Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indy Kicks Commie Butt

Sorry for the delay in my review of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. I have been overwhelmed with a flood of requests for my views. Since Indy only took in $375 million since Thursday, I’m sure Spielberg and Lucas are quaking in their boots.

I liked it.

Oh, you wanted more? I liked it quite a bit, there. Happy? As I said in my earlier post I went to opening night at Manhattan’s Ziegfeld, the perfect place to watch a “big” picture. The place was sold out; it’s always fun to watch an action movie in a packed theater with an excited crowd. This can sometimes mask an awful stench (yes, I’m thinking of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla), but a high energy crowd adds something to the experience as does top quality projection and sound.

The movie opens with Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko, a dominatrix-cum commie leading a crew of Stalinist drones filling in quite nicely for the now vanquished Nazis. They are raiding the massive government warehouse holding every secret treasure from George Washington’s underwear to a familiar looking Ark. Blanchett makes a great Eastern Ice Queen/Villain, and is supposed to have some kind of mind control powers, forever endearing her to Comrade Stalin himself. I don’t know what kind of “paranormal” research the Soviets did, but the Nazis actually did perform what passes for “research” in the field. Himmler was especially interested in this stuff, many of the top Nazis were big believers in Astrology. I wonder if the expanded DVD- (and there will be several expanded DVD’s) will have some deleted scenes of Irina doing the whole mind control thing. Maybe bend some spoons or tell us these are not the ’droids we’re looking for.

Interesting aside--- Some whack jobs are actually managing to be offended by Spielberg/Lucas portrayal of Soviet KGB agents as villains. I guess those tens millions of people starved, shot or sent to the Gulags were just a bunch of whiners.

Anyway I’ve always viewed the Indiana Jones movies as comic book fare. And no, that’s not an insult. I’m not looking for a deep exploration someone’s inner torment, I don’t want a radical re-examination of post colonialism in a neo-Marxist light. I just want to see Indy kick the crap out of the villains, kiss the heroine and maybe dump Short Round off at an orphanage- hopefully one run by some really angry nuns- never could stand that kid.

The plot, such as it is, involves Indiana and his son, Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) looking to rescue Karen Allen and John Hurt from the clutches of kidnappers in South America who are trying to learn the secret of the crystal skull. Of course the kidnappers turn out to be Cate and her merry band of Stakhanovites.

Indy and company travel up the Amazon and encounter a lost tribe of tomb guarding Amazonians (not the good kind, the all male poison dart blowing kind), ants with a taste for human flesh, monkeys with Shia LeBoef haircuts and, oh yeah, space aliens that seem to really, really like archeology.

It’s all held together by great chase scenes, a couple of pithy one-liners (my personal favorite is Indy choosing “I Like Ike” as his last words in front of a Russky execution squad). I’m glad Spielberg won the fight over using real stuntmen rather than the CGI stuff that overwhelmed the Star Wars prequels; it’s an old-school movie- it needed an old-school vibe.

Some folks have complained about the whole Alien thing, but is it any weirder than vengeful ghosts springing from the shattered Ten Commandments?

Two Thumbs Up.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indy Cinema

Tune in tomorrow for my review of the new Indiana Jones movie. My birthday present to myself is a night at the Ziegfeld in Midtown for the real premiere (the one where you don’t have to be named Turtle or Drama to get in).

The Ziegfeld is probably New York’s last single screen movie palace; most of the others have been either torn down, converted to other uses or made into multiplexes. Radio City is still operating, but hasn’t shown a regular schedule of movies since 1979. If they had held on a few more years they might have been able to ride the second wave of Disney animation, or they might have shut down entirely.

I’ve been to the Ziegfeld twice. Once for The Phantom Menace and again for Hannah Montana in 3-D. In retrospect Hannah was better. At the time I hoped the Star Wars prequels would improve instead they only sucked more.

Let’s hope that Lucas has done a better job with Indiana Jones. I saw the original and loved it; I even brought my then six year old brother to see The Temple of Doom- he was probably about six. Watching Amrish Puri rip someone’s still beating heart out might not be the best thing for a six year old, but since he never tried it out on any of the neighborhood kids no harm no foul. The third movie with Sean Connery was cool; the best part may have been River Phoenix playing the young Indiana where we learned exactly why he hates snakes (and where Indy got his fashion sense).

Anyway, will post a review tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I Confess

I confess. I am a food geek. I don’t have the time or the money be a foodie, so I’m inventing my own term. To be a foodie, you have to eat out six nights a week and order $100 entres. Not for me.

I’m not sure how I got started on this slippery slope. I used to cook back when I lived in my fraternity house. We were a little unique in that we didn’t have a professional cook. The brothers signed up to cook during our Sunday House Meetings. The $5.00 (Lunch) and $15.00 (Dinner) payments added up- do a couple of meals and you had beer money for the weekend.

I pretty much gave up cooking anything more complicated than a steak after I graduated, but about three or four years ago I started cooking again. I can’t really remember what set me off, but before I knew it, I was gazing longingly at pictures of Viking Ranges and All-Clad copper core pans (and yes I am aware of how pathetic that is).

Maybe it was reading Tony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential. Maybe it was to distract myself from the hideous implosion that is Syracuse Football.

One of the advantages of living in New York is that we have access to all kinds of food and produce. The Union Square Greenmarket and its’ numerous mini satellites bring incredibly fresh fruits and vegetables; many of the farmers sell heirloom varieties of produce that you will never see at the Wal-Mart superstore. You know you’re shopping at the right place when the guy next to you is wearing chef’s whites and he is being followed by a couple of commis with handtrucks.

No matter how good the fruits and veggies are, there is no danger of my becoming some kind of demented vegan. New York also offers easy access to top cuts of meats at places like Ottomanelli’s or Florence Meat Market. The kind of stuff that just isn't for sale wrapped in plastic in your supermarket. And every ethnic group on the planet has a New York based outpost selling the most obscure (and occasionally delicious) ingredients for their native dishes.

I have been aided and abetted in my newfound obsession by the Food Channel. Quite frankly most of their shows are pretty lousy, but there are some gems hidden in there. Last night I made zeppoli from a Giada Delaurentis recipe. (I did have to explain to Debbie that Giada's stripper-like low cut dress was actually NOT the reason people refer to the Food Channel as Food Porn). While the Megan and Devon were unimpressed, Debbie, our friend Lucy and I all enjoyed the zeppoli- much lighter and doughier than the little balls of cement you get at San Gennaro. I use a great steak recipe for coffee rubbed rib eye from Bobby Flay, I think I made some good Mario Batali minestrone once or twice.

My favorite TV chefs are Alton Brown and Jacques Pepin. Brown has been with the Food Network since almost the beginning. He mixes some great tips with all the science behind the cooking, which also give my inner science nerd a thrill. I got my fried chicken recipe from Good Eats, his show. Brown has so many rabid fans they actually post transcripts from his shows on a fan website- I’m not sure even Star Trek fans are that obsessed. While AB worked in commercial kitchens, Jacques Pepin is a classically trained French Chef who spent decades cooking professionally. Pepin does a great series called “Fast Food My Way,” the recipes are generally simple, really fast and pretty tasty.

My hobbies used to be much more macho- wreck diving, skiing, and watching SU sports (OK that one is not so macho). Still the logistics of making great sausage and peppers are slightly easier to manage than a trip to the Coimbra. Not that I’m getting old. Or boring.