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January 31, 2005 - Image 8

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 31, 2005

ARTS

0

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
"I don't care if you do know Denzel, I'm still getting top billing, sweetie."
Final twist can't save
lukewarm horror film

By Jeffrey Bloomer
Daily Arts Writer

Twentieth Century Fox made news last
week when it announced that for the first
time in its 70-year history it would with-

hold the final reel of
a film - "Hide and
Seek" - in an effort
to curb advance
knowledge of its
twist ending. Had
Fox really wanted
to keep the ending
under wraps, though,

Hide and
Seek
At Quality 16
and Showcase
20th Century Fox

they should have released only the film's
first 30 minutes in the original shipment
- because after that point, even the most
inattentive viewer will know more or less
where the movie is going.
Directed by John Polson ("Swimfan"),
"Hide and Seek" pivots around a recent
widower David Calloway (Robert DeNiro)
and his young daughter Emily (Dakota
Fanning, "Man on Fire"). The two relocate
to upstate New York in an attempt to pick
up the pieces after the death of Allison
(Amy Irving, "Traffic"), David's wife and
Emily's mother. Soon after, Emily begins
to behave strangely, apparently catalyzed
by the appearance of Charlie, her new
imaginary friend. From there, mayhem
ensues and the body count rises. I won't
spoil the film's twist here, but suffice to
say, it's an unapologetically absurd revela-
tion that invalidates everything that came
before it.
The concept for "Hide and Seek" seems
to have begun with the ending, and worked
backwards with only a bare-bones idea

for the story. The screenplay by first-time
scribe Ari Schlossberg is so loosely plot-
ted and underwritten that the entire film
feels like a setup for the climax, which isn't
even really that surprising in the first place.
M. Night Shyamalan has been accused of
writing his films such as the "Sixth Sense"
backward from their signature twist end-
ings as well, but even if that is the case, he
creates vivid characters and engaging visu-
al setups to make them worthwhile. The
first hour and a half of "Hide and Seek,"
on the other hand, is labored and silly, lit-
tered with transparent subplots designed to
lead viewers away from guessing the film's
secret. However, they end up confusing the
audience more than misleading it.
As lackluster as the story may be, the
film does find some solace with its young
female lead. Ten-year-old Fanning is a
marvel to behold in this movie; she estab-
lishes a startlingly ominous screen pres-
ence with ease - in great contrast to the
more light-hearted roles in her past films.
Even the best child actors are usually hit-
and-miss in their performances, but Fan-
ning is a talent who consistently outshines
big-name actors. Her disconcerting per-
formance proves to be "Hide and Seek's"
lone triumph.
There is a good movie somewhere
inside "Hide and Seek," but as it is, the
film is a faulty, wretched mess. Why didn't
they make a straight-forward story, without
the contrived finale? It would free the film
from the narrative confines that the cur-
rent climax requires and allow for more
exploration of Emily's alarming behavior,
which is by far the most intriguing and
entertaining aspect of the film. The "Hide
and Seek" we get instead is a flimsy excuse
for a horror picture.

"OK baby, make me millions."

KNOCK OUT
EAST WOOD 'S BOXING DRAMA PACKS EMOTIONAL PUNCH

By Marshall W. Lee
Daily Film Editor
Say what you will about the squint, the limp and
the rumbling drawl that swallows soft consonants

like a vociferous black hole,1
wood reluctantly ambles along
toward retirement, the quintes-
sential American badass may
finally be finding his niche
behind the camera. At an age
when most folks are resting
on their antiquated laurels
and bitching about the price
of Cialis outside the Sarasota
Walgreens, Clint Eastwood -

but as Clint East-
Million
Dollar Baby
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Warner Bros.
who will turn 76

coach and gym owner Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), a
prickly and tortured trainer whose life is plagued by
the echoes of past personal and professional failures.
After being dumped by his star fighter - Frankie
refuses to let the kid fight for a title, fearing both for
the young boxer's ego and safety - Dunn begrudg-
ingly agrees to take on troubled gym-rat Maggie
Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), an impoverished 30-
something wannabe fighter with killer determina-
tion and endless enthusiasm.
But for the reticent and enigmatic Frankie, who
attends Mass each morning and dutifully writes his
estranged and unresponsive daughter in hopes of
purging some old demon from his mind, his timid
relationship with Maggie is more like a stumbling
shot at redemption than just another lesson in breath-
ing and footwork. As the eager upstart Maggie, Hil-
ary Swank steals every scene, showing a physical
prowess and dramatic range that is only more strik-
ing when considering the iconic supporting com-
pany. Swank, whose flawlessly muscled physique is
itself something to behold, effortlessly jumps from
comedy to melodrama and back again, lending to
her cartoonishly trailer-trash character a meticu-
lously gritty and thoroughly agreeable edge. The
30-year-old actress has garnered another Academy
Award nomination for her work here - she won the
Oscar in 1999 for her gender-bending performance
in "Boys Don't Cry" - and certainly there wasn't a

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

more demanding or difficult role this year.
Unfortunately, like with the rushed and dissonant
resolution of "Mystic River," Eastwood once again
stumbles in his delivery of "Baby's" final pathos,
heavy-handedly dealing out an emotional sucker-
punch that feels contrived and unsettling. The story
is openly unsentimental, dragging its characters
through physical and emotional hell with a kind of
detached reverence for pain and turmoil.
Eastwood has apparently attempted to balance
the scales by casting the most unabashedly senti-
mental and schmaltzy actor alive, Morgan Free-
man, as Frankie's diffident conscience and the
film's gentle narrator.
As ex-fighter Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, Free-
man duplicates the ethereal tenderness and every-
man turmoil he has claimed as his own with past
roles in mushy, big-hearted fare like "The Shaw-
shank Redemption." Eastwood manipulates and
abuses both Freeman - as an actor whose very
presence carries a certain emotional weight - and
his character Scrap, who is practically abandoned
by the film's final emotional sweep.
That aside, "Million Dollar Baby" is still one
of the best films of the year and certainly deserv-
ing of all the Oscar nominations it has received. It
will have you cheering, but like a brutal, dirty 15-
rounder, will leave you emotionally exhausted and
physically spent by the end.

0
0

this year - is cementing his much deserved status
as a unique cinematic force. He is a gruff and griz-
zled triple threat who has, against all odds, become
film's foremost balladeer of quiet catastrophe.
After dazzling critics and audiences with last
year's "Mystic River" - a well acted, though some-
what overwrought, suburban tragedy - Eastwood
returns in fine form as director, composer and star
of the far superior "Million Dollar Baby." Based on
the short-story cycle "Rope Burns" by F.X. Toole,
"Million Dollar Baby" centers on aging boxing

6

Lo-fi hero returns to his roots

By Jacob Nathan
Daily Arts Writer

4

There are few constants in the music
industry. David Byrne will always be
weird. The Backstreet Boys will never
be cool. Lou Barlow's voice will always
have the same fresh
sound that first gar- Lou Barlow
nered him notoriety.
Throughout Emoh, Emoh
Barlow's no-non- Merge
sense singing style
gets the spotlight,
sounding exactly as crisp and emotive
as it did during his contentious tenure
with Dinosaur Jr. Barlow, a to-fi pioneer,
has returned from the vacuous depths of
heavy distortion and electronic gargle
with this stark album. Emoh is an intense,
stripped-down effort that showcases
Barlow's insightful lyrics and dynamic
musicianship.
Emoh is an anachronism, recalling an
era in Barlow's career when he would

record albums onto cassette tapes in his
bathroom. The methods he originally
used have come full circle on Emoh, with
the majority of the album recorded live
by Barlow himself. There is a frantic per-
cussion track driving the song "Home,"
which breathes a sense of urgency into a
beautiful and moving melody. This warm
drumming is Barlow himself, beating
cardboard boxes on his wood floors. The
simple technique sounds as unique as
anything Barlow has ever laid down, and
sounds refreshing without Barlow's char-
acter tape hiss.
As Barlow plucks the soft chords on a
nylon-stringed guitar, the soft accents of
an electric guitar gives the song tremen-
dous depth and makes "Legendary" one
of the album's many treats. This unique
sound - warm guitar tones gently high-
lighted with electric fretwork - is a win-
ning technique that Barlow brings to the
forefront of several songs. "If I Could"
offers an old-fashioned love song that fea-
tures rhythmic strumming and repeated
lyrics with the same guitar sensibilities.
Barlow, who has been critical of the

unimaginative styles of songwriting pop-
ular today, demonstrates his gift for writ-
ing cohesive yet nonlinear songs.
There are other methods employed
by Barlow throughout the album. "Con-
fused" begins with a laptop-pop intro
before gradually scaling back the elec-
tronic sounds and turning into a power-
ful rocker. "Imagined Life" is the rawest
track on the album, but its charm is unde-
niable. The rough charisma of this song
paints a picture of Barlow, gently picking
his romantic chords over sweetly poetic
lyrics, "My blood ran hot / I turned to liq-
uid / The day I held your hand in mine."
Barlow has rarely explored such emo-
tional depths.
The song "Holding Back the Year" is
Barlow at his finest. His voice is clear and
crisp as he explores themes of addiction,
lost love and mortality. The noisy acous-
tic tone of the song gives it a kick, and
the use of maracas as the sole percussion
lends it a friendly and accessible tone, in
spite of its dark subject matter.
Barlow stumbles, however, in terms of
sequence, style and subject matter. "Cat-

IOU~w

N

New CBS crime drama

paints by
By Kevin Hollifield
Daily Arts Writer

'Numb3rs'

erpillar Girl," is annoying musically and
lyrically, plodding along through inco-
herent lyrics and musical undertones that
come on far too strong. The acoustic lick
that repeats throughout the song is sup-
posed to give it an uptempo slant, but just
sounds dreary and old. "Mary," Barlow's
religious musing, completely breaks with
the rest of the album - it sounds like a
nonsensical children's song dealing with
issues of the Immaculate Conception. It's
painfully obvious that this song does not
belong on Emoh.
But the album is a welcome return
for Barlow, demonstrating his consider-
able talent as a songwriter and musician.
Barlow has crafted a delightfully nostal-
gic album, reminding everyone why he
is both enigmatic and iconoclastic. The
influence he has had on many bands cur-
rently on the charts will crystallize after
listening to Emoh.

I EW
With a glut of criminal investiga-
tion shows flooding primetime, CBS
is hoping to cash in on yet another
rehash of the tired formula with
"Numb3rs."
A combination of "C.S.I." and
calculus, "Numb3rs" features all the
hallmarks of its
successful cous- Numb3rs
ins with black and
white flashbacks Fridays at 10 p.m.
and slow-motion CBS
imagery. In addi-
tion to collecting
evidence, the detectives use math-
ematical functions to track down the
murderer.
The show centers on FBI Spe-
cial Agent Don Epps (Rob Morrow,
"Northern Exposure"). In the pilot,
his team investigates a string of rapes
and murders. When Don's mathema-
tician brother, Charlie (David Krum-
holtz, "The Santa Clause"), snoops
through the case files, he begins

0

4

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.4.
-'-4
'"I
a
41

"Wait, what do I know me from?"
piecing together a series of equations
to pinpoint the perpetrator's location.
Charlie's formula, like this show's
premise, is not perfect.
In addition to standard plot con-
ventions, "Numb3rs" also features
classic crime show characters. The
supporting cast includes several
underdeveloped roles, including
Terry Lake (Sabrina Lloyd, "Sports
Night") and David Sinclair (Alimi
Ballard, "Dark Angel") who exist
merely to collect evidence, become
imperiled and set up the main char-
acter to save the day. Also present is
the stereotypically gruff chief who
knows less than he should.
Unlike other crime investigation
shows, "Numb3rs" includes healthy
doses of the characters' personal
lives. The Epps brothers' father,
Alan (Judd Hirsch, "Taxi") provides
comic relief when meddling in his
boys' relationships. Furthermore,
Dr. Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNi-
col, "Ally McBeal"), an older col-
league, helps Charlie in his pursuit
of higher learning. Both of these
mentor figures have just a handful
of scenes in the pilot.
While "Numb3rs" creates a new
twist on a familiar theme, several
plot holes exist in its premise: Why
does the FBI give Charlie access to
classified FBI files? If this method

0

'4. 44,. 4 ... --

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