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This Week’s Five Best Food Events – 11/17/2014

Is all that cold wind blowing you over? Stock up on some much-needed grub at these five food events.

Reimagining Puerto Rico: Lucky Luna Cocina Criolla Supper Club, Lucky Luna, 167 Nassau Avenue, Monday, 7 p.m.

This Taiwanese-Mexican Greenpoint restaurant is debuting its first supper club, which will feature a twist on conventional Puerto Rican cuisine. The five-course dinner will focus on bilĂ­ — a rum infused with vanilla and peppercorn and other spices. Dishes include fried plaintain and beef soup, pork-shoulder-stuffed steamed buns, and braised rabbit; the recipes were created in collaboration with chef-writer Von Diaz and are featured in her Puerto Rican food memoir and cookbook, Gordita. Tickets — which include drink pairings — are $80.

Food Policy for Breakfast: NYC Health Technology Food Forum: How Can Technology Help (and Hurt) Public Health Initiatives?, CUNY School of Public Health, 2180 Third Avenue, Tuesday, 8:45 a.m.

Grab a coffee and enjoy a morning discussion on the power of technology to help — or damage — public health initiatives. A panel of six speakers — including Jennifer Goggin of the online marketplace Farmers Web — will address the increasing influence of technology in the food world and look into its pros and cons for such topics as public health access and the prevalence of diet-related diseases. RSVP in advance.

Masters of Social Gastronomy Present: American Pie, Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Apple and pumpkin pie are the topics of choice at this monthly gathering of edible education. Hosts Sarah Loman and Jonathan Soma will dive into the orchard and chat about how Granny Smith apples got their name, and the science behind the difference in some varieties. The duo will also tackle pumpkin spice and how it made its way from gourds into lattes. The event is free to attend and guests do not need tickets.

Inuman at Pulutan, Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, Thursday, 6 p.m.

Craving a Pacific island getaway? Join Kuma Inn, Maharlika, and other restaurants bringing a taste of the Philippines to Manhattan this week. This year’s theme has chefs reinterpreting traditional Filipino classics; attendees will vote for their favorite dish. Tickets start at $65 and include beer, cocktails, and unlimited tapas.

Cocktail Class, The Third Man, 116 Avenue C, Friday, 5 p.m.

Fans of cocktails can learn what to stir, shake, and crack an egg into during this hands-on educational experience. Bartenders will also cover topics like the use of liquid nitrogen and how to make a chartreuse flame. Classes are $85 and include a bartender kit to take home; reservations can be made by emailing drink@thethirdmannyc.com.

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Premature, a Teen Sex Comedy with the Plot of Groundhog Day

Porky’s, the first of Bob Clark’s two enduring coming-of-age films (along with A Christmas Story), was once considered notorious and is now weirdly archetypal. The tits-and-zits genre, revived by American Pie, is fundamentally masculinist in way that feels uncomfortable post-Isla Vista, portraying a world in which the problems of men don’t just supersede those of women; it’s a world in which only men have problems, of which women are one.

Premature, you will be exhausted to hear, is a teen sex comedy with the plot of Groundhog Day, its supernatural comedy hearkening more to Scott Baio’s Zapped! than to Porky’s.

Uptight Ron (John Karna) keeps reliving the same day, waking up on the morning of his college entrance interview every time he has an orgasm. As in Groundhog Day, Ron at first revels in misbehavior and later becomes angry at the repetitions.

Underscoring the anachronism of the whole genre, the film includes a scene in which Ron openly gropes a beautiful teacher in front of her class — to its credit, the script describes this as the sexual assault that it is. But Ron never pays the consequences for fundamentally denying the woman’s agency; he has an orgasm and restarts the whole day instead.

So now we’re stuck with a main character we know is an unrepentant sex offender, basically. Dumb! Unlike Groundhog Day, Ron never strives to improve himself or even learn to play the piano; the best he can do is first sleep with, and later reject, a shallow, gorgeous, popular girl before realizing that his overlooked best friend, Gabrielle (Katie Findlay), is the girl of his dreams.

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Backstreet Boys+Avril Lavigne

The ‘90s and the early ‘00s were a golden age of pop music. We could feel larger than life while our female protagonists rocked ties like nobody’s business. We could worship Blink-182 and unironically appreciate the dick humor in classic teenage films like American Pie. Those days might be behind us, but with Backstreet Boys and Avril Lavigne sharing a bill, you have to wonder just how far removed the past really is. We say embrace it, go to this show, and contemplate starting a tribute band called “Sk8r Boys.” The world is ready.

Sun., June 22, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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GOLDEN BOY

Will theatergoers trust Zach Braff with their ticket dollars? In his last stage outing, Twelfth Night in 2002, he sported a deplorable dye job and an iffy command of meter. His earlier part, a small role in the Public’s Macbeth, failed to register entirely. But Braff has ditched iambic pentameter for the snappier rhythms of Paul Weitz’s Trust, which bows at Second Stage. Weitz, best known for his American Pie franchise (see: Jennifer Coolidge) is revisiting the realms of the very rich, a world he first surveyed in 2005’s Privilege. Though Second Stage has remained close-lipped about the plot, they’ve revealed that Braff stars as Harry, a wealthy married man. Let’s hope he scrubs up nice.

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Wednesdays, Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Tuesdays, 7 p.m. Starts: July 23. Continues through Sept. 12, 2010

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Badly Drawn Boys and Girls

More the celluloid equivalent of fluffing than an actual movie, J.B. Rogers’s absurdly pro forma American Pie 2 defies categorization. Is it a harmless time-drain or an unwitting exposé of the flailing, fractured state of American male heterosexuality? A winking ode to horny youth or a pathetic middle-aged paean to coitus interruptus? Lame sequel or premature remake? It’s all of these and less, and not a single pastry was harmed in its making. This follow-up to the feel-icky smash of 1999 has everything you’d expect: desperate references to the first movie (you know—the funny one), further public sexual humiliation, dumb-guy hijinx that tread the line between homophobic and homoerotic, and enough buildups to unrealized fuck scenes to pad a dozen porn videos.

The film chronicles the post-freshman-year activities of American Pie‘s band of teen onanists. Stranded in Michigan for the summer—who wouldn’t jerk off?—the fellas, led by Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), and the psychotic Stifler (Seann William Scott), rent a beach house by “the lake” (a subdued Pacific Ocean turning in the film’s most nuanced performance) and party like it’s 1989. It’s the sort of gathering that would make any sane woman flee the state, but plenty of babes show up anyway, including some from the first installment. Mena Suvari wisely phones in most of her lines, while Alyson Hannigan (as Jim’s nympho-nerd love interest) exhibits something like comic timing. The retrograde audacity that made American Pie passably entertaining feels routine here, and Rogers’s feeble attempt to ape the Farrellys’ gross/sad/funny dialectic falls flat. American Pie 2 hardly works up a decent belly laugh before its characters are happily pairing off with whomever they desire most. The film is like skipping the orgasm and going straight for the cigarette.


At 48 minutes, Hiroyuki Kitakubo’s Blood: The Last Vampire barely gets between the sheets. With its dour insularity and clingy fidelity to realism, this overhyped slashfest fails to rise above the extravagant pointlessness that plagues inferior anime. The film cobbles together bits from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, and The X-Files (in lugubrious conspiracy-theory mode) with the sole purpose of supporting dully repetitive shots of scowling she-waifs and torrential arterial spray. Saya (voiced by Youki Kudoh, from Snow Falling on Cedars), a sort of sword-packing Powerpuff Girl, is employed by “the organization” to rid mid-’60s Japan of a race of demonic vampires. The twist is that she’s a vampire herself—the “last of the originals,” as her Spiro Agnew-esque keeper calls her. Pity the same can’t be said of the plot. Saya is sent to the Yokota American military base to ferret out the remaining bloodsuckers, where she inexplicably teams up with a whiny school nurse who looks and behaves like Shelley Winters. Limbs are hacked, an air force garage blows up, and the movie screeches to a halt. (The upcoming DVD release includes a “making-of” doc that lasts nearly as long as the film itself.) Blood‘s single claim to originality lies in the use of CGI backdrops for its pen-and-ink animated characters. But while the effect is eye-catching, the sub-adolescent story line renders any innovation all but moot.

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Losing It

A shrill, underhanded, neighbor-from-hell thriller, Arlington Road seems genuinely unable to distinguish between topicality and exploitation. The Unabomber and Oklahoma City are distinctly felt presences, but primal fears have no other purpose here than to fuel generic paranoia, which MTV-reared director Mark Pellington methodically strips of meaning, cranking it up to a pitch at which morality, ideology, and logic become irrelevant.

Slicker and more suspect than The Siege, last year’s bombs-away opportunist, Arlington Roadis both single-minded and thoughtless in its scaremongering. Jeff Bridges plays Michael Faraday, a professor of American history with a specialization in domestic terrorism. Faraday is something of a conspiracy nut (his lectures take the form of loopy, free-associative theories) and an embittered, paranoid head case, largely due to the recent death of his FBI-agent wife in a shoot-out.

Faraday really starts to lose it with the arrival of his new neighbors, the Langs (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack), whose haircuts, wardrobe, and cheery demeanor signify a profound dislocation from reality and (probably) latent homicidal impulses. Going to great lengths to confirm that Oliver Lang has been white-lying about his past, Faraday stumbles upon potentially devastating news. Of course, no one believes him; Hope Davis plays Faraday’s girlfriend, a role that consists exclusively of being skeptical and whiny.

The mode is hysteric-Hitchcockian, the result mostly devoid of suspense. The is-he/isn’t-he game never gets off the ground—the filmmakers briefly entertain the notion that it’s all in Faraday’s head, but they’re more intent on overdrawing Lang as a psycho. You wonder if this might be a double bluff, then promptly dismiss it as too sophisticated a ploy—this is, after all, a film whose favorite scare tactic involves sneaking up on people and going boo.

As you’d expect, Arlington Road has been directed and edited with sweaty palms and an attention deficit, but the real culprit is Ehren Kreuger’s screenplay, which won some fancy fellowship and is a steaming pile of nonsense. Kreuger’s model is The Parallax View,down to the sucker-punch ending, which in this case hinges on an outrageous series of coincidences; worse, he clutters the narrative with crude, expository passages—most absurdly, a scene in which a distraught Faraday takes his students on a field trip to the scene of his wife’s death. Boxed into one credibility-defying situation after another, the actors somehow keep pace, scaling new, ugly heights of hysteria—paradoxically, their commitment to the material may be what hurts the film most.

  

No less tunnel-visioned than Arlington Road but not nearly as, um, overbaked, American Pie returns the teen movie to the uncomplicated glory days of Porky’s and Losin’ It. Which,in the scheme of things, is preferable to the terminal blandness of Varsity Blues and She’s All That. Four high-school seniors—shy jock, creepy geek, luckless schmuck, and another one I can’t remember much about—resolve to be rid of their virginity by prom night. Epic, mostly public, humiliation ensues, some of it very funny, all of it very stupid and in terrible taste.

Director Paul Weitz (who cowrote Antz) never quite pulls off the balancing act of There’s Something About Mary, in which the Farrellys managed to be goofy and sweet and gross all at once. American Pie is best when it’s disgusting, which, admittedly, is a lot of the time. The target demographic of young, horny males (or those who empathize, whoever they may be) is guaranteed to lap this up, and I fear to think of the fate that now awaits various baked goods at fraternities around the country.