Friday, November 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Blade Runner 2049 (Columbia, 2017) – Director: Denis Villeneuve. Writers: Hampton Fancher (s/p & story), Michael Green (s/p), Philip K. Dick (novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Stars: Ryan Gosling, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Mark Arnold, Vilma Szécsi, Ana de Armas, Wood Harris, David Dastmalchian, Tómas Lemarquis, Sylvia Hoeks, Edward James Olmos, Jared Leto, Sallie Harmsen, Hiam Abbass & Mackensie Davis. Color, Rated R, 164 minutes.

Blade Runner 2049 is a spectacular visual concert interrupted by a dull movie. For those who haven’t seen the original, or just forgot, there is an explanation in the opening credits of what has happened in the thirty years that have elapsed between the original and the sequel, and just what a “Blade Runner” is. Blade Runners are members of the LA Police Department who track down and “retire” (kill/destroy) older models of android or those who have been insubordinate.

Nexus-9 LAPD Officer ‘K’ (Gosling) is assigned to “retire” older Nexus-8 replicant Sapper Morton (Bautista) on his protein farm where he grows large grubs. A dead white tree on the property (there are no trees in 2049) has a date inscribed on one of its roots that matches the date on the bottom of a carved wooden horse K has had since childhood (or so he remembers). X-rays reveal a box underneath the tree among its roots containing the remains of a female Nexus-7 android who was (horrors!) pregnant. Androids are not supposed to be able to reproduce.

Analysis of the bones add a name, Rachel. Those who saw the first Blade Runner will remember that Rachel was the android who evoked emotion in Rick Deckard, who has been missing for thirty years. Further analysis gets K to thinking that his childhood memory is real and that he may be the son of this union.

K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Wright), assigns him the task of finding the child and destroying all evidence of it before a war breaks out between the replicants and the humans. He leaves the love of his life Joi (Armas), a holographic girlfriend, and goes on his quest. He torches the grub farm and checks his memory to confirm that it’s real. That takes him to a ruined orphanage in San Diego where he actually finds the wooden horse where he remembers hiding it and has it analyzed. The radiation in it leads him to Las Vegas, where the air is orange and Rick Deckard (Ford) lives alone with a scruffy old dog. Only then does the action finally begin.

Besides Harrison Ford, one other actor reprises his role from 1982 and that’s Edward James Olmos, who plays Gaff, another LAPD Blade Runner. The movie plods along with flickers of action here and there while zooming through colossal sets with heroic, futuristic music until Deckard finally appears onscreen. At that point all is explained, sort of. Ryan Gosling’s acting style is appropriate for an android. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker he “runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.” But in my opinion he is only reprising his role in La La Land.

It’s the kind of movie without heroes and a truckload of villains. There are a few clever lines such as Luv: “You can’t hold back the tide with a broom.” And Deckard: “Sometimes, to love someone, you got to be a stranger.” Other than these the dialogue is forgettable.

If you’re planning to see this film, I suggest bringing a comfy cushion. The two hours and forty-four minutes seem endless and the only thing that will keep you awake is the thunderous, booming soundtrack (Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) which is actually, along with spectacular cinematography by Roger Deakins, the two best parts of the movie. The acting is lackluster, except for Mr. Ford and Ms. Hoeks, the lines are often mumbled and the story confusing and uninteresting.

Hollywood amazes me. Why did the original Blade Runner need a sequel? But then again, why are they contemplating re-making Dune? It’s a mystery. But thank goodness for Harrison Ford!

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 martini glasses.

Rocco Steakhouse
72 Madison Avenue, New York

How many steakhouses does a city need? As I dine at my one hundred and first I realize I still have more to visit. And there are more opening every day.

Rocco Trotta owns this two-year-old establishment and has staff formerly from Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (been there). From the street we see towering windows framed in sleek stone and the name backlit in blue neon above them. There are also two impressive maroon banners with the name in yellow hanging above everything.

Inside, all is dark wood, tasteful, unassuming wallpaper and orange sconces. The ceiling lighting emanates from large “picture-less frames” suspended from the actual dark-colored ceiling. All very inviting and obviously steakhouse décor. Every table – there were about twenty beyond the bar – was occupied, a good sign. I was in the mood for all my favorites and a very traditional meal.

Steakhouse menus generally do not vary much and depend on the innovation of the chef. In this case the entrées had a touch of Italian and featured Osso Buco along with sirloin and lamb chops. Knowing that sometimes appetizers can be huge, I went with oysters on the half shell. My server, Daniel brought something I didn’t expect, a separate plate filled with crackers, a ramekin of horseradish and a bottle of hot sauce. A nice touch.

The six tasty shellfish and three lemon wedges were served on ice on a silver platter and surrounded a small bowl of cocktail sauce, which I tasted. It needed more horseradish. Quickly remedied. The oysters were fresh, only a little briny and tender.

Rocco’s has an Italian influence and that was reflected in the Minestrone “Soup of the Day.” But this was not like any I had had before. The vegetables in it were like fresh picked, crisp and very brightly colored in a golden broth. Everything about it said fresh made. All I asked for was some grated cheese to make it perfect.

My standard entrée in a steakhouse is filet mignon and Rocco’s is serious about steak. My filet was a little more than two inches thick, browned and crisp on the outside, juicy and red inside. Daniel served some of the creamed spinach onto the same platter the steak already occupied. The filet was heavenly, easily sliced and delicious. The creamed spinach was incredibly well blended, no juice escaped it, and the flavor was excellent.

The Zinfandel I was drinking accented every dish and lasted beyond the entrée. When Daniel brought the dessert menu, my eyes stopped when I saw tartuffo. Again, the Italian touch. The chocolate and vanilla gelato engulfing crunchy hazelnuts and armored with dark chocolate was standing in four wedges on the plate. This is one of my two favorite Italian desserts and I loved every bite.

Knowing me, a double espresso is de rigueur. Hopefully, I asked Daniel if they had Strega, but no. He recommended the Green Chartreuse and it was more than adequate.

Rocco’s Steakhouse is worth a second visit. The service approaches my benchmark and the food is well prepared and well timed. The soup was a delightful surprise, as was the extra horseradish. I would recommend Rocco’s to anyone.

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