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  • Issue of
  • Mar 5-11, 2008
  • Vol. 28, No. 21

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • Semi-Pro

    Will Ferrell’s third goofy sports spoof in two years means that Ferrell arguably the most bankable comedy star, but sooner or later audiences are going to figure out his game: Committing every inch of his giant, flabby frame to playing an overgrown man-child consumed with near-terminal self-absorption. This time, Ferrell’s Jackie Moon, the player-coach and owner of the struggling Flint Tropics ABA team, which is destined to fold at the end of the season unless they complete a miraculous turnaround and merge with the NBA. But it's all just an excuse for Ferrell to scream, pout and wiggle around like a colicky toddler, or to start throwing out f-bombs like a middle-schooler who’s just learned to curse. There are giggles to be had here, but they’re mostly layups instead of rim-rattling dunks.
  • Penelope

    Christina Ricci's character is the victim of a curse that burdens her with a large, porcine snout in place of her dainty little button. As the opening narration hastily explains, Penelope Wilhern’s wealthy great-great grandfather betrayed his servant-girl true love to marry a socially appropriate debutante. Hence, the family’s next first-born daughter (Ricci’s Penelope) was doomed to unspeakable ugliness. As is the case with such hexes, there’s an escape clause: The spell will break once she finds “one of her kind who will love her faithfully.”
  • The Band’s Visit

    Mordantly funny and full of sly social commentary, The Band’s Visit is the kind of film where not much happens. The members of the Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra arrive at an immaculately clean airport in Israel to find no one waiting for them. The stubbornness of conductor and orchestra taskmaster, Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai), combined with a very limited Hebrew vocabulary, finds them on a bus to the wrong locale, and they end up in a remote, undistinguished town that seems to have sprung fully formed from the desert. With titles in Hebrew and Arabic, the Israeli filmmaker expresses his desire to bridge cultural and political divides, but what’s fascinating is that his characters converse primarily in English, suggesting that in order for the characters to truly communicate, they need to get outside themselves.
  • The Violin

    Mexican writer-director Francisco Vargas creates an indelible black-and-white vision of a dirty little war, and shows how occupation and oppression can lead to generations of resistance. The film opens with a scene of huddled villagers forced to watch torture and rape. Vargas then shifts focus to a family of street musicians going to perform in a nearby town, where their every action is affected by the presence of the military, men with guns maintaining order. So it’s no surprise that guitarist Genaro Hidalgo (Gerardo Taracena) is distracted enough to be gently scolded by his father, violinist Don Plutarco, about his playing. Genaro is more focused on securing weapons for his guerilla group and keeping an eye on his rambunctious son Lucio. When the Hidalgos return home, they find their village has been taken over by the army, and Genaro’s wife and daughter are missing. Don Plutarco (Don Angel Tavira) and Lucio (Mario Garibaldi) head toward the mountains with survivors of the raid, exiles whose anger has long ago been replaced by resignation. At which point Vargas shifts into the realm of psychological warfare.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl

    British television director Justin Chadwick, with the help of Philippa Gregory’s inaccurate “historical” novel, re-imagines the love affairs between King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) and sisters Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) as a Godfather-esque story of court intrigues, power-mongering and outright whoring. Because of Anne’s marriage to Henry following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), England broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church, thereby giving birth to the Church of England and forever changing so much world history. Unfortunately, the filmmakers reduced the story to how Anne, a pretty girl with lofty ambitions, became the queen of England for three years — not because she was at all powerful like her daughter, Elizabeth I — but because she knew how to cock-tease.
  • Bonneville

    Forced to surrender the ashes of her recently deceased husband to his upright daughter, Arvilla Holden (Jessica Lange) takes her two closest friends, one boisterous and one prim, along for the ride from Pocatello, Idaho, to Santa Barbara, Calif. The conflict between breezy Arvilla and tightly wound daughter, Francine (Christine Baranski), is as much about who controls the memory of the late Joe as who possesses his earthly remains. Uncertain if she’ll have a home to return to, Arvilla hits the road in Joe’s 1966 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, knowing where she’s supposed to go, but without a clear path.
  • Taxi to the Darkside

    When you see a film like Alex Gibney’s disturbing and meticulously researched Taxi to the Darkside, it’s hard not to start yelling about indicting George W. and Donald Rumsfeld for crimes against humanity. Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) uses the death of a detainee as a point of entry to examine the policies of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The film takes an unflinching look up and down the chain of command, revealing how the Bush administration not only allowed but tacitly encouraged inhuman acts of interrogation and imprisonment.
  • City of Men

    Rio de Janeiro is a chaotic war zone, with each ramshackle neighborhood (or favela) ruled by sparring gangs. The crew that holds down one squalid patch called “Dead End Hill” is led by a scary young dude named Midnight (Jonathan Haagensen), but his crown is under assault from rivals. The ramifications of this struggle are becoming real for best friends Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha), who’ve basically gotten a free pass because Wallace is Midnight’s cousin. Now the boys are turning 18, faced with adulthood, which means either choosing sides in the fight that’s all around them or finding an escape from the violent cycle.

Food & Drink

  • Lurid elegance

    Open since June 2007 on Friday nights only, the “speakeasy” soon achieved critical mass , attracting a crowd of young, mostly white hipsters. What brings them? The drinks list is ordinary, and owner Larry Mongo is less than exacting when it comes to recruiting musicians. So it’s not the drinks and it’s not the tunes, and most patrons don’t hang out for late-night food, either. They could, though. The limited soul food menu features some very fine sides at $3 a la carte, and if the ribs and half-a-barbecued chicken aren’t world-class, they’re at least decent, served in a standard sweet-smoky sauce.


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