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  • Issue of
  • Mar 25-31, 2009
  • Vol. 29, No. 24

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • Duplicity

    Duplicity is wickedly sharp and breathlessly sophisticated entertainment, about as smart and shrewd as any studio star vehicle can ever be, but in the end maybe too smart for its own good. Clive Owen and Julia Roberts practically melt through the celluloid, playing sexy rival spies working for dueling cosmetic corporations, both racing to capture the formula for the holy grail of personal hair-care products. Having met previously as government operatives, he seduced her only to find himself drugged and stripped of a briefcase full of secrets. Now they’re butting heads in the less dangerous but much more lucrative world of big-business subterfuge. Of course these tricky careerists have their own agenda, to bilk their employers for a killing and retire to an endless tropical sunset of mimosas and fluffy hotel pillows. And then the script wraps itself into twisting threads of deceit and betrayal that are challenging to follow.
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  • The Scene
  • The Great Buck Howard

    It sure must be nice to have Tom Hanks as your dad. How else to explain blander-than-bland Colin Hanks nabbing a lead role alongside acting powerhouse John Malkovich? And all those incredible cameos? The truth is, The Great John Malkovich would be a more appropriate title. The esteemed actor bites into his role as a washed-up mentalist with gusto, capturing the attention-craving desperation of a cornball performer who isn’t as famous as he imagines himself to be. Hanks Jr., on the other hand, does little more than play a nice guy. And, unfortunately, that isn’t much of a character choice.
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  • The Scene
  • I Love You, Man

    Comedy supporting player and improviser Paul Rudd continues his route to leading-man dominance as endearingly geeky L.A. real estate agent Peter Klaven, a ladies’ man in the less obvious sense of the term. Pete’s a “girlfriend guy,” a straight dude who relates better with women, lacking any really close support group of male friends. You could call him metrosexual, but he’s much too humble and sincere, the very cuddly traits that constantly floor his gorgeous and brainy fiancee Zooey (Rashida Jones). Problem is, while she’s got a tight clique of gal pals, he’s short a few groomsmen. So gawky Peter sets out on a series of “man dates,” basically interviewing for his best man to complete his otherwise happy lifestyle. After a predictable montage of misfires, he meets Sydney (Jason Segal), a brash slacker who’s every bit as loose as Pete is reserved. Faster than you can say “odd couple,” these dudes become best buds, gobbling fish tacos, picking fights on the Venice boardwalk, and jamming out Rush covers in Syd’s garage studio-hideaway. Dependably, complications ensue, relationships strain and change, before the big wacky finish brings everybody back together for a credit sequence.
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  • The Scene
  • Knowing

    Directed by Alex Proyas, who once showed much promise with his moody goth-fantasias Dark City and The Crow, Knowing is stunningly stylized with nightmarish imagery and thick atmospherics but hopelessly muddled and clichéd. Cage plays a shell-shocked MIT astrophysics professor and widowed dad, struggling to raise his obstinate son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) while hitting the bottle each night before bed. When the boy’s school unearths a time capsule full of letters from students 50 years ago, Caleb falls under the spell of a note written by a tormented young girl from the past. Unlike the other letters to the future, which feature sketches of rocket ships and robots, hers contains a long string of nonsensical numbers — nonsensical to everyone but an MIT egghead who connects them to both past and future calamities. Soon mysterious figures haunt the house, Caleb starts hearing voices and disturbing portents point to a horrific catastrophe. Joining forces with the adult daughter (Rose Byrne) of the letter’s distraught author, Cage races against time to, yup, save the world.
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  • The Scene
  • Six in Paris

    In 1965, producer Barbet Schroeder armed them all with 16mm color cameras, and let each filmmaker pick a neighborhood, with little else in the way of guidelines. Like any anthology, the quality varies, yet Paris gives the pieces a kind of stylistic unity of purpose, and there’s an ironic, darkly comic thread that runs through each and holds the film together. Part travelogue, part time capsule and part grand experiment, Six in Paris is an engrossing sampler of the timeless existential cool of the French New Wave. As thin and savory as a crepe, this 1965 omnibus assembles six of the era’s most interesting directors and turns them loose on the avenues, alleyways and gorgeous tree-lined boulevards of the capital city, just for the fun of it.
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  • The Scene
  • Blown away

    Francois Truffaut's stunning debut should be required viewing for anyone who fancies himself a true film fan
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  • The Scene
  • Sunshine Cleaning

    Rose (Amy Adams) is a single mom whose life peaked in high school when she led the cheerleading squad. Today Rose makes ends meet by cleaning houses, struggles to keep her misfit son in school, and frequently bails out her screw-up sister Nora (Emily Blunt). She’s also sleeping with her married high school boyfriend (Steve Zahn), who happens to be a local cop. When Rose’s noncommittal sweetie suggests that she enter the lucrative world of crime-scene clean up, she recruits her sister on this new entrepreneurial adventure. Of course, this being a scruffy “noncommercial” production, things don’t go quite the way Rose expected. Although the film bursts with the kind of deeply personal, quirky affectations and one-of-a-kind characters that trumpet its independent status, it feels too familiar.
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • Cliff Bell's

    Stepping into the newly restored art deco live jazz bar with an even more recently opened kitchen is to arrive in another era. Before the stage, the main area is separated into two spaces: One with round, candle-lit tables, the other, a stunning curved bar. All this sits below massive barrel-vaulted ceilings. All this ambience comes from pricey restoration work done in 2006 to make today’s Cliff Bell’s look like the Cliff Bell’s of 1935. That and the way they mix a cocktail. Neither cheap nor fast, mixed drinks are crafted old-school, more for taste than ease of production. With everything from a standard fillet of beef tenderloin to cassoulet, the French-inspired eclectic food menu speaks for itself. Try the duck confit on a buttermilk biscuit with cranberry jam for a small plate reduction of Thanksgiving dinner. Hedonists will go for a chunk of tender braised pork belly (otherwise known as bacon when cured and smoked) that comes plated with a rich, spicy sweet cider sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes and a pinch of cracklings for good measure.
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