Archive for March, 2010

Clybourne Park—Theatre

March 30, 2010

There’s a terrific night of theatre in the Clybourne Park neighborhood, courtesy of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

Clybourne Park, written by Bruce Norris and directed by Howard Shalwitz, takes a look at the play, A Raisin in the Sun, and spins it on its ear. The first act of Clybourne Park takes place in 1959. With the help of their black maid, a white couple with serious family issues is packing up their belongings so they’ll be ready for their move to a new town the following week. The couple used a broker to sell their house and until brought to their attention at the last moment, don’t know they’ve sold their home to a black family, the neighborhood’s first such family. In A Raisin in the Sun we get the black family’s perspective about moving into a white neighborhood. In Clybourne Park, we have the white neighborhood’s perspective and it’s not a pleasant one.

After intermission we fast-forward 50 years to the same, yet not-so-same neighborhood. As the neighbors in 1959 feared, Clybourne Park became black, as one white resident after another left. However, “gentrificiation” has begun in this neighborhood…in the very home that was sold in 1959…and we now get the black perspective on this chain of events.

Clybourne Park features Woolly Mammoth actors at their best, with all performing double duty in this play. Mitchell Hébert and Jennifer Mendenhall must be singled out for special praise, most especially for their work in the first act. Dawn Ursula, another Woolly regular, can do more than most with the raise of an eyebrow or the intonation in her voice and is outstanding as both the maid and one of the neighbors in the newly gentrified neighborhood in 2009.

Thrust seating is used for viewing Clybourne Park. In addition, there is seating behind the actors which, in an interesting twist, gives the impression of people peeking into one another’s lives.

Clybourne Park is full of great humor, albeit some of it very uncomfortable. You’ll leave the theatre thinking about how far…or not…race relations have come in this country. Whatever your point of view, you’ll find time in Clybourne Park, time well spent.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Cosi:McPherson Square Friend—Cafe

March 25, 2010

Open the door to the  Cosi  near 14th and H Street NW,  and you’re in for a small shock. This particular Cosi is housed on two levels and boy, is it busy.  The second level is great if you want to get away from the hustle-bustle of the main level, read a book, work on your laptop, prep for an interview, or as I observed on my noon-time arrival, have a working business lunch.

Cosi’s food is freshly made and extremely tasty. Soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, pizza—Cosi has it all. The salads are not terribly cheap, but they are so worth it. Sandwiches are delicious—made with some of the best bread in town.  Or, of course, you can just purchase a great cup of coffee.

Not so good? The restrooms. You are given a key and told to go downstairs. The whole area is very creepy and I was so freaked out I’m not even sure if the door to the restroom locked. You actually need the key to open the door leading back to the main floor. Advice? Skip the restroom and use the Starbucks’ restroom in the Starbucks down the street.

1333 H St NW  Washington, DC 20005

Repo Men—Movie

March 23, 2010

Repo Men, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, screenplay by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, based on Garcia’s novel, “The Repossession Mambo” is gory, fun schlock with an interesting premise.

Repo Men’s setting is the future in an unnamed city. Human organ transplants are hard to come by so mechanical organ transplants are the rage. Unfortunately folks have these transplants and “forget” they are not free. When they fall behind on payments, they are paid a visit by the repo men, to repossess the transplants and the end results are not happy ones.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are the said repo men (Remy and Jake respectively) and Liev Schreiber (Frank) is their boss. Friends since childhood, the two repo men go at their job with a great deal of relish, but Remy, in an effort to save his marriage, decides to leave the field and take a job in sales. It’s while on his last job as a repo man that things go awry and he finds himself the unwilling recipient of a mechanical organ. His “heart” no longer in his repo job, Remy can’t keep up with the payments and things go from bad to worse. As Remy remarks to Jake, “Making people die becomes second nature. Apparently it also works the other way around.” As a result the hunter becomes the hunted. And in trying to save himself, Remy gets a lot of innocent people killed.

While the acting of the three leads is good, the movie drags in spots and it is during these times I thought about the actors. Jude Law just finished playing “Hamlet” on Broadway, Liev Schreiber received raves for his recent role in Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” and Forest Whitaker is an Academy Award winner. What are they doing in this cheese of a film? Entertaining, yes, but cheese nevertheless. Think Dexter without the smarts. These men deserve better.

2 nuggets out of 4

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—Movie

March 23, 2010

It’s hard to find the right words to describe The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Dark, brooding, gory, brutal, humane, humorous, completely engrossing and ultimately highly entertaining, it’s one of the best movies of the year.

The film’s Swedish title is Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women), and that title says it all. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, based on Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not for the faint-hearted, but it is so worth the viewing. Set in Sweden, the film, in a nutshell, is the story of convicted of libel reporter, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). He is called upon by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the wealthy former CEO of a huge conglomerate, to help him solve the mysterious disappearance of his beloved 16 year-old niece Harriet, not seen since 1976. With six months to kill before he goes to prison, Blomkvist takes the case and is assisted, unwittingly at first, by computer hacker extraordinaire, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). Salander has her own horrific back-story which is played out in unrelenting detail.

The two leads, Nyqvist and Rapace, are terrific and despite the age difference, have great chemistry. Each brings their own unique, but complimentary, humanity to their roles.

Some might question the graphic detail of several scenes, but to really understand where the characters are coming from, these scenes are necessary. The film is full of twists and turns, but none cheapen the story. In fact, they make the story richer.

So well written and sharply directed, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the quickest 152 minutes you’ll ever spend at the movies.

4 nuggets out of 4

Hyatt Regency: Fit for a Queen—Restroom

March 22, 2010

Need a quick touch up before meeting friends for drinks or dinner in Bethesda? Not sure how long the trip on the Metro could take? No need to take chances when you’ve got a ready friend at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda. Walk through the front door and keep walking until you’re near the restaurant. Take a look to the right and that’s where you’ll find a fabulous restroom. Bright, mirrored, spacious…yowza! There’s a sitting area separate from the stalls and sinks. There’s a full length mirror, clean stalls and more sinks than stalls. What else is there to say? This restroom has it all.

Hyatt Regency Bethesda One Bethesda Metro Center,7400 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814

A Prophet—Movie

March 22, 2010

A thinking-person’s drama, A Prophet holds your interest from beginning to end.

Directed by Jacques Audiard and written by Audiard and Thomas Bidegain, A Prophet follows the story of 19 year-old Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), sentenced to six years in a French prison. Unable to read or write and friendless, Malik becomes an easy target for the Corsican Mafia under the leadership of Luciani (Niels Arestrup). The Corsicans run the prison and promise Malik protection in exchange for some dirty work on their behalf.

A Prophet is compelling on several fronts. First is Malik’s story as he simultaneously follows two paths. He learns to read and write while gaining the confidence of Luciani.  We literally watch a boy become a man. The saying, “knowledge is power,” is never more true. With his newly acquired education Malik begins to think for himself, and grows restless under Luciani’s thumb. Luciani’s story is also forceful. Over the course of time, the Muslims’ power in the prison takes hold while the Corsicans’ influence diminishes. As this realization sets in, Luciani becomes more isolated, violent and desperate.

Subtitled and 155 minutes long,  A Prophet never bores. It will have you thinking long after the film ends.

3 nuggets out of 4

Georgetown AMC Restroom Update—Restroom

March 22, 2010

Breaking news! There’s a major upgrade to the Georgetown AMC restrooms. Dyson Air Blade Hand Dryers!! These dryers are great! For those unfamiliar with these dryers they work thusly–you stick your hands inside the wide slot and move them up and down and in 12 seconds they are completely dry. I timed the drying and their claim is true–12 seconds later my hands were dry. Kudos to Georgetown. Now if they would just do something about the water that collects on the sink counters.

Alice in Wonderland—Movie

March 22, 2010

A smoking caterpillar, jabberwocky to be dealt with, butterfingers comprised of real fingers. Welcome to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. As directed by Burton with screenplay by Linda Woolverton, Alice in Wonderland is imaginative and beautiful to watch.                               

Burton’s Alice is 19 and on the verge of being proposed to by the son of her deceased father’s business partner—a man no want would want as a fiancé. In a panic, she runs off and falls down…a rabbit hole. There’s she’s reunited with friends from her childhood’s past adventure in Underland, led by the Mad Hatter. Her mission in Underland? Restoring the White Queen to her rightful throne.

Relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska is outstanding as Alice. She reminds one of a young Gwyneth Paltrow. Strip away the make-up and you find a playful, always interesting Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. It’s fun to think about what roles he might be taking on when he enters his 60s. There seems to be nothing he can’t do.

Alice features a terrific supporting cast, mostly unrecognizable underneath fantastic make-up and inspired costumes or just the voices in some cases—look for Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter as the White and Red Queens respectively, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky and Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat.

Alice in Wonderland is shot in 3-D, which is not necessary. A combination of animation and live acting, the other effects are so visually stunning, 3-D seems like a toy with which Burton wanted to play. Sometimes less is more.

Only 108 minutes long, the film seems longer and does drag in spots.  But if you’re looking for a treat to the senses with a healthy dose of great acting, you’ll enjoy your visit down the rabbit hole.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

The Ghost Writer—Movie

March 7, 2010

Directed by Roman Polanski and written by Robert Harris, based on his novel, The Ghost Writer tries very hard to thrill, but somehow fails.

Overly long, the film has a very familiar feel, like we’ve seen it before. The Ghost Writer is the story of British writer (Ewan McGregor) who comes to New England to work with and help complete the memoirs of the former U.K. prime minister (Pierce Brosnan). He’s replacing the initial ghostwriter who has died under somewhat mysterious circumstances while working on the book. Gradually this new writer begins to unravel that mystery and the ties the death may or may not have to the prime minister.

The movie has one thing going for it and that is the acting of Ewan McGregor. McGregor is extremely good as the reluctant ghostwriter/mystery solver. He brings an air of cynicism and good humor to his role that feels very natural and just works.

The Ghost Writer also features Tom Wilkinson as a colleague of the prime minister and Olivia Williams as the prime minister’s wife. There is also some stunt casting with Kim Cattrall as the prime minister’s secretary… and possibly more (with an English accent…why, pray tell…), a nearly unrecognizable Jim Belushi and a much underused Timothy Hutton. Also look for a terrific cameo from veteran actor Eli Wallach.

The Ghost Writer is not one of Polanksi’s best. You’d be better served dusting off The Pianist and watching a master then at the top of his game.

1  1/2 nuggets out of 4

Feeling a Tad Hostile?—Comedic Nugget

March 7, 2010

The commercial features a woman happily recollecting how, with the help of her children and a drug, she was able to give up smoking. Then a voice-over matter-of-factly says…

Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions while using CHANTIX to help them quit smoking. Some people had these symptoms when they began taking CHANTIX, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment or after stopping CHANTIX. If you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion, stop taking CHANTIX and call your doctor right away. Also tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems.

HELLO …………Isn’t something wrong if  you DON’T feel hostile??????? You’re trying to quit smoking and you’re not going to feel hostile, agitated or depressed? Shouldn’t you be more concerned if you stop smoking and your personality suddenly turns sunny and light? After years of smoking and now without your crutch,  shouldn’t you want to punch out someone who looks at you the wrong way?

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