After earning critical praise and cult-hit status for his clever and hauntingly poignant depiction of human time travel in Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly delivers Southland Tales, a pointlessly convoluted and relentlessly pretentious fever dream. Trimmed by 20 minutes (if you can imagine) after its implosion at the Cannes Film Festival, this byzantine pastiche of post-modern affectation wants to be the big-screen equivalent of a Phillip K. Dick novel but ends up an incoherent and completely unfunny social satire about American TV, political rhetoric, postwar paranoia and quasi-religious fervor. Oh, and there’s time travel.
The sad truth is that for all of its tantalizing elements, the film is essentially a drab little thriller that deserved a quick-and-trashy presentation, with an ample injection of jet-black humor. Instead, it has received a ponderous, would-be Shakespearean makeover from a long-in-the-tooth director and a talented but overindulged cast. What should’ve been an underrated straight-to-cable gem has become an overrated "return to form."
Precocious 12-year-old Livia (Svea Lohde) has come to stay with her petulant boyfriend Nils’ (Lucas Kotaranin) family. Mature beyond her years, she meets and then begins sailing with a cheerful hunk named Bill (Robert Seeliger). Unfortunately Bill is easily in his 30s and Nils’s mother, Miriam (Martina Gedeck), becomes deeply suspicious of their “friendship.” One evening, when Livia doesn’t return from one of their outings, Miriam drives out to the man’s estate and discovers that the handsome ex-American has depths she never considered. Before you can say “frustrated marriage,” Miriam finds herself competing with 12-year Livia for Bill’s affections. Nothing quite goes the way you’d expect as an afternoon out on the water turns dark and menacing, upending the light drama of the film’s first half. A frank and unpretentious examination of contemporary German attitudes about youth, sex, parental responsibility and middle age, Krohmer and Nocke dare to suggest that the affected open-mindedness of Miriam and her self-absorbed husband André (Peter Davor) is actually less insightful than their teenage house guest’s casual observations. Livia’s rejection of their notions of morality and sex is depicted as less a matter of youthful naiveté and rebellion than an honest assessment of emotion and libido. It’s smart and meaty stuff.
When watching a movie by the Finnish writer-director Aki Kaurismäki, you have to remember to accustom yourself to silences. His movies are so grim, scrappy and loaded with irony, it’s best to just succumb to the emptiness and try to fill in the blanks yourself. You’ll have plenty of voids to contemplate in Lights in the Dusk. In rough outline, it’s a neo-noir, a classic tale of a lonely security guard everyman used and abused by an icy femme fatale. But the filmmaker’s careful, meted style prevents you from predicting what’s going to happen and when. Even as the movie seems inexorably headed towards nihilistic tragedy, it’s the asides — the weird, static shots of Helsinki’s factories and vistas, or the golden morning light creeping over the city — that make you think there might be more to this simple little story than meets the eye.
Lions for Lambs is all lecture. At this point in the Iraq debate, it’s the last thing you want to hear — that is, what you already know — over and over again, for 90 straight minutes. Lions focuses on earnest professor Malley (played by Redford, who also happens to be the movie’s director) lecturing a cocky, apathetic student (Andrew Garfield) on Why Politics Matters. In another parallel conversation, the slick Senator Irving (Tom Cruise) harangues conflicted veteran reporter Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) on his bold new ground strategy in Afghanistan. As political commentary, it’s merely thudding and obvious; as entertainment, it’s downright narcotizing. It’s clear that Redford really wants to tell us something. But he forgot that when fighting a battle of ideas, you have to actually engage people first.
Founded on the principles of elegance, creativity and freshness, Bambu has been serving for just about a year now. Lunchtime sees the largest crowds, drawn by creative panini varieties. For $9, order a Cubano panino filled with such pleasures as shaved prosciutto, honey turkey and avocado. The French Connection is packed with Black Forest ham and baby brie. Vegetarians will love the $7 Caprese panino, with its layers of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto, or the Beyond Vegetarian panino, with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, artichokes and spinach. More panini come stuffed with chicken or turkey. There’'s even a Reuben panino. All of them are grill-pressed with precision. Dinner entrées ($15-$22) are adjusted daily. There are three or four on a chalkboard at the entrance of the restaurant, generally covering the typical offerings of meat, fish and pasta. One Thursday night saw our table supporting a plate of crisped organic spinach and Asiago ravioli in a tomato-basil pomodoro salsa, pesto and fresh herbs, lively with its combination of textures and flavors. A strip steak of Australian Wagyu (Kobe) beef was cooked spot-on medium-rare and garnished with thin, tender asparagus, grilled white prawns and mashed Yukon potatoes. Desserts vary on a daily basis.