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March 14, 2005 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-14

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Monday
March 14, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily.com

TSe Mign ail

5A

Courtesy of Miramax
"1 see kidnapped people."
Bruce Willis returns
to his action roots

By Andy Kula
Daily Arts Writer
L M IE
After achieving mild success with for-
ays into comedy and family films, Bruce
Willis has returned to what he does best:

yelling and killing
people. His new
film "Hostage" pro-
vides many such
opportunities, but
.surprisingly the
film also provides
a suspenseful and

Hostage
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Miramax

genuinely interesting story.
Willis plays police chief Jeff Talley
who tries to defuse a hostage situation by
negotiating with three young delinquents
holed up in a wealthy accountant's home.
The standoff complicates a high-stakes
criminal operation, as the house contains
a DVD with important information for
a separate group of terrorists. These ter-
rorists then capture Talley's family and
force him to recover their property. Stuck
between desperate criminals and pro-
fessional assassins, Talley tries to save
his wife and daughter without causing a
bloodbath within the house.
Though the film has some cliched
moments, director Florent Siri prevents it
from becoming just another action movie
by emphasizing some of its more unique
elements. Because the tension and the
drama of the plot are prioritized above
the special effects of the action sequences,
the story becomes more engaging and the

characters more realistic.
Likewise, the look of the film is unique
to the genre. Rejecting the cinematogra-
phy of typical action movies, "Hostage"
favors tenser, more realistic long takes
over the hectic style of quickly flashing
images.
However, the film is not perfect. An
excessively long introduction robs the
main story of much needed development
time, and there were some question marks
in the plot. Though the terrorists are
intimidating and have cool, sinister voices
(they are hardly ever seen on-screen), the
characters themselves are too mysterious
to work effectively in the simple story
given to explain their presence. And it
is odd that the delinquents seem a more
daunting foe for the authorities than the
professional killers.
The film's casting could have been bet-
ter. Allowing Bruce Willis's daughter,
Rumer Willis, to play Talley's daughter
was probably a mistake; even that role
seems a stretch for her. Also, the three
young criminals look too similar to dif-
ferentiate between them for the first hour
or so. But casting Ben Foster ("The Pun-
isher") in the role of Mars, the disturbing
lead delinquent, may have been the single
best decision of the film's production. In
many scenes Foster steals the show.
"Hostage" proves that yelling and kill-
ing people can still be grounded in a strong
story, good acting and clever filmmaking
techniques. To indulge in an action movie
without being berated by action-movie
conventions, "Hostage" comes highly
recommended.

By Christopher Lechner
Daily Arts Writer
"Robots," the latest film from the makers of "Ice
Age," is supposed to be a heartwarming tale that
unfolds in an imaginary world populated by talk-
ing, walking machines. The
story begins with young Rod- R
ney Copperbottom (voiced by Robots
Ewan McGregor) leaving his At the Showcase
home to travel to Robot City in and Quality 16
search of his dreams. 20th Century Fox
Desperately wanting to
become an inventor, Rodney
has his eyes set on working at Big Weld Industries,
Robot City's premier institution of creativity and
innovation for aspiring inventors. However, when
Rodney gets to Robot City, he quickly realizes
that things are not what they seem; Big Weld (Mel
Brooks), the head of Big Weld Industries and Rod-
ney's childhood idol, has been forced into retire-
ment and had his position usurped by a young,
cutthroat business executive named Ratchet. When.

Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) changes the company's
production policies so that they sell only expensive
upgrades instead of replacement parts to ailing
robots, Rodney must take action in order to save
his ill father and countless other robots.
A wide variety of far-reaching themes are pre-
sented in the movie, such as the ruthlessness of big
business or the iniquity of our health care policies,
but they are ultimately wasted. Added to the mud-
dle are several satirical parodies of contemporary
and classic movies, such as "Bottle Rocket," "Star
Wars" and "The Matrix." In the mix, jokes get lost
along the way, and the film itself falls short of its
target. The overriding message of the movie - to
follow one's dreams no matter what the cost - is
a cliche that has been explored far too often, and
this updated installation brings nothing new to the
age-old story.
As bland as the plot is, the animation is noth-
ing short of spectacular. The visual conception of
this world inhabited by personified robots is utterly
original, and each scene is linked together through a
dazzling and surprisingly congruent array of com-
puter generated images. There is constant action in
every scene, and subsequent viewings will assur-

edly lead to new discoveries of background events
or subtly placed jokes. Along with the animation,
"Robots" also makes good use of the vocal talents
of the stars who lent their voices to the produc-
tion including Drew Carrey, Halle Berry, Aman-
da Bynes, Paul Giammati and Robin Williams.
Among all these talented actors, the true star is
leading man Ewan McGregor. Using his voice in
a manner reminiscent of the youthful innocence
and innate goodness he so deftly displayed in "Big
Fish," McGregor's intonation artfully captures
and constructs the character of Rodney and adapts
smoothly as he changes throughout the story.
As good as the vocals and animation are,
"Robots" was doomed from its conception due to a
bland, trite script. Lacking any semblance of plot
or witty comedic elements, most adults might have
trouble sitting through this one; however, do not be
surprised if many children have a certain affinity
for the moments of slap-stick humor or the plethora
of fart jokes. The inevitable comparisons to other,
better animated releases such as "Finding Nemo"
and "The Incredibles" dooms "Robots" to wallow-
ing in mediocrity.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day. Thou art made of metal and more tempered."
IF IT ONLY HAD A HEART
WITLESS, TEPID SCREENPLAY HINDERS ANIMATED ACTION

.:Mutter performs violin solo with Oslo Phil

Dailv Arts STAR SYSTFM

By Christina Hildreth
Daily Arts Writer

Having appeared as a guest soloist with five dif-
ferent philharmonic orchestras over the course of
her award-winning career, violinist Anne-Sophie
Mutter is familiar with the spotlight.
On Saturday night, she and her husband, con-
ductor Andre Previn, took the stage with the Oslo
Philharmonic Orchestra at Hill Auditorium to
perform a collection of unique classical pieces,
including the vigorous concerto Anne-Sophie,
written for Mutter by Previn. Ann Arbor's music
enthusiasts came out by the hundreds to see the
orchestra's first performance at the University in
over 10 years.
The Philharmonic is composed of more than
100 musicians, each with decades of musical expe-
rience, and the ensemble opened the evening's
performance with Claude Debussy's Prelude to
the Afternoon of a Faun, filling the auditorium
with pleasant sounds evocative of spring, despite
the wintry weather outside.
After the long cold walk to the auditorium,
audience members were flooded by the warm
spirit of gentle music.
After a short break and a shuffling of instru-
ments and performers, Mutter took the stage to
perform Anne-Sophie. The concerto took a sharp
turn from the pastoral tone of the Debussy piece,

creating a wild dialogue between the orchestra
and Mutter's violin that fluctuated between calm-
er passages and frenzied violin soliloquies to cre-
ate a seemingly unresolvable tension.
The concerto began darkly; Mutter played a
high, atonal-sounding melody against the orches-
tra's angry diatribes. The composition seemed
to tell the story of a protagonist, the violin, who
experienced a series of strenuous incidents mixed
with soft moments of resolution.
The masterfully performed Anne-Sophie
resembled the soundtrack of a silent movie: dra-
matic, dynamic and furious, constantly changing
moods. Previn and his orchestra jerked the audi-
ence back and forth between a rapid chase-style
overture and an insightful, introspective inter-
lude, leaving some listeners feeling like they had
stepped out of a symphonic action movie.
The mysterious-sounding horns and rumbling
timpanis created shadowy undertones in the
orchestra, which were overlaid by Mutter's fran-
tic violin, feverishly portraying a melody full of a
blusterous personality.
Mutter's violin sounded notes so high the fre-
quencies were almost lost in the vast acoustic
cavern of Hill Auditorium. The crowd was high-
ly responsive to Mutter's performance, giving
her a sustained applause and calling for several
encores.
The second piece performed by the Philhar-
monic took the program in yet another direction.
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64 by Richard Strauss

reflected on the seasons, giving a musical per-
sonality to winter, spring, summer and fall. The
piece began slow, dark and cold, the stage notably
absent of Mutter's commanding presence from
the last performance. The conductor slowly built
momentum, breaking into a storm of majestic
horns and fast moving strings.
At one point during the "winter" portion of
the piece, horn and trumpet players brought their
instruments behind the stage, and a door was
opened to allow the sound to mix with that of
the other musicians. During the spring and sum-
mer portions, the percussionists played cowbells
to add the feeling of a warm springtime farm; in
blustery autumn, percussionists utilized a large
sheet of metal to represent thunder and a wheel
wrapped with fabric to make the "whirr" of the
autumn wind.
All these elements enhanced the piece, capti-
vating the attention of even the novice classical
listener. However, the Strauss piece concluded
with a long, drawn-out finale. After almost two
hours of performance, the use of a slow overture
to close the show made audience members look
forward to the end of the concert.
While the pieces performed by the Oslo Phil-
harmonic were not selections by more standard
composers such as Beethoven, Rachmaninoff
or Bach, there was no question of the expertise
showcased by Previn, Mutter and the orchestra.
Surely these were masters of the arts, able to nav-
igate all straits of classical arrangement.

I

DAiLYARTS.
"HE FLIES. ANSQUITO FLIES."

Njo utv Tickt T Ckivc
English Teaching Program in
Shenzhen, China
Spend a year in Shenzhen teaching English and
learning Mandarin Chinese. This well-established,
government-sponsored program is now in its 8th year.
" Training in English teaching methods and in Mandarin
Chinese language (at 4 levels) for 3 weeks in August in
Beijing, with housing and tours
" Free apartment at a Shenzhen public school where you
will teach oral English, 12 classroom hours per week,
Sept. 1to June 15; one or two participants per school
" Monthly salary, paid vacation, and travel bonus
" Chinese classes continue in Shenzhen, a Mandarin-
speaking modern city of 5 million near Hong Kong

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