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September 02, 2003 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-02

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 2, 2003

ARTS

By Zach Mabee
Daily Arts Writer
SUMMER MoVE RECAP
Well, the box office boys of summer
are gone, and honestly, I can't say my
love for many of them remains strong.
The months of summer delivered,
among other things, a surfeit of sub-
par sequels, many of which followed
equally crummy predecessors. It's dif-
ficult to imagine who would choose to
perpetuate the "Tomb Raider" "Legal-
ly Blonde," "The Fast and the Furi-
ous" or Freddy and Jason series, but
they indeed lived on in their purest
forms. "Bad Boys" returned but did lit-
tle more than one-up itself with more
grotesque violence and cheesier
humor. The makers of "Spy Kids" even
opted for a three-dimensional third
installment, which apparently back-
fired royally
"American Wedding" proved to be a
more tasteful and palatable experience
than the first two "American Pie(s),"
and that deserves praise - but not very
much. "Terminator 3: Rise of the
Machines" was an even more com-
mendable sequel with a remarkable
freshman female Terminator (Kristanna
Loken) and a strong performance by
Arnold; yet, as an action film, it paled
in comparison to its older siblings.
"The Matrix Reloaded" made colos-
sal strides in special effects and still
maintained a reasonably strong story-
line, but the dichotomous goals of rev-
olutionizing cinematic action and
hammering home philosophical truths
butted heads all too often.
Indeed, "X2" was the one man
amidst these boyish sequels. Relatable
characters, entertaining action
sequences and all the necessary comic
book grandeur make this the definite
highlight of the bunch.
"X2" reigned supreme in the sum-
mer's comic book category, too.
"Hulk" was arguably the most styl-
ized comic book recreation, rivaled
only by "Spider-man," but Ang Lee's
work was overkill at times. "Hulk"
had a very slow, reflective rise to cli-
max that became tiresome after sever-
al hours. This trend really typified
the entire movie: excessive ponderous
buildup punctuated by moments of

4

Ellen DeGeneres ... do I smell comeback of the century?

4

intensity and vigor.
"The League of Extraordinary Gen-
tlemen" was not only a less widely cir-
culated comic than "Hulk" - the
movie was also less widely viewed
and basically declared a failure. The
concept of an all-star lineup of 19th-
century historic heroes is interesting,
and the film's effects and cinematog-
raphy were strong, but alas, a weak
plot proved to be the proverbial
wrench in its gears.
All this talk paints a rather dismal
portrait of what premiered this summer,
and although that would be the most
accurate generalization, there were
some standouts that deserve mention.
As always, independents and docu-
mentaries that flew well below the
radars of most garnered critical praise
and relative box office success. French
director Francois Ozon's "Swimming
Pool" was a sensual, daring thriller that
impressed American audiences across
the board. "Trainspotting" director
Danny Boyle thrilled horror audiences
with the basement-budget "28 Days

Later," one of the genre's more lauded
releases of the past several years.
Those who kept things light and
inspirational also scored victories
among summer viewers. Undemanding
comedies like "Bruce Almighty" - to
which I think my first utterance was,
"cute" - and "Freaky Friday," which
proved to be the surprise comedy hit of
the season, drew audiences and, at
least in the case of the latter, strong
critical praise.
Similarly, those tales of triumph and
glory in spite of trial and hardship
struck a familiar chord with American
viewers. "Seabiscuit" rode to victory
on the loins of a stellar cast including
Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges and Toby
Maguire. It rekindled the flame in peo-
ple's hearts that has shone gloriously
because of similar films of past like
"Rudy." "Whale Rider" proved itself a
comparably uplifting and stirring tale
- with a much lower budget and less
reputable names - that captivated
audiences with its breathtaking New
Zealand landscapes and touching per-
formances.
Transcending any
individual film with
its diversified release
portfolio and wildly
successful summer,
Disney's production
studio took the sea-
son's cake. Sure, it
had a misfire or two,
"The Lizzie Maguire
Movie" probably
Courtesy of Warner Bros. being the most obvi-

ous. After all was said and done,
though, whoever played the cards at
Disney played them right. As men-
tioned, "Freaky Friday" was a well-
done, enjoyable family comedy and -
surely a rarity amidst its competition -
and the most surprising film to surface
in the months past.
Mickey's big guns, however, sailed
the seven seas. Johnny Depp, playing
the role of the notorious and grisly
Captain Jack Sparrow, navigated
"Pirates of the Caribbean," a theme-
park-ride-turned-adventure-film, to
success. There was nothing heavy or
contemplative about the film; simply, it
was fun, thrilling entertainment that
woke the pirate genre from its restful
slumber.
The king of the sea was no gun-tot-t
ing, bearded plunderer, though; on the
contrary, it was a little fish named
Nemo. Disney's collaboration with the
animation gurus at Pixar resulted in
the fabulously lovable (and I mean for
all ages) "Finding Nemo," a stunning
blend of submarine CGI, a heartwarm-
ing relationship and quest for unity
between an over-protective father and
his son and some deftly wry humor
and pop-cultural allusions. This film.
was the best to emerge from the pre,
autumn months, and as such is indica-
tive of one of two things: Most of the,
summer harvest were terribly
mediocre, or in most cases just plain
bad; or, good animation can reach lev-
els of nearly incomprehensible great-
ness and appeal ... I'm going to say
safely it's a little bit of both.

-aa ---- - - --U0 - L-a-e"uu "u rCourtesy of Columbia Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Razzlin-dazzlin 'Chicago' loses
all that jazz on sparse DVD
By Katie Marie Gates
Daily TV/New Media Editor

DVD REVIEW
The sexy, star-studded musical tale
of murder and jazz that took home
six little gold men last March is now
available to the masses on DVD.
"Chicago" defines the modern movie
musical with its
rich tones and
unique splicing of Chicago
"real life" and Miramax
musical numbers.
Director Rob Marshall seeks to tell
the classic musical satire through the
eyes of Roxie Hart (Renee Zell-
weger), a wannabe vaudeville star
arrested for murdering her lover.
Luckily, murder is a form of enter-
tainment in Chicago, leading Roxie
to stardom with the help of a corrupt
jail warden (Queen Latifah) and an
undefeated lawyer (Richard Gere).
Crisp widescreen presentation and
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
allow viewers to dive
into intense screen
adaptations of stage
musical sequences.
This quality picture
and sound is a necessi-
ty for such a film
which often seems bet-
ter in the theater.
While the film itself is
seemingly flawless, the
menu provided on this
disc is. mediocre and
awkward, as the back-
ground music stops
every 30 seconds and then restarts.
One would expect a seamless montage
of songs on a menu for a musical film.
The disc includes a behind-the-
scenes special containing interviews
with the actors, director, production

4

Did you know my next door neighbor has three rabbits?

designer, costume designer and other
important contributors to the film.
Much of the documentary is redun-
dant, showing long scenes from the
movie as cast members
retell the story. Short
clips of dance practice
and filming are reminis-
cent of "Making the
Video" as the camera
rolls and actors dance
and sing to songs over a
loud speaker. The docu-
mentary actually con-
cludes with a music
video for "All that
Jazz," once again pro-
moting the movie while
leaving many insider
questions unanswered.
For those interested in more detail,
the audio commentary by director
Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill
Condon is more extensive. The men
discuss their vision for the film and

the intricacies of adaptation for the
screen. However, the low tones of
their voices are often difficult to hear
and can make the viewer drowsy as
the dialogue wears on for the full 113
minutes of the film.
Finally, a deleted musical number
with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen
Latifah entitled "Class" is included
with optional audio commentary by
the director and screenwriter again.
The number is worth watching, but
the only one of its kind. For audi-
ences longing to get inside the world
of "Chicago" this disc only pulls
back the curtain for a quick peak. By
leaving out other deleted scenes,
bloopers and more in-depth behind-
the-scenes coverage, the DVD does
not do justice to the award-winning
film it presents.
Film: ****I
Picture/Sound: ****
Features: **I

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ALIEN ANT FARM
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good for something after all. Maybe it wasn't a lifeless mass
of absurdly menacing guitar riffs and over-the-top vocals.
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