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March 29, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-29

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Monday
March 29,2004
arts.michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

ARTS

8A

a

Smith forgets himself in Jersey'
By Ryan Lewis
Daily Arts Writer
ME

At first glance, it would appear hon-
orable or even praiseworthy that direc-
tor Kevin Smith has decided to graduate
from hyper-dialogue-driven Jay and
Silent Bob comedies to a more cinemat-
ic romantic comedy form. A filmmaker
expanding his influence and proving his
diverse talents usually separates him
from mediocrity. However, "Jersey
Girl," Smith's first exploration into the
world beyond witty vulgarity, proves
only one thing for now: Stick with what
you're good at.
Smith's lofty intentions to make an

0

effectively emo-
tional picture
based on his
experiences as a
father, while
entertaining and
cute, fails to

Jersey Girl
At Quality 16 and
Showcase
Miramax

What's the matter, Col. Sanders ... chicken?

By Ryan
Daily Arts'

Any r
Guinnes
ble to tol
the Coe
Ladykill
years, an
erhouse
the cult d
Set in
combine
the eccei
Where A
face ap
Eleven,"
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Soderbe
of their 1
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Tom]
behind t.
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who lov
ning her
to unfold
Marva's1

CAPER CONUNDRUM
THE COEN BROTHERS REMAKE A CLASSIC
Lewis Ms. Munson discovers the plot, a new scheme hatches to
Writer make a clean break with the cash.
The team is comprised of some of the Coen brothers'
most colorful characters, the only fault arising in their over-
the-top caricatures. Marlon Wayans is hilarious in the role of
emake of a comedy classic starring the likes of Alec Gawain MacSam, the inside man. His quips and constant
s and Peter Sellers would be a hard sell. It's impossi- feuding with J.K. Simmons's character, Pancake, provide the
p, just on the basis of names - but don't tell that to laugh-out-loud moments. Simmons himself is wonderful, a
n brothers. Their remake of the 1955 gem "The demolition man with irritable bowel syndrome, and Irma
ers" is as darkly comedic and fun as they've been in Hall fits perfectly into the Coens' style.
ad thanks to the oddball, pow- Of course, there would be no film without Hanks. In his
performance of Tom Hanks, The return to the comedy days of old, his performance is as good
directors have returned to form. as ever in a role unlike any he's ever played. Finely balancing
Mississippi, this heist caper Ladykillers the hyperbolic tone with the evil cunningness of Dorr,
s the humor of "Fargo" with At Madstone, Hanks again proves that he deserves recognition as one of
ntri chaactrs o "OBroter, Showcase and
ntric characters of "0 Brother, Quality 16 the greatest actors of all time.
krt Thou?" While it has a sur- Touchstone For Joel and Ethan Coen, "The Ladykillers" proves what
pearance akin to "Ocean's "Intolerable Cruelty" couldn't: They can make a mainstream
it's really a character study of the quirkiest sort with Hollywood movie with all the style and signature touches
the finest performances yet this year. Like Steven that have made the rest of their catalogue so great. They have
rgh's remake, the actors appear to be having the time the menacing foil figure in the portrait of Marva's dead hus-
ives, and their joy in rendering their craft makes the band, the snappy dialogue with a penchant for silver-tongued
remely entertaining. pontification and the graceful camerawork of cinematogra-
Hanks stars as Prof. G.H. Dorr, the mastermind pher Roger Deakins. Additionally, the music comes from T-
he criminal enterprise. To begin his ingenious plot of Bone Burnett and Carter Burwell, the masterminds behind
a riverboat casino, he moves into the home of the the award-winning "O Brother" soundtrack.
old widow Marva Munson (Irma P Hall), a woman Though it might not be the Coens at their absolute best, it
es the church and hates the hippity-hop. After win- shows just how good they are even when not quite there.
over and assembling his crack team, the plan begins "The Ladykillers" relies completely on the interplay of its
d under the guise of a classical ensemble practice in characters, and the experience is as much fun as the Coens
basement. But when issues over the booty boil and must have had creating it.

evoke the sentiment it tries desperate-
ly to achieve. Even more disappoint-
ing, though, is the fact that, for the
first time in Smith's career, the humor
doesn't click. It's almost painful to
watch the sight gags and verbose chit-
chat fall short of the intelligent hilari-
ty that made "Clerks" and "Mallrats"
such independent successes. Before
the plot or characters ever have a
chance to win audience affection, the
signature Smith touches place it in a
sub-par category, somewhere in the
mediocrity he had hoped to avoid.
Invariably hindered yet buzz-worthy
due to the rocky relationship of its
stars, it becomes all too apparent in the
first 10 minutes that this is not a Ben
and J-Lo "Gigli" experience. While
birthing Ollie's (Ben Affleck) child, an
aneurism ruptures in Jennifer Lopez's
character, Gertie, leaving Ollie alone
to raise his baby girl. This forces the
young New York City socialite/publi-
cist to move in with his father, Bart
(George Carlin), and when raising

But Affleck was the bomb in "Phantoms!"
young Gertie causes Ollie to pull an
embarrassing Howard Dean moment,
he is left with no choice but to make
New Jersey his new home.
After a lengthy scene with Ollie
explaining to his baby why he's been a
bad father and how he'll change, cut to
seven years later when the father-
daughter dynamic is squeaky clean.
The main conflict of the story arises
when Ollie, yearning to return to the
city, tries to force his unwilling, cute-
as-a-button daughter (newcomer
Raquel Castro) to want to as well. He
also schedules a job interview during a
play that they, along with free-spirited
Maya (Liv Tyler), have been arduously
prepping for.
The title character of the film, Cas-
tro is the true pleasure on screen. Her
face is fresh and her acting often
shows up the overplayed Affleck. Nei-
ther Tyler nor Carlin, nor for that mat-
ter even Lopez, receive enough screen
time. Watching Affleck struggle
through the range of emotions is at
once impressive and also sad. He tries
so hard, often successfully, to perform
at the level he knows he can reach, but

it's so easy to find the faults and
almost painful to realize the extent to
which bad publicity can hinder his on-
screen image.
Smith deserves some credit, howev-
er, as the emotion teeters on effective-
ness. But when it should hit, it doesn't.
The budding romance between Ollie
and Maya is nothing more than forget-
table, and the conflict is so forced and
arbitrary that it's difficult to take seri-
ously. Unfortunately, Smith's long-
winded dialogue here serves only to
explain characters' feelings and choic-
es in unnecessary exposition. He is
perhaps also hindered by trying too
hard to move on and not trying hard
enough to remember what made him
so popular in the first place.
"Jersey Girl" is certainly a far cry
from the disaster that was "Gigli," but
it's also nowhere near what anybody
involved is capable of making. There
are some bright spots and notable
moments when Smith proves he can
venture beyond simple, snappy dia-
logue, and if he keeps at it, someday
there will be a "Jersey Girl" that
shows just how good he really is.

4

West-Coaster starts out th right Way
By Evan McGarvey
Daily Arts Writer

Sdwo
DMX delivers with performance in 'Alone'

By Hussain Rahim
Daily Arts Writer

DMX brings his music persona to
film again as he plays himself in his
newest vanity project, "Never Die
Alone." Although he manages to refrain

from using his
patented growl, he
couldn't resist
using the film's
soundtrack to
dump out two new
tracks. Despite all
of this, the film

Never Die
Alone
At Quality 16 and
Showcase
Bloodline

the source material. His focus on the
seedy underbelly of urban living trans-
lates well to the screen, and director
Ernest Dickerson ("Juice"), a longtime
cinematographer for Spike Lee, comes
into his own with a visually gritty and
well-focused directorial effort.
DMX plays King David, a vile drug-
runner who has just been released from
prison and has hazy intentions of find-
ing redemption. He obviously fails, as
he is shown in his coffin in the first shot.
However, the movie is able to maintain
the suspense lacking in many films that
open with a lead character's death.
An intriguing narrative device
recounts David's past through cassettes
left to an aspiring journalist, Paul,
(David Arquette) while the repercus-
sions of David's death reverberate
throughout the criminal underworld.
So much of the gangster genre wor-
ships at the alter of "Scarface," and

"Alone's" inability to stay away is where
it falters. Actual references to "Scarface"
and Tony Montana, along with the
proclamation that "this is not a Quentin
Tarantino movie" add a degree of refer-
entialism that isn't needed.
The acting of Arquette and DMX
isn't impressive, but it's realistic.
Arquette is the trust-fund white boy who
just can't stay out of Harlem and DMX
is the type of guy that would switch
heroin with coke to keep a girlfriend as
dependent on him as the drugs.
Goines himself was an addict who
wrote to support his addiction and
understood the trappings of the lifestyle.
So often these stories come off as glam-
orizations of the drugs-and-guns
lifestyle and miss the harsh reality that
is present. Goines was murdered at the
age of 36, and the film's ending is able
to give a bit of redemption that he him-
self wasn't able to find.

Whether it was the onslaught of squeaking synth-
lines and endless sewer-funk of the Deep South or the
haughty, opera-like sounds of the East, the West Coast,
long a bastion of commercial rap, has seen a slight dip
in popularity recently. G-Funk, the booming Los Ange-
les fusion of George Clinton and Dr. Dre, has taken a
backseat to the astral mash-up sounds of producers like
Timbaland and The Neptunes. It's getting tougher and
tougher to identify notable West Coast MCs not named
Snoop Dogg.
With the burden of a sinking culture placed on his
shoulders, Knoc-Turn'al attempts to _____________
restore the left coast to some of its Knoc-Turn'al
early '90s splendor.
At first glance, Knoc-Turn'al The WaylI Am
bears an eerie physical resemblance LA Confidential
to his predecessor, Snoop Dogg.
Both men have lean frames and an off-kilter, slighting
herky-jerky rhyming style. However, where Snoop
rounds out his vowels in a sly, debonair manner, Knoc-
Turn'al ejects each line with sandpaper grit. He's the
coyote to Snoop's jackal.
The disc is littered with booming, methodical West
Coast funk, provided by West Coast luminaries like
Scott Storch and Dre. Nate Dogg adds cobra silk charm
to the hooks of both "What We Do" and the bonus
track, "Him or Me." West Coast comrades Xzibit and
Warren G also help Knoc with some of the heavy lifting
on the album. Knoc's rap style, though deliberate and
often lazy, does sustain itself. He won't win any

Huk'd on Fonix werked fur meel

freestyle battles but he knows how to usher a listener
through a track.
His constant talk of California pride and jumping
Impalas over disciplined bass explosions is a disarming
throwback to early '90s Los Angeles. "The Way I Am,"
the lead single, could have been lifted right off any
early Warren G or Eazy E set. The infrequent missteps
are obvious. The droning noisemakers of "Love Slave"
fail, as do the pontifications of "Until the Day (A Soul-
jah Story)." Luckily, the usually strong melodies are
both refreshing and soothing.
On the album, Knoc states that this, his first full- length
effort, is the equivalent to the third Chronic album. While
this claim is a bit precocious, he's on the right track. This
is a fine debut, a slice of Cali gangster sunshine that feels
like the first step in a return to West Coast power.

somehow manages to be tense and sur-
prisingly entertaining.
The film's redemption from DMX
comes from the story by Donald
Goines, a popular black pulp-fiction
writer of the '70s whose novel serves as

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