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January 20, 2004 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-01-20

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4

Tuesday
J4anuary 2,20
arts .michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

Urlie IcIga1309I
ARTS

bOA

We'll hit them with the flying V.

Weak plot, characters
throttle flashy 'Torque'

Courtesy of Universal
They put a
marmot in my
bathtub!

By Christopher Pitoun
Daily Arts Writer

MOVIE REVIEW No STARS
In seeing any film made by the bril-
liant minds behind "The Fast and the
Furious" and "S.WA.T,' one must be
willing to forgo certain levels of artis-
tic quality in pursuit of mindless enter-
tainment. "Torque" manages, more
than any of its predecessors, to test the

limits of critical
audiences and
their willingness
to lower their
standards.
The stunts and
feats showcased

Torque
At Quality 16 and
Showcase
Warner Bros.

in "Torque" are so overly elaborate
that they make Neo's achievements
in "The Matrix" look like they could
happen in the real world. Instead of
being mesmerized by their tricks,
viewers cannot help but laugh at the
ridiculous spectacle on screen. Sure,
characters in action films are sup-
posed to be somewhat superhuman.
Films are allowed to go slightly past
what is ordinarily possible. But
"Torque" makes no apologies for
not even bothering to explain why
these ludicrous characters can per-
form actions that are nothing short
of feats of God.
The story begins when Cary Ford
(Martin Henderson) returns to the
Southern California biker world six
months after he disappeared to Thai-
land. Upon returning home, he is
greeted by his furious girlfriend,

Shane (Monet Mazur), and a rival
gang whose drugs he lost to the
hands of the law.
The performances in "Torque"
are downright shameful. It seems
the priority was to create as attrac-
tive a cast as possible. To be fair to
the leading actors, however, the
script affords them little opportuni-
ty to shine. The dialogue is more
appropriate for a high school film
project than a big-budget Holly-
wood release.
"Torque" is not even able to find
salvation in its overdone special
effects. The final action sequence is
so poorly done that it looks more
like a videogame than a film. The
sound mixing is also indicative of
how little care was put into the mak-
ing of this film. There is a scene
where the characters' lips move and
yet there is no corresponding dia-
logue - only silence.
Producers Neil H. Moritz and
Brad Luff have managed to success-
fully continue their downward slide.
This return to their original formulas
of fast engines and attractive women
demonstrates that perhaps there is a
limit to such an appealing combo -
even with ever-expanding budgets.
From the shameless advertising of
Pepsi products to the characters'
injury-free survival of outrageously
dangerous stunts, "Torque" does not
hesitate to insult the intelligence of
the audience. Wasn't the lesson of
the 2003 summer film season that
the audience was not as stupid as
studio executives thought?

GERM-RIDDEN
STILLER, ANISTON FAIL TO FIND FORMULA FOR SUCCESS

By Vanessa Miller
Daily Arts Writer

stalker in pursuit
Ben Stiller has
clearly tried to
fill the shoes of
goofy male stars
like Bill Murray
and Steve Mar-
tin. But Stiller's
past few roles

of his former love,
Along Came
Polly
At Quality 16 and
Showcase
Universal

Having played a lovable nurse, a
brainwashed model, a rabbi and a

of his earlier gems, "Meet the Par-
ents" and "Zoolander."
Even with the great cast this film
seems to offer, the characters never
evolve, using the same jokes repeat-
edly in desperation to amuse the
audience. The usually brilliant Philip
Seymour Hoffman ("Magnolia"), for
example, who plays Reuben's best
friend, is sadly trapped in the role of
a thoroughly annoying, slovenly for-
mer actor. Aniston is able to create a
character that escapes being compa-
rable to Rachel of "Friends" and
would probably fare better in this
film if her counterpart, Stiller, didn't
play the sad loser he's played in most
of his other roles.
The many lessons that can be
learned from "Polly" shouldn't be
neglected: opposites do attract,
Azaria and Stiller's rear ends are
promising and the main character of
a film should never be given an irri-
table bowel system. But if your
search is for unique, original come-
dy, turn to a rerun of "Friends" or
one of Stiller's worthwhile come-
dies rather than this weekend's box-
office winner.

have ruined the beautiful momentum
he created in earlier projects like
"There's Something About Mary." In
his newest film, "Along Came
Polly," Stiller fails to flourish, and
instead, only manages trite humor
and an apathetic romance with a fer-
ret-owning hippie played by Jennifer
Aniston.
After his wife (Debra Messing)
cheats on him during their honey-
moon with a local nudist scuba
instructor (Hank Azaria), Reuben
(Ben Stiller) returns to the dating

Courtesy of Universal

Uh, no. I don't use any product in my hair at all, actually.

scene, only to reunite with a former
middle school friend, Polly (Anis-
ton). As their relationship forms, an
anticlimactic love story develops
between the high-strung risk analyst
and the nonchalant bohemian.
While "Polly" intends to be a cute,
fluffy love story, it is ultimately
mired by crude toilet humor

employed only to save it from its
own lack of energy. The film tries to
rely entirely on the clashing
lifestyles of Polly and Reuben for
conflict and humor, but instead sim-
ply provides flat caricatures. "Polly"
proves that comedic genius is indeed
elusive, as writer John Hamburg's
script pales in comparison to those

'Fortress' captures portrait of
political wars in 1970s New York

Chicago-based indie blues
artist returns with third LP

By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

By Matthew Grinshpun
Daily Arts Writer

'After a day of sparing Earth from impending
doom, even the Man of Steel needs a break. Retreat-
ing to the Fortress of Solitude in the Andean ice
fields, Superman spares himself
many of life's more taxing rig- The Fortress
ors. The Fortress
"The Fortress of Solitude," of Solitude.
Jonathan Lethem's latest entry By Jonathan
into the literary fray, is the story Letham
of a childhood spent fighting Doubleday
the battles that Superman is for-
tunate enough to sleep through. Dylan Ebdus, the
book's protagonist, grows up as one of the only
white children in the Gowanus housing projects of
1970s Brooklyn. His parents raise him as an experi-
ment, a product of their radical idealism.
Like most experiments, Dylan's upbringing does-
n't develop as planned. The hit song "Play That
Funky Music" hails the transformation of Dylan
into the neighborhood's "whiteboy," an obvious tar-
get for harassment. To complicate matters, the boy's
mother runs away, only to send home the occasional
postcard. The young hero's only respite from the

raging wars of politics, both racial and personal, is
in a magical ring that grants him superpowers.
While Lethem's premise, with its innovative use
of magical realism, holds great potential, it is often
poorly realized. Many of the book's promising char-
acters fade slowly into the recesses of the narrative,
or fall into unconvincing cliche. Even Dylan him-
self never seems consumed by much emotion. He is
a passive spectator, processing his surroundings
with an almost mechanistic indifference. As if to
compensate, the book's final 200 pages comprise a
confused, overwrought first-person account of an
adult Dylan.
Nevertheless, Lethem's rendition of the cultural,
political and material setting around his protagonist
reveals the writer's mastery of the English language.
He alternates flawlessly between long, flowing
streams of consciousness and concise blocks of
description. It is through his portrayal of Dylan's
milieu that Lethem showcases his stunning knowl-
edge of pop history, painting his allegories through
meticulous examinations of topics as varied as the
evolution of hip-hop culture to the tangled web of
relations between Marvel comic book characters.
Lethem splices, mixes and cuts his pop-culture
melange with the dead-shot precision of the rene-
gade DJs he so faithfully captures in text.
As a work of narrative fiction, "The Fortress of

LMus1c REVIEW
Long has indie rock avoided the jam.
"Be wary of the druggy excesses of the
Grateful Dead," say the sacred Pixie-
texts. "Speak naught of the wankish fri-
volity of Phish," warn the five Ramone
prophets. For the _.....__.._
most part, the Califone
peons have lis-
tened: Even as the Heron King
dance-punk Blues
denizens of NYC Thrill Jockey
show jammy ten-
dencies, there remains an aversion to
improvisation in the underground scene.
Califone, a craggy Chi-town quartet
that has made a career of spiking tradi-
tional Americana with found sounds, is
breaking the mold. Off the heels of
their Deceleration series, in which the
band improvised music for soundtracks
to short films, Califone sounds as loose
and spontaneous as anyone on the indie
circuit. Heron King Blues, their third
full-length album, seamlessly applies
improvisation to Tim Rutili's singular
songcraft.
The instrumentation isn't that of a
typical jam session. The drums bang
like discarded pots and pans, and key-
boards and white noise hold more sonic
space than the guitars. Rutili, an inno-
vative guitarist, takes little stabs at the
froth, letting his wayward blues erode
under the fuzz.

Solitude" is deeply flawed. Yet as a portrait of
Brooklyn in the 1970s, Lethem's prose exposes a
spellbinding intrigue as towering as the borough
itself. Unfortunately, Lethem leaves his readers
with a protagonist just as impenetrable as Super-
man's fortress.

While the extended instrumentation
of the title track and "2 Sisters Drunk
On Each Other" makes Heron King
unique, it is Rutili's songwriting -
hushed, melodic and vaguely familiar
- that keeps the album afloat. "Trick
Bird," the album's best track, sounds
like the Rolling Stones slowed down to
10 beats per minute. Tropical percus-
sion flirts with strangled guitars and
white noise as Rutili, sounding like a
prince singing through a miser's rags,
drops non sequiturs with a gorgeous
harmony backup. "Wingbone" and
"Lion and Bee" are similarly tuneful.
For all of its successes, Heron isn't
for Califone rookies. The songs, while
frequently inspired, aren't the band's
best, and the noisy jams will put off
weak stomachs. For well-adjusted
music fans however, Heron King Blues
has a lot to offer: Unique songcraft,
cracked Americana, and spacey,
refreshing improvisation.

COME TO THE ARTS ROOM TOMORROW AT 7 P.M. FOR OUR FIRST MASS MEETING OF 2003.
STUDENT PUBLICATIONS BUILDING, 420 MAYNARD ST.
WE'VE GCrT PUNCH AND PIE.

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Take a practice MCAT or
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