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September 21, 2004 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-21

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September 21, 2004
arts. michigandaily.com



... .. .. .. . . . . .. . ................................ . ... .. .. .. ... .. .. .. ... .

By Sheila Merchant
For the Daily


Although tennis is meant to be a backdrop to a
romantic tale in the new movie "Wimbledon," it ends
up overstaying its welcome on center court.
The story follows Peter Colt (Paul Bettany, "Mas-
ter and Commander: The Far Side of the World"), a
washed-up tennis player who decides that he'll take
a job at a tennis club after he plays in his last tour-
nament, Wimbledon. The audience hears his com-
mentary - an overly convenient device to force a
back-story - on how he's too old to play, along with
his views on the nature of champions and what it
means to win. He also narrates
about how his parents don't sup-
port him and how they've grown Wimbledon
to hate each other. At Showcase
Arriving at his hotel at and Quality 16
Wimbledon, an administrative Universal
mix up lands him in the room
of Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten
Dunst), a rising star in the tennis world who's quickly
becoming notorious for her aggressiveness, both in
play and in dealing with the umpires. Their meeting
sparks an affair and catalyzes Peter's on-court prow-
ess, launching him back into the tournament.
Knowing the premise of the movie, it was to be
expected that the creators would use the natural
drama of the sport to an advantage, but as the film
progresses, they seem to use little else to support
the story. The side-story of the Colts, which, if it
were properly handled, could have added depth to
the otherwise thin plot, is aimless, serving no pur-
pose in the greater scope of Peter's story. The writ-
ers miss a golden opportunity, wasting the talented
Bernard Hill ("Lord of the Rings") and Eleanor
Bron ("Bedazzled") in underdeveloped and frivolous
parts. The equally underused Sam Neill, as Dunst's
father Dennis, is the classic overprotective father
who disapproves of Lizzie's relationship with Peter,
fearing she'll lose focus because she's actually fall-
ing for him.
The initial meeting of Lizzie and Peter is a cute
exchange, showcasing Dunst's lovability and Bet-
tany's subtlety. After some witty banter, they meet
for dinner. But the audience is left hanging and told
through various hints that they slept together. This


" " y'

Sure, Sure, Sure -..

woeful pattern continues throughout the movie.
There's a sense that the audience will get to see them
spend time together, see why they have chemistry
at all, see why they're falling in love, but then it's
cut short and a prompt retelling is included through
Peter's friend character, Dieter Proll (Nikolaj Coster-
Waldau, "Black Hawk Down"). The script allows for
no natural unfolding of the relationship; rather, it cuts
forward to push them into falling in love, forcing the
plot on the characters rather than letting them drive
the story.
The performances of Bettany and Dunst are admi-
rable considering the weak material and paper-thin
story, and their chemistry never seems forced. But
instead of building on their natural repartee, the
director, Richard Loncraine, pushes the tennis shots
to the forefront. Although some of the special effects
are well done, the constant shots centered on the ball
and the comical last point of the championship -
which looks like Globetrotter choreography - take
away from a climax that is floundering from a lack of
honest tension. Peter's rival and opponent in the final,
A.J. Hammond (Austin Nichols, "The Day After
Tomorrow"), is a complete jerk with no redeem-

ing qualities of any sort. If not for Peter's agent Ron
Roth's (Jon Favreau) comic embarrassment when his
cell phone goes off during a crucial point, and Dunst
and Bettany's emotional response in the final scenes,
the ending would have been even worse than the rest
of the film.
As a star vehicle for Dunst, akin to Julia Roberts's
"Notting Hill," she is terribly absent, appearing as
much as Coster-Waldau. Her character is rather one-
dimensional - she wants to win no matter what, and
when she doesn't, she conveniently lashes out at Peter
to temporarily break them up before the formulaic
Loncraine squanders the potential of the actors
and the possibilities of the script. The complete
predictability of every situation leaves the viewer
feeling unsatisfied. The over use of stock characters
- the fighting parents, the overprotective father, the
selfish agent, the scummy rival - do little to flesh
out the ordinary story. This film, while attempting
to be both a romantic tale and a tennis movie, fails
in both departments; it lacks the proper develop-
ment of a love story and the proper suspense for a
sports story.

Thne Emmys
T e Emmy Awards were this Sunday.
Did you watch? More importantly,
did you know they were on? Chances
are that you answered 'no' to both questions.
When a Sunday night lineup includes "The
Simpsons," the season premiere of "C.S.I.
Miami" and football on ESPN, the Emmys
aren't exactly a priority for most people.
It's supposed to be television's biggest
night of the year (after, of course, the Super
Bowl, the Olympics and the "Friends" fina-1
le). It's supposed to be "a magical night"I
where "the stars come out." It's supposed]
to have all the trappings associated with all
the other big awards shows.
Before settling in to watch, I wasn'tI
exactly optimistic. When compared to thei
Oscars and the Grammys, the Emmys are
kind of the runt of the awards show litter.,
The Oscars have Billy Crystal and thatI
whole "larger than life aura" about them,
so they feel like a must-see event and the
Grammys are always chock full of solid
performances. What do the Emmys have?1
There are no emotional speeches thanking1
the Academy and it seems like the same1
shows win every year. So why watch? I
For this year, at least, the answer wasa
simple: The Emmys got it right. The atmo-
sphere was perfect, but most importantly,
the winners were well-deserved.{
The Emmys have had problems in past
years. Last year, for example, there was noR
one person hosting the event, as 11 people
assumed the, master of ceremonies role,i
causing a disjointed show with no real flow.]
Fortunately, Garry Shandling returned tot
his hosting duties this year and provided1
the right combination of humor and humil- t
ity, especially in the hilarious skits through-!
out the program.
Still, the funniest of comedy can't save
the Emmys when the wrong shows win.
In past years, it seemed like all the biggest,i
most popular shows each get their year at
the top and then rotate so everybody gets
to win. That's how "Friends" won for Out-
standing Comedy Series a few years ago,
and it's how Jennifer Aniston won for Out-

get it right
standing Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
the same year. "Everybody Loves Ray-
mond" and "Frasier" have each had their
year on top as well. It seemed like this year
would be more of the same.
However, the biggest surprise of the
night occurred when the Outstanding
Comedy Series Emmy did not go to "Sex
in the City." Instead, it went to the FOX
series "Arrested Development." This was
big. It was the last season for "Sex and the
City" and the next-to-last for "Everybody
Loves Raymond." Instead of giving the
award to one of them for closure's sake, the
Academy chose a series that's brand new.
It puts the highly acclaimed show on the
map and gives it credibility.
Of course, the departing shows got their
moment to shine, but it was at the right
times. Sarah Jessica Parker won for Out-
standing Actress in a Comedy Series, but
she was the right choice as she was the face
and the heart of "Sex and the City." Fol-
lowing with the well-deserved trend, David
Hyde Pierce and Cynthia Nixon won in
the Supporting Actor and Actress catego-
ries for "Frasier" and "Sex and the City,"
However, there was still that pesky Out-
standing Drama Series Emmy to be given
out. For the past four years, "The West
Wing" had taken home the honor, unde-
servedly so in the last couple of years. "The
Sopranos" was poised to win. They knew
it. I knew it. "The West Wing" probably
knew it. But did the Emmys know it? Yes,
they did, as "The Sopranos" took home the
night's top honor, capping off a night where
old favorites got their glory, and newer pro-
grams claimed a spot at the top of the tele-
vision mountain.
All things considered, the Emmys were
a success. It hit the all the right notes and
re-established itself as an award show
worth watching. Thank you, Academy.
Join Doug's petition to get Tiffani
Thiessan a Lifetime Achievement Award.
E-mail him at dwernert@umich.edu.


Cuban loses sense of reality in 'The Benefactor'


By Nick Kochmanski
For the Daily

Ever since the advent of
vision, audiences have bee:
for Mark Cuban. Shouts

Cuban! Cuban!"
have echoed end-
lessly, throughout
the hills, streets
and valleys of the
earth, all in sup-
port of the self-
made millionaire


pletely around him, of course. Oh, and
also a little thing called $1 million.
Anyone who's ever seen a reality
TV series already knows the basic
premise behind Cuban's new show. A
group of perfect strangers are picked
reality tele- to compete, by any means necessary,
n clamoring for $1 million. The catch? Simply put,
of "Cuban! Mark Cuban. Aside from the basic
premise, Cuban, who hosts and con-
- trols the show, does absolutely nothing
The in accordance with traditional reality
iefactor TV laws. Never does Cuban explain
ays at 8 p.m. "the rules." He simply tells the con-
ABC testants that they are being watched
and always being judged.
What happens next, however, is what
ad humane makes this show so unique. Going out
-of, finally- on a limb, Cuban decides he is going to
how called eliminate one of the contestants right
ased com- off the bat. While audiences won't care

about seeing one of the money-grub-
bing Cubanites go - simply because
the only introduction the audience has
had to them so far is the opening head-
shot - it is truly a pleasure to watch
the grin slowly spread across Cuban's
slightly demented face as he names his
victim. The utter glee that emanates
from the millionaire's persona is sim-
ply grotesque.
Mark isn't satisfied with simply
eliminating one contestant per episode.
He wants more. Two more, in fact. Our
Benefactor then sets up a series of inter-
views to "get to know the contestants."
In these interviews Cuban uses all his
Internet-millionaire muscle to brow-
beat and otherwise bully the hopefuls
into revealing some sort of weakness.
It is at this point in the show that
audiences realize "The Benefac-

By Jaya Soni
Daily Arts Writer

'LAX' soars for NBC


Cuban's latest noble an
endeavor: his long-dreamt
realized quest of a TV s
"I ne Benefactor." It's b

Courtesy ot ABC
My name is Tony and I work at DQ.
tor" lacks all forms of drama usually
present in a reality show. It is already
painfully obvious that Mark is simply
planning on picking the one contestant
he likes most. This game is simply an
excuse for the show to give $1 million
away on national television. Not even
the "challenges" are up to snuff, when
the final deciding factor between elim-
ination and another day on the show is
a game of Jenga filmed in what appears
to be Cuban's own basement.
Even with all these shortcomings,
however, this show is pure entertain-
ment. Cuban's antics rival those of any
other character on television. Watching
him explain, with obvious and down-
right childish pride, the reasoning
behind his decisions is comic candy.
The utter unpredictability of the show
is also a plus: Audiences never know
what will happen next.
"The Benefactor" promises to be
pure, unpredictable, unending trash;
utter schlock. In other words, it's
exactly what it intends to be.

Move over "E.R.," NBC has found
a new way to combine several intense,
highly stressful situations into an hour lo
ng drama that will leave viewers ques-
tioning, "Does this really happen?" This
show is the compel-
ling drama "LAX," LAX
and it is a welcome
addition to Monday Mondays at
din -n

night television.
"LAX" revolves
around the hectic

lu p.M.

pandemonium, the audience can choose
which suspenseful situations to engage
themselves in. The show is anchored by
the professional competition between the
runway director, Harley Random (Heath-
er Locklear), and the terminal director,
Roger De Souza (Blair Underwood). As
is characteristic of most high-suspense
dramas, the relationship between the two
is aggressive and sexual.
However, more endearing relationships
form between other characters, which will
leave the audience with a sense of attach-
ment to vulnerable characters such as Nick
(David Paetkau, "Disturbing Behavior"), a
brand-new immigrations officer. In the pilot
episode, Nick shows his inexperience by
allowing an attraction to a suspected drug
smuggler get in the way of his professional
duties. Though the premise is intriguing,
the relationship borders on patronizing,
and the situation portrays Nick as posses-
sive instead of heartwarming.
"LAX" has all the right signs of a strong
program, and can only be helped with
Heather Locklear in the cast, who has been
successful in recent TV endeavors such as
"Spin City" Providing that the writers can
keep up with the dramatic possibilities,
audiences will be intrigued to see the com-
plexity of this familiar travel locality.

Los Angeles International Airport, and the
daily chaos which arises from passengers,
staff and even baggage. The series literally
commences with a bang. The current direc-
tor of LAX commits suicide by standing in
the path of a departing jet, leaving his life
and coveted position. During the same day,
the airport prepares for the arrival of the
governor of California, while dealing with
possible explosives left in an abandoned
suitcase. Similar to "E.R.," the drama also
depicts micro-scale plots associated with
employees in all sections of the airport.
Because "LAX" conveys a potpourri of


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