Movies: 'American Reunion,' 'To the Arctic' & 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'
Published 2:17 pm, Friday, April 20, 2012
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
Predictably, Steven Stifler (Seann William Scott) works as a law firm temp and still lives with his seductive mom (Jennifer Coolidge). But successful Chris Ostreicher (Chris Klein) has become a minor celebrity, hosting a sports show on cable TV after losing a dance contest to Gilbert Gottfried. He's showing off his supermodel girl-friend (Katrina Bowden) when he runs into his first love, Heather (Mena Suvari).
Yet things have changed. While Jim and Michelle's sexual relationship used to steam, having to deal with their 2-year-old son has taken its toll, leaving both of them masturbating in solitude. Jim's marital frustration becomes obvious when he sees the girl-next-door, Kara (Ali Cobrin), now almost 18 and eager to lose her clothes and her virginity with her virtuous former babysitter. While committed to a wife who's wild about reality television, goateed Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) reignites an old flame with Vicky (Tara Reid). Adventurous Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who once had a thing with Stifler's mom, now leads a well-traveled bohemian life, showing up on a motorcycle. Then there's sexy Selena (Dania Ramiriz) and Chad Ochochinco as himself.
This is the latest installment in the "American Pie" series and the first since "American Wedding" (2003), but writers/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (creators of the "Harold & Kumar" franchise) stick with the repetitive, tried-and-true Class of '99 jokes, episodically delineating each character's discontented dilemma -- and tossing in a Neil Patrick Harris cameo.
Is it still crass, crude and vulgar? Without question, as when sex-starved Stifler defecates in a beer-cooler. And will there be yet another gross sequel? You betcha.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "American Reunion" flakes into a flaccid 5, but you should know that it's often squirm-inducing.
"JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI"
Considered by many to be the world's greatest sushi chef, 85-year-old Jiro Ono is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat restaurant tucked into the subterranean arcade under a Tokyo office building, near the Ginza subway station. Michelin gave Sukiyabashi Jiro one of its rare three-star ratings, indicating that it's "worth traveling to the country just to eat there" and, not surprisingly, the Japanese government has named Jiro a living national treasure.
So it's fascinating to see how this octogenarian, a passionate perfectionist, dedicates himself to his kitchen rituals, adhering to the cultural reverence for "shokunin," defined as an artisan's dedicated work ethic. In Jiro's case, he never takes time off except to go to funerals. And as the title reveals, he literally dreams about creating exotic sushi dishes that no one has ever tasted before.
Documentarian David Gelb, a sushi devotee since childhood, obviously developed a personal rapport with Jiro, who reveals how he was forced out of his home and has been working with sushi since he was 10. Meticulous training and maintaining high standards are paramount in Jiro's life, as he diligently passes along his knowledge to his sons, who are his apprentices. Destined to inherit his father's mantle, stoic Yoshikazu, is dispatched to buy fish at Tokyo's enormous Tsukiji seafood market, where the specialized vendors are often as idiosyncratic as their demanding customers.
Uncompromising about preparation, Jiro orders his assistants to hand-massage octopus for 40 to 50 minutes before serving. One helper relates how he prepared an egg sushi that was deemed unacceptable 200 times over a four-month period before the master approved it.
While there are mouth-watering close-ups of Jiro and Yoshikazu's creations, reservations must be made at least a month ahead and prepare to pay about $350 per person for the tasting menu of 20 pieces. Insofar as atmosphere goes, there is none, and meals are consumed in 30 minutes.
In Japanese with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a savory 7, especially appetizing for foodies.
"TO THE ARCTIC"
Celebrating Earth Day, the IMAX Theater at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk launches a journey to the top of the world with one of its coolest, most compelling nature films.
Narrated by Meryl Streep with music by Paul McCartney, it not only explores the Arctic's mammoth glaciers, waterfalls and ice fields but also gets up-close-and-personal with a mother polar bear and her twin seven-month-old cubs. Since polar bears are notoriously elusive, it was miraculous that this protective, nursing mother seemed indifferent to the camera crew, giving them unprecedented photographic access, as her cubs romped, played, swam and learned not only how to hunt but also when to stand their ground.
Throughout winter, resilient polar bears rely on food stored in their bodies, primarily from seals, which they hunt from ice platforms which once extended for miles into the sea. But ice floes are melting more rapidly than ever before, forcing them to swim further and compete for sustenance. So when a predatory male catches the scent of the ever-vigilant mother and cubs, their very lives are in danger as he doggedly pursues them for four, tension-filled miles.
In addition to polar bears, there are walrus and seal colonies that populate the frigid shoreline, as well as herds of hearty musk oxen and caribou migrating through the tundra.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray ("The Living Sea," "Dolphins") and his crew visited the Arctic seven times over four years, spending a total of eight months there, including four weeks aboard the 130-foot icebreaker MS Havsel, from which they spotted their captivating central characters. Never before had filmmakers tracked a polar bear family at such close range, 24 hours a day, for nearly a week, and photographer Bob Cranston discovered that the best way to record bears swimming was to dive just a little deeper than they usually venture and focus upward.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "To the Arctic" is an emotionally eloquent 8, awakening awareness for environmental conservation. To learn more and reserve tickets, call 203-852-0700 or www.maritimeaquarium.org.