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February 21, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-21

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 21, 2005

ARTS

PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily

Moe played at the Michigan Theater on Feb. 18.

moe. jams out at the
Michigan Theater

By Jared Newman
Daily Arts Writer

"Forgive me Father, for I have totally agreed to 'Bill and Ted 3: The Radical Rendevouz.' "
STRAIGHT OUTTA HELL
KEANU REEEVES STARS IN COMIC BOOK CROSSOVER

By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer

Keanu Reeves, the chiseled

and enigmatic

star who achieved over-
whelming success in the
face of underwhelming tal- Constantine
ent, returns to theaters with
a movie that seems uncan- At the Showcase
nily suited for his public arner
persona. Deeply spiritual WamerBors.
and austere though it may
seem, the film has a tre-
mendous central dumbness that all its excellent
features can't quite cover up. "Constantine"
misses greatness by a huge margin, but it's
still a hell of a thrill ride.
The brooding film centers on title character
John Constantine (Reeves), a man marked for
hell with the ability to see "half-breed" angels
and demons walking the Earth. He uses his
power to vanquish the minions of hell in a vain
attempt to buy his way into heaven. A police
officer, Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz, "The
Mummy"), trying to understand the suicide of
her mentally iIrtwin sister (MsdWeisz), solic-
its the help of Constantine. He soon discov-
ers, conveniently, that Angela is the key to the
apocalypse.

Fans of the source material, a comic book
called "Hellblazer," were outraged over the
casting of Reeves as the cancer-afflicted
anti-hero, among other reasons, because the
Constantine of the graphic novels is so quint-
essentially British. The iconic American actor,
who by all reports is far more intelligent than
lingering "Bill and Ted" impressions would
suggest, goes some way toward proving the
skeptics wrong with a very credible transfor-
mation on his own terms. Though his inability
to emote through facial expression has been
excessively well documented, that trait is
an asset here, lending Constantine a beaten,
world-weary toughness. Reeves also has an
effortless command of the screen, and though
his dialogue delivery could be better, he gets
so deep into Constantine's skin that every ges-
ture sells the character completely.
Given the apt lead performance and the
intriguing premise of a man's selfish saintli-
ness, the film certainly has promise. Director
Francis Lawrence (himself a recent escapee
from music-video directing hell), however,
seems unsure of how to realize that poten-
tial. "Constantine" moves awkwardly when
Lawrence tries to grapple with broad spiritual
themes, andthe director cops out with empty
horror clich6s far too often. Fortunately, Law-
rence abandons meaning around the halfway
point and-opts, for a standard save-the-world,

shoot-em-up actioner that he has a much bet-
ter grip of. It might seem unfortunate, but
when the climax is a mindless cross between
"Dogma" and "Disney's Hercules," holding
integrity over entertainment seems a little
silly.
Sharing top billing with Reeves are the
movie's visual effects. Hell is impressively
realized as a ravaged, fiery wasteland that
looks convincing, if not particularly origi-
nal. The same holds for the demons; whether
crawling in hell or wearing partially muti-
lated human guise, they're not cute. In the
film's most transparently fun action scene,
worth the price of admission alone, Constan-
tine plows through a whole room of decaying
"half-breeds" thanks to a deluge of holy water
and a giant weapon that wouldn't be out of
place in last summer's "Van Helsing." Hyper
stylized cinematography and moody lighting
augment the dark, supernatural mood of the
film.
While "Constantine" isn't likely to win
any Oscars come 2006, it's certainly a solid
February entertainment. The film revels in its
subtle, well-placed humor and fantastic visual
style. If "Constantine" isn't exactly the mean-
ingful, spiritual film Keanu Reeves thinks
he's been plugging the past few weeks, at
least it's better than sitting through, say "The
Matrix: Resuscitated."

Despite moe.'s understated name, it
appears that they wouldn't mind being
the next big jamband - just examine
the evidence on "Warts and All IV," their
upcoming live release. They're neither
afraid to cover jamband icons The Grate-
ful Dead's "I Know
You Rider," nor
are they afraid to moe-
make like Phish and AttheMichiganTheater
cover a traditional
Jewish standard
like "Havah Negilah." Their liner notes
liken the fivesome - bassist/singer Rob
Derhak, guitarist/singer Chuck Garvey,
guitarist/keyboardist/singer Al Schnier,
drummer Vinnie Amico and percussion-
ist Jim Loughlin - to a fine microbrew.
It's just cute and Vermont enough to make
any hippie feel warm and fuzzy inside.
One more thing, the band claims on
their website that they have "topped such
peers as ... Phish" by winning three
Jammy awards. While their confidence
is admirable, there is no fucking way that
moe. is superior to Phish. Still, the "jam-
band community" needs an act to follow
now that Phish is gone. Judging by the
scent of patchouli that could be detected
nearly a block away from the Michigan
Theatre on Friday night, it seems that
moe. is doing a decent job of gathering
some of the stragglers.
The cozy atmosphere of the venue was
perfect for the kind of fans that love to be
buddy-buddy with the band, and as moe.
took the stage, one dude yelled "Rob is
weird!" while another prodded, "Why'd
you grow a beard, Al?"
The opening song "Bullet," for exam-

pie, featured a steady, thumping bass line
and a catchy chorus but was plagued by
two long-winded jams. Even though moe.
was using the second as a segue into a fast
and funky tune called "Brent Black," it
sounded like they knew where they were
going, but weren't quite sure how to get
there.
In fact, the first three songs of the
night served as a model for the rest of the
show. "Brent Black" was perfect from
start to finish and featured an impres-
sive percussion solo - Rob Derhak at
one point climbed up to the percussion
kit and allowed Loughlin to hammer
out a rhythm on his bass. Sadly, the band
couldn't illicit the same wows with their
next song, "Opium," a slower tune that
served as more of a smoke break than
anything else.
The same fluctuation from perfection
to mediocrity occurred in the second set.
The band tore through a sporadic and psy-
chedelic instrumental called "McBain"
and slid right into "Down Boy,"a song full
of synth bleeps and clicks courtesy of key-
boardist Al Schnier. Killing the momen-
tum, though, was a slow, crowd-thinning
number called "Hi and Lo." At that point
.the time was nearing 10:30 p.m., and
though many fans remained to see the rest
of the show, there were quite a few who
didn't have the patience to see if the band
would kick out some more funk.
Therein lies the problem in a jamband
like moe. - it took them almost three
hours to play 13 songs. While a more
consistent band like Phish could pull off
that kind of extensive improvisation, moe.
simply isn't tight enough yet. If the band
could only realize that they excel at funky,
beat-driven jams but falter with slower,
more basic tunes, maybe someday they
can take the jamband throne - but it isn't
happening anytime soon.

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