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November 01, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-01

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

ARTS

4
I

Tiny video game characters ... with spicy club sauce!

God game improves
upon predecessor

I

By Forest Casey
Daily Arts Writer

VIDEO GME REIE

Courtesy of Universal

Uma Thurman ... with club sauce!

It has become a
field of video game
developer Peter
Molyneux. He
has been called
overly ambitious,
unrealistic and an
outright liar for
announcing tanta-
lizing game con-

tradition in the
criticism to bash
Black and
White 2
PC
EA Games

MPRIME COMEDY
RELATIONSHIP STUDY MASQUERADES AS SAPPY ROMANTIC COMEDY

By Mary Kate Varnau
Daily Arts Writer
The casual moviegoer probably won't like
"Prime." The film has
propagated a case of false Prime
advertising - in fact, out-
right lying would be closer At the Showcase
to the mark. "Prime" is not and Quality 16
the hackneyed romantic Universal
comedy it appears to be in
its trailer: It's funny, but not in the way the
viewer will expect. The movie is full of sur-
prises - the plot, the dialogue, the way the
scenes are shot - all the way through to the
credits.
The premise sounds typical enough: Rafi
Gardet (Uma Thurman, "Kill Bill 2") falls
in love with David Bloomberg, the son of her
therapist (Meryl Streep, "Adaptation"). But
it's not as "adorable" as it sounds. The real
meat of the film has little to do with the trail-
er. The deliciously awkward tidbits in which

Thurman divulges intimate details about her
sex life to her boyfriend's mother are only the
icing on the cake. The real conflict has more
to do with the implications of a 14-year gap in
the lovers' ages.
"Prime" strives to be the unconventional
romantic comedy. It's artfully crafted and
doesn't follow the standard boy-meets-girl,
boy-loses-girl, happy-reunion formula of its
genre. "Prime" is moody and raw; overall,
it's well-written, except for a few eye-rollers
here and there. The most egregious of these
comes at the end, the emotional climax of the
film - where every line of the scene reads
like saccharine-steeped abstraction. It's a
contrived, disappointing way of ending a film
that did such a good job of walking the line
between the poignant and the salty.
Bryan Greenberg (TV's "One Tree Hill")
plays Thurman's hunky, 23-year-old love
interest. Though his performance is satisfy-
ing in the eye-candy department, the actor is
thin on charisma. Thurman does fine, but, of
course, Streep's stereotypically quirky Jewish
mom steals the show - but not in a good way.

The film leans too heavily on the pull of her
performance; it should be an afterthought,
not the film's main attraction.
"Prime" is rich in un-Hollywoodish
moments. It accurately portrays the feverish
falling-in-love stage. Then the honeymoon is
over, and Rafi is pissed at her lover for leav-
ing the cereal box on the counter. The sweet
moments slide into the bitter ones honestly.
This is an uncompromisingly honest film -
even the climax scene can be justified by the
unglamorous, this-is-the-way-people-actual-
ly-talk approach. After all, real people aren't
always witty and original.
Partly because of that, "Prime" is not the
kind of movie that caters to the viewer's need
for a quick emotional fix. It's not that the film
is unapproachably artsy - it will make the
audience laugh and care for the characters.
But it also might end up disappointing expec-
tations. People will leave the theater feel-
ing wholly unsatisfied because - and this
becomes obvious in the first 20 minutes of
the film - there is no possible ride-off-into-
the-sunset ending.

cepts and features, then abandoning
them before the game's release.
When the original "Black and White"
came out, fanboys concentrated on what
wasn't there when they opened the box,
criticizing the game heavily. The game,
centered around the trials of a young god
who must choose between good and evil,
was supposed to be able to name the play-
er's followers after addresses in their Out-
look Express mailbox. If players received
a new message while in the game, it would
be displayed to them by one of their min-
ions who would carry the same name as
the letter writer.
While the sequel to "Black and White"
still doesn't have this and other whiz-bang
features, Molyneux and Lionhead Studios
have done their part to refine a game that
was, while conceptually mind-blowing, a
little rough around the edges.
Gone are the crab-shaped limbs of the
original game's inhabitants; the sequel's
graphics finally allow players to zoom
seamlessly from the clouds down to the
faces of their human flock. The player's
main outlet for communication to follow-
ers, the feature that distinguishes "Black
and White" from other "god games," is
a giant animal (cow, orangutan, lion or'

hyena), trained by the young god to be
either good or evil. It's now less of a Tama-
gotchi-esque add-on and more like a real
feature. Players now know what they're
specifically teaching their pets - the pets
have finally become intelligent.
Besides graphics and an improved
artificial intelligence, the major advance-
ment brought about in "Black and White
2" is something not new to seasoned Real
Time Strategy (RTS) veterans - warfare.
In the original game, decisions between
being either good and evil were more cut
and dry, there was no incentive to be evil
apart from the inherent thrill in crushing
your followers.
But with the inclusion of combat, play-
ers who would normally take over a land
the "good way" (by building a beauti-
ful city and advanced enough to entice
migration from other cities of other gods),
now have a faster, more evil option. Sure,
it is "evil" to train your creature for war
and have it lead your troops into battle,
but it saves time that players should prob-
ably be spending studying for tests or
writing papers. Molyneux and Lionhead
deserve to be commended for making
the temptation to be evil that much more
attractive.
Typical RTS fans might feel as if the,
game is too simplistic for them. But
that's not the point; gamers who would
play "Black and White 2" and complain
about the lack of specialized army men,
or multi-branching upgrade trees don't
understand what Molyneux is trying to
do. It's groundbreaking game design and
matchless in ambition and scope. His
experiment in morality makes players
feel realistically godlike. From its lush,
ambient tribal music to the crisp, close-
up in faces of your disciples, "Black and
White 2" is a singular gaming experience
from start to finish.

0

0

Maguire crafts worthy
sequel to 'Wicked'

By Bernie Nguyen
Daily Books Editor

Nearly 10 years after his break-
out debut "Wicked," a fantasy-rich
chronicle that retold the tale of the

Wicked Witch
of the West set
in a politically
tumultuous and
imaginary Oz,
Gregory Magu-
ire returns to
the land that has

Son of a
Witch
By Gregory
Maguire
Harper Collins

become explosively popular with
the premiere of "Wicked: the Musi-
cal." In "Son of a Witch," Maguire
conjures all his old tricks - politi-
cal intrigue, keen characters and
persuasive fantasy - into a tale of
violence, rebellion and the search
for identity.
The novel revolves around Liir, a
young man whose present and past
are cleverly entwined as he lays in a
coma. Liir's heritage is much debated
- is he the son of Elphaba, the late
Wicked Witch of the West?
The plot builds around Liir's
search for his childhood friend Nor.
Around this driving story device,
Maguire constructs a much more
complex framework, involving subtle
backstory told in dream sequences
and patient character development.

Liir's unwilling involvement in Oz
politics seems an inevitable result of
his heritage - but is he really Elpha-
ba's son?
The question remains unanswered,
but Liir's character is expertly devel-
oped. By crafting him as a man
without an identity, Maguire uses
him to reflect both Oz's turmoil and
the mounting tensions in the story:
Violence escalates, relationships
crumble and religion plays a signifi-
cant role. In the process, the reader
gets a glimpse at Liir's inner mind
- his uncertainty and apparent lack
of emotion progress into defining
aspects of his character.
The novel's creative fabric is tex-
tured and realistic. Instead of strug-
gling with an elaborate, imagined
world, the author uses it to his advan-
tage. Unlike many fantasy novels,
the substance here is the story, not
the landscape.
Maguire does not lack details,
though. By populating Oz with sen-
tient animals, curiously cruel yet
likable characters and strangely
believable political chaos, he walks
the fine line between sheer imagina-
tion and plausible fiction with admi-
rable success..
The novel's major drawback is a
lack of sufficient explanation of char-
acter relationships. In several areas,
interaction between Liir and his
friends and foes are confusing, and

important events that should serve
to define character and elucidate
plot are abruptly introduced without
sufficient information. Confusion
and an unwelcome surprise abound
where there should be recognition, or
at least confirmation of suspicions.
"Son of a Witch" reads at a quick
pace, mixing elements of the past
with shades of the future to elicit
maximum suspense. Though some
plot elements may seem bare on first
reading, they are eventually fleshed
out with the aid of the multidimen-
sional characters. The author revives
his questions about the true nature
of evil as he delves into complicated
issues of love, loyalty and religion.
Here, Maguire undoubtedly sets the
stage for his next novel, and fans of
"Wicked" will follow him down the
Yellow Brick Road once again.

Deft rockers keep the vibes going

By Caitlin Cowan
Daily Arts Writer
Music R VIEW
Supergrass can do no wrong. Whether the band
releases a slick punk-pop record or a moody, think-

Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher after downing a fistful
of tranquilizers.
With lyrics like "Follow all the signs and they'll lead
us away," it seems that Supergrass has an urge to travel.
Whether this theme of movement is telling of the band's
future or their emotional state, it lends a nomadic feel-
ing to the album. A diverse yet unified record, Rouen

r

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