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  • Issue of
  • Mar 8-14, 2006
  • Vol. 26, No. 21

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • 16 Blocks

    Director Richard Donner has dished up a number of easy-to-digest movies over his career. From Lethal Weapon to Superman, his best films successfully balanced entertainment with spectacle. However, his missteps were bloated bores. 16 Blocks, a modest chase thriller with just enough spice to hold your attention, falls somewhere in between. Burned-out New York City detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is asked to transport Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the county courthouse 16 blocks away. A last-minute witness, he must testify within two hours, before the grand jury is disbanded. Stopping at a liquor store along the way, Jack ends up foiling an assassination attempt on Eddie, who’s the linchpin in a case against a cadre of dirty cops that includes Jack’s former partner Frank Nugent (David Morse). With half the NYPD on his tail, Jack struggles to get Eddie to his appointment. While there’s plenty to keep you occupied, it’s surprising that the director of all three Lethal Weapon movies doesn’t deliver more of a raucous good time.
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  • The Scene
  • The President’s Last Bang

    Im Sang-soo’s The President’s Last Bang presents the 1979 assassination of South Korean President Park Chung Hee with all the court intrigue of a Shakespearean drama. A military leader who oversaw South Korea’s postwar economic boom, Park became a corrupt puppet of big business; he rewrote the constitution at personal whim, employed thug tactics against dissenters with his secret police (the KCIA) and enjoyed a decadent lifestyle to rival North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong Il. Mixing matter-of-fact brutality with deadpan satire, director Im Sang-soo’s tightly structured film takes aim at South Korea’s attitudes about class, politics and the military-industrial complex.
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  • The Scene
  • Aquamarine

    This is naught but a plastic, bubbly reworking of the mermaid legend that goes like this: Two best friends about to be separated by a move find a lost mermaid, named Aquamarine, who wants to find love. The girls try to hook the mermaid up with the hottest lifeguard on the beach, hoping the favor will win them a wish that could preserve their friendship.
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  • The Scene
  • Manderlay

    With Manderlay, writer-director Lars von Trier goes after America's racism and white guilt. He brings Grace — the fiery offspring of a cutthroat mobster — down South to a plantation called Manderlay, where she’s shocked to discover its black inhabitants are still being held as slaves well into the 1930s. Like Dogville, Manderlay is shot on an open, mostly unadorned soundstage, and the actors are assisted by a handful of props, some scraps of sets and a host of lighting and sound effects. Grace uses her guile, bravado and a gang of armed men inherited from her dad to try to set things right. Just as she comes close to pulling it off, however, it becomes clear that it will take more than good intentions and goodfellas to reverse the injustice.
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  • The Scene
  • Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

    It’s surprising that Dave Chappelle would willingly relegate himself to the back seat in his latest big-screen venture, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. The comedian had a pie-in-the-sky idea to throw together a dream line-up of hip-hop entertainers (among them, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and Kanye West) and throw a big-ass block party in Brooklyn. Chappelle travels to his tiny hometown in Ohio to invite a bunch of regular Joes and Janes, offering them transport and lodgings. The most delightful and touching moment comes when Chappelle runs into the Ohio Central State University marching band, and invites the lot of them to come perform at his party. As the students leap and shriek with joy at the prospect of sharing the same billing with the Fugees, it’s impossible not to grin.
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Food & Drink

  • Italian history
  • Table and Bar
  • Italian history

    Maria's leans towards traditional, heavily sauced Italian dishes, but often with unexpected and welcome touches. Although the complimentary focaccia is filling and the entrées are generously proportioned, it’s hard to pass up the distinct and equally hefty appetizers ($6.99-$11.95). It won’t be a low-carb adventure. As for the “comes-with” soup or salad, go for the soup over the quite decent house salad. Excellent veal choices include veal Francese in lemon-butter sauce. Representative of the well-conceived and well-executed noodle dishes are pasta alla Matricina, featuring pancetta bits and onion in tomato sauce, and germeli garnished with pesto, basil, pine nuts, walnuts and parmesan. Not the place for vegetables, but a long and intelligent wine list offers sufficient decent Italian and California vintages priced in the high 20s and low 30s, before ascending into the relative stratosphere.
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Music

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