Dinner Rush, now in limited release around the country, opens with New York City restaurant owner Louis Cropa, (Danny Aiello) enjoying a meal with his partners before the evening rush. As they break bread the men lament the unimaginative nicknames of today’s mobsters. A Queens hoodlum duo named “Black and Blue” just doesn’t have the same romantic air as a perfumed legbreaker from the old days who carried the colorful moniker of “Tony Cologne.”

The men also speculate on the latest competition from new eateries opening in the Tribeca neighborhood, coming, as one says, “to pillage the Village.” The days of hearty portions for working families are gone. The menu is now filled with creative concoctions dreamed up by Cropa’s talented son who prefers to be addressed as “Chef.” The star chef has captured the imagination of the most powerful New York food critics, which keeps the customers rolling in but Cropa’s appetite unsatisfied.

Holding court through the evening at a corner booth, the exasperated father tosses aside the menu and exclaims, “I want food! Theres nothing left to eat here anymore!” His son sneers, “We don’t serve meatballs.”

Customers include the hip and arrogant who offer snotty retorts to waitstaff apologies. “Your apology is not sufficient,” deadpans one customer who feels his wait for a table was longer than his status should allow. The staff includes a cook who is a compulsive gambler and a waitress who is an aspiring artist but refuses to kiss up to an art critic who offers his business card. She instead asks him to leave a big tip as that would do more to lift her out of poverty. There is also a bartender who earns extra money by challenging the upscale clientele to ask him a question he can’t answer.

Sandra Bernhard arrives as a top food critic who levels a complaint about the placement of her table but basks in the glow of the chef as she and her dining partner attack the cuisine with table manners that border on the obscene.

There is more going on than meets the eye at the restaurant, as Cropa comments, “What a night – and it’s only half over.” Dinner Rush doesn’t resonates with the same message of struggle and hope that was present in Big Night, a story of two Italian immigrants running a restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. It is, however, solid entertainment that will please an audience, perhaps right after dinner.

Lakeboat, the directorial debut of actor Joe Mantegna and written by David Mamet, follows the journey of a 23-year-old graduate student who has a summer job aboard a steel freighter.

He is on board to replace the missing night cook, whose disappearance is the topic of endless, and often comical, speculation by his shipmates. The legend of his absence grows from a simple nocturnal mugging to abduction by government agents, to a mob rub-out for unpaid debts.

Upon reaching the ship, our college kid, both hands full of luggage, hesitates and asks an older sailor if he should salute the colors before coming aboard. He is given half a shrug in reply and told not to worry about it. This casual reply sets the tone for the whole journey.

The men aboard do not particularly love their jobs, or even like them, but they have settled into a comfortable routine in which they can do their jobs and avoid any extra work that might come their way. There are some friendly rivalries but little animosity and they go about their duties with a certain camaraderie.

The men are also aware of the fragile nature of a capitalist economy. One sailor comments that “people with money want a piece of everything” while another predicts that they could just as easily be on the street corner selling apples to each other – yet another reason to stick to their unglamorous, but steady jobs.

The primary goal of the boat is to get the commerce from one side of the lake to another – often leaving little to do in the meantime. This is characterized by a scene in which a dutiful skipper asks the first mate for his morning report. “Nothing to report,” the first mate replies.

The down time is filled by reading, card games and exchanges of advice for living that is of a dubious quality. Occasionally the men wax philosophic, but more often their conversations revolve around historical tidbits, trivia and such topics as which fictional character could lick the other in a fight.

One sailor, however, a Polish-American named Joe Litko, confesses his broken dreams to the new shipmate and tells him that as a young man in college he “has it made.” The student realizes this commentary is no idle pat on the back.

There is no subplot or twists and turns to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. There is instead a look at the lives of working folks, which is something we see all too seldom in the movies.

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