10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 15, 2004
Sprinkle some crack on him and let's get out of here.
Another taut Mamet
thriller in 'Spartan'
By Hussain Rahim -
Daily Arts Writer I
F L. T fir-T)
I I LY. ..' _' _ I .
David Mamet, one of the foremost
playwrights of our era, as well as the
man responsible for weaving such
unyielding stories as "Glengarry
Glen Ross" and "Wag the Dog," con-
tinues a remarkable career with his
latest effort, "Spartan," a tense polit-
Val Kilmer stars as the mysterious
mentor, Scott, a lone-wolf U.S. agent
who is assigned to help retrieve the
fashion-savvy kidnapped daughter of
before the news Spartan
hits the press.
Derek Luke Qtwasnn
("Antwone Fish- Showcase
er") fills the pro- Warner Bros.
tege role as the
rookie agent, Curtis, who tags along
for a bit of on-the-job training, as
they search for the First Daughter.
Never hindered by those pesky
Miranda rights, Luke and Kilmer
know no obstacles as they doggedly
pursue their mission. And like
Mamet's other stories, things don't
go quite as they should, nor are they
as they seem as the twists and turns
Minus the fat of the inconsequen-
tial opening sequence, the film has a
minimalist directional quality that
keeps the narrative lean and moving.
The lighting is natural, the sets are
bare-bones and no more information
is given than needed.
Although "Spartan" has the neces-
sary elements of an action-espionage
film - namely violence and clan-
destine G-men - this is not a movie
that focuses on pretty explosions or
verbose characters. Instead, sub-
plots, the unsaid and the peripheral
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
Few games for the original Nintendo system,
outside of its established franchises, are as
fondly remembered as
"Ninja Gaiden" and its two
sequels. Tecmo, the makers Ninja Gaiden
of the series, have basically XBox
left the classic saga dormant Tecmo
since consoles evolved.
Although Ryu Hayabusa, the main character,
appeared in the "Dead or Alive" fighting games,
"Ninja Gaiden" had yet to grace any of the next
generation systems - until now. "Gaiden" is
back and has become the best action game
The spiritual successor to the originals,
"Gaiden" takes the franchise into a fully 3-D
world. Gamers control Ryu as he attempts to
recover an ancient sword stolen from his family.
This adventure takes players into a diverse array
of levels - some evoke feelings of feudal
Japan, while others bring the game into a futur-
istic metropolis. Complimenting the setting is a
wide assortment of weapons, ranging from
swords to nunchuks.
The game unfolds into different chapters,
each with at least one boss character. Hearken-
ing back to old-school action games, boss bat-
tles are epic and unfold in a theatrical manner.
Controlling the game is a breeze. Ryu runs
l~ Courtesy of
' and I'm
across walls, fights off hordes of enemies and
solves puzzles, all with the controls respond per-
fectly. Every weapon, spell and counter attack
works, even under the most dire of circumstances.
The lush and expansive graphics blow away
any competition on the XBox. Ryu moves fluid-
ly and with the grace expected of a deadly
ninja. Blood gushes out of foes and heads roll
as Ryu slices and dices the demonic ninjas that
challenge him. The character design and indi-
vidual animations all feature painstaking detail.
Even the most basic foot soldier has multiple
Despite minor technical glitches, "Ninja
Gaiden" is a forceful, dynamic game that cer-
tainly redefines the action genre for a whole
new generation of fans.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Personally, I like "Duck Hunt" more.
Therenis a single-minded urgency
to the mission, captured well by Val
Kilmer. Portraying the infallible,
dark anti-hero with just a few speck-
les of compassion left is always a
delicate line to tread, but Kilmer
walks it nimbly.
The film's weakness comes not
from the actors, but from Mamet
himself. The dialogue is leaden in
places and takes on a bit more
weight than needed. Spartan has the
heft of a film noir without the bal-
ance to make the emotional aspects
believable. Tia Texada ("Third
Watch") begs for more time, and a
larger role would have helped flesh
out Kilmer's character more.
Always political and relevant,
Mamet molds a tense story that one
cannot help imagining taking place
in today's political landscape.
Engaging and focused, this film will
please Mamet fans as well as anyone
else who ventures forth for some
'Agent Cody Banks' disappoints royally in London
By Jennie Adler
Daily Arts Writer
While Hilary Duff has moved on
to more substantive dramatic parts,
Frankie Muniz (TV's "Malcolm in
the Middle") is
still playing the
title role of
Banks - and he
still looks all of
12 years old. In
At Showcase and
slipped into the hands of a corrupt
Most of the gadgets in "Destina-
tion London" are reminiscent of
those in typical spy movies, but
Muniz isn't suave enough to use
them in true fashion. Throughout
the entire movie he is capable only
of two different facial expressions:
shocked and anxious. With his
mouth agape and eyes scrunched,
it's amazing that he's supposed to
pass for a secret agent. Of course, it
doesn't help that Muniz is sur-
rounded by a host of sub-par actors.
As the villain, for example, the
supposed diabolical Diaz (Keith
Allen) relies too much on grunting
and threats of breaking vases to
instill any real fear. As Banks's fel-
low member of the orchestra, Emily
(Hannah Spearitt) is a lousy Hilary
Duff replacement. Spearitt's acting
capabilities fall short of being
believable, but she's not the worst.
Anthony Anderson ("My Baby's
Daddy"), as Bank's mentor Derrick,
contributes nothing valuable to the
movie besides his humorously enor-
Amidst poor acting and even
poorer physical humor, it's hard to
find a redeemable scene in the
movie. Near the end, however, there
is a sequence wo- th mentioning:
the crosscutting between the orches-
tra playing Edwin Starr's "War" and
Banks fighting Diaz. The scene's
timing is good enough to make it
the most climactic and promising
point in the movie, and it doesn't
hurt that there's no dialogue.
Despite all of the shortcomings
of "Destination London," it has
plenty of enjoyable action
sequences and can be, for what it's
worth, a relatively entertaining pre-
If there's going to be a third mis-
sion for Agent Cody Banks,
though, Muniz needs to mature
greatly and find himself a support-
ing cast with decent talent. It could
also be beneficial for all those
involved to take cues from Bond
and their other more notable spy
Banks: Destination London,"
Muniz's character, disguised as a
youth orchestra member, spies
around England's capital, trying to
find a mind-controlling device that
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