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  • Issue of
  • Oct 11-17, 2006
  • Vol. 26, No. 52

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Fallen Idol

    Carol Reed’s dark, atmospheric drama examines the complexities of adult life from the point of view of a young, privileged boy, Phillipe (Bobby Henrey), the son of a foreign ambassador in London. Phillipe is deeply attached to his butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson), who is having an affair with a young embassy employee, Julie (Michèle Morgan). Phillipe unknowingly uncovers the liaison, but he only knows part of the truth. When Mrs. Baines turns up dead, it seems Phillipe might be the only one who can help figure out what happened. The adults circle around him, trying to manipulate his innocence, leaving the little boy left in the middle, confused, alone and scared. Today’s movie child stars play such pint-sized know-it-alls — much too worldly for their years — that it’s hard to imagine Haley Joel Osment or Dakota Fanning pulling off the innocence of Phillipe. But Henrey is perfect (and far less bratty-seeming than most of today’s young Hollywood).
  • Renaissance

    Like a beautifully wrapped gift box with nothing inside, Renaissance is a big letdown. French director Christian Volckman breaks new ground with his hyper-stylized black-and-white animation, employing motion-capture technology to render striking images. But his barely coherent sci-fi noir storyline — scripted by five writers, no less — is slow-moving and unoriginal, lifting the plots and themes of such films as Blade Runner, Minority Report and Ghost in the Shell. In 2054 Paris, world-weary detective Barthélémy Karas (Daniel Craig) teams up with a beautiful young woman named Bislane (Catherine McCormack) to find her kidnapped sister, a genetic research scientist. Together, the two uncover a dark conspiracy that involves identity theft, DNA tampering and a monolithic corporation with a shadowy agenda. There are creepy doctors (Ian Holm), sinister corporate executives (Jonathan Pryce) and lots of expendable bad guys. Volckman does a solid job of establishing a looming sense of anxiety, but bad dialogue, some lifeless voice work and poorly paced action scenes turn Renaissance into a trite, muddled mess.
  • The Face of Another

    Hiroshi Teshigahara’s freaky-cool 1966 sci-fi parable is the story of a disfigured man who agrees to a have a radical, dangerous facial transplant. It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone as directed by Salvador Dali. If Hollywood made it, this would have been a fairly routine thriller; in Teshigahara’s hands, it becomes a surreal, philosophical treatise on power, personality and appearance. The movie’s deliberate pace may put off some, but the patient will be rewarded with a series of surprising, carefully placed scenes of existential terror.
  • Employee of the Month

    Blank-eyed, scruffy and perpetually juvenile comedian Dane Cook is Zack, a directionless slacker who has been happily drifting for a decade since his Internet start-up bit the dust. He’s a stock boy a cavernous discount store. With his bland looks and low-wattage charisma, Cook holds the picture together with all the conviction of a donut hole, but he’s far from the only problem. The cast sports an impressive assembly of third-stringers, and it only takes about 10 minutes for utter desperation to set in, and for the weak dick and fart jokes to start flying like Frisbees.
  • Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

    Director Zhang Yimou is determined to thwart expectations and avoid the pigeonhole. In this curiously sentimental film, Japanese great Ken Takakura plays Gou-ichi Takata, a widower who has exiled himself to the isolation of a remote fishing village. When his estranged son is diagnosed with liver cancer, he travels to see him but is rebuffed. Determined to heal the rift between them, he impulsively sets off for mainland China to videotape a folk opera his son hoped to one day see. This quest unfolds into what is a minor but lovely film that seeks to gently move its audience. Though it will probably disappoint fans of Yimou’s more opulent efforts, those who can appreciate its undemanding warmth will be won over.
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

    If you're making a new, utterly unnecessary prequel to the already unnecessary 2003 remake, you want your body count high and your laughs low, something director Jonathan Liebesman just doesn’t understand. The first hour is deathly dull, focusing more on the antics of Leatherface’s adoptive redneck dad, Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey), than anything else. The film is so inept, it loses track of main characters for large stretches of time. Most will be disappointed to find that Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski) doesn’t even factor into the movie much until the last half-hour, when the gore rate increases but not the thrills.
  • A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

    Former punk rocker Dito Montiel’s directing debut is so thick with gritty urban realism you can almost smell the desperation. It’s also so full of such dead-end stereotypes and familiar beautiful losers that you’d think it was assembled from pieces of other movies, if it wasn’t based on Montiel’s own popular memoir. The cast is stellar, but the is a film so dedicated to performances and texture that the actual mechanics of plot gets woefully lost in the shuffle. A clunky flashback structure has Dito (Robert Downey Jr.) returning to his old hood and reflecting on the heady days of 1986, when he was a teenager on the road to ruin. Shia Lebouf plays young Dito, whose artistic ambitions are awakening, but who is mired in the thuggish chaos of his neighborhood. His parents (Dianne Wiest and Chazz Palminteri) are overbearing; his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz) is needy; and his best friend, Antonio (Channing Tatum), is a ball of rage. Dito is clearly bright and has California rock-star dreams that are shared by his Scottish immigrant pal, Mike (Martin O’Shea), but he just can’t seem to find a way to escape his guilt over leaving his hopeless community; nor can he find a graceful way to cut the cord.

Food & Drink

  • Ladies’ room

    An old-fashioned tea room, awash in florals, where one can sip, knees together, and enjoy a ladies’ afternoon out. The sunny room, a teacup’s throw from the People Mover yet tranquil as a garden, is intended as a haven from the tensions of everyday life. An array of teas, many of them organic, are offered, including herbals, oolong and Soochow. When you make your reservations, ask what’s available for that day.Biegas offers an array of teas, many of them organic, some imported from England. Each guest gets her own pot, which, if the weather warrants, will wear a cozy. Herbals, oolong, Soochow — when you make your reservations, ask what’s available for that day. The four-course menu changes daily, and runs the gamut from traditional through what was à la mode 30 years ago.


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