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April 05, 2005 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-05

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 -11

Hot Hot Heat break through to new level

By Aaron Kaczander
Daily Arts Writer
Hot Hot Heat aren't afraid of change.
In fact, they're about as far away from the
faithful proverb, "If it ain't broke, don't fix

refined voc
Elevator d
grooves of.
grooves an
more acous
more despe
It's safe
album, fror
ing chant o
to the dafta
IOU." Hisl
more nerd
Nowhere,"
Hot Heat to
liar cackle

it," as they can be. But why
mess with the formula that
brought international suc-
cess to their sparse, jerky
2002 debut, Make Up
the Breakdown? Because
they can. Thankfully, their

Hot Hot
Heat
Elevator
Sire

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

"I want to look like a monkey, too!"

Allen's latest explores
comedy and tragedy

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer

It's already a well-known and accept-
ed fact that life is
far from fair - but
is it essentially Melinda and
comic or tragic? Melinda
This is the bold At the State
question behind Theatre
Woody Allen's Fox Searchlight
latest film, and it
initially appears to
be a fitting topic for the director who so
fluidly helmed the comic pathos of clas-
sics like "Annie Hall" and "Hannah and
Her Sisters."
It's too bad that the undertaking
proves too ambitious for Allen to fully
flesh out. By taking a single event and
interweaving two different versions of
its consequences, the film attempts a
brave examination of what separates
comedy from tragedy. Unfortunately,
the whole project ultimately falls flat
because of Allen's inability to capture
the full effect of either.
The same event serves as catalyst for
both stories - wayward waif Melinda
(Radha Mitchell, "Finding Neverland")
drops in unexpectedly upon an other-
wise peaceable upper-middle class dinner
party, bringing a hefty load of emotional
baggage with her. In the tragic version,
she is received by a married pair of long-
suffering college friends (Chloe Sevigny,
"Shattered Glass" and Jonny Lee Miller,
"Mansfield Park"), who deplore her con-
tinual emotional problems while, in true
Hollywood-drama fashion, ignoring their
own. Marked by all the traditional sig-
nals of mental instability, tragic Melinda
smokes furiously, drinks heavily and - in
cinema's favorite indication of character
- keeps her hair messily unkempt.
The flabbergasted dinner hosts of the
comedic version are Melinda's genial-
ly hospitable neighbors (Will Ferrell,

"Anchorman" and Amanda Peet, "The
Whole Ten Yards"), who quickly accept
Melinda's friendship. Ferrell's Hobie
feverishly yearns to develop this relation-
ship into romance. Ferrell, though a sur-
prise choice to step into the neurotically
comic shoes Allen usually fills, proves an
affable lead. His doleful, average physi-
cality makes for a completely different,
though not unwelcome, brand of comedy
than Allen's acerbic self-consciousness.
"Melinda and Melinda", plays like
vintage Woody in several stylistic ways.
There's the familiar jazz music in the
background, simple white-on-black
opening credits, prominent themes of
infidelity and partner-switching and, of
course, the New York setting, with the
usual unexplainable expensive apart-
ments. The flourish of the final shot in
particular glints with an impish Allen
wink, reminiscent of the notable break-
ing of the fourth wall in "Annie Hall."
The rest of the film could have
greatly profited from such fresh imme-
diacy - but the drama isn't tragic,
and the comedy isn't funny. Each ver-
sion adheres so rigidly to its structure
- eye roll-inducing talk of souls in
the former, slapstick eavesdropping in
the latter - that both come off merely
as lessons in storytelling, rather than
actual stories that resonate with the
audience. "Melinda" lacks the voy-
euristic naturalism so typical of Allen's
other films; it's burdened by unwieldy,
showy dialogue that is far from his
trademark realistic banter. Particularly
in the tragic version, the capable cast at
Allen's disposal is left to portray char-
acters instead of people.
If this effect is intended, Allen is mis-
guided: Both stories fall flat rather than
appealing to viewers with more engag-
ing development. In toying with the plot
points and character templates that sep-
arate comedy and tragedy, Allen forgets
that drama itself is not derived from the
merits of individual parts alone but from
how those elements work together.

modified new recipe works. On Elevator, empathy so
their second full-length album, the Van- tently incon
couver-bred quartet wisely chose to focus "Soldier ina
on the - gasp - simple pop song. about a lon
Elevator is a grand departure into himself / 'C
sweeping choruses and unadorned melo- If the a
dies. If they mastered terse, start-stop blame the
guitar lines and breathy organ fills on tunes. TheI
Make Up, then Elevator conquers the impressive.
playful, sing-songy landscape the last lethargic a
record overlooked. In today's competitive Usually th
landscape of retro-rock revivalists, this on You," a
may be one of the smartest moves since album, but
"synth-pop" became the bandwagon's the end of1
household codename. Fortunately, their cut a tads
new lean, approachable sound sets them stellar exa
apart from the current wave of dance dance-punk
punk players flooding the industry. The sho
The second time around, singer/key- Decaro cha
boardist Steven Bays, bassist Dustin replacemen
Hawthorne, drummer Paul Hawley and bounciness
recently departed guitarist Dante Decaro as Hot Hot
mold a record filled with infectiously Paquin enti
'God of War'
redefines the
action game
By Forest Casey
Daily Arts Writer

cal hooks and jittery beats.
oesn't abandon the danceable * .
Make Up, it just takes those
d makes them iridescent, with
tic guitar, more toy piano and
rate yelping.
to say that Bays carries the
Tm the tongue-twisting open-
rn "Island of the Honest Man"
and playful "You Owe Me an
lyrics are flooded with even
y self-pity. On "Middle of
one of the decidedly un-Hot
unes, Bays stretches his pecu-
of a voice into a touching,
oaked cry: "I'm just consis-
isistent." The overtly political
a Box" plants a bold assertion
nely soldier who "celebrated
ause nobody cares."
lbum sags toward the end,
string of bland, forgettable
title track showcases Bays's
ly odd range but suffers from We like to loiter.
nd boring instrumentation.
e filler songs, like "Shame spot permanently.
re spread throughout a solid out for him, thoug
they seem to be stapled to sidering that Elevc
Elevator. If the album were note-for-note guit
shorter, it could stand as a Bays's vocals. Th
ample of Heat's explosive band's pilgrimage

Courtesy of Sire

k.
ot-in-the-foot departure of
allenged the band to find a
t that could translate the
of Elevator to the stage
t Heat begins touring. Luke
iced them enough to fill the

may raise concern
integrity. Yet Elev
delay, packs enoug
guitars to satisfy ei
members of the pe.
Hot Hot Heat
the responsibility

He's got his work cut
gh - especially con-
,tor is weighted with
ar burps that follow
is, coupled with the
to major-label land
r over Hot Hot Heat's
ator, despite a lengthy
h pop punch and XTC
ven the most skeptical
anut gallery.
may be tagged with
of repopularizing the

dance-punk genre, but it's clear that
Elevator also borrows from the song-
structure of artists like Elvis Costello.
What's more, Hot Hot Heat take these
less applicable influences and fuse them
into a catchy-ass pop song. And in a
musical environment wrought with tal-
entless postmodern copycat clones, Hot
Hot Heat refuse to become lumped in
with the dregs of the scene. Elevator is
one happy chorus ahead of the dance-
hall pack - and this is the best direction
it could've taken.

Two adventure games released in the past six months
have dealt with feelings of remorse and anger. Both
feature warrior protagonists, fallen from
grace as a result of supernatural gifts and God
seeking to destroy a seemingly impos- Of War
sible foe - a god. One of these games is
superb, a true advancement, a perfection PS2I
in the genre of action video games. The Sony
other is a mediocre mess, succeeding as
many times as it disappoints. The first is a deity, the
second a prince.
So what sets Sony's "God of War" apart from Ubi-
soft's "Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within"? The key
is believability: "God" features a tormented protagonist
named Kratos who fights for the Greek goddess Athena
to repent for his mortal sins. His character is convinc-
ingly angry, with no need for a hard-rock goatee to be
a badass. Kratos's rage is frightening as he kills Athe-
nians for sport with enough gore to make gainers look
to the "Mortal Kombat" series for some decency.
The story, narrated by Dame Judy Dench (GoldenEye:
Rogue Agent"), is about eight hours long. Every scene is

Courtesy of Sony

'It's like see-saw, but one of us will die."
emotionally taut and well produced. Ancient Greece has
been virtually ignored in the medium of video games
until now, which is surprising given the breadth of mate-
rial that "God" gets from Greek mythology. Gamers will
be wading through the River Styx, fighting Medusa and
a battalion of Minotaurs, Cyclopses and Centaurs.
Kratos battles the legions of Ares, the god of war,
with two formidable blades attached to forged chains
that are grafted on to his arms. His attacks involve
swinging the knives, juggling and batting enemies
up and down with large streaks of flame. Early in the
game, finesse with the blades is just for show, but later,
expert timing, blocking and striking is absolutely criti-
cal to survival.

"God" benefits from its development time, which
occurred near the end of the PS2's life. The game's
graphics must be seen to be believed, an experience
akin to playing "Resident Evil 4" on Gamecube. The
levels are artistically designed, and the player never
feels as if he is just dungeon crawling through nonde-
script Scooby Doo-esque levels.
The "Prince" has been dethroned: The new cham-
pion of action/adventure gaming got the combat sys-
tem right the first time, created artistic environments
that would be impressive on any system and crafted a
story that is tragic and heroic enough to be considered
along with the best of Greek mythology. Long live
"God of War."

Edgy drama 'Closer' comes to DVD

By Christopher Lechner
Daily Arts Writer
Awaited with eager anticipation by
fans of the original hit Broadway pro-
duction, the extraordinary "Closer"
features an artful directorial style
along with a cast of
bona fide stars. It is
rare that established Closer
actors such as the four Paramount
leads - Jude Law,
Natalie Portman,
Clive Owen and Julia Roberts - will
put their images at risk by playing
contemptible characters driven by
lust, revenge and hatred.
Law plays Dan, a failed writer
who sees himself as a sort of roman-
tic but comes across as a sniveling
coward. This is undoubtedly the
apex of Law's acting career; this
performance proves that he can play
a character who's not a charming
womanizer. Portman plays stripper
Alice, Dan's beloved, whose vivid
portrayal puts to rest doubts con-
cerning her Golden Globe to rest.
Owen, perhaps the least famous of
the quartet, steals the show as despi-
cable doctor Larry. Forced to become
the nastiest character, Owen's char-

acter convincingly derives pleasure
from the pain caused by his razor-
sharp tongue. Roberts plays Anna, a
vulnerable American photographer.
Despite being the most heralded star
in the cast, she is also, surprisingly,
the weakest.
As an adaptation of a play, "Clos-
er" is full of the witty, eloquent dia-
logue used onstage but often lost in
film. It is a complex movie, and the
complete extent of the plot doesn't
become apparent until the last scene.
Although the explicit language can
be distracting, "Closer" is frightfully
appealing because it is so different
from the kinds of films audiences
have come to expect. The subtle
details may be lost on some, but for
others, this will make this film stand
apart from its contemporaries.
The picture and sound quality of
this DVD are crisp and pristine. Each
scene is picturesque with sharp, dis-
tinct colors. However, the extras are
extremely disappointing: The only
feature included is a music video of
the movie's theme song, "The Blower's
Daughter," by Irish singer/songwriter
Damien Rice.
Ultimately, "Closer" uses its eclec-
tic cast of stars and careful nuance to
fashion an offbeat film fueled by emo-
tions that viewers don't want to admit

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Looking bored = looking cool.

Louis XIV make a royal debut

exist within them. It has divided audi-
ences more than any other recent film
and begs the question: Is it because
viewers don't want to see their favor-
ite stars acting like despicable human
beings, or is it because they are scared
to see how close they are to becoming
like them?

By Abby Frackman
Daily Arts Writer
Music RaIvusw * *
They might not be from 18th century
Versailles, but that doesn't stop Louis XIV
from dressing as if they were. The eyeliner-
wearing, faux-Brit
ish accent-sporting
members of Louis Louis XIV
XIV hail from the The Best Little
faraway land of Secrets Are Kept
San Diego, Calif. Atlantic
In 2003, singer/gui- _
tarist Jason Hill,
who produced The Best Little Secrets Are
Kept on a 16-track tape recorder; guitarist/
singer/pianist Brian Karscig; and drum-
mer Mark Maigaard bolted from alt-rock
group Convoy in search of a change. They
teamed up with bassist James Armbrust,

by their own Pineapple Recording Group,
garnered major-label attention.
Unhappy with the sound of current
music in the United States and armed
with a concept for an album, the band
members jetted to Paris to record their
first full-length major-label debut. The
Best Little Secrets Are Kept bristles
with raunchy, sleazy lyrics layered over
garage riffs. "Illegal Tender" whines
"I'll tease you with a knife until you're
screaming for your life ... Can I spend
you up?" "Paper Doll" and "Finding
Out True Love Is Blind" are even more
bloated with double entendres: "Sing me
a song / Then bang me like the girls in
Hong Kong ... Politics are so much better
when there's sex," "You know it's the girl
in the front with the tight pants I really
wanna shake up ... Tie you up until you
call to me." While lyrics of this sort are
witty, they begin to lose their edge when

There is no doubt that this album is
laden with feet-tapping beats. But half-
way through Secrets, the listener may
feel a case of ddja vu coming on: Louis
XIV seem to emulate many other art-
ists with their raw sound and contagious
rhythms. At first they bring to mind The
White Stripes, as both bands employ
archaic recording methods. Hill's glam-
rock, badass persona, along with his style
of speak-singing, uncannily recalls
The New York Dolls' frontman David
Johansen. Additionally, the boys from
San Diego sound shockingly like The
Sex Pistols on the song "God Killed
The Queen" - not to mention the
shamelessly similar song title.
Even though The Best Little Secrets
Are Kept may sound repetitive at times
- try counting the number of tracks with
handclaps - it's an overall success. Louis
XIV's major-label debut surely deserves

Film: ****i
Features: No stars
Picture/Sound: ****

i .

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