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  • Issue of
  • Aug 6-12, 2008
  • Vol. 28, No. 43

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • Brick Lane

    What Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) thinks of as home is the rural Bangladesh village that lives in her memory as eternally verdant and vibrantly alive. But the freedom Nazneen feels comes to an abrupt end at 17, with an arranged marriage to an older, “educated” man in England. Now 33, she’s spent half her life in a densely populated Asian enclave in East London, and has two daughters of her own. But every time she receives a letter from Hasina that details her latest romantic pursuit, Nazneen is transported back to a time when life still offered promise. Her fatuous husband Chanu (Satish Kaushik) indulges these reveries, considering them harmless as long as they don’t interfere with the subservience and unwavering devotion he expects of their traditional marriage. Brick Lane follows a year of radical change that comes in increments, a transformation prompted in large part by Nazneen’s affair with the charismatic Karim (Christopher Simpson), who possesses all the boldness and worldliness the pompous Chanu never achieved. And, finally, after clinging for so long to a dream of home that’s illusory, Nazneen can see herself and her family in the light of new possibilities, and goes from hiding in the wings to finally taking her place center stage.
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  • The Scene
  • The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

    Hoping to revive the franchise with a change of scenery, the story moves from Egypt to China. It’s 1946, and Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, stepping in for Rachel Weisz) have retired from adventuring to live as peaceable British aristocrats. Enter the British government and a mission to return an ancient artifact to China. Quicker than you can say “jump cut,” the two arrive in Shanghai to discover that their insubordinate son Alex (Luke Ford) has unearthed the tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Jet Li), a very bad dead dude with magical powers. Too bad, the O’Connell’s package is the very artifact an army of Dragon Emperor groupees need to revive their idol. Complications ensue, and the O’Connell’s find themselves hurtling toward Shangri-La, a trio of yetis, a three-headed dragon and a terracotta army that dukes it out with zombie castoffs from Pirates of the Caribbean. By the end of the movie it’s pretty clear the filmmakers have completely given up on any semblance of storytelling and just start throwing CGI effects and poorly staged action scenes at the screen hoping something sticks. We don’t expect much from a movie like this, which makes its failure all the more stunning.
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  • The Scene
  • Bottle Shock

    The nascent California viniculture tapped by Bottle Shock hadn’t yet bubbled into the public consciousness in 1976. The idea that American wines could rival French vins was considered absurd until the blind taste test organized by British enthusiast Steven Spurrier. It initiated a seismic shift in the global wine market when two California vineyards ended up taking top honors. Director Randall Miller (Nobel Son) focuses on the owner of Château Montelena, lawyer turned vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), whose rocky relationship with aimless son Bo (Chris Pine) is intertwined with his quest for the perfect California Chardonnay. When Spurrier (Alan Rickman) arrives, managing to ooze elitism while driving a banana-colored AMC Gremlin, word soon spreads in the Napa Valley, along with the hope that this is their moment to enter the world stage.
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  • The Scene
  • Pineapple Express

    Seth Rogen fans' bubble had to burst eventually. Pineapple begins with loads of quality giggles, then in a predictably stoner-like manner, meanders and drifts into bizarre tangents until the buzz is gone. Rogen stars as Dale Denton, an amiably shiftless process server who’s not really bothered by the vaguely shady nature of his line of work, since he gets to wear a tie and pose as a grown-up. He’s also only mildly troubled that his girlfriend Angie (Amber Heard) hasn’t yet finished high school, though he’s annoyed by the beefy jocks who swarm all around her locker. Dale’s just happy to have a gig that pays him enough to afford his other passion: weed. He shares this special joy (and a love for reruns) with his genial dealer Saul (James Franco), who is the sole local source for the mind-blowing herb of the title. After an extended game of puff-puff-pass, and some of the funniest dope dialogue since Cheech met Chong, Dale heads back to work, and is promptly witness to a murder. It turns out the triggerman is the area drug kingpin (played listlessly by Gary Cole), who, through a string of coincidences, identifies Dale by the discarded roach he drops in the driveway. From here, the movie segues into full-on action mode, the stakes escalate, the violence ratchets up, and, oddly, the comedy keeps on rolling. It’s an uncomfortable fit, as the characters continue to make wisecracks while the bullets fly.
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  • The Scene
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

    While this sequel to 2005’s film tries mightily to recapture the chemistry of the original, the intervening three years have seen major changes for the characters, and the actresses who embody them. Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls), America Ferrara (Ugly Betty), Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) and Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) have all headlined successful television series in roles that combine maturity with naiveté, and each has quickly transcended the typical parts assigned to young women. Meanwhile, shy artist Lena (Bledel), drama nerd Carmen (Ferrara), soccer star Bridget (Lively) and acerbic filmmaker Tibby (Tamblyn) have left Bethesda, Md., to attend East Coast universities, with only the ritual of the traveling pants keeping them connected. These jeans are embroidered with mementos of their experiences and miraculously fit four very different bodies perfectly, but now they feel uncomfortably like a vestige of adolescent BFF bonding. When the quartet gathers to renew the sisterhood pledge, the ritual feels more rote than relevant, and everyone senses the shift, whether they can fully acknowledge it or not. With so much happening in their lives — a pregnancy scare and a welcome birth, broken hearts and renewed commitments, a surprising career path and a long-lost relative, and the use of many, many frequent flier miles — it’s surprising how often it feels as if the girlfriends are just standing still.
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • Their Laos, our gain

    This simple but attractive storefront in the Value Center Shopping Center seats about 50 in its bright, freshly painted dining space minimally decorated with Laotian art and artifacts. Most of the dishes on Wan’s extensive menu are of Thai origin, but there are a handful of Laotian specialties on their extensive menu. Be warned, Sabidee’s liberal handling of spices is not for the tender-palated; request a very mild spice level instead of “mild,” the tamest category on the menu. The appetizer plate ($9.95) can be shared by four, with spring rolls, chicken satay, fried tofu, fried plantains, curry puffs and beef jerky along with several dipping sauces. A large bowl of tom kha, a silky smooth soup of coconut milk, lime, chilies and chicken ($5) is an even better way for a party of four to launch an excursion into culinary parts unknown. Among the specifically Laotian fare is Sabidee noodles ($8.50), a satisfying mélange of thin noodles with bean sprouts, green onions and meat, chicken, seafood or tofu in a surprisingly delicate, yet vigorous peanut-accented sauce. The homemade grilled pork sausage ($7.95), among the fierier of their signature dishes, is also very good. Tofu options should appeal to vegetarians, and fans of fowl should enjoy the half crispy duck ($14.95), a dark mahogany beauty baked and fried to near perfection and enhanced by the gentle tamarind marinating sauce.
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