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0

Tuesday
December 9, 2003
michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

RTS

8

I

ADAM
ROTTENBERG

It's time homage was paid to a
the masters of Middle Earth

Courtesy of Bravo

Listen. Here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker In the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.

A ROYAL FLUSH
BRAVO'S 'CELEBRITY POKER' PLAYS
WITH FULL DECK

By Douglas Wernert
Daily Arts Writer
"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know
when to fold 'em." The old Kenny Rogers lyrics
never held more true than in "Celebrity Poker
Showdown," Bravo's latest offering to the reali-
ty genre. Through a combi- _
nation of entertaining Celebrity
contestants, shrewd card
playing and expert analysis, Poker
the hour-long program deliv- Showdown
ers plenty of good old-fash- Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
ioned fun for the "Queer Bravo
Eye for the Straight Guy"
network.
The program, an obvious spin-off from
ESPN's surprise success "World Series of
Poker," is hosted by Kevin Pollak ("The Usual
Suspects"), who uses his casual demeanor and
quick wit to create a fun environment from the
very beginning of the show. He is joined by the
obligatory poker expert (Phil Gordon) who uses

all the hold 'em lingo, such as "flop" and
"river," but also keys the viewers in on
who is in the lead and the odds of them
winning the hand. The two exchange this
banter over the voice of the announcer,
who is at the table with the cast of players.
And what a cast it is. For each of five
episodes, a wide range of celebrities will try
their luck at the table. For example, following
the cast of "The West Wing" on this week's
episode will be such stars as Tom Green, David
Cross and even Coolio. The winner from each
of the five shows gets $50,000 for the charity of
their choice and compete for a grand prize of a
quarter-million dollars. The first week featured
Mr. J-Lo (Ben Affleck) competing against,
among others, David Schwimmer ("Friends," of
course) and Willie Garson ("Sex and the City")
who quickly earned the nickname "Mean
Willie," due to his lucky streak and betting
means (he eventually won, much to the crowd's
dismay).
The action is interesting (who doesn't like to
play a round of poker every now and then?),
and watching Schwimmer go "all in" on one

Dec. 17 marks the theatrical
release of the final chapter in
Peter Jackson's brilliant adapta-
tion of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy
with "The Return of the King." Howev-
er, this filmmaking triumph has yet to
achieve the acclaim of Academy gold.
Despite pleasing audiences and critics
alike in December, come February, the
Oscars have failed to recognize the
importance of the trilogy.
For the most part, the "major"
awards don't really mean anything
(Does anyone even want a Grammy?),
but the Academy Awards are consid-
ered by the masses to be of greater
importance. For every obvious winner
like "The Godfather" in '72 or
"Schindler's List" in '94, there is an
aberration in the system. In 1977, audi-
ences saw "Star Wars" nominated for
Best Picture, yet Woody Allen's "Annie
Hall" walked away with the prize. It's
26 years later and there is no doubt in
which film is considered to be the
superior picture (prequels and special
editions shouldn't affect the legacy).
The year 1998 also featured a complete
injustice with "Saving Private Ryan"
losing to the light romantic comedy
"Shakespeare in Love." Sure "Shake-
speare" and "Hall" are good, but clearly
not of the caliber of their opposition.
When New Line Cinema agreed to
finance three films budgeted at a com-
bined $300 million with an unproven
director and no major stars, it took a
major gamble. Now everyone is laugh-
ing all the way to the bank as fans
eagerly anticipate the conclusion to the
battle for Middle Earth. Jackson has
crafted three films that will be far more
memorable and lasting than the past two
movies that won the Academy's prize.
"A Beautiful Mind" was not the best
picture of 2001 and Ron Howard was
not the best director. Sure, Russell
Crowe gave a great performance, but
the movie, to be completely honest,
sucks and will be all but forgotten in a

few years. Meanwhile, "The Fellowship
of the Ring" moved fantasy films back
into the forefront and reinvigorated the
magic of Hollywood blockbusters. The
ability for "Fellowship" to resonate
with so many different audiences can
be attributed to the beautiful direction
of Jackson, which brought the book to
glorious visual life.
After failing to capture the big prize
in 2001, the second installment, "The
Two Towers," was defeated by the mea-
ger competition. Instead, a glitzy adap-
tation of a Broadway musical,
"Chicago," walked away with the big
one and a suspected pedophile won
Best Director for another Holocaust
piece, "The Pianist." These films have
their merits, but neither has the scope
nor the impact of "The Two Towers."
December is slowly coming to a
close, and the deadline for Oscar con-
sideration is almost here. The year has
seen some films that are worthy of con-
tention for Academy Awards, but none
will leave the historical impact of
"Return of the King." The Academy has
one last chance to make amends for two
years of poor decisions and a final
opportunity to award Jackson and com-
pany for their gift to cinema. If the trilo-
gy concludes without winning either of
the big awards, then the Oscars will be
devoid of any meaning.
We have been spoiled the past three
years with each film's release, leaving
less to look forward to next December.
As the "The Lord of the Rings" comes
to a close, fans must also remember to
appreciate and celebrate the films.
Thank you, Peter Jackson, thank you,
New Line, and thank you to everyone
else involved in the creation of these
masterpieces. Hopefully, come next
February, it will be Jackson and crew
delivering the "thank yous," instead of
just another lowly writer.
- Rottenberg can be reached
at arotten@umich.edu

4

h a n d s
only to see
" M e a n
Willie" snatch
victory from him is oh so lovely. The only
downer is the loser's lounge, where broke gam-
blers go to hang out and make fun of the
remaining players. One might expect comedic
gold to come from this room, but with only a
few cut-ins, it loses its effect.
Unlike other mindless reality television, this
series just encourages viewers to relax and
enjoy the show. Not only that, the average fan
can learn how to play better poker. When all the
chips are down, "Celebrity Poker Showdown"
delivers an hour of fun. There's not much more
you can ask froii a television show.

4

I

These 'Pictures' not worth a thousand words

By Melissa Runstrom
Daily Arts Writer

BOOK REVIEW
One of the greatest mysteries in
southeastern Michigan is the disap-
pearance of Jimmy Hoffa in the
summer of 1975. Imagine having
witnessed this mystery; this is the

premise for "Pic-
tures at Eleven,"
a novel written
by University
alum, William
Everlong. In
"Pictures at

Pictures at
Eleven
By William Everlong
Lithium

son, who supposedly has an IQ of
210, just happens to engineer high-
tech surveillance equipment perfect-
ly suitable for his father's growing
obsession with his neighbor's life. It
is hard to believe that coincidences
could work out so perfectly, or that a
mobster with no qualms about
killing would let Al get very far with
his blatant curiosity and obvious
watch over his home life. If one
overlooks certain details like these
though, it is easy to enjoy the story
and its quick pace.
The characters are believable, if
not exactly likable. Al Strohmeier is
well developed; his tendency to
overeat parallels a lack of control in
watching his "exotic" neighbor.
Bobby Gerard tends to be a stereo-
typical mafia member, wearing
expensive Italian clothing and quick
to resort to violence. It is disap-
pointing that Everlong didn't expand
upon hinted-at traits in Bobby's
character, which could have made

Courtesy of Namco

Just hold still for a moment ...

Eleven" he creates a story around Al
Strohmeier, a typical computer
salesman who happens to get
embroiled in the mafia affairs of his
neighbor, Bobby Gerard.
This idea successfully carries
Everlong's story, which has a plot
that is occasionally a little far-
fetched. An example is when Al's

Too many faults hinder
potential 1in 'il.switch'

him three-dimensional and much
more interesting.
Everlong's story isn't pretentious

and is told in a simple straight-for-
ward style. He does well creating a
believable setting and lets the events
in the plot color the reader's percep-
tions. One of the book's strengths,
but perhaps its biggest disappoint-
ment at the same time, is that it isn't
an outright commentary on anything
in particular. In the end, readers
almost wonder what the point was.
"Pictures at Eleven" has already
been banned at one campus book-
store, apparently because of its
cover, which features a young,
seemingly nude boy running around
a corner while waving toy guns. The
picture isn't representative of any-
thing about the story; it is simply a
picture that Al finds with a mafia
name scrawled on the back - a
device that Everlong uses to spark
Al's interest in his neighbor. The
book is written with simplicity, and
if you are into conspiracy theories,
the mob, or life in the '70s, it is
worth the quick read.
sH ORT.
BUS 174~
AT~ THE 'MICiGAN THEATER.
This' documntary by Joe'
Padilha is a harrowing kok at .he
f'atfu day of June 12, 2OO0, when
a disturtbedgu anaedadr
bijacked a bus and enee ino
drawn. out hosaestain h
event hpend to&e cugh*o
film;i by teei ioncmrsa
vosquently absorbed.the harti
anatention of a nain.MA h
movie pgresses, itbcoe
passegrs ar't~ th ny itm
naeonly possble onteste
of Brai.
VI #.1.i

Missy Elliot flunks test with new album

By Jason Roberts
Daily Arts Editor

If the arcade classic "Time Crisis"
had a third-person shooter for a sis-
ter, Namco's "kill.switch" would be
it. Utilizing a unique "offensive
cover system" that allows players to
use many of the in-game objects,

such as crates,
wall partitions
and window
ledges as shelter
from a continu-
ous onslaught of

cat-and-mouse type shootouts
between the player and the compute-
controlled opponents. The action
moves at a breathtaking pace and the
Al is fairly solid; opponents will
often work in teams to flush the play-
er out into the open.
"Kill.switch," however, is not with-
out its faults. The graphics and sound
are merely mediocre; textures seem
too blocky at times and the sound
becomes repetitive. Being a third-per-
son shooter, "kill.switch" suffers from
camera-angle issues that many others
of its kind have as well.
Level design is also an issue as
some scenarios are a great degree
harder than others and, without check-
points around the halfway mark, dying
in the final stretch means playing the
entire level over again ... and again ...
and again. This tends to get frustrating
after a while, especially when deaths

By Hussain Rahim
Daily Arts Writer
:MUSIC REVIEW
Holy Weight Watchers, Batman!
Missy Elliot is back with a new
album, only slightly a year after her
last release, Under Construction.
One cannot help
think "rush job," M
and you would beMissy Elliot
right. This is Not a
Back in time Test
for the Christmas Elektra/Asylum
sales season, and
to market her new "sexy" image,
Missy presents 16 new tracks all
produced by her and Timbaland. The
production style comes as a surprise
to no one, as the sound is filled with

uninspired guest appearances, gen-
erally insipid lyrics and the abun-
dance of filler outmuscle whatever
the production accomplishes.
Contributions from Elephant Man
work, whereas the collaboration
with R. Kelly, about him as an expe-
rienced lover coaxing a virginal
Missy, is all types of wrong for all
types of reasons. Fabulous and
Nelly fax in their normal garbage
and Jay-Z sleeps through a track as
well. "Let It Bump" is her old-
school tribute, while "Toyz" is her
ode to sex toys, and it's just not well
done.
With a gimmicky feel and lack of
ideas, Missy turns in a lackluster
effort that confirms the fact that this
is not a test. It's more like a practice
quiz, and I'm not going to class.

kill.switch
PS2 and XBox
Namco

bullets and shrapnel, "kill.switch" is
able to keep its rather blase premise
alive and kicking.
Gamers control a skilled military
operative on a variety of missions
that span the globe. A loose story-

what is expected from Missy. Oil
drum percussion, electro flutters,
sirens and hand claps encompass
some of the sounds, and while these
stand out, the unbearable barrage of

_

U

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