January 18, 2005
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Courtesy of universal
Hiked you better in "The Perfect Score."
uaid, Grace make
By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer
It seems a bit ironic that Universal -
part of the ubiquitous Vivendi conglomer-
ate - would release
a filmlike "In Good In Good
Company," a story I
about two men in Company
vastly different stag- At the Showcase
es of life and how and Quality 16
synergy, a mindless Universal
affects them. Yet,
dhe story's backdrop proves to be effective
and timely. By emphasizing assailable
corporate characters mired deep in per-
sonal conflict, writer/director Paul Weitz
("About A Boy") has created yet another
film about the fragile nature of changing
- Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) lives a
comfortable suburban existence with a
loving family and a cushy job as director
of advertising sales for a sports magazine.
But Dan's existence is violently shaken
when a media conglomerate purchases
the magazine and he's replaced by Carter
Duryea (Topher Grace) - a man half his
age. Dan is demoted and his co-workers
are systematically laid off. As if job secu-
rity wasn't enough to worry about, Dan
has plenty of other problems: his wife's
surprise pregnancy, financial difficulties
and the revelation that his college-age
daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) is dat-
ing his new boss.
Paul Weitz, who's probably best known
for co-directing "American Pie,"has made
his most assured film yet. Weitz shows his
strength as a writer of well placed com-
edy and natural dialogue, and successfully
maligns the idiocy of mega-business. The
filmmaker deftly allows the characters to
develop at a steady pace, enabling their
motivations to have a powerful effect. The
movie wonderfully juxtaposes the differ-
ences and similarities between Carter and
Dan. Weitz is able to draw sympathy from
his two leading protagonists' personalities
and their unfortunate situations.
Unfortunately, the film falters a bit
toward the end. Carter's romance with
Alex isn't essential to the film's central
narrative. The subplot mainly serves as
a bridge highlighting Dan's bond with
his daughter and illuminating the faults
in Carter's duplicitous personality. There
is also a well-written, albeit predictable,
speech about family from Dan during
the film's climax, but the moment seems
extraneous and forced. The story's conclu-
sion is also far too tidy; Dan and Carter's
differences melt away inexplicably, as if
their positions within the same conglom-
erate make them cosmic equals.
Despite these shortcomings, "In Good
Company" works so well because of its
two lead performances. Quaid turns in
some of his best work, and he makes Dan
a believable, heartfelt father and a like-
able employee who must forfeit the ideals
that brought him success in the first place.
Grace continues his rise into stardom,
demonstrating that he has real power as
a dramatic actor by showcasing Carter's
insecurities and his superficial surface
with ease. As the lone female lead, Johans-
son doesn't do much at all - her character
calls for a certain quietness and loneliness
which she commands quite well, but her
talents have been better utilized in other
"In Good Company" proves to be a
very welcoming and charismatic film,
accurately showing just how impersonal
and brutal the corporate world can be.
Complete with some remarkable perfor-
mances and a well crafted script, Paul
Weitz is able to prove that the a mix of
humility, loyalty and human interaction
can be the greatest synergy of all.
"OK, now hold that pose for two seconds."
YIMOU AND ZIYI REUNITE IN BREATHTAKING COLOR
By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer
Spectacular beauty, existing simply and unapolo-
getically for beauty's sake, has the power to over-
whelm and enchant the senses
so completely that the object of
beauty transcends intellect and House of
communicates directly with Flying
the heart. Operas and ballets Daggers
have followed this line for cen- At the Michigan
4uias.And just as the singing 3Theater and
and dancing in those art forms Quality 16
compensate for underdevel- Sony Pictures Classics
d adad overwrought stories,
the pure visual elation that
comes from watching "House of Flying Daggers" is
able to captivate on a visceral level and excuse the
Zhang Yimou ("Hero") directs the film, set at the
end of China's Tang Dynasty, with his muse Zhang
Ziyi (also of "Hero" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon") at the forefront as Mei, a member of a "Star
Wars"-style resistance group, the House of Flying
Daggers. Kaneshiro Takeshi is Jin, a work-a-day
policeman who plans to earn Mei's trust and thereby
learn the secrets of the Flying Daggers. He's not par-
ticularly committed to his cause and eventually falls
in love with Mei. Andy Lau completes the ambiguous
love triangle as a double agent.
In their third pairing, Ziyi proves once and for all
to be the perfect star for Yimou's particular brand of
intoxicating cinematic paintings. She has an eerily
perfect face, so balanced and beautiful that every
shot of her becomes an exquisite portrait. Possess-
ing a quiet serenity and grace mingled with formi-
dable physical power, she's haunting.andenchanting
in every way. In Takeshi, Ziyi has found her equal.
He's exquisitely good-looking in the traditional mati-
nee-idol mode, but the real significane of his per-
formance is the profound, underlying strength and
emotion he lends to the role.
The true highlight of "Flying Daggers," however,
is Yimou's direction. He has constructed a marvel-
ously watchable film that floats the audience gently
and pleasantly from one gorgeous scene to the next
without much aid from the story. Every frame is
meticulously crafted, every swoop of the camera and
close up of a flying weapon singing through the air is
designed to excite the eye and confuse the brain.
In an act of benign generosity, Yimou also keeps
the film appropriately short and tightly directed.
Though there are more incomprehensible plot twists
than one could shake a large intricately carved gold
dagger at, the end result is that the audience stops
paying attention to the story and concentrates simply
on the feelings that the actors and the visuals evoke.
In the final fight between the Jin and Andy, all pre-
tense of logic has been stripped away and there is
only raw, surging emotion - love and hate mingled
with betrayal and loyalty - expressed through a sav-
age and bloody showdown that stands in powerful
contrast to the elegant beauty of the landscape and
the sudden snowstorm that encompasses the pair.
"House of Flying Daggers" is likely to get passed
over during awards season because it lacks a solid
tearjerker punch. But it has subtle feeling etched
more deeply and clearly than one would suspect,
given its flimsy premise. In a year hailed for the
renaissance of the biopic, "Flying Daggers" marks
another overlooked triumph for foreign films. It's
about as enchanting and transcendent an experience
as film going gets.
Uninspired sequel takes it back to the 'Street'
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
ViD~r.o GA ME REVI EW
"NFL Street," EA's smash-mouth
take on playground football, dethroned
"NFL Blitz" as the
king of arcade-
style sports games. NFL Street 2
While the title was PS2, Gamecube,
nowhere near flaw- Xbox
less, it brought a EA
unique sense of
style and fluidity
to its design and gameplay. With "NFL
Street 2," the series barely moves for-
ward from its auspicious beginnings.
The same urban atmosphere returns
in the sequel, utilizing rapper Xzibit as
a playable character and host of Own
The Street mode.
Fans familiar with the first game
will have no problem getting into the
action. Gainers control teams of seven
NFL players who play both offense and
defense. In "Street 2," taunting, hard
hits and gravity-defying catches are
commonplace. The first team to score
36 points wins, making each extra
point or two-point conversion decision
Gamebreakers - the ability to make
the player's team nearly unstoppable
for one drive - helped to differenti-
ate "Street" from other NFL games on
the market, and new to "Street 2" is the
Gamebreaker 2.0, an automatic score
or take away. Though visually impres-
sive, the new Gamebreakers take too
long to earn and have essentially the
same effects as the original version of
Gravity is not in the game.
One of the new features included in
"Street 2" is the ability to jump on walls.
As a player moves down the field, the
gamer can make him run up on a wall to
evade defenders and gain style points.
This inclusion barely alters gameplay
and is little more than cosmetic.
"Street 2" boasts an impressive array
of game modes: from the create-a-
player oriented Own The Street to play-
ground-style pick-up games. As was the
case with "NFL Street," "Street 2" is at
its best in multi-player game modes.
The new mini-games add a different
dynamic to multi-player,,.but pick-up
games are still the centerpiece. Garners
get to divvy up NFL talent to form their
teams - trading picks and making
rosters. Unfortunately, "Street 2" fails
to truly build upon the successful first
entry in the series. However, it's hard
to fault EA for not tinkering too much
with the solid foundations. "Street 2"
still remains an engrossing multi-player
title, even if most changes are inconse-
quential to the gameplay.
free volunteers, ages
18-45, are needed
.. . .