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March 08, 2006 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-08

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March 8, 2006
arts. michigandaily. com

R TSe ic Ygan ail


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

Teen fable
makes for
light charm
By Amanda Andrade
Daily Film Editor

Mogwai returns to
form on 'Mr. Beast'

Given a choice, I think I'd like to be a mermaid.
A life as a fabled sea princess, the quintessence
of childhood ° fantasy, boasts
the inevitable advantages of a Aquamarine
feisty temper, endless hours of
water ballet and the unshakable At the Showcase
guarantee of universal adora-
tion (even sea snails love a hot Fox 2000
mermaid). Then again, it's all
so self-defeating. Centuries of legend, not to men-
tion Disney animation studios, have unequivocally
proven that mermaids will always pine hopelessly
for humans - from heroic princes to Tom Hanks.
Aquamarine (Sara Paxton, "Sleepover"), the
eponymous mer-heroine of a film aimed squarely at
the demographic designed to sit and weigh with per-
fect austerity the proposition above, is in love. His
name is Raymond (Jake McDorman, next to star in
the groundbreaking "Bring It On 3"), and he's appro-
priately dreamy. Washed up in a calamitous tem-
pest, the fishy blonde is discovered by a pair of best
friends, Claire (Emma Roberts, "Blow") and Hailey
(pop star JoJo making her big-screen debut). It's very
lucky they do, because Hailey is in danger of being
carted off to Australia and the only way for the duo
to stay together is help Aquamarine find love and
thereby win a wish from the cheery humanoid.
The most obvious problem with a film like
"Aquamarine" isn't really one of substance so much
as concept (concept, in this case, equating to a cer-

,ou tesy

"Don't scream! It's just Daryl Hannah!"
tain lack of substance). This is a film for 12-year-old
girls about a wish-granting mermaid who falls in
love with a bronzed lifeguard. The absurdity of its
premise and the neatly satisfactory manner in which
the plot ties up in a sweet moral about the endur-
ance of friendship and selflessness is an inherent
limitation to any artistic aspirations the film might
secretly cherish.
But limitations are not obstacles, and "Aquama-
rine" too often comes up shoulder-shrugging its
excuses of genre and target audience when it might
have showcased some legitimately innovative film-
making. "The Princess Diaries" was based on as
silly and implausible a plot, aiming for the allow-
ance of precisely the same dreamy-eyed tweens,
but in its playful manipulation of stock situations
and the exuberance of characters artfully crafted
to explode from the mold of escapist fantasies, the
film transcended its goofy beginnings to become a
unique and inspired film. Not so for "Aquamarine,"

which limps along on the crutches" of instruction-
manual moviemaking.
At least it never really stumbles. "Aquamarine"
aims for mediocrity, but it gets there with spectacu-
lar grace. First-time feature director Elizabeth Allen
competently weaves her story's several threads,
thankfully too aware of the screenplay's predict-
ability to dwell long on all its supposed revelations.
The serious flaws are ones of motivation and act-
ing (the film's most convincing performance comes
from JoJo, an "actress" selected for her ability to
sing), but Allen maintains a tone of such stalwart
cheeriness that it's easy to overlook them.
There's no doubt that an army of 12-year-old girls
is willing to do exactly that. But if "Aquamarine" is
obvious and conventional (which, make no mistake,
it is), it's equal parts funny, sincere and wholesome.
Not least among its virtues is Aquamarine herself:
naturally bubbly, beautiful and elegant. And hon-
estly, who doesn't love a mermaid?

By Chris Gaerig
Associate Magazine Editor
Music REVW mN
Shortly after Mogwai released
their critically acclaimed debut
Young Team, they
received a bit of Mogwai
bad advice. Their
first effort was Mr. Beast
filled with a traffic Matador
jam of feedback
and ear-shattering crescendos. They
became best known for unbearably
loud live shows and starting a beef
with Blur, using T-shirts that read,
"Blur are shite." But someone some-
where told them that it wasn't good
enough. Someone told them pianos
were sufficient substitutes for walls of
Marshall stack amps. And someone
told them to trade in their My Bloody
Valentine records and break into the
entire Roger Eno catalog.
Suddenly, the Scottish quintet known
for their barrages of sound embarked
on a new path - except on intermittent
EPs in which they maintained their raw
aggressiveness. Rather than boosting
stock in pediatric doctors and Q-tips,
they released several angst-ridden, exis-
tential soundtracks. Their second release,
Come On Die Young, was a thoroughly
disappointing first look at the group's
new direction. On subsequent releases
Rock Action and (appy Songs For
Happy People, Mogwai migrated.back
to their original sound but were never
able to truly resurrect or recreate it.
And their latest attempt, Mr. Beast
- seemingly a more wholehearted
one - proves this prodigal son isn't
coming home quite as soon as we all
hoped. The group continues their way-
ward path with watery compositions
and enough keyboard to make Cold-
play blush; at least they left out the
whiny European vocals.
But it seems as if they tried to give us
what we want on Mr. Beast. "Glasgow
Mega Snake" is easily their best record-

ing since Young Team. The feedback
intro builds and grabs your ears before
the sheets of guitar rain down. It rises
and falls when it should, and at just
fewer than four minutes, it's long enough
to pull the listener in and short enough
not to bore him.
"Travel is Dangerous" is the lovechild
of the group's two different styles, and
luckily, their early sound appears to
have the dominant genes. Colossal
percussion and their signature guitar
crescendos are accompanied by a new
excursion (relatively speaking, since
they first appeared on Rock Action):
vocals. The subdued and restrained
melodies only bolster the spine-tin-
gling atmospherics of the song.
And while these tracks (especially
"Glasgow," due to an Internet leak
months ago) made Pavlov's dogs out
of Mogwai's entire fanbase, the rest
of Mr. Beast fails to deliver. "Friend
of the Night" is the epitome of build-
ing without direction. Mogwai teeters
on the edge of a body-slamming guitar
onslaught, but they never come through.
"Emergency Trap" and "I Chose Hors-
es" follow with similar disappointment,
as does most of the album.
Mogwai are still trying to bring
themselves back to glory on Mr. Beast,
and we are still holding out hope for
that missing link to come home. But
when it's all said and done, most peo-
ple won't care if they eventually come
back or not. It turns out music fans
aren't that forgiving.

Stereolab pulls it together for latest compilation

By Daren Martin
Daily Arts Writer

Stereolab, the post-rock icons of
the 1990s, have yet to relinquish
their role as a
leading pop force Stereolab
of the 21st cen-
tury. They release Fab Four Suture
nearly an album a Too Pure/Duophonic
year, 2006's entry
being Fab Four Suture, a compilation
of 12 new tracks released to coincide

with their return to the stage. Each
song has been released on a series
of six limited-edition seven-inches,
which are already hard to come by. A
fitting way to wind down an excellent
career, Fab Four finally combines
the singles in a circular journey that
ends where it began.
The first and last tracks, "Kyber-
neticka Babicka" parts one and two,
tie the album together seamlessly.
These two songs, both instrumental,
serve as appropriate bookends to an
album already marked by its stand-
out instrumentals.

Blending jazzy undertones with
synthesizers and other electronic
beats, Stereolab often makes the lis-
tener feel as if she was in the middle of
a game of Super Mario set in George
Lucas's "Star Wars" universe.
The unconventional mixture cre-
ates a strange atmosphere. This is
on display particularly in "Widow
Weirdo," when halfway through the
song, a brief, Armstrong-style trum-
pet solo interrupts the predominant
electronica style.
This atmosphere is also enhanced
by the vocal work of Laetitia Sadier.

Though she displays the group's left-
ist political leanings while switch-
ing between English and French, a
bilingual Marxist background is not
needed to enjoy Fab Four.
Just as often, Sadier contributes to
the sci-fi sound with strange stories
that fit the music well. The lyrics
don't need to be understood at all,
really, but rather act as an instru-
ment in and of themselves, simply
adding tonally to the album's cumu-
lative power.
Unfortunately, as their amiable
sound streams through the speak-
ers, each track blends together. Few
distinguish themselves and nearly
all possess repetitive melodies that
mosey throughout each track and the
entire album.
Stereolab will continue to appeal
to diehard fans with Fab Four. But
the new listener can receive an easy
introduction to the group that most
will enjoy. Still, the release falls
victim to what so many other artists
face at some point in their careers:
As the album continues, any lasting
value diminishes. Fab Four is easy
listening, but it's certainly not Ste-
reolab's finest.

--- -- --

March 8, 2006
Register today to take the
Foreign Service Written Exam
on April 8, 2006.
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exam and learn more about a
Foreign Service career.



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