeaters gin at the bar, I ordered my favorite martini with olives and it was nicely done. He asked me what foods I preferred and I had to confess that I loved everything on the menu and was familiar with each preparation. The Tilapia Livornese was calling my name. I told Igor I would be having a three-course meal and he was delighted to help choose. There was a wonderful 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Per Linda” on the wine list and I chose it. An excellent red table wine, it was not too heavy and not in the least bit light. The fruit and tannins were perfect for good down-home Italian food.

The regular food menu had the usual categories: “Appetizers, Soups, Salads, From the Grill and Italian Heroes, Pasta, Entrées, Pizza, Italian Specialties, Sides, and Desserts,” but featured an interesting one, “Trending Items.” I would guess that these dishes were ones consistently chosen by patrons – a good idea for people with theater tickets and an 8:00 curtain.

My appetizer came from the specials menu and was baked mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat. The five mushroom caps, mounded with crab were spaced on the dish in a star pattern around baby spinach and basil, and a cherry tomato sliced in three parts in the center. They were hot, fresh and tasty and very basic: Nothing to write Mama Leone about.

The second course was more serious food. The minestrone – with celery, zucchini, carrots, onions and cannelloni beans was wonderful! Some grated cheese on top brought back memories of my trips to Italy and a tear to my eye. I ate it slowly while munching the crunchy garlic bread, which had been toasted in the pizza oven (you can tell by the blackened parts – which I love). I also took the time to watch the family at the next table enjoy their pizza, which was served on the traditional aluminum platter and hoisted up on a three-legged pedestal above the table. The gooey cheese was obvious and the brightly colored toppings made it very attractive. I had heard several positive feedbacks about Patzeria’s pizzas.

The real test was my main course. The Tilapia Livornese unfortunately lost to the lasagna – ground beef, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses layered between fresh pasta sheets. Igor showed me very accurately how big the portion would by framing his hands and he was completely correct. 

I can’t tell you when I, like Garfield the Cat, became a Lasagna-phile but this one was exactly what I wanted after the two previous courses. Like everything on the menu, it was good, basic, honest, and home-cooked. It was not the greatest lasagna I’ve ever had, and I didn’t expect it to be, but it was way, far from the worst. The pasta was firm but tender the cheeses the right consistency and the meat cooked right but not overly present. I enjoyed it, almost considering ordering a meatball side dish.

When Igor listed the special desserts of the day I stopped him in mid-sentence when I heard the word “strawberries” twice. I had forgotten the description he gave me by the time the dish was served and stared in wide-eyed wonder at what was placed on my table. There, in the stemmed martini glass, was a large ball of strawberry ice cream swimming in fresh strawberry halves and dowsed in chocolate syrup. How can you go wrong with that?

Soon after, I had my traditional double espresso with a lovely glass of Alexander grappa from Conegliano, Italy. Yes, they did have Strega, but this time I wanted grappa. The manager came over and spoke to me and I told him of my experience. We discussed the greats and the smalls. He was pleased. The one question I failed to ask him was, “What’s with the crazy name?” I guess I’ll have to return to find out.

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