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September 27, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-27

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 27, 2004 - 9A


By Trevor Campbell and Forest Casey
Daily Arts Writers
The year was 2001; the hype was deafen-
ing. On March 28, British developer Lion-
head Studios, lead by visionary producer
Peter Molyneux, was set to release "Black
& White," a largely conceptual game based
on morality. For the first time, players could

assume the role of a
lowly god, with the free
decision to be benevolent
or vengeful. Sadly, the
public largely rejected
"Black & White," not for-
giving its much-delayed


daily life is presented in a series of seeming-
ly unimportant tasks. Even in the course of
getting his sister a birthday present, the main
character (who is referred to only as "hero")
must make fundamental moral decisions.
Should he rummage through desks and dress-
ers to find the gold coins necessary to buy the
present or should he earn them through good
These same types of moral questions are
posed through the entire game. Whether it
be a choice between protecting local trad-
ers by fending off bandits or by enlisting in
their ranks or by doing something immensely
evil (offering the traders protection and then
slaughtering both them and the bandits to get
the goods yourself) - "Fable" shows itself to
be astonishingly open-ended.
Just as the hero is beginning to grow older
and stronger, a pack of bandits sack the town,
kill his father and capture his mother and sis-
ter. With nothing left to live for, the hero joins
a guild and begins training for his ultimate
revenge. Certainly this story path has been
trod to death, but the way it is presented (with
animated cutscenes telling the story through
austere paintings) is something totally new
- Lionhead's welcome take on the classic
story of revenge.
Despite the fantastical plot of heroism that
the game follows, "Fable" is full of the things
that make up much of life. Heroes can wed,

divorce, have sex and even consume a few
alcoholic beverages here and there. To help
heroes keep track of their exploits, an exten-
sive page of statistics keeps track of all of the
player's personal exploits ranging from the
farthest the hero has ever kicked a chicken to
his drinking tolerance level. The sharp atten-
tion to even the most minute detail pushes the
idea that "Fable" is more centered on the indi-
vidual story rather than the overblown soap
opera that is the standard for so many other
role playing games.
While most other videogame scores drown
amid the virtual sea of computer-synthe-
sized, lackluster attempts to provide noth-
ing more than mood music, "Fable" clearly
sets itself apart. Movie music mogul Danny
Elfman composed the melodious creativity
enclosed within this tale by using the game
as fuel for his art. As "Fable" progresses, the
gamer chooses their side of morality and the
music changes accordingly. Should the hero's
path be laden with slaughter and thievery, the
composition becomes frightening and eerie,
but should he abide by town laws, and help
out citizens, the score is full of cheery flutes
and songs of sparrows in the distance.
One of the stand-out features of this game
are its fight sequences. Beasts like the were-
wolf-like Balverines are quick and require
an extremely high frame-rate to create their
fluid movements. Astonishingly, their agile

CoUrtesy o1 fMcrosoft

I need you to be totally honest with me. Do you like my Fu Manchu?

release date and lofty concepts that didn't
make it into the final release.
Thankfully for their devotees, Molyneux
and Lionhead simply focused the missed
opportunities of "Black & White" on a new,
much more ambitious game. "Fable" has had
three different names in the course of its
development. Its gestation started long before
that of the Xbox, and, in many ways, the
hype surrounding its release has been more
inflated than that of its predecessor. And yet,
"Fable" still tackles many of the moral issues
that made its predecessor so unique.
As "Fable" opens, the main character's

motions have little to no shakiness, and more
impressive, there is rarely any lag for the
gaming engine to catch up with the player's
controls. Unlike other RPGs, "Fable" is more
like an action game in sheep's clothing - the
combat is all real-time and mapped to the
Every new graphics-related advance-
ment seems to have been incorporated into
"Fable." Luminosity radiates off of the
weapons and the magic, normal mapping
covers the land of Albion in breathtaking
forest, whimsical knolls and haunting dun-
geons. The entire game carries a theme of

lighthearted fantasy that is lacking in many
of today's serious RPGs.
If only the game wasn't 10 hours long (the
30-hour estimates must factor in a replay
with the opposite morality); if only the load
times weren't so frequent; if only it was more
challenging, "Fable" would have been Game
of the Year instead of Game of the Last Few
"Fable" is epic without being over-the-top.
It is massive without being crowded, and it just
happens to be the best action game released
as an RPG this year. Believe the hype - go
play "Fable."



Paper-thin plot, characters
sink Holmes' comeback

Wood art displayed at
University Museum

By Marshall W. Lee
For the Daily

In the spring of 2004, after the con-
trived and convoluted Mandy Moore
dud "Chasing Liberty" was slammed
by critics and, ignored by audiences,
20th Century Fox and producer Jeffrey
Downer decided to delay the release of
their similarly themed "First Daugh-

ter" until the fall.
If only they had
pushed it back a bit
further, perhaps 30
years or so, maybe
this schmaltzy,
lumbering snooze-
fest would have
had stood a chance

Quality 16
Twentieth Century Fox

superb films as Jim Jarmusch's samu-
rai-gangster flick "Ghost Dog: The Way
of the Samurai" and David Fincher's
"Panic Room." Unfortunately, in recent
years Whitaker appears to have found
a comfortable niche directing heavy-
handed romantic duds like "Waiting to
Exhale" and "Hope Floats."
Katie Holmes, who proved to be a
lovely and charming actress in 2000's
"Wonder Boys" and last year's indie
hit "Pieces of April", stars as Samantha
Mackenzie, an 18-year-old beauty who
has spent her entire life as a good, sweet,
devoted daughter, smiling loyally at the
side of her parents (Michael Keaton and
Margaret Colin) as they campaign for
public office. Now it is time for Saman-
tha to go off to school and she enrolls at
the University of Redmond, 3,000 miles
from the nation's capital, in hopes of
experiencing college life as "just a nor-
mal girl."
Surprise; surprise, things don't work
out quite as expected and miserable
Samantha begins to rebel against the
watchful eye of her secret service detail,
sneaking about campus with her fun-
loving, handsome resident advisor (Blu-
cas). Holmes and Blucas fall madly in
love over the course of what appears to
be a single afternoon, and their roman-
tic misadventures entail a mind-numb-
ing procession of staged "spontaneous"
collegiate moments. One example: At
James's insistent urging, Samantha
reluctantly agrees to eat popcorn and

cour tes fzutI I ,en tury VA
So what are 'you gonna do now that your film career Is over?

as a midnight movie, with drunken
rowdy cross-dressers clad in blue biki-
nis screaming obscenities at a smirking
Katie Holmes. Hollywood, however,
lacks this kind of prescience.
The movie, which stars Holmes as
a precocious and dutiful teenage first
daughter leaving the White House
behind for a fictional California col-
lege, is all heart and no head, making its
points slowly and laboriously as Holmes
and co-star Marc Blucas (TV's "Buffy
the Vampire Slayer") plod through 100
minutes of predictable romantic comedy.
The movie is directed by Forest Whita-
ker, the once-inspired actor of such

chocolate candies together, at the same
time. "It's disgusting; I like it!" she
The film's surprise twist, which
won't surprise anyone (even those who
didn't see the exact same device used in
"Chasing Liberty"), leads to a formu-
laic third act in which Samantha must
become depressed, resolute and then
depressed again before she can finally
find herself. Even worse, the movie ends
on a muted, melancholy note, leaving
Samantha alone and the audience unset-
tled; after dolling out nearly two hours
of hackneyed cliches, the film denies its
audience that final upbeat cliche which
they have earned.
In the lead, Holmes blithely grins

her way through the film, underlying
each unconvincing moment with wide-
eyed enthusiasm. The script (penned
by comedic actor Jerry O'Connell and
unknown Jessica Bendinger) is espe-
cially poor, and the supporting cast
of cut-and-paste characters - Blucas,
Keaton and newcomer Amerie Rog-
ers as the bitchy, man-hungry roomie
with a "you go girl!" tenacity -often
seem adrift in a world of two-dimen-
This film is a disastrous assertion of
Hollywood's willingness to ignore and
repeat its own mistakes, and one can
only hope that the lovely Katie Hol-
mes will escape the film unscathed and
return to more intelligent adult fare.

By Natalia lacobelli
For the Daily
Carved wood art is an old but power-
ful tradition. The University of Michigan
Museum of Art's wood art collection,
"Nature Transformed: Wood Art from the
Bohlen Collection," is an exhibit that dem-
onstrates the developments of wood art by
revealing a contemporary twist to tradi-
tional pieces.
The exhibit is divided into three sections:
"The Vessel Unleashed," "Sculptural Ten-
dencies" and "Allusions to Nature." Each
section is graced with an abundance of art
whose radical colors
and unconventional N
shapes will inevita- Nature
bly please the naked Transformed
eye. The pieces Runningthr h
maintain a tradition- Octoer r
al and native look,F
but are virtually Free
intended for simple UM Museum of Art
house decorations.
"The Vessel Unleashed" holds works
of art that epitomize the contemporary
artist's escape from the traditional ves-
sel. The displayed entities exist as objects
rather than containers. The very first ves-
sel that one sees in the exhibit, "Untitled,"
is made of Norfolk Island pine, mahogany
and oxidized copper tacks. The simple list
of resources used, make the artifact con-
vey the extremity of the piece. Normally, a
vessel is intended to be held and interacted
with. This one. however, transmits the
opposite invitation. The hundreds of bright
turquoise tacks projecting out of the ves-
sel present a rather witty juxtaposition (or
down right contradiction).
"Sculptural Tendencies" displays art-
work that moves away from the previ-

ous vessels and becomes unpredictable
wooden sculptures. "Prairie Avenue,"
made from butternut and oil paint, is a
three-dimensional canvas that illustrates
urban scenery. Here, a flat piece of wood
has been transformed into a meticulously
textured 3D relief. The piece focuses on a
house on Prairie Avenue in Chicago whose
front steps and front door almost strangely
invite the viewer to continue observation.
Although the trees surrounding the house
are not physically present, their cleverly
painted shadows contribute a greater sense
of space to the piece.
"Eruption Shield #3," made of jarrah
burl, acrylic paint and gold leaf, is a cap-
tivating circular piece that seems to have
three distinct layers. With a wooden center
that looks like a broken, enlarged nut shell
and shiny, almost glittery gold and bronze
paint along the border, the viewer's eyes are
constantly moving to take it in as a whole.
"Allusions to Nature," the final display
of the exhibit, makes the often neglected
connection between material and our natu-
ral surroundings. The precise earth-tone
color scheme of this display truly ties the
viewer to nature.

Counesy o

Alexander fails again as 'Listen' falls on deaf ears

By Kevin Hollifield
Daily Arts Writer

Don't look now, but the "Seinfeld" curse may be
continuing. With the abysmal "Bob Patterson" a
distant memory, Jason Alexander returns with the
predictable family comedy "Listen Up."
Based on the life of Washington Post colum-
nist and TV personality Tony
Kornheiser (ESPN's "Pardon
the Interruption"), "Listen Up" Listen Up
features Alexander as Tony Mondays at
Kleinman (squint and they look 8:30 p.m.
alike), a newspaper columnist CBS
and co-host of a sports talk
show, also called "Listen Up."
Think "Dave's World" meets "King of Queens,"
starring a married George Costanza.
Kleinman gets no respect from his family. His
children pay him no attention; his son Mickey
(Will Rothhaar) is a golf prodigy aloof to his

father and Kleinman's daughter Megan (Daniella
Monet) shows only disdain for him. In addition,
his wife Dana (Wendy Makkena) does not watch
his show and is more concerned with her chari-
table zoo work.
In the pilot, after making the transition from
sports-writing to the living section of the news-
paper, Kleinman makes random observations in
his column about his family while facing writer's
block. This becomes an issue with his daughter,
who bans him from her soccer games. The overzeal-
ous Kleinman tries to win her approval using false
advice from his co-host, former football player Ber-
nie Widmer (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). Hilarity then
ensues, the kind Kleinman can use in his columns.
The show has a cookie-cutter sitcom approach,
regardless of the source. There is the paranoid dad
with a straight-man sidekick, the caring wife and
the teenage children who feel misunderstood and
tied down by their parents. The cast is solid, but
nothing here is revolutionary.
With its cushy position before the hit series
"Everybody Loves Raymond," there is no doubt that


One's balding, the other's a Belding.

people will watch. "Listen Up" is a benign family
comedy in the grand tradition of inoffensive sit-
coms. Given the source material, though, it could
have been so much more. Instead of a comical look
into the world of sports talk, the show is no more
than an amalgam of every other show on the CBS
Monday lineup.


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