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April 11, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Monday
S April 1, 2005
arts. michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ART S

5A

- - ------------
. . ........ . ...

Courtesy o faramount
When he did this naked and with bongos, it led to an arrest.

'Sahara'

delivers

Courtesy
of Twentieth
Century Fox
"What the
hell am I
doing in a
movie with
this guy?"

early summer action

By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer

NEARLY 'PITCH' PERFECT
FALLON AND BARRYMORE SCORE IN LIGHT ROMANCE

By Jeffrey Bloomer
Daily Arts Writer

MOVI E REVIEW
In the hierarchy of American romantic com-
edy, novelty is as fruitless as it is infrequent.
If a film deviates from the
standard - boy gets girl,
boy loses girl, boy wins girl Fever Pitch
back - it's a sure bet that At the Showcase
audiences will want little to and Quality 16
do with it. As a direct result, Twentieth Century Fox
nuance has replaced origi-
nality, and no one knows
this better than the Farrelly brothers, the writ-
ing-directing team behind "There's Something
About Mary" and "Stuck on You."
The brothers have sidestepped contrived con-
flict and saccharine sentimentality as narrative
filler in lieu of their own brand of romantic
comedy: the gross-out date movie. And from the
moment audiences saw Cameron Diaz's semen-
soaked blonde locks combined with Ben Still-
er's asinine puppy love in "Mary," they were
hooked.
Nevertheless, with "Fever Pitch," they step'
outside of their comfort zone, ditching the gutter

jokes in favor of an only slightly less-exploited
angle: the Boston Red Sox.
The remarkable thing about the film is that it
is not a rushed hack job that aims to cash in on to
the team's triumph over their infamous 86-year
losing streak last fall. The movie, based on Brit-
ish author Nick Horby's memoirs of the same
title, was in development long before the Red
Sox's stunning turnaround, and a reshoot was
even required to give it a new, timelier ending.
Likewise, "Fever Pitch" is not a paper-thin
ode to the pop-culture phenomenon, but rather
a genuine - albeit fluffy - attempt to explore
the culture of sports fandom and its conse-
quences, translating Hornby's fanatical soccer
(er, football) follower into the story of a school-
teacher (Jimmy Fallon) in a 23-year-long love
affair with the Red Sox.
His obsession just so happens to be interrupt-
ed by a sweetheart businesswoman (Drew Bar-
rymore) at the worst possible time imaginable
for a long-time Boston baseball fan: the begin-
ning of their glorious 2004 season.
Even with its honorable intentions, "Fever
Pitch" is still a distinctly hit-or-miss affair, both
as a romance and as a cultural commentary. The
'romantic ahgle, typecasting "Batrymore as a
woman on the wrong side of 30 who's desper-

ate to find a guy, takes full advantage of her
natural charm to channel viewers' softer sides.
The more thoughtful casting is that of Fal-
lon. Though he's not likely rise to the ranks of
comedy superstars like Adam Sandler and Jim
Carrey, he downplays his natural goofiness to
provide an ever-so-slightly understated perfor-
mance that suits the film well.
Alas, the romantic plot from the glossy
courtship to the inevitable final scene set at
Fenway Park - is utterly transparent and will
alternatively inspire swoons and eye-rolls at
its self-conscious cuteness. The same goes for
the film's social commentary; while it takes on
sports obsession and treats it as more than a plot
device, it cuts itself short, acquiescing to the
prepackaged narrative rather than aiming for
any real insights beyond the superficial.
Still, "Fever Pitch" is a welcome change of
pace for the Farrellys - a satisfying and sin-
cere, if uninspired, bout of genre entertainment
that wears its heart on its sleeve. As the third
screen adaptation of a Hornby book, it falls
short, offering only a fraction of "About a Boy's"
winsome charm and an even lesser approxima-
tion of "High Fidelity's" insufferable wit. But as
light; easy-to-swallow spring escapism, "Fever
Pitch" just about takes it home.

Ushering in the new summer season
with a lackluster bang - a crackle or a
pop might be more appropriate - "Saha-
ra" is hot, dirty and
stitched together
from at least three Sahara
other recent films. At the Showcase
But summer is the and Quality 16
time for mindless Paramount
explosions and
pretty people, and
"Sahara" packs fun into every frame -
just try not to think about it too hard.
The plot is not so much a story as an
excuse to get from one action scene to the
next. Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey)
is obsessed with finding a ship from the
Civil War. The old ironside goes by the
nickname "Ship of Death," and a mysteri-
ous plague seems to be emanating from
its resting place somewhere in Mali. Al
Giordino (Steve Zahn, "Saving Silver-
man") is the comic relief sidekick, and
Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz, "Vanilla Sky")
fills the role of feisty hot chick.
After helming the miniseries "Taken,"
director Breck Eisner makes his first step
up to big-budget features. If there's any
question as to why an outlandishly expen-
sive studio venture was handed over to
such an inexperienced director, the fact
that Eisner happens to be the scion of
Disney CEO Michael Eisner and his mul-
timedia empire had, no doubt, a negligible
role in the assignment. In any case, young
Eisner is competent, if not exactly the sec-

ond coming of Steven Spielberg. The film
is suitably conceived and exciting enough
to avoid tedium despite its length.
Part of the credit goes to the stars
though. McConaughey manages to tone
down his "Reign of Fire" persona just
enough to construct an impressive and
engaging hero. The shirtless scenes don't
hurt either. Zahn is handed more smug
jokes and one-liners than any sidekick in
recent memory, but he manages to come
across sufficiently heroic to pull it off.
And Cruz, well, she's pretty. She avoids
being as annoying as token babes in her
position normally are, keeping her sweaty,
bare-chested savior's attitude in check.
The movie interlaces top-notch action
sequences with stunning landscapes and
laugh-out-loud comedy. That the plot relies
heavily on the extreme luck and good tim-
ing of its protagonists is more a nod to
the conventions of summer movies than a
fault. But underneath it all, the movie's too
uninspired to be anything spectacular. Not
only does it borrow heavily from hits like
"The Mummy" and the "Indiana Jones"
series, but it also takes from more recent
tripe like "National Treasure." Eisner and
Clive Cussler, who penned the source
material, are patently uninterested in cre-
ating something original. The movie plays
like a salute to its genre; a keen audience
member will have no problem envisioning
each scene far before it takes place.
Does it matter? The plot is dumb
and nonsensical, and the movie is an
unremitting cliche. But sometimes it's
enough just to watch beautiful people in
exotic places executing stunts and special
effects. Despite its faults, "Sahara" deliv-
ers where it counts.

* Man Man
release
strange LP
By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Arts Writer
MUSIC EV I Ew
Board up the windows, lock up all
* the valuables and send the kids to your

Boyle's style dominates
sweet-natured fable

By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer

sister's before
spinning Man
Man's dement-
ed carnival of
a debut album.
Dropped some-
where between
Tom Waits and
Screamin' Jay

Man Man
The Man in the
Blue Turban
Without a Face
Ace Fu

The album is full of eerie dirges,
but the most haunting song may be
"Gold Teeth." The beautiful Rhodes
progression is mutated by skitter-
ing bells and detached backing
vocals that sound as if they're sung
by a zombie chorus. On this track
and throughout the album, front-
man Honus Honus's born-under-a-
bad-sign-vocals echo what Blanco's
gypsy clarinet emotes.
The Man in the Blue Turban With-
out a Face is an unsettling Mexi-
can funeral march, an album with
enough gravity to pull listeners into
the seedy musical underworld. Be
careful: this album stays with listen-
ers, and its freak-show imagery is
bound to haunt your dreams.

FitREVw***
In the past decade, director Danny
Boyle has established himself as one of
the key players in edgy, independent cin-
ema. Be it his breakthrough depiction of
heroin addicts in
"Trainspotting" or Millions
the violent zom-
bie flick "28 Days At the
Later," Boyle has Michigan Theater
proven that he's Fox Searchlight
adept at experi-
menting with dif-
ferent kinds of material. Unsurprisingly,
he has challenged himself yet again by
making a movie that's not steeped in
darkness, but is filled with welcome
sweetness and feel-good moments.
"Millions" tells the story of two
young brothers, Damian (Alex Etel) and
Anthony (Lewis McGibbon). After the
death of their mother, the pain of the loss
still lingers with each child - Antho-
ny uses her death to guilt-trip people,
while Damian escapes reality by hav-

ing conversations with saints. On one
afternoon, Damian is outside playing
by a train track when a bag filled with
more than 200,000 quid lands right near
him. Damian informs Anthony about the
loot, and the two instantly disagree about
what to use it for. Anthony sees it as a
way to fit in socially, while Damian -
who believes the money was a "gift from
God" - seeks to help the less fortunate.
Adding to their troubles is a crook seek-
ing the stolen money, and within several
days, the quid will be worthless as the
euro becomes the new currency through
much of Europe.
With its unique visual style, "Mil-
lions" is very much Boyle's movie. The
filmmaking techniques Boyle employs
feature plenty of bright colors and child-
like whimsy, which help emphasize the
imaginative perspective of Damian. It
is also a testament to Boyle's directorial
ability that he can make the film warm,
but without going overly sentimental
- even though that fine line is almost
crossed during the film's climax. Unfor-
tunately though, Boyle's direction is not
flawless - due to the loose plot, there
are times when the film moves slowly.

"Cassandra. She's a fox. In French she would be called 'la renarde.'"

Hawkins on the freak spectrum, Man
Man is a band that just wants to creep
the fuck out of everyone.
On The Man in the Blue Turban
Without a Face, they employ chil-
dren's choirs, toy pianos and two-
headed werewolves to great effect.

Still, "Millions" remains endearing,
insightful and clever throughout - par-
ticularly the film's ending, when every-
thing ties together nicely. Frank Cottrell
Boyce's ("24 Hour Party People") script
wisely keeps the focus on the characters
and their own conflicting beliefs. Boyce
has also made one of the most memora-
ble child protagonists for the screen with
Damian, whose pure heart adds to the
film's religious subtext.
Newcomer Alex Etel easily carries
the movie. Etel's wide-eyed innocence
is bound to melt any cynic's heart, but
the young thespian truly captures the
soul of the character with an acute real-

ism. Lewis McGibbon, also a newcomer,
gleams with a confident intelligence that
overlaps with his character's frustration.
Even though it has a PG rating,
"Millions" is not a children's movie.
Kids may enjoy its visual fancies and
find themselves relating to Damian,
but there are some moments that
may frighten them, and the weighty
issues the story deals with are bound
to go over their heads. Nonetheless,
Boyle can add another solid film to
his resume - he has put together a
clean, mature character study about
unexpected riches and the kindness
people hold.

--------------

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~iW''

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