Source Code (2011)

Rating:

So after everyone said such good things about this movie, including a 91% from Rotten Tomatoes, I thought I had to give this movie a shot.  When I originally saw previews for this movie, this instantly made me think that the movie was merely just an action-packed Groundhog Day.  After watching it, I don’t really that this prior assessment was too far from the truth.

It was a fun and exciting movie to watch, but in my opinion it presented too many glaring loopholes with problems within the whole scope of timelines, alternate realities, etc.  I am usually not one to nitpick at these details (I enjoyed Inception and The Matrix very much) but when the problems of coherence are too obvious, I begin to have objections.  This movie had some big problems at times.  There are numerous loopholes and flaws that I felt were too obvious.  Many are typical timeline/reality issues that need not be elaborated again, suffice it to say that these parts made me gasp to myself “Really?” a number of times.  In the end, I was glad I didn’t spend money to see this movie in the theaters, but I’m also glad that I did watch it.  It’s an interesting concept they present, and I imagine seeing a much better movie with the same “core” principles as this movie in the future.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

Rating:

Only after I began watching today did I realize, that I had only ever seen the theatrical version of Superman II and never this newly re-released version, despite having heard so much about it.  After watching the opening scene, and seeing that I was looking at something relatively new, I became very excited.  After all, my childhood hero was Superman, and I do own the entire DVD collection of the four movies.  Unfortunately, I had purchased it before the Richard Donner Cut was officially released.

I mostly judge this movie in comparison to the original theatrical release, which despite hardcore fans’ criticisms, holds a special place in my heart.  It is also because the original release holds a special place in my heart that I cannot rate this edition above the original.  However, I can see the complete difference in the entire tone of the movie from beginning to end.  It indeed does link much more closely with the first Superman movie.  It also features much less of the original “campy” humor lines that were in the Lester directed version of the film.

I am neither a proponent nor an opponent to these changes; I only see them two very different ways of telling the same story.  Sadly, the original version featured some pretty poorly integrated scenes  in addition to scenes containing a drunk Margot Kidder.  But the new one had its own share of drawbacks, mostly likely due to the fact that they only used original shots and that it was re-made only through editing processes.  This means there were no new scenes shot and some of Lester’s scenes had to be used align parts of the plotline.  Poor editing also caused subtle inconsistencies in the video and audio quality when switching between camera angles and scenes.

Overall, I’d still say this version is more suitable for a more faithful Superman fan, and that the theatrical version by Richard Lester is much better for a broad audience which is looking for more of a fun film featuring Superman.  The Richard Donner Cut does indeed seem much more dark.  And because no additional filming was possible, some of the scenes and transitions still seem slightly disjointed.  Also, the musical score is not as well matched in this version since they were not able to re-hire John Williams for it, and merely had to use, again, what they already had available in their stock.

Express Manna Kitchen

Rating:

What do I do for lunch now that Restaurant Week is over?  I guess I’ll return to those cheap little shops littered around my office.  Well, I finally mustered up the courage to check out this little Korean place that I’ve had an eye on.  After all, I am a huge fan of some good bibimbap in a hot stone bowl.  Unfortunately, I guess the stone bowl eliminates the possibility of getting it as take-out, but I’ll live.

Upon entering, I found that the place was surprisingly packed, but that might just be how all places restaurants around Union Square are during lunch hour.  I must say, firstly, I was not impressed by the price of their bibimbap that came in a stone bowl, netting me $11.92 including tax.  Maybe it was really good though?  Or maybe they just had no competition within a ten block radius, basically until you reach Korea Town.

I believe bibimbap is, in general, pretty simple to cook.  I think much more important is the freshness and quality of the assorted vegetables they include.  I was not as impressed as I would’ve liked for the money I paid, none of the mushrooms, roots, and stems were nearly as delicious as I wanted.  And though it came with the standard side dishes of kimchi, etc., it also came with mashed potatoes rather than what it really needed, a good side of Korean hot sauce.  As well, just to complain further, I think they could’ve used a more appropriately sized bowl.  The quantity of the food was sufficient, but displayed in the bowl that they used, it looked like a meager little portion that would hardly satisfy even a small child.

With such high prices combined with such average ingredients, they should at least make the dish as presentable as possible.  I probably won’t be back just because I can’t afford something of this quality at such a price.  There are both cheaper and better options in the vicinity.  I’ll stick with my Chinese restaurant around the corner.

Peking Duck House

Rating:

I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I was craving some Peking duck tonight.  It came suddenly, swiftly and in an unexpected manner.  A quick search on Google returned Peking Duck House.  There were two locations, and despite the one in Midtown East having slightly higher prices, I decided that the closer proximity was worth it.  So I thought I’d give it a whirl; my first Peking duck since I left Peking over a year ago.  Readers should note that I’m very partial towards authentic Chinese food, and in over a score of years, I have never found a westernized or fusion Asian restaurant that I’ve really liked.  Thus, I really truly hoped on the inside, that this one was relatively authentic.

The duck here was actually not bad, but not great of course.  And, I was pleasantly surprised that they actually did have a chef come out and slice the duck up before your eyes.  Although it was a poor slicing job, I was pleased enough not to say anything to the guy.  I have complaints too about the lack of crispiness in the skin, the not-as-juicy-as-I-would’ve-liked meat, and the lack of additional toppings like sliced garlic, etc.  Also, I’m not so happy that I couldn’t get two bowls of complimentary duck soup, or at least take the duck’s bone frame home with me, but I guess this isn’t mainland China.  However, the bottom line is that the duck was good enough to satisfy my cravings.  I did have very low expectations though, for where could I possibly find real Peking duck around here?

The real surprise was the size of things.  If an actual Chinese came to the restaurant and saw the food without seeing any Americans, they’d probably think this was a land of giants.  Everything about the duck was almost exactly the same, but bigger, except for the actual duck itself.  The pieces of duck were served in bigger slices.  The tortilla-like wrap was double the biggest wrap I’d ever seen in China.  The cucumber slices were probably three times in larger than usual and the scallion was also so thick compared to the norm.  I was not prepared for this.  I feel like the largeness of everything took away from the subtlety of real Peking duck’s deliciousness, substituting quality with quantity.

But again, I was adequately satisfied by the duck.  What was less exciting was our order of Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce.  I felt it was more insight into what the normal dishes at the restaurant were probably like, big and bland.  Yes, the Chinese broccoli was also massive in size compared to what would’ve been presented to me in a Chinese restaurant in China.  It was also poorly cooked though, and weak in flavor.  I thought the garlic was delicious though, but that might just be because I like garlic a lot.  Still, at least I felt like it was relatively nutritious for me.  Even the complimentary oranges at the end were of low quality.  They only brought us four slices; I really wonder what happened to the other half of the orange…  At least we both got very appropriate fortunes from our fortune cookies.

I don’t really know if I’ll be back here again.  Maybe next time I’ll try out the other Peking Duck House in Chinatown and see if it’s any better/different.  The only reason I’d probably be back is if I end up staying in NYC longer and I suddenly get another craving for Peking duck one day.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Rating:

I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie.  Marvel has produced a vast array of movies in recent years which vary greatly in quality.  There are my favorites which include Spider-Man 2 and Iron Man; and then there are the ones that no one wishes to be reminded of such as Hulk, Daredevil, and Elektra.  On top of that, I was not impressed at all with Thor earlier this year.  In the end, this falls somewhere around the middle of the Marvel Studios spectrum.

Perhaps I was more unhappy with Thor than I thought, because in comparison, I really enjoyed this movie a lot more.  I might just be exceedingly satisfied with their reduction in “campy” humor lines, and they timed the witty lines a bit better than in some of the recent Marvel movies.  But in terms of comedic value, it still doesn’t compare to Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, the first installment more so than the second.

I also liked it because I can never resist loving a character like Steve Rogers, as Dr. Erskine says, “a good man.”  However, I can’t believe poor Steve Rogers doesn’t know what fondue is…  I guess it wasn’t common knowledge around 1942?  He is still brave though, and they display this well with the least graceful dive on to a grenade that I’ve ever seen.  But, “he’s still skinny.”  The movie in general reminded me of a combination of the recent G.I. Joe movie combined with elements of Rambo: First Blood Part II.

It’s always interesting to see how they adapt the characters original comic book storylines to the big screen.  I thought the Captain America adaptation was very acceptable, but that may also be because I don’t much care for comic book characters who have deep ties with actual historical events, like World War II.  I guess even if the producers ever think they’re going the wrong direction with the movie storyline, they just scrap the old cinematic storyline, reboot, and start over again.

Entertaining, but not that entertaining; dramatic, but not that dramatic.  As usual, the comic book has such a long story and the filmmakers must try to compress so much of it into a mere 2 hours, causing many events and milestones to be downplayed or altogether lost in translation.  Still an enjoyable movie, partly because the theater was so nice and cool compared to the 105 degree weather outside, partly because the movie was actually enjoyable.  If nothing else, The Avengers preview at the end of the credits was exciting to watch.  I’m already looking forward to next summer, with Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers both on the horizon, it should be good.

Giorgio’s of Gramercy

Rating:

I absolutely could not wait for lunch today, not because I had planned to go to Giorgio’s of Gramercy, but merely because the air conditioning in my office was broken and all of the employees were slowly roasting.  Lunch offered us an escape from the oven, at least for a short hour.  I decided to stop in at Giorgio’s as another stop on the restaurant week tour.  Nothing on the menu seemed exceptional, but I was ready to try 3 of the items to see how they were.  Fortunately for me, I inquired as to the Soup du Jour, which uninterestingly enough was Chicken Barley I believe; however, the server also eagerly announced the other specials for the day to me.  One dish did happen to pique my interest, and so I was swayed away from the prix fixe menu.

Among the numerous daily specials I chose the Garden Vegetable Ravioli with Grilled Shrimp, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomatoes in a Lemon Garlic Sauce.  As I awaited my scrumptious sounding choice, I embellished in some of the complimentary bed typical to most restaurants.  Giorgio’s was not off to a good start…  It undoubtedly was day old cheap bread from the deli around the corner, and I could barely bring myself to finish even a piece.  At this point, I feared for the worst, but I consoled myself with the fact that I had dined at other fine restaurants with subpar bread.

This only made me more eager to see what kind of special would be presented to me.  As the second person to arrive in the restaurant for lunch, my dish came fairly swiftly, and from its outward appearance, looked to satisfy me completely.  Even my server, who seemingly had not seen this order before, whispered to me, “I’m having that for lunch today.”  Indeed, this reaffirmed that the look of it was most appealing.  As for the taste, it was as good as it looked.  At first the asparagus and cherry tomatoes tasted a bit out of place, but I soon realized that I had to adequately soak each piece in the juices enveloping the ravioli and shrimp.  The shrimp itself was delicious and grilled to perfection, I was most disappointed that I could not get all of the meat out of the tails and had to sacrifice some of the deliciousness.  The ravioli was exceptional as well.  I’m not quite sure what exactly was in it except for remnants of diced mushrooms, but it certainly did not disappoint.  Whatever the chef did, it was amazing.  I remember thinking to myself as I ate, that if any parent should have trouble motivating their children to eat vegetables, they should have them indulge in this ravioli.  I can only hope that they will make this special more frequently in the future since I feel it is amazing enough to be one of their staple dishes.

Since the entree was so surprisingly delicious, I decided to indulge in a dessert as well.  The server recommended their famous S’mores Bread Pudding.  I had just had an amazing s’mores dessert the other night at Telepan, so this was good opportunity to see how it would measure up.  As the first bite entered my mouth, I knew that it was not the same caliber as the s’mores I had before.  This was strangely enough, a case where the brownie was too moist, and I suppose, certainly very pudding like, too much so for my taste.  The vanilla gelato on top was nothing exceptional, and there was no form of mashmallow or whipped cream, which I usually feel is necessary (unless your brownie and gelato/ice cream are amazing).  The graham cracker was just a sad sad piece of out-of-the-box Honey Maid laying next to the creation, and the caramel sauce contributed next to nothing.  It was covered with crunchy chocolate wafer balls and a nice piece of dark chocolate; their purpose I assume was to distract from the fact that the top layer of the brownie did not offer the usual kind of slightly hard texture, an attribute I quite like.

All in all, it was still amazing meal.  The entree was something superb, and I feel fortunate to have stopped in today while they were serving it.  The dessert was good as well, merely not as good as I had hoped.  Perhaps I did not get as much food in terms of quantity as if I had ordered the prix fixe, but I was certainly very pleased with my entree choice.  There will be no regret today for straying from the original lunch plan.

Apiary

Rating:

Apparently there’s always a $35 prix fixe menu at Apiary, just normally not on Friday’s, the day we happened to decide to pop in.  It’s a good thing it’s still restaurant week.  I realized that I often pass this restaurant and have just never really taken notice to it.  At 5:30, we were able to enjoy the complete restaurant to ourselves, but even then the service was a little more sluggish than I would’ve preferred.  Today’s meal was enjoyed with a pint of Speakeasy’s Prohibition.

To start, we had the Chilled Corn Veloute and Baby Romaine Salad.  The salad was typical and did not strike out in any way that amazed me, a typical good salad is all I can say.  As for my corn soup, it was chilled and good, but also nothing so amazing that I could not forget.  I only know that the chilled soups are a delightful treat and a pleasant way to start a summer dinner.  About all I can recall thinking is that at least the corn is better than that in China, which doesn’t take much.

The main course consisted of Roasted Organic Chicken and Atlantic Merluza.  This here was an example of a good chicken that was not that good.  The chicken was not as flavorful as what I had sampled from the previous restaurants, and it was a classic example of a chicken that was not roasted perfectly, leaving a dry and hard to swallow feeling in my mouth.  At least it was organic though; I suppose that should make me feel a little better.   The fish was quite enjoyable though.  More memorable than the bass I had at Telepan, but it really just made me want some authentic bouillabaisse.  It was beyond satisfactory, but I quickly inhaled the fish, and slowly savored the little broth that I was given.  Perhaps I will have to seek out an authentic French restaurant next.

We ended the dinner a Trio of Ice Cream & Sorbet along with Vanilla Panna Cotta.  The ice cream was a typical chocolate and vanilla along with an atypical raspberry sorbet.  The raspberry was much more sour than I had really expected, but it was refreshing.  Unfortunately, I can’t say it was anything exceptional.  I think I could’ve scooped it out of any fancy ice cream shop myself.  As for the panna cotta, it was unimpressive compared to that of The Red Cat from a few days ago.  Not only was the dessert itself not as satisfying, it also was not showered with a large array of berries.

All in all, this is a good restaurant.  Perhaps it still may be a bit pricey for what it is though.  And unfortunately, for someone of my tastes, I can find versions of the same dishes that I enjoy much more at other restaurants.  A worthwhile experience, but I am not sure I’ll be back unless someone can convince me that I just chose the wrong dishes to sample.