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  • Issue of
  • Jan 2-8, 2008
  • Vol. 28, No. 12

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • Charlie Wilson’s War

    Once upon a time, before Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, Afghanistan was the frontline for the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cold War. Only no one knew about it. This is partially because of liberal Texas Congressman, Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks). An unrepentant boozer and lady’s man, Wilson was also smart, popular and remarkably adept at foreign affairs. This prompts right-wing Houston debutante Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) — who Wilson had bedded in the past — to enlist his aide against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A commie-hating activist, Herring wanted the United States to covertly fund and arm local freedom fighters (the Mujahadeen). Partnered with a hilariously droll CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Wilson concocts an outrageous plan to bring together Egyptian, Arabic and Israeli players while ballooning Defense appropriations from $5 million to $1 billion to help Afghans shoot down the Russian helicopters that have ravaged their country. Hanks is masterfully understated and charming while Roberts acquits herself ably. But it’s Hoffman who steals the show. No matter which character he’s playing alongside, the scene becomes a comedic soft-shoe of clever banter and political incisiveness.
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  • The Scene
  • Balls-out bravado

    Fictional hard-living music icon Dewey Cox is played with balls-out bravado by John C. Reilly, in this epic life story that's a mash-up of biographic details cribbed from Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and just about every other hard-partying, self-destructive musical genius of the last half century. The flick takes a field trip through decades of R&B, pop and rock ’n’ roll, all in lovingly rendered tunes that are pitch-perfect genre copies, though most are curiously unfunny. The exception is the bawdy “Let’s Duet” a volley of innuendoes exchanged with comely backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer), who becomes Dewey’s love interest, much to the chagrin of his barefoot, perpetually pregnant wife (Kristen Wiig). In addition to womanizing, and drug use, Dewey's story has it all: sex, violence and full-frontal male nudity.
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • Plates of plenty

    A visit to the free-standing castle-like edifice east of Crooks on Big Beaver Road offers some answers. One of 41 in a national chain, this upscale family restaurant is designed to look and feel like a venerable neighborhood institution, just as the original, which opened in Chicago in 1991, was designed to appear as if it had been a downtown destination since the 1930s. Many come for the family dinners ($24.95) that include two huge platters each from an encyclopedic selection of appetizers, salads, pastas, entrées and desserts. And virtually all of those who bravely confront the mounds of food will go home with sizeable doggie bags. The intelligent wine list, dominated by Italian, West Coast and Australian varietals, features several bottles for less than $30.
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