CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
One Popcorn, Poor • Two Popcorns, Fair • Three Popcorns, Good • Four Popcorns, Excellent
By Michael S. Goldberger
Arts & Entertainment
Romeo Must Die
KungFu Flick Gets A Kick Out of Shakespeare
Romeo Must Die is just plain bad. And that’s not good. Pity. They don’t make bad movies the way they used to. There was a time when a moviegoer could count on any number of low budget studios to routinely craft the proverbial “so bad it’s good” film. The steady supply was necessary in a world that felt audiences deserved two features for their money.
Often they were goofy but guileless Bmovies, endearing for their passionate naiveté. Some even gained cult status despite themselves. And occasionally, there was a gem that would later come to be known as a genre classic, like The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951).
But that won’t happen with Romeo Must Die, a sly slab of nihilistic schlock with a savvy eye for the bottom line: the inner city and suburban 1825 crowd who flock to the cineplex on Friday and Saturday nights, plus all the adolescents who will slip past the ticket collector in defiance of the picture’s R rating.
But for all its rousing, rock emsock em action, this bad boy turf war set on the Oakland, Calif. waterfront runs out of testosterone midway through its raucous ranting, raving and kungfu fighting. An East meets West angle has philosophical promise, but quickly disappoints when it turns into a parade of stereotypes.
The hostility between rival organized crime gangs — one Chinese, the other AfricanAmerican — produces a racial storm when the son (Jon Kit Lee) of warlord Sing is killed. An opportunity for sociological enlightenment, you ask? Hardly. In director Andrzej Bartkowiak’s hands, all chances of artistic rumination go by the wayside. Instead, this predictable mob tale drags out the old plot and plays like a connectthedots primer on gangster movies. In other words, both sides say they want to get along, especially since a mutual landbuying scheme could net them each $38 million. Inexplicably, someone’s making it seem other wise. But just who is at the heart of
this treachery? Enter Jet Li as Han Sing, the warlord’s remaining son. In case you inadvertently let your subscription to “Modern Martial Artist” run out, Mr. Li is this week’s heir apparent to the legendary Bruce Lee.
He’s missing the white hat, but Han is no chip off the corrupt block. An excop, it seems this karate kid took the rap for his powerhungry father back in Hong Kong and is wasting away in prison when he hears of his brother’s terrible and untimely demise. In a scene reminiscent of sociopathic Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) when he learns about his Mom’s passing in White Heat (1949), Han breaks out. Talk about fancy footwork.
Only Dr. Hannibal Lecter escapes from prison with more fanfare. The warlord’s son will now head for Oakland and avenge his younger brother’s death. Little does he suspect that love awaits in the enemy camp. Call him Romeo.
The film flirts with a potentially good idea, courtesy of Willy Shakespeare. But the screenplay by Eric Bernt and John Jarrell (based on a story by Mitchell Kapner) has neither the chutzpah nor the inclination to really attempt a hiphop update of the venerable romantic tragedy.
The accompanying music by several rappers, the John Phillip Sousas of innercity conflict, is lively if uninspiring. And in a missed opportunity, it probably didn’t dawn on the music director to counterbalance the AfricanAmerican sounds with some Asian noise. But it all ties in with an exploitative package astutely fashioned for box office draw. Which means casting singer Aaliyah as boutique proprietor Trish, the straight but withit daughter of mobster Isaak O’Day (Delroy Lindo). You can’t really call her an actress. Call her Juliet.
Probably believing that writing, let alone a good plot, is overrated, the filmmakers concentrate on the action. And, truth be told, there are several exhilarating fight scenes, plus superimposed Xrays that give audiences a chiropractic analysis of the bone crunching. But most of it follows a choreographic stencil of the same windmilling feet we’ve come to expect in just about every kickhappy flick. And with an overabundance of stop action, slomo and f/ x wizardry synthetically heightening the battle scenes, a cartoonish hokiness detracts from the derringdo quotient.
So we don’t know just how good a warrior this Jet Li really is. His acting acumen is another story. Suffice it to note that, while he was the fearsome epitome of evil in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), it’s doubtful he’ll be doing Shakespeare in the Park any time soon.
Yet Li does manage to meet the general thespic requirements of this mindless fare. Which means he can mix a general level of glib nonchalance with a suddenly violent and nearreligious dedication to revenge. Hey, his Dad left him to rot in jail. He has issues. No wonder Trish finds him so irresistible.
Practically everything in this film is a wicked joke, especially when someone’s kicking someone in the throat or littering a whole alleyway with combat scene casualties. And though some absurdly pretentious lip service is paid to family values (whereas glamorizing organized crime family values is what they’re really concerned with), fueling the entertainment engine of director Bartkowiak’s film is a questionable meanspiritedness that may make you wonder: Oh “Romeo Must Die,” wherefore art thou, “Romeo Must Die?” The proper response is: “Buried at the bottom of everyone’s moviegoing list — that’s wherefore.”
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Romeo Must Die, rated R, is a Warner Brothers release directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak and stars Jet Li, Aaliyah and Delroy Lindo. Running time: 120 minutes.
‘A Taste of South America’ Will Be Featured in Concert At Union County Arts Center
RAHWAY – An evening of “mestizo” South American music with the Trio Pasional, YasCortes and Festival Llanero Group, will be presented in “A Taste of South America” at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway on Saturday, April 8, at 8 p. m.
Tickets are $25. For more information and ticket reservations, please call the Union County Arts Center at (732) 4998226 or Luis Cardenas at (201) 8660341.
Love and Other Things Cabaret Slated by Two Theater Groups
John Schweska Robert Duffy Joanne Guida WESTFIELD – John Schweska, a member of the Westfield Community Players (WCP) and the Cranford Dramatic Club (CDC), will reprise his New York City cabaret show, Love and Other Things, as a benefit to help both community theaters. The production will be shown on Saturday, April 8, at 8 p. m. at the CDC.
Tickets are $12 each, including a postshow reception. For reservations, please call the CDC at (908) 2767611.
Mr. Schweska will be joined by vocalist and Cranford resident Joanne Guida, and vocalist Robert Duffy. Joining the vocalists will be pianist and arranger Andrew Cooke.
Mr. Cooke has directed this New York cabaret. He holds credits in New York and regional theater. He has been the associate conductor of Broadway’s Sweeney Todd and pianist for the Broadway production of Aspects of Love and Sondheim’s OffBroadway revival of Company.
Most recently, he was musical director for the Guthrie Theater’s production of Sweeney Todd in Minneapolis. Mr. Schweska, a lyric baritone, has been singing cabaret for over 10 years with Mr. Cooke, his musical director. He has appeared in many local musical productions including the Tinman
at the CDC and Romance, Romance at WCP. He is currently involved in a regional staging of a new musical,
Jack the Ripper.
Mr. Duffy has been seen in many local productions, and will soon be heard on the concept album for the new musical, A Tale of Two Cities.
Ms. Guida has sung and acted in many local theaters in various roles, appearing with Mr. Schweska and his wife, Monica, in Romance, Romance.
Summing up Love and Other Things,
Ms. Guida stated, “There are many things that will catch you eye, but few that will capture your heart – pursue those!”
The Golden Fleece at UCC
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sian man be the sexy, forbidden lover of his wife? Simple! By running into the basement to get into his fullbody makeup and crazy wig. At first glance, this scenario borders on offensive, but you soon see that this is not the author’s intent. It actually makes a rather profound statement on the absurd stereotyping that still, unfortunately, exists today.
Barbara Guidi and Gary Wood as the husband and wife were simply terrific. They are both seasoned actors with excellent comic timing and an obvious understanding of the material. They were flawlessly funny without trying to “go for the laughs.” They were both a pleasure to watch and I was disappointed when their segment came to a close.
The Golden Fleece is the more difficult of the two plays. This oneact is longer and not quite as humorous as the first, though it does have quite a few silly moments. It is actually a much darker piece, loosely based on the extremely intense Medea, The Greek Drama penned by Euripides.
According to Greek mythology, The Golden Fleece was the treasure sought by Jason and the Argonauts. After many battles and threats to the children of the Goddess Nephele, a golden ram was sent to carry the two children to safety. One of them died, but the other arrived safely and the ram was sacrificed as a gift to Zeus. The pelt of the ram was then hidden in an oak tree, where it remained until Jason and Medea, his barbarian bride, came to claim it.
In the Greek Drama, Jason abandons Medea for another woman, the daughter of the King of Corinth. In a fit of jealous rage, the witchcraft skilled
Medea sends a robe to Jason’s new bride, which bursts into flames when she puts it on, killing her instantly. Medea then proceeds to kill her own children.
This story does seem to be an odd premise for this contemporary piece that focuses on Bill and Betty, a normal married couple. Bill and Betty have befriended “Jason and Medea” in our current world. Jason was Bill’s best man.
Medea is the coolest chick that Betty has ever known. Both couples seem to have similar marital problems, but nothing that can’t be fixed. That is, until Jason meets “the other woman.”
What follows is the examination into the relationship between Bill and Betty, and how the infidelity of their friend affects them. Both Daaimah Talley and Andre DeSandies as Betty and Bill, respectively, have some wonderful, intimate moments.
They both have several monologues alone onstage, spoken directly to the audience. (Which, incidentally, was onstage with the actors, making the audience a sort of built in Greek Chorus.)
The work that the two actors did in this peculiar play was quite good. They both had energy and commitment that is to be commended. I hesitate to say anything negative about the work that was done in this segment, but perhaps it may have been a bit smoother if the actors didn’t try so hard.
The play is interesting, and the acting was good, so just say the words. This stood out the most for me when the character of Betty was applying powder to her face from a compact while she spoke to the audience. It would have been such a nice moment if the actress didn’t “act” at putting powder on her face, and just said what was written while she applied the powder. Less is more. With an action that is as simple as powdering your nose, it is always best to keep it truthful.
All in all, it was an entertaining evening and there is clearly a lot of talent within The Theater Project. The Golden Fleece was directed by Mark Spina, a founding member of the organization. It is evident that Mr. Spina chooses to direct plays that are not exactly mainstream, and I think that is very important.
There are a lot of amazing, relatively unknown plays out there that have a lot to say. Mr. Spina clearly knows what he is doing, and I look forward to the upcoming production of Defying Gravity in July.
The Golden Fleece ran at UCC on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, March 23 though April 1st.
BUNCH OF CHARACTERS… These gangsters and gamesters, characters from the musical play, Guys & Dolls, are trying to find a place to hold their Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game. Pictured, left to right, are: Oscar Vieni as Harry the Horse, Rick Flynn as Sky Masterson, Brian Reagan as Big Jule, Dan Korner as Nathan Detroit, Michaelson Ferdinand as Rusty Charlie, and Michael Vogt as Benny Southstreet. The production will open tomorrow night, April 7, and will continue April 8, 14, and 15, at 8 p. m. Reserved tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for students. For more information, please call (908) 8891600.
Westfield Chef Liz Scott
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Trio Pasional consists of North American flutist Sharon Levin, Ecuadorian guitarist Mr. Cardenas and Dominican guitarist Luis Polanco. These performers have been entertaining audiences in the Metropolitan area for the past few years.
Their latest project is the creation of a CD called “Reir Llorando.” The music is representative of various facets of Ecuadorian sentiments and cultures of many generations.
The Main Ingredient The Main Ingredient The Main Ingredient The Main Ingredient The Main Ingredient
Scallops, Mushrooms In Garlic Sauce Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a shallow baking dish with 1 tbsp. of oil. Bake the mushroom caps for 10 minutes. Combine bread crumb, onion, parsley, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in small bowl. Add scallops to baking dish. Add wine. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top of mushroom caps and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes. 3/ 4 lb scallops 3 tbsp. bread crumb
1/ 4 c. flour 2 tbsp. minced onion 1/ 2 lb mushrooms 1 tbsp. minced parsley 3 tbsp. olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/ 4 c. white wine Red pepper flakes, salt
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and forth with Mozartian ease. A pure melodic and technical delight. The audience was clearly appreciative and remained visually enthralled throughout the entire piece, literally hanging on every note. Pierce and Jonas have in fact, set the standard for pieces, including many firsttime recordings.
The orchestral showpiece, the tragedy and triumph that is “Brahms Third Symphony,” came after the intermission. While not performed all too often, frankly because it lacks the bombastic ending many audiencefolk require, Maestro Wroe and the orchestra made a very loud statement with their technical prowess and musicality.
The bold opening and violent nature of the first movement was a real highlight, with its many snares and tempo changes. A full and even imposing sound was had even without some fully manned orchestral string sections.
For example, the string bass section was only compromised of four musicians, but what a sound they produced.
The melodic third movement was a musical treat. Cellos opened the third movement with perfection, which also saw a beautiful melodic horn solo from Principal Anthony Cecere. The fourth movement, which gets intense fast, saw a particularly heroic performance by the strings, who played with vigor and accuracy.
As the WSO season comes to an end, some comment on the contributions of the English gentleman Maestro David Wroe are in order. He exhibits all of the characteristics of the Great Conductor and will not be overlooked. He not only should, but will go on to have the successful career that he deserves.
Maestro Wroe understands tempos, of which he shows a great sensitivity and clarity. Phrasing is also a particular Mr. Wroe strongpoint. The inner detail of not one musical statement is wasted or cut short by Mr. Wroe.
The Maestro has built an aggressive performing orchestra and in conducting style, he can clearly be compared to Le Roi, Leonard Bernstein.
The WSO is a gift to the public. A gift of the talent that compromises the orchestra, and a gift from those individuals, families and businesses who support the orchestra. An orchestra which deserves immense credit has been forged in Westfield.
The WSO Tour of Notable Homes will be held on Saturday, May 6, and the orchestra will perform “Madama Butterfly” at their last concert of the season on Saturday, May 13, 8 p. m. in The Presbyterian Church in Westfield.
Subscriptions, single sale and group tickets are available by calling (908) 2329400. dinner in the middle of it all.
“Now my kids and I can do these things together and still come home and have a great dinner of healthy food,” she said.
Both parties have grown accustomed to the weekly regimen. Added Mrs. Hopkins, “Once Liz gets to know the kitchen and cupboards and what I have in the freezer and such, she keeps a mental inventory; she knows how to use up all the ingredients in a creative way, a way you never thought of.
“She likes to vary side dishes, to not repeat a meal. She’s very concerned about our well being and the best way to cook for it. She’s very nurturing and we feel it’s more than just having somebody come make meals,” Mrs. Hopkins commented.
When asked whether he was confident in his children’s diet, Mr. Hopkins responded emphatically, “Very much so. I’m impressed with how healthy the meals are. I mean, she’s buying organic things, things I wouldn’t know to buy. My kids like it a lot, and they’re always willing to try different things Liz makes. She’s won them over, so they’re willing to keep exploring.”
A Westfield High School graduate, Liz earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art History from New York University and followed it up with a master’s degree from Villa Schifanoia in Italy.
Returning to the United States, she found work in the publishing field and ended up in the advertising department for Bon Appetit magazine.
Although she was making good money, she felt frustrated because she didn’t have any handson involvement in the actual culinary process. Hence, she made the decision to attend the French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York. From there she tried different facets of work for restaurants and catering services.
She was offered a position as an assistant teaching chef at FCI, an honor since she was chosen first of all the graduates.
“I did that part time for a year,” Liz informed, “and then I started to do private chef work.”
Dubbed Top Cat after her favorite feline, Liz’s career as a personal chef has allowed her to experience life with the rich and famous. Observe the clientele: She was a personal home chef in New York for playwright John Guare (Six
Degrees of Separation), with whom she has kept in contact. She also did a stint cooking for Brooke Astor, considered the “Grand Dame of New York society” and who is a relation to John Jacob Astor who perished on the Titanic.
She has also worked for the enormous family of the former Mrs. Reynolds Dupont, of Dupont, Inc.
During the time she cooked for Mrs. Astor, David Rockefeller frequently came to dinner. According to Liz, he “… always told me how much he loved my watercress soup.”
Wanting her contributions to reach more of the populace, Liz returned to Westfield, feeling that the average hardworking families deserved just as much, if not more, of this service and attention. Consequently, she began her personal chef service locally.
“As I did it more and more, I began to love its whole idea,” she said.
It shows in her personal working relationships.
“She’s not only a great cook, but she’s really great to have in your house,” said Mrs. Hopkins. “My only hesitation when I got started was how would I feel
having someone working a few hours a week in my home. And it’s just been wonderful.”
“She’s very pleasant to work with,” agreed Mr. Hopkins. “We enjoy having her here. Right from the start Liz made it very comfortable. She laughs a lot, she has a good time; she’s easy to get along with. It works well for us.”
Tagging along with her on a trip to the supermarket, one can learn from her habits how to garner the best in produce. She will study a group of asparagus to determine the best stalks, pinch pea pods and check various other pieces of produce by feel.
By doing her homework she offers a personal tip: “Very often what is on special is going to be fresher.”
“I’m a very tactile shopper,” she admitted. “My weekly reading material is grocery store flyers. I have the utmost respect for food and its ingredients. I consider it a top sensual gratification in life. If we have to eat, let’s enjoy it, and more importantly, let’s use it to our advantage.”
Liz puts her “entire presence” into the flowchart of her meal preparation, placing no flavor above another in the production.
“I like the whole process,” she said, “from picking out the vegetables in the supermarket to putting it all together on the table as a presentation.
“You have to be equally present in everything. There are times when the frustrated artist comes out in me. For instance, last week I sautéed cherry tomatoes in butter with fresh chives and poured it over the fish because I felt that the meal needed color. Something has to look good, too,” Liz remarked.
“The presentation is beautiful, her grand finale,” Mrs. Hopkins enthused. “I mean, it just looks great.”
Asked what her favorite creation is to prepare, Liz disclosed a fondness for Asianstyle stirfries, stating, “I like putting together the combinations because I like working with those ingredients, the fresh ginger, the garlic, the different vegetables, sauces and rice combinations.”
As for her client’s personal favorites, Mr. Hopkins especially enjoys Liz’s cuisines which have a European flair.
“I like her Italian meals,” he stated. “They’re not ordinary. Like eggplant, she usually makes it with a great salad and side dish, so it’s really balanced. There’s always a vegetable, and we eat a lot more fish than we would if she wasn’t with us.”
Liz is currently working on several projects; foremost is her own cookbook, designed for people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Since her brother passed away from alcohol abuse years ago, Liz feels a personal stake, almost a sense of responsibility, in the publication.
“It’s never really been addressed,” she stressed. “It’s a new part of treatment. Nutrition is not discussed as much as it should be in this regard. Since it affects your brain chemistry, obviously what you put in your body is important. So the basis of this book is finding substitutes for alcohol in recipes without sacrificing quality, and also designing menus that rely a lot on the glycemic index, how quickly food turns into glucose in your blood stream, which is directly related to mood, an important issue in recovery.”
Liz, who can be contacted in Westfield at (908) 2321891, or on the Web at chefliz@ home. com, extends her services in a quest to promote the importance of family health and unity.
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)