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January 06, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-06

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Friday
January 6, 2006
arts. michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

-IRbeA rIs t

5

f *

CurtI esy ofrFox
Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.
'24' DVD captivates,

Courtesy of Universal

If you look really hard you can see up that chick's skirt. Wait, sorry, that's a dude.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
SPIELBERG'S LATEST TACKLES CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer
In terms of basic plot, Steven Spielberg's latest
production doesn't differ much from the common
breed of heist flick - five men

with varying skills are assem-
bled for a criminal mission.
Witness their occasional per-
sonality conflicts and see how
they work toward their final
goal step by step. Or, in the case
of "Munich," body by body.

Munich
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Universal

These men aren't simply safecrackers - they are
vengeance-motivated assassins "unofficially" fund-
ed by the state of Israel for a mission to hunt down
and kill the men who planned the hostage tragedy of
the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
The details of that historical event open
"Munich" with concise brutality. In bits and piec-
es, the beginning montage depicts how a band
of Palestinian nationals called Black September
sneaked into the Olympic village (with the cheer-
ful aid of some unsuspecting American athletes)
and proceeded to hold 11 Israeli Olympians hos-
tage as a bargaining tool for the freedom of Pales-
tinian prisoners of war.
The following third of the movie could be titled
"Israel Strikes Back." The film's rather sage version of
then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen,
"The Station Agent") decides quickly and deliberately
TV 'toons
..................
to DVD
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

to counter in the same manner as the original attack
- with planned and stealthy violence. "Every civi-
lization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises
with its own values," Meir intones gravely in expla-
nation of the revenge. But those unsatisfactory com-
promises come at increasingly steep costs, as Avner
(Eric Bana, "The Hulk"), the appointed leader of the
hitman band, soon discovers.
A soft-spoken family man with a command of the
kitchen and a dedication to his mother, Avner makes
for an unlikely assassin - as uncomfortable with his
bloody mission as he is determined to carry it out.
Assassination, however, is not a cut-and-dry busi-
ness: Targets prove hard to find, information con-
tacts are as expensive as they are untrustworthy, and
no amount of forethought can guarantee a smoothly
executed plan. Nastiest of all, there is retribution.
Although by nature revenge is widely known to be
cyclical, retaliatory reactions in this case are not
merely equal and opposite - they are escalating.
Nowhere is safe; worse, nowhere is home. The
mission dissolves into chaotic paranoia, overhung
with an inescapable sense of futility. The taken-
.out targets are quickly replaced, the need for bru-
tality seems endless and the land for which Avner
had always thought himself to be fighting no lon-
ger feels like home.
And home, of course, is the point. Home is what
both sides think themselves to be earning the right
for; home is what keeps Avner hopeful and sane. The
point that both factions essentially desire the same
basic privilege shows an attempt to humanize both
sides of the struggle.

With care, "Munich" undermines the virtue of the
Israeli murder mission by putting a face on its sup-
posed enemy, particularly in an unexpected scene
that finds a group of Palestinians thrust into the
same "safehouse" as the Israeli hit squad. They both
agree to cohabit in peace, until one Palestinian turns
the room's only radio to an ethnic station. An Israeli
promptly flings the dial to something else, and the
two heatedly switch back and forth. Finally, with
steely eyed nods, the adversaries finally compromise
on Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."
It's a not-so-subtle touch, and perhaps the only
memorable laugh in the entire film. In keeping with
its subject matter, "Munich" has little light to coun-
teract its dark in either rhythm or palette, and tends
to lag despite its abundant bursts of violence. For a
filmmaker as seasoned as Spielberg, several sequenc-
es stick out awkwardly, most notably toward the end,
which mystifyingly juxtaposes Avner's imagining of
the Olympic tragedy against a nighttime bed session
with the missus. The film's dramatic climax seems
sited for better things than such an ill-fitting pun.
Ultimately, despite the film's title, the disaster
at Munich is beside the point. Munich only pro-
vides a sort of catalyst. Just as it offers the assas-
sin band an initial motivation for their laundry
list of targets, "Munich" merely supplies a start-
ing point from which Spielberg can explore the
ethnic groups' violent turmoil. Munich was not
the beginning, and Avner's assassination mission
achieves no end. Violence begets violence begets
more violence, and "Munich" asks how, not mere-
ly when, that cycle might end.

ignores c(
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
Boom. Tick. Boom. Tick.
With each passing second set to this
addictive pulse, Fox's thrill-ride "24"
keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
But the series' gimmick - each episode
unfolding in the real-time span of an
hour - is its greatest asset and biggest
hindrance. The recently released fourth
season highlights the show's strengths
without succumbing to past faults.
For once, it seems as if the creators
stopped and mapped out the season's
story arcs ahead of time. While occasion-
ally the action veers toward the ludicrous,
the season never fully loses steam.
The fourth season opens as Secretary of
Defense James Heller (William Devane,
"Space Cowboys") is abducted by ter-
rorists. Jack (Kiefer Sutherland, "Flatlin-
ers"), who's left the CIA and now works
for Heller, feels obligated to go back into
the field and save his boss. Complicating
issues are Jack's secret relationship with
the Secretary's daughter Audrey (Kim
Raver, TV's "Third Watch") and a conten-
tious history with the new head of CTU,
Jack's former employer Erin Driscoll
(Alberta Watson, "The Prince & Me").
From there, the action kicks into gear.
There are plenty of new faces, which add
conflict and exposition that would other-
wise be lost if the series kept all its regu-
lars from previous years. But don't fret
- old favorites find their way back just in
time to help Jack out as the plot continues
to complicate itself.
Everyone's favorite anti-hero goes from
one world-threatening crisis to another.
And therein lies the flaw of "24": As
seamlessly as Jack bounces from threat
to threat, there's never any semblance of
a believable timeframe - these events all
unfold in the matter of mere hours. "24"
Murphy's
ly choose direction - the search for
the mother who abandoned him.
Despite this element, the film moves
too quickly to fully capitalize on the
story's emotional foundation. The
chapter distinctions somewhat dimin-
ish Kitten's tale into a long string of
brief, episodic capsules, removing
any possible suspense or real connec-
tion to the character. Some of Kitten's
old friends are involved in Ireland's
growing public unrest, but while Kit-
ten observes the action from very
close range, the revolution is only
vaguely explored.
Murphy's commitment to keeping
his portrayal from degenerating into

)ntroversy
strives for realism, especially because of
its structure. Yet on cue, each episode ends
with some sort of cliffhanger. And it isn't
long before you'll hear some character
reiterate what's at stake if the heroes fail.
But these mistakes are easy to overlook
given the missteps "24" took in seasons
two and three. Jack's increasingly annoy-
ing daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert,
"House of Wax"), is only scantly refer-
enced and the story never takes viewers
too far from the action.
A controversial wrinkle in the fourth
season is the focus on the Araz fam-
ily. They seem like an average, suburban
Muslim family but are actually operatives
for a Muslim terrorist organization who
become instrumental in the violent ter-
rorist plans. But they often seem too much
like stereotypical post-Sept. 11 villains.
Much like the influx of prototypical
Communists baddies into pop culture dur-
ing the Cold War, it's not surprising that
Muslim terrorists appear in the midst of
the war on terrorism. But there needs to be
some sort of balance to avoid a one-sided
portrait of people from the Middle East.
Only later in the season do other, non-
evil characters of Middle Eastern descent
appear, but by then, it's too little, too
late. It's not the acting- Oscar nominee
Shohreh Aghdashloo is a standout - but
rather the plotline's painting of Muslim
characters as anti-American terrorists.
Though the set is packed with com-
mentaries, deleted scenes and featurettes,
it never tackles these accusations. Still, the
other extras are better than the average TV
box set - especially the prequel to the fifth
season. And "24" is a show that will thrive
on DVD even without features. It's simply
addictive. Its action, cliffhangers and con-
stant threat of danger could enliven even
the most skeptical viewer.
Show: ***i
Picture/Sound: ****
Special Features: ****
versatility
a cliche coupled with Kitten's vitality
form the resounding core of "Breakfast
on Pluto." When asked why he always
smiles, Kitten replies lightly "Other-
wise I might cry and never stop."
It seems an easy sentiment, espe-
cially for a movie - the typical tough
veneer to mask fragile emotions deep
inside. But Murphy shrugs off the
delivery with such simplicity that it
doesn't become an overdramatic rev-
elation but merely a practical acknowl-
edgement of his own weakness. Kitten
knows and trusts himself. So whenever
he finally does find a worthy place to
stop, we can have faith that it's in his
control whether or not he stays.

'Breakfast' showcases

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer

Remember the Hamburglar, the
McDonald's character that drove

innocent children
to deviant life-
styles? Where was
the positive influ-
ence - aside from
the under-achiev-
* ing clown known
as Ronald? Who
was there to save

Aqua Teen
Hunger
Force
Vol. 4
Warner Bros.

our children from entering a world
of crime and debauchery? If ever
there was an evil, super-sized villain
that cried out for a noble foil, it was
Hamburglar.
The freakish trio known as the
Aqua Teen Hunger Force probably
doesn't fit the mold for the ideal role
model, but it's a sizeable nemesis
for the evil Hamburglar. The troop
returns with Cartoon Network's lat-
est installment, "Aqua Teen Hunger
Force Vol. 4."
Frylock, the intelligent, powerful
mastermind, leads the crime-fight-
ing group. Master Shake, easily the
funniest character, is constantly at
odds with his two housemates and
always searching for material gain.
The socially crippled and endlessly
mocked Meatwad rounds out the
team of dimwit heroes.
The fourth volume sees the return

Even though the Mooninites
appear more often, the show still
lacks consistent humor and novel
ideas. The show's creators attempt
to throw scenes from every episode
into a "Brady Bunch"-type collage
in an attempt to keep things inter-
esting. Unfortunately, the "Video
Ouija" runs much too long and is too
incomprehensible to be funny.
Several of the episodes are simi-
larly mundane and overdone. "Unre-
markable Voyage" has enough potty
humor to fill a stock Adam Sandler
film, and "Little Brittle" is a poor
attempt at shock humor - a crip-
pled rap star returns to try and take
over the world before he's eaten by
a vampire.
Luckily, there are two episodes
with the Mooninites that are as funny
as the other two where they appear.
Meanwhile, "Gee Whiz" uproari-
ously mocks the FCC and their regu-
lations on television. These flashes
of brilliance are among the show's
few saving graces.
"ATHF" is occasionally over-the-
top and almost always outrageous,
far beyond conventional cartoons.

Neil Jordan's "Breakfast on Pluto" is a
long way from the sinister-villain territo-
ry that Cillian Mur-_._........__
phy slunk through Breakfast
last year in "Batman on Pluto
Begins" and "Red
Eye." As Irish trans- At the State
vestite Patrick "Kit- Theater
ten" Brady, Murphy Sony Classics
convincingly turns
his menacing sneer into an effeminate
purr, mastering all the vocal and physical
mannerisms of a rather flirty and very
persuasive coquette.
While "Breakfast on Pluto" takes
a straightforward approach to follow-
ing Patrick's passage to adulthood, it
chooses an unusual emotional focus
for a coming-of-age storyline. This is
not just another heartening tale of self-
acceptance; not even as a young child
does Patrick seem abashed or confused
by his sexuality. Instead, the film out-
lines how Patrick journeys through the
world, trusting his identity as a strength
and not a weakness.

And journey is certainly the right
word. Patrick has an affinity for frivo-
lous transience, bouncing from place
to place, emerging even from hostile
greetings undaunted. When refused
entry to a local dance, Patrick merely
turns to a nearby group of burly bikers
and cheerfully hitches a ride to spend
the rest of the night huddled cozily
around a campfire.
Minced into cheekily titled chapters,
"Breakfast on Pluto" touches lightly
and quickly on Patrick's adventures, as
he himself seems to. He's a mischievous
sort, pert and mildly sassy. He doesn't
so much shoulder society's distrust as
bypass it altogether. If anything, Pat-
rick actually enjoys asserting his dif-
ferences, bemused by the predictably
furious reactions of the small-town
conservatives who initially surround
him. Patrick sports makeup and nail
polish, convinces the principal of his
Catholic school to call him Kitten and
even imagines his conception in an in-
class essay as the humorous rape of a
housemaid by the town priest.
Patrick, or Kitten, as he prefers,
takes little in life seriously, which his
counterparts continually point out.
Only one thing ever makes him active-

Fr --- 2

ISPRING BREAK HOT SPOTI

Panama City Beach has been a
Spring Break hot spot for as long as
most Spring Breakers can remember.
The Sandpiper-Beacon Beach
Resort has been at the forefront of
Spring Break activities in Panama
City Beach since 1990.
Its popularity stems from its
"World': Largest and Longest Keg
Party" and on-site resort bar, giving
Spring Breakers plenty to do without
ever leaving the resort. DJ Big
Donna has been playing the hottest

along with Classmates USA's
calendar model search. Spring
Breakers can expect plenty more of
the same this year with bikini and
wet t-shirt/wet jockey shorts contests
daily and nightly.
The Sandpiper is never short on
big-time entertainment, hosting such
acts as Bob Marley's Wailers, Tone
Loc and other major acts. Tentatively
scheduled for this year are the Black
Eyed Peas perforning on the beach
behind the Sandpiper Beacon during

P

Y . .. I N - Ut3 'zi. h a. :.AA :8. ',AA"k

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