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The Michigan Daily, 2003-12-08

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4

I

Monday
December 8, 2003
michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

ARTS

8A

8A

Bad acting
mars latest
music video
fim 'Honey'
By Sravya Chirumamilla
Daily Arts Writer
MOVIE REVIEW
Ever watch BET and wish someone
tacked on a syrupy story to all the hot
girls grinding in skimpy outfits?
"Honey" unrepentingly offers just that
- a really long
music video.

dsourtesy 01Unive
Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not make any more movies like this, evert

Famed music
video director and
first-time feature-
film director Bille
Woodruff recog-

Honey
At Showcase and
Quality 16
Universal

Cut e marner Bros.

We all know you're not really one of the seven. Over here, you're just a guy In a dress.

By Ryan Lewis
Daily Film Editor

Taken from the rich and vibrant history of Japan's 19th-
century modernization, director Edward Zwick's "The
Last Samurai" pays tribute to canonical samurai films of
legends like Akira Kurosawa and the delicate tradition of
these ancient warriors. Although the story plays out like
the usual formulaic epic, touches of _.._..______
greatness flow naturally from the The Last
combination of quality actors, amaz- .u
ing set pieces and the poignant por- At Showcase,
trayal of a dying culture. Qaliy 16 and
Tom Cruise plays Nathan Algren, Madstone
a disenchanted, drunkard Civil War Warner Bros.
captain who, being plagued by the
horror of having slain Native American tribes, is sent to
Japan to train the emperor's army in the use of modern
weaponry. In the service of the emperor and his self-
serving advisor Omura (Hasato Harada), Algren march-
es the inadequate soldiers into battle against a hardened
and ready samurai force. The soldiers are quickly han-
dled, and Algren, after fighting a valiant battle, is taken
away by the samurai leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe)
back to his mountain village.
Cruise, although somewhat out of place and unbeliev-
able in his role as Algren, performs with a level of sub-
tlety and skill that we've come to expect. However, as he

drifts through John Logan's script mostly watching and
learning, the yet-unknown in America but already-star in
Japan Watanabe outshines Cruise in every way. His
range as Katsumoto and his interplay with Cruise's char-
acter provide some of the most enjoyable moments of
the film. In fact, the plethora of villagers and training
samurai warriors add a certain appeal and nostalgia
toward Kurosawa's masterpieces.
The power of "Samurai" radiates through the scenes in
the village. As Algren lives through battle wounds and
withdrawal to become part of the samurai, the expanding
relationships between the men who belittle him, the woman
whose husband he killed in battle and Katsumoto himself
showcase Zwick's skill. These idiosyncrasies come closest
to the brilliance of Kurosawa that Zwick will ever achieve.
Yet as soon as Algren finds his new passion in the
code of Bushido, he travels back to civilization with
Katsumoto, and thus back to formula. The film starts to
lose effect with the predictability that ensues, as you
start rooting less for Algren and the samurai than for a
through-line that's altogether different.
Of course the cinematography by John Toll ("The Thin
Red Line") and Hans Zimmer's incredible score deserve
special note. But above all, the breathtaking sets and
scenery keep each scene captivating, despite the often
dry and sappy dialogue. Also, the climactic battle scene
pitting guns against swords and many against a few pulls
together the drama of the entire film for one fine and
entirely honorable last stand ... that is, until the overt
thematics return in the aftermath.

nizes that "Honey" is just a glorified
video and panders all too willingly to
the audience. He provides sweeping
camera shots that bring a welcome mix
of the music video and feature film
genres. Actors, however, often break
character and over-act in his overly dra-
matic cinematic clips.
Jessica Alba (Honey Daniels) is one
of the most beautiful people in enter-
tainment, and while her dancing skills
are commendable, her acting abilities

are subpar. Alba has very few substan-
tial lines and constantly overacts.
The relationship between Honey and
best friend Gina (Joy Bryant) is one of
the few necessary and touching charac-
ter developments in the film. They
accurately portray the forgiving friends
who push one another to each other's
full potential. Unnecessary in the film
is the role of Chaz (Mekhi Phifer), a
barbershop owner and Honey's love
interest. Phifer's role is uninspiring,
lacking any substance.
Woodruff's direction ruins Lil'
Romeo's (Benny) subtle acting and
character development. Romeo is one
of the best actors in this film, uniquely
maintaining his character throughout.
In "Honey," star-gazing becomes a

sport. Everyone from Missy Elliot to P.
Diddy's manservant, Farnsworth Bent-
ley, make their presence felt in this run-
way of hip-hop stars.
Dancing, around which the film
revolves, is the most redeeming part of
"Honey." Laurie Ann Gibson plays a
dual role as the film's choreographer
and as Katrina, Honey's rival dancer.
She introduces innovative and unex-
pected moves that cater to all ages.
The recurring message is reminiscent
of all the VH 1 Save the Music commer-
cials, and the audience almost expects
Nas to make a cameo to say "save the
music, y'all." The dance routines and
charm save "Honey" from being a com-
plete loss but fail to make it more than a
manual on new dance moves.

Saga of the nighty Giants told on DVD
By Scott Serilla
Daily Arts Editor
DVD REVIEW

Technically fla
By Jason Roberts
Daily Arts Editor
"Final Fantasy X-2," the first direct;
sequel in the "Final Fantasy" saga, fol-I
lows the three heroines from "Final1
Fantasy X" two years after the defeat of1
Sin trying to restore the world of Spira 1
to peace. Gainers
are first introduced
to Yuna, Rikku and Final,
Paine in a visually Fantasy X-2 1
brilliant pop-rock PS21
concert that quick- Square Enix
ly disintegrates
into a battle for control over powerful
ability-altering orbs, known as dres-
spheres. It seems that after defeating
Sin, the trio took on a new adventure
collecting spheres after Yuna finds one ]
that suggests her lost love may still be1
alive. This, combined with a web of
subplots and the overarching theme of a<
struggling world recovering from strifej
and bracing for war, establishes the coref
of the game's epic adventure.I
"X-2," unlike many of the previous
"Fantasy" installments, is completely 1
nonlinear. Players can explore the world1

wiess 'Fantasy' nearly perfect
of Spira at their leisure, opening up the as well, detailing every little subtle
possibility of several different outcomes move of both heroine and villaiaw,ajike.
and plot twists in the end. Gameplay is The camera follows tlie action in a
as enjoyable as ever, especially the graceful way, swooping in to capture
revamped battle system. Battles move at the action up close but then spinning
a lightning-quick pace, giving players back to frame a vista in the most ele-
the opportunity to time attacks between gant of ways.
party members. This allows characters Music has always been a staple of
to create combination attacks and multi- the "Final Fantasy" series and, though
ply the damage dealt to foes. Also, char- t is the first game without compos-
acters can switch between dresspheres r obuo Uematsu, the soundtrack
during battle, altering their attack as ardly suffers, offering a gorgeous
defense capabilities on the fly. In adds score that accompanies every situa-

When you think of alternative music these days, what
comes to mind? Angry white boys screaming? Teeny-bop-
ers dressed up like parodies of English punks, who crashed
and burned before they were born? Hoobastank?
Some folks will tell ya' alt-rock was little more than a
marketing scheme invented to force underground bands on
people sick of Bon Jovi. Don't believe
'em. It was real. It was on the radio. Gigantic
Twelve-year-olds sang along. TheyIPlexifilms
knew all the words. xfi
For an all too brief moment in the
early '90s, mainstream music almost pitched a post-
punk tent that was big enough to make room for both
flannel-wearing, angst-filled burnouts and bespectacled
geeks politely dreaming about Constantinople and
;de..,K.Polk. .:
Ah, John Flansburgh and John Linnell, the Brooklyn-
based duo that was/is They Might Be Giants. OK so
they're still around, but it's hard to think about the Giants'
beautiful and strange 20-year survey of pop music without
a twinge of nostalgia (and without using the word quirky).
Watching director AJ Schnack's endearing documentary
"Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns" without thinking back to
compulsively listening to Lincoln and Flood 10 years ago.
Oh, for their sense of self-satisfied bewilderment, they
inspired in a generation of middle-class kids who weren't
really ever gonna rip shit up, but certainly would think
about it a lot.
With such nerd heavy-hitters as Pixies mastermind
Frank Black, meta-author Dave Eggers and NPR's Sarah
Vowell and Ira Glass professing their love and admiration
for the Johns, "Gigantic" is one part love letter, one part
history lesson.
Tracing TMBG's beginnings as an after-school bedroom

Why do you always get to be Particle Man?
pi-rject in Lincoln, Mass., to their arty East Village sal
days, right through their current incarnation as journeym
iongiters for: hire,"Gigantic" highlightsa. x
theme of determined New England DIY spirit and Puritah
integrity that keeps the Giants plugging right along.
But perhaps most revealing is exploration of the under-
lying sadness buried beneath much of Flansburgh's and,
especially, Linnell's songwriting. You start to realize that it
is that secretly buoyant emotionalism as well the boy's
commitment to craft and old-fashioned entertainment that
has guided the Giants, lifting them above cult and novelty
status to something far more enduring.
Including rare performance footage, early videos and
plenty of extra interview outtakes, this recently released
DVD gives "Gigantic" the fair-shake chance that its limit-
ed release last summer never could have. It's a simple mes-
sage and they're leaving in the whistles and bells.
Movie: ****
Picture/Sound: ***,
Features: ****

4

tion to the usual array of magical capa-
bilities, party members can learn the
skills of thieves, dancers, gunners and
swordsmen. The ability to learn talents
with new players keeps the game fresh
and ever evolving.
"X-2" is graphically stunning.
There is not another game on the mar-
ket that can come close to the physical
beauty witnessed in these environ-
ments. Water shimmers under the
afternoon sun. Cold, snowy peaks are
juxtaposed with the rocky ledges that
encircle them and the dull, rusting
metal of abandoned cities speaks with
a brooding, dark energy. Not only are
the environments beautifully done, but
the character models are phenomenal

tion nearly perfectly.
Technically, "X-2" is flawless. There
is, however, fault in the non-linear
gameplay as it does not provide the
same stong backbone evident in previ-
ous "Final Fantasy" installments. The
lack of structure is not crippling, but in
a game that is usually driven by a strong
storyline, this one has only a very loose
feeling narrative. The "bubble-gum"
atmosphere of the game may also
offend some die-hard veterans of the
series, as it has a lighter feeling than
others in the extensive saga.
Beautifully scripted, compoad,
designed and executed, "Final Fantasy
X-2" is a tremendous achievement in
both style and substance.

SHORT TAKES
THE MOUNTAINEERS
MESSY CENTURY
MUTE RECORDS
The debut LP from Liverpool-
based Mountaineers is a roller-
coaster listening experience. From
the outset, the trippy psychedelic

electronica of "Ripen" utilizes a
full palette of production possibili-
ties. Computerized drums, synthe-
sizers, horns and strings are only a
sampling of the plethora of sounds
thrown into the mix. There's every-
thing from the sonic landscapes of
Pink Floyd (particularly the chorus
of "Want to Write You") to the
tight construction of late-Beatles.
Centered in the British rock tradi-

tion, Messy Century is accessible
throughout, despite a few moments
of electronic experimentalism.
This album flaunts maturity far
beyond the band's years. With their
ability to successfully draw from
so many of their predecessors, the
Mountaineers are sure to be an
indie sensation in times to come.
-Andrew Horowitz

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