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January 05, 2006 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-05

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, January 5, 2006

ARTS

Courtesy of Columbia

Man, I hope that's not dandruff ... or Peruvian flake.

High-concept visuals
elevate adaptation

Courtesy of RCA
Totally the
hippest
arboretum
EVER.

By David R. Eicke
Daily Arts Writer
It is said that a true Rob Marshall film
can stop a man in his tracks with a single
look. Or was that a geisha?
Something like that. Either way,
"Memoirs of a Geisha" is as elegant and

STROKES' LATEST

ALBUM SHOWS WORTHWHILE GROWING PAINS

By Aaron Kaczander
Daily Arts Writer
On the morning after Dec. 31, somewhere
in a grimy East Village dive's bathroom - the
kind with indie rock stick-_...........__
ers adorning the inside of The Strokes
the urinals - any of the five
Strokes might lay in a cor- First Impressions
ner, clutching an empty Red of Earth
Stripe bottle, celebrating the RCA
highly anticipated release of
First Impressions of Earth with a broken pair of
2006 eye glasses crooked across their face.
Like that swelling New Year's Day hangover,
Impressions hits hard and without remorse. It
feels like an eternity since fans and the press
were assured that the boys were here to stay with
2003's Room On Fire, and Impressions yearns
to further cement Julian Casablancas and com-
pany at the top of the dignified young graduat-
ing class of vintage-rock revivalists. Sure, what
The Strokes bring to the table is authentic, but
they sure as hell aren't perfect.
Impressions is no traditional Strokes album.
The songs are meatier, the fast tunes are more
urgent, the slow tunes more relaxed, the lyrics
more telling. The album sprawls to a whopping 53

minutes. That's 17 more minutes of angular rock
than Is This It? and 21 more than the methodical
Room On Fire. This is a Strokes album, so the
lack of the wine-'em-and-dine-'em, quick-punch
attitude that made their first two efforts so easy
and downright fun to listen to is a shock. The
Strokes work hard here to change. Of course,
evolution isn't always pleasant.
You can't really blame them though for trying
to mix things up. Take the down-tempo balladry
of "Ask Me Anything." It is, by far, the slowest
Strokes tune to date, but it reveals a new side of
Casablancas. He's finally comfortable enough
to shamelessly channel his inner Lou Reed pen-
siveness: "I would fight to survive /I got nothin'
to hide / Wish I wasn't so shy."
He's immortalized Iggy Pop in the past,
but now he does it more than ever, with city-
scape love affairs and coarse yelling in the first
single. Wary Strokes fanatics may have been
scared by the resemblance of "Juicebox" to a
Jet song when it leaked, but Nikolai Fraiture's
raunchy bass line grows until you're screaming
right along. Drummer Fabrizio Moretti's manic
hi hat hits blaze the verses with a new fury. The
instrumental innovation, however, doesn't make
up for the album's shortcomings.
The back half is what slows down and ulti-
mately stops Impressions from adding another
near-perfect imprint in the Strokes' impressive,

young catalog. The final four tunes come off
as rehashed older material - see the "Evening
Sun" vocal inflection as an old bridge or the
"Red Light" Cars-esque guitars like a photo-
copy of "12:51." "Ize of the World," the album's
weakest track, is just plain bloated and boring.
Suppose these four tracks were made B-sides
to true gems like "Razorblade" or the stunning
album opener "You Only Live Once." If that
were the case, Impressions might be a classic.
There's no doubting guitarists Nick Valensi and
Albert Hammond Jr. can duel with perfectly
slighted rhythm. Valensi is shaping up to be
one of rock's most detectable and contemporary
players. His screaming breakdown in "Heart in a
Cage" or hummable shredding on "Razorblade"
are integral to what ultimately makes Strokes
songs so damn addictive.
First Impressions of Earth was tracked by a
strategic leak of songs earlier in the year. But
only the choice cuts from the record made it out.
Mere coincidence?
Their instruments may speak like incarna-
tions of rock gods of yore and their public
persona rpay offer a masturbatory image of con-
temporary stardom, but Impressions ultimately
shows that The Strokes do have human flaws.
Bring in 2006 with this album and mind those
mature imperfections. First impressions aren't
everything.

visually stunning
as its kimono-clad
characters. Mar-
shall, the acclaimed
director of "Chica-
go," has framed and
colored each scene
with the passion and

Memoirs of
a Geisha
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Columbia

precision of a slightly deranged oil painter
wielding a very tiny brush. But while the
film and its geisha characters share the
same exotic pulchritude, they do not share
the same gift for movement: Tragically,
the movie's flourish comes far too soon.
Swept one day from her modest home
in a Japanese fishing village, our narra-
tor and memoirist, Chiyo (Ziyi Zhang,
"Hero"), is taken to the big city to be
trained as a geisha - sort of a traditional
combination of model, actor, dancer and
hostess. At first it seems she will spend
her life in servitude at the slippered feet of
the beautiful, cruel Hatsumomo (Gong Li,
"2046"), but things look up for her when
she is taken in by another geisha, Mam-
eha (Michelle Yeoh, "Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon"), and properly trained.
Eventually she blossoms and is renamed
Sayuri, the most highly praised and
desired geisha in the land. But this is only
the beginning of her troubles, as jealousy
rears its ugly head and male attention is no

longer "cute."
No story would be complete, though,
without a little romance. One day when
Chiyo is still a little girl, she meets a hand-
some, middle-aged chairman (Ken Wata-
nabe, "The Last Samurai") on a bridge,
and most of her subsequent decisions
(including career choice) are based on her
love and admiration for him. "Every step I
have taken has been to bring myself closer
to you," she admits. While some might find
this idea romantic, others, understandably,
might find it offensive, especially since it
seems to contradict her earlier assertion,
"I want a life that is mine."
But this instance of dubious values
doesn't spring from the film, but rather
from the popular Arthur Golden book
the film is based on. So perhaps Marshall
isn't to blame; given the immense popu-
larity of the novel, any filmmaker daring
enough to change the story would find
himself scrubbing egg yolks off his vinyl
siding for months.
Marshall's job here is simply to "imag-
ine" a story that is already well known.
He's done that, and has capitalized on the
physical beauty of his actors, the grace of
tradition and the breathtaking majesty of
the Japanese landscape itself. Throughout,
the detail of the set and the vibrant color-
ing make the film pop with life.
That said, the film makes one costly
mistake: It reaches its dramatic pinnacle
with 45 minutes left. It's a case of cine-
matic dwarfing. If you put the biggest float
in the middle of the parade, who's going to
remember the second half?
But of course, one wouldn't want to miss
the entire spectacle because of a kink in its
organization. The splendor and vibrancy
of the film are still sights to behold.

I

'Fantastic Four' limps to DVD; Alba still horrendous

By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
How much more can the poor superhero
genre take? Revitalized by "Spider-Man" only
to be decimated by "Dare-
devil" and "Catwoman," it
seemed to reach new heights Fantastic
with "Batman Begins." Four
But a mere two weeks later2
came "Fantastic Four," a 20th Century Fo
film that is, in many ways,
moviemaking at its worst. Expectations were
high for the movie adaptation of Marvel's lon-
gest-running series, but the film has about as
much tact and depth as "Power Rangers," and
may make studios hoping to profit off comic-

book adaptations a little more wary. a comic book, but the film still goes too far
The story of "Fantastic Four," conceived t mwn the road" of cheap laughs and Nickel-

in 1961, represents - unwittingly, I'm sure
- the hopes and fears of average Americans
at the dawn of the space age. It centers on four
scientists (with cool, alliterated names like
Sue Storm and Reed Richards) who become
exposed to unknown forces while on a research
trip in space. After the exposure they develop
superpowers like spontaneous combustibility
and stretchiness. But there's trouble down at the
plant when arch-nemesis Dr. Victor Von Doom
(Julian McMahon, TV's "Nip/Tuck") develops
superpowers worthy of the Energizer bunny
and wreaks havoc for unknown reasons.
From the very beginning, "Fantastic Four"
chooses to take its source material lightly,
opting for laughs over well paced storytelling
or thoughtful dialogue. Granted it's based on

odeon-esque plot tools. At one point, Johnny
"The Human Torch" Storm (Chris Evans, "The
Perfect Score") spends a good 12 minutes try-
ing to get Ben "The Thing" Grimm (Michael
Chiklis, TV's "The Shield") to slap himself in
the face with a handful of shaving cream. With
moments like this, the film becomes a farce,
making any subsequent attempt at seriousness
all the more hilarious.
As woefully miscast as nearly all the char-
acters are, none is worse than Jessica Alba's
Sue "The Invisible Woman" Storm. The
thought of Alba as a rocket scientist is enough
to make the film irrelevant, but "Fantastic
Four" travels past mediocrity and toward dis-
grace. The dialogue is so poorly written and
so repulsively delivered that even fans of the

comic will not be able to suppress laughter
at the, haphazard amalgamation of scientific
terms by the hapless actors.
As far as extras, "Fantastic Four" is in famil-
iar territory - that is, it's lacking. The three
deleted scenes are trite and deserve no further
discussion. The special featurette, "Fantastic
Four Video Diary," is so pointless and banal
that it may spark the outright censure of anyone
involved with it, and rightfully so. Of the rest,
only the special preview of the third "X-Men"
movie, "X3," is worth a look, simply because it
reminds us all that there is hope yet for comic-
book adaptations.

Film: *
Picture/Sound: ****
Special Features: *

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