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January 07, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-01-07

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 7, 2004

ART S

6

Roberts' latest effort lacks 'Smile'

By Vanessa Miller
Daily Arts Writer

"Mona Lisa Smile" tries to shine an
empowering light on how far women
have come in the past 50 years, espe-
cially within the realm of education,
but is done with a lack of creativity.
As compared to the classic "Dead
Poets Society," "Mona Lisa Smile"
truly does not deserve such a grand
comparison with the trite fable.
Weighed down with stereotypical
characters and predictability, this
heart-warming tale of a liberal
teacher's (Julia Roberts) journey to
Wellesley, a top-notch women's col-

lege, in order to
inspire and
change the lives
of others fails to
deliver. Of course,
conflict is met as
Katherine
(Roberts) discov-

Mona Lisa
Smile
At Madstone and
Showcase
Sony

a
I

Courtesy of Sony

Courtesy or Dreamworks

No, I will not make out with you.

'HOUSE' RULES
CONNELLY AND KINGSLEY FIGHT IN EMOTIONAL THRILLER

ers these women are simply getting
ready for their futures as housewives,
with no desire to learn beyond the
constraints of their textbooks.
Katherine's students fulfill the
cliched group of young teens shown
in most films; there is the slut, (Mag-
gie Gyllenhaal, "Secretary"), the
stuck-up bitch (Kirsten Dunst), the
sophisticated brain (Julia Stiles), and
the less-attractive nerd (Ginnifer
Goodwin, "Ed"). Gyllenhaal shines
and is able to make the 1950 promis-

i know how to make Mona Lisa smile ...
cuous college student lovable by using
her innocent sexy charm to stand out
against the other girls. Dunst and
Stiles give flat performances, with lit-
tle dramatic edge except for sporting
upper-crust New England accents.
Newcomer Goodwin makes us truly
care for her role as Connie, by being
the only real character that isn't over-
contrived, producing the heart this
film claims to have.
Roberts is obviously cast in this role
in an attempt to add star power to the
film. She fits perfectly as the caring
teacher, but lacks the qualities of
being the liberal California woman

who is the complete opposite of her
students. This bad judgment in casting
ruins the energy the film could've had.
"Mona Lisa Smile" is a well-made
film and entertaining, encasing
heartache, inspiration and friendship
in a neat little package that doesn't
take any risks. In this film about the
tribulations of the woman's movement
and the bitter realities of woman who
were blind to the movement, a more
innovative approach is needed than
putting Julia Roberts in the unthink-
able role of a single woman who
astonishingly overcomes her sur-
roundings.

By Justin Weiner
Daily Arts Writer

Though it will likely be considered during the upcom-
ing awards season, "House of Sand and Fog" will not
make all theater patrons happy. Almost as bleak as it is
tragic, the film is a powerful but depressing account of a
conflict over a simple, run-down San Francisco home.
Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly, "Hulk") is a recover-
ing drug addict, living alone in her deceased father's
home. A mistake by the county leads to her eviction, after
which the house is put up for auction. Massoud Behrani
(Ben Kingsley, "Sexy Beast"), a for-
mer colonel in the Shah's Iranian
army, buys the home as an invest- House of
ment to help support his struggling Sand and Fog
family. Lester (Ron Eldard, "Black At Madstone
Hawk Down"), a seemingly normal Dreamworks
police officer, befriends Cathy and
attempts to help her reclaim her home. Pleading becomes
harassment, and the characters are drawn into a devastat-
ing conflict.
Throughout "House of Sand and Fog" the characters
are flawed, yet ordinary. At first, they act in a reasonable,
seemingly appropriate manner and come across as rather
normal. The amazing aspect of this story is the way in
which their actions lead to unimaginable horrors. One can
see the tragedy approaching, but the story forces viewers
to ponder its exact causes.
The conflict gradually escalates and is both haunting
and compelling, simultaneously. This part of the story
is also augmented by director Vadim Perelman's alter-
nation between gritty, real scenes and dream like
images of the fog and the house. This cinematography
conveys the power of the story while not compromising
the film's realism.

Full '1'auberge' makes for sexy comedy

By Katie Marie Gates
Daily TV/New Media Editor

Couresy or ureamworks

No means no.

Terrific performances from the cast, Kingsley in partic-
ular, also add to the compelling nature of "House of Sand
and Fog." Massoud's interactions with his son define the
character and Kingsley executes these scenes perfectly.
Its heartbreaking nature becomes the only drawback to
"House of Sand and Fog." The tragedy is so complete that
it detracts from one's enjoyment of the film.
However, one can derive pleasure from sad films,
and there is plenty to adhere to in "House of Sand and
Fog." It plays out almost like a Greek tragedy, with the
small, common faults of each character leading to the
catastrophic battle of wills. Just as one can take pleas-
ure in reading "Antigone," one can enjoy this movie by
reflecting on the characters' flaws, and their ultimate
culmination.

DVD REVIEW
In hopes of improving his Spanish,
Xavier (Romain Duris, "Le Divorce"),
a young French student, enrolls in an
exchange program to spend a year
studying in Barcelona, Spain. After a
homeless beginning, he is instantly
attracted to the ___________
five tenants of ,
"L' A u b e r g e LAuberge
Espagnole" (the Espagnole
Spanish Apart- 20th Century Fox
ment), each from
a different country: Spain, Germany,
England, Italy and Denmark. Xavier
finds a home with the diverse cast of
characters in this intoxicating comedy
that examines friendship, love and the
messes of life.
While the new DVD cover may
highlight Audrey Tautou ("Amelie") as
headliner of this French film, her mini-
mal part as Xavier's girlfriend (Mar-

Eoursts Bof 20th Cenury rox
Es ia historla verdadera de siete amigos gastando tiempo juntos en Barcelona.

tine) is actually less impressive than
the apartment ensemble. Whether
speaking in English, Spanish or their
native tongues, the lively crew is love-
able and amusing.
The disc offers fullscreen and
widescreen presentation and the option
of French or Spanish language with
French, Spanish or English subtitles
but contains no special features. A

look at the production of this film in
the beautiful city of Barcelona and
background information on the true
identities of the diverse cast would
have nicely complimented "L'Auberge
Espagnole."

Film: ****
Picture/Sound: ****
Features: No stars

4

Vida's debut novel explores notion of mortality

By Bonnie Kellman
Daily Arts Writer
BOOK RE.VI E.W * *
If a man wearing Giorgio Armani glasses holds
a gun to your head on a bench in the park but nei-
ther physically harms nor robs you, are you a vic-
tim? After a suicidal man does such a thing to her,
Ellis, a graduate student at _..._......_
Columbia University, desper- And Now
ately searches for an answer You Can Go
to this question throughout
"And Now You Can Go," a By Vendela Vida
novel by Vendela Vida. With Alfred A. Knoff
the gun pressed to her head,
she manages to restore the man's faith in life by
arguing the merits of art and reciting bits of poetry,
but she loses her own faith in the process.
Such a beginning can easily fall into the trap of
the clich6 near-death experience followed by a
sudden spiritual revelation. Although Vida's novel
totters dangerously close to this precipice, the

author is careful to stay away from the sentimen-
tality that would have made such a story unbear-
able. Vida's prose is fast and witty, sprinkled with
sharp insights into human nature. It immediately
draws the audience in and holds them hostage in
the fascinatingly twisted world she creates for the
next 50 pages.
But Vida's best asset, her prose, soon becomes
tiresome as it follows Ellis through her struggle to
readjust to life. The protagonist is overcome by the
loneliness that isolates everyone around her. In
response, she pushes away her attentive boyfriend
and seeks solace with a string of lovers that remain
distant and unnamed, including a rough ROTC boy
and a red-faced Representative of the World. The
prose remains sharp and quick throughout the
affairs, but Vida is a little bit too successful at cut-
ting out all the unnecessary explanations of Ellis'
emotional readjustment. Although the writing
reflects the protagonist's emotional detachment
from the other characters, it leaves the reader at a
cold distance from her as well.
When Ellis makes it home to San Francisco for

the holidays, her mother convinces her to go on a
charitable trip to the Philippines with a group of
doctors from the hospital where she works.
Although Vida's prose saves Ellis from having the
cliche spiritual revelation, she does undergo an
undefined fundamental change as she hands out
stuffed animals and sunglasses to a crowd of clam-
oring Filipinos.
By the time Ellis returns to Columbia, the story
has lost its direction, leaving the reader unsure
what exactly the plot or the point of the novel was.
Ellis undergoes another whirlwind of not-quite-
meaningful encounters with the ROTC boy and the
Representative of the World. Then, shortly after
she is reunited with her best friend from her under-
graduate days, the loose ends of all of Ellis' unre-
solved relationships come together as she faces the
man in the Giorgio Armani glasses once again.
Unfortunately, Vida fails to tie them all together in
a satisfying knot.
"And Now You Can Go" is a commendable first
novel that shows great promise under its rough
edges.

S HORT TAKE
MISSION MO IBE
OPERATON SURMA
PS2, XBox. AECB
ATAR[
W~hile the latestitllmet i
the stealth game genre isn't a
tremendous one, it isnt a total miss
either. Mission qmps4le: per
ation Surma" feature sme linear
gamelay that may n~ot excite hard-
ene d spy game 'fans, b~ut it does'
provide eneugh* pkayabilit omke<
itan ejyble o nrh.j
Gamers take on the ro e <f
Ethan Hunt, M:l Qpeative .n .a;
mission that delves into seret and
espionage typia fth fa
Ethan is equipped wihg
ranging from tracking devices to
binoculas that enable him to
in on peoples conversations. The
wealth of tools allows Ethan to sli
past guards under the cuver of
darknes otak themiuM+:a -
out assault a la "Des Ex." Gad-
gets and weapons are usually only
one button away or activated aute-
matically when the situation aises.
Unfortunately, "Operation
Surna" does throw in a few quirks
to the gameplay that detract from
the overall story. One is Ethan's
ability to disappear under shadow
When the protagonist climbs into a
shadowy area, a meter appears.
Once the meter reaches its peak,
Ethan becomes invisible to enemy
characters. It's a gimmick that
gives the game a very artificial
feel; enemies will {walk right byr
Eth without even the slightest bit
of recognition.
Another is Ethan's ability to, t
once he is spotted and enemies
sound the alarm, turn off the siren
by using an alarm deactivation box
Therefore, players can run around
an entire base, shoot at guards, acti-
vate trip alarms but simply end it

4

'NCAA March Madness 2004' is not quite ready for the Big Dance

By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Writer

EA Sports is the decisive leader in
sports videogames, but the new install-
ment in its NCAA basketball franchise
has the polish and precision missing.
As many improvements as "March

Madness 2004" has over its predeces-
sors, it still is not up to par with the
other games in the EA Sports family.
The presentation of the game is stan-
dard EA fare with the menus and intros
immediately recognizable by fans of
any sports game. Yet, "March Mad-
ness" comes up short even when the
game first loads because the standard
school intros, like the ones in "NCAA

Football 2004," are noticeably lacking
most big time programs. This grievance
could be overlooked if the gameplay
and the rest of the features were com-
parable to EA's phenomenal football
series, but it's not.
Gameplay has been tweaked and is
much stronger in this year's outing,
but it's still neither equivalent to EA's
own "NBA Live" series, nor as

refined as the football series. New
control options enable players to
choose between shooting and doing
lay-ups/dunks by assigning a different
button for each. This addition is one of
the major successes in the action but is

hampered by slow
gameplay and
glitch - filled
graphics.
Graphically,
"March Madness
2004" looks

NCAA
March
Madness
2004
PS2 and XBox
EASports

I

extremely
toonish

car-
when

800 feet of Gulf Beach Frontage " 2 Large Outdoor Swimming Pools
Sailboat, Jet Ski & Parasail Rentals " Lazy River Ride & Water Slide
Huge Beachfront Hot Tub . Volleyball . Suites up to 12 people
World's Longest Keg Party " Live Band & DJ
Wet T-Shirt, Hard Body & Venus Swimwear Contests

compared to the more realistic basket-
ball games on the market. Further
complicating the gameplay is constant
slowdown, which occurs on almost
every change in possession. While
college games cannot feature the real
likenesses of players or real names,
"March Madness" fails to even come
close to capturing the real players'

E.

Counesy ofEA Sports

Can I get a lay-up?

Sports title. There are also no rewards

19

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