January 10, 2006
arts. michigandaily. com
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Back with a vengeance
courtesy of New Line
Turns out your face can get stuck in that funny expression.
VAUGHN AND WILSON'S WILD STREAK STILL FUN ON DVD
This fall's TV season was miss-
ing something. There were
no breakout hits as big as last
year's ("Lost" or "Desperate House-
wives"), but that wasn't it. Until a few
weeks ago, I couldn't quite figure out
what it was.
Then the networks began to start
plugging their midseason-
shows. And though I've seen
too many annoying "Jake
in Progress" previews to
count, a few other ads hinted_
at what the mundane fall"
season needed ... and it sure
as hell wasn't John Stamos'ss
return to primetime: TV
missed its antiheroes.
Why do you think more
people care about low-life A
conman Sawyer on "Lost" ROTT
than do-good Dr. Jack? It's
fun to root for the bad guy - or at least
the guy who's willing to push the bound-
aries a little bit.
Vic Mackey. Tony Soprano. Even
"24's" Jack Bauer. These are the kinds of
characters who provide the viewer with
the sort of complex emotional connection
that propels a truly great series. But most
importantly, they get to kick some ass.
Things start to change tonight when
"The Shield" returns on FX. No one on
television bends the rules of law and order
quite like detective Vic Mackey. Michael
Chiklis's performance as the moral rela-
tivist Mackey is one for the ages. Standard
cop shows - i.e. anything on CBS that
starts with the letters "CSI" - would
never take on such a deeply conflicted
character. Vic is the centerpiece of the
series, yet he is a fatally flawed man. He
takes bribes from drug dealers to keep
them on the streets. He plants evidence to
protect his friends or secure a conviction.
He kills criminals even when they pose
no immediate threat. But all of this is
done in the name of justice - at least in
his own perverted sense of the word.
The ambiguous central conflict of
"The Shield" is one that's missing from
most of the programs on TV right now.
Vic thinks he's doing the right thing
(even when he's profiting from it) for
the community. And the viewer has no
choice but to sympathize with him.
In preparation for the new sea-
son, I caught up with the series over
break. And no matter what happened
on screen, it's impossible to ignore
Mackey. That's not to say the ensemble
isn't outstanding, but Mackey is that
irreplaceable, magnetic character.
The same edge that makes Vic Mack-
ey so memorable is also what causes
audiences to gravitate toward Tony
Soprano on "The Sopranos." Tony is
even more deplorable than Vic, as vicious
as a mobster can get. In five seasons of
"The Sopranos," we've seen
Tony violently and methodi-
cally murder his enemies,
threaten everyone around
him and assert his aggres-
sion on his beleaguered
families (both personal and
professional). Tony is bound
to continue his sociopathic
behavior when his family
returns from its long hiatus
AM this March.
NBERG "The Sopranos" has
always teetered on a moral
edge. We're supposed to empathize with
Tony, even though he's about as vile as a
man can get. But that ambiguity of right
and wrong is what allows the show to say
significantly more than an average epi-
sode of "Law & Order." This is exactly
why these characters will be remembered
long after the shows that foster them
wrap up their runs.
Which brings me to "24," Fox's seri-
alized thriller that returns this Sunday.
Jack Bauer is built in the same mold
as a Mackey or Soprano, even though
he's often presented under the guise of
a superhero. Jack is more of an antihero
than anything else. He's always fighting
the good fight, but is willing to forgo
any preconceived notion of morality to
get there. But that's what makes Jack
interesting in the first place; If he saved
the world by the book, then we'd all fall
asleep in the process. He has to disobey
orders and go rogue in order to be more
than the average government agent, in
order to be something memorable.
Television missed these characters.
I missed these characters. Primetime
lacked the sense of excitement brought
out with blurred lines of right and
wrong and fully fleshed-out charac-
ters. If only Vic and Tony could take
a trip over to ABC and teach them a
little lesson for bringing back "Jake in
Progress." That couldn't be considered
wrong by any means.
nnnnnnnnnnnn. E-mail Rottenberg
By Evan McGarvey
Daily Music Editor
Here's what you do know: The opening hour of
"Wedding Crashers" roars with cascading verbal
barbs between two divorce law- _
yers (Owen Wilson and Vince Wedding
Vaughn) who don't just bed every Crashers
eligible girl of every possible eth-
nicity at every possible wedding New Line
in the D.C. area, but poke witty
(and surprisingly accurate) holes in the bizarre cultural
institution known as marriage.
The x-factor: The sleazy, gin-fueled romp is almost
crippled by the good-girl-meets-reformed-bad-boy
subplot that has just as many "cute" wedding scenes
and heartfelt speeches as a bad season of "7th Heaven"
The last 30 minutes drag on like a sloppy hymn to pre-
professional love and almost kill the boozy fun of the
opening act. Almost.
Early on, Wilson and Vaughn, hamming it up
like the pledge master and social chair, respective-
ly, make every line a catch phrase and suddenly
make ballroom dancing and scallops the coolest
fucking things on earth.
Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook"), playing Claire,
the warm, lively daughter of Treasury Secretary Wil-
liam Cleary (Christopher Walken), flashes one of her
smiles that could disarm a terrorist cell (along with my
bitter, angsty heart) and Wilson is in love.
While Wilson is off being mopey, the viewer gets
the real treats. Walken shows a quiet, sharp bite
for social comedy, fitfully trying to reconnect with
his dark, troubled homosexual artist son, heartily
encouraging him to scream, "Death, you are my bitch
lover!" at a family wedding.
Isla Fisher ("Scooby Doo"), marginalized for
most of the film as Claire's slutty, insane younger
sister, gets incredible mileage out of her one-note
role, going beyond flickering her eyes at her object
of desire (Vaughn) to gleefully stealing scenes
from him. And for those of you who haven't seen
"Swingers," stealing scenes from Mr. Vaughn is as
difficult as it gets.
In fact, "Wedding Crashers," at its best moments
(again, the opening 45 minutes or so), plays like a pol-
ished ensemble comedy. Every role, from the dickhead
prep (Bradley Cooper, TV's "Alias") to the still-randy
mother (Jane Seymour, TV's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine
Woman"), is carried to a warm respectability.
Even when the script runs out of gas, the actors still
act like they're in the breezy first half, smiling through
the quasi-romantic slop and playing the concluding
scenes with a loose physicality.
The disappointing final third of the film can't be
overstated. Wilson goes from doe-eyed to stalker in 20
minutes and McAdams is suddenly enamored with her
asshole fiance in inexplicable character shifts that seem
woefully out of place.
The new unrated version adds a few more torsos
to the montage of international nudity and the DVD's
commentary tracks are expectedly funny, with plenty
of in-jokes made public by Wilson and Vaughn.
And it's this giddy duo, with their effortless
waves of comedy, that ultimately provides the real
pleasure of "Wedding Crashers." To be caught in
those perfect storms is a delight.
Special Features: ***
By Michael Passman
For the Daily
3D Homer, Radioactive Man: The
Movie, Alf Pogs, Hullabalooza, Bon-
estorm and the Pin Pals.
These are just afew of the indelible ref-
erences the seventh season of "The Simp-
history. Widely The Simpsons:
regarded as one The Complete
of the crowning Seventh
or TV's longest-
running sitcom, 20th Century Fox
The Complete Seventh Season" includes
classic shows in a package that rivals any
other TV show currently on DVD.
Featuring 25 of Matt Groening and
company's finest efforts, the actual epi-
sodes alone are reason enough to own this
collection. Some of the more enduring
episodes include "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"
the conclusion to season six's cliffhanger
season finale and "Bart Sells His Soul,"
which finds Bart selling his soul to his
Even devoted fans might not realize
Sandler-bankrolled comedy scores
Daily Arts Writer
Amid a recent cross-cultural debate on the artistic
merit of video games sparked in part by esteemed film
critic Roger Ebert, "Grandma's Boy," a screwball com-
edy that mixes video games with pot, partying and the
respected elderly, is simply one of the most enjoyable
comedies of the year.
The film, the latest from Adam Sandler's production
The Simpsons greet Yao Ming.
it, but beyond reducing the audio and
video quality of each episode, syndica-
tion removes actual content from the
original broadcast. In order to fit each
episode into a commercial-friendly time
slot, executives took creative license to
chop up the original broadcasts. To the
advantage of fans, the DVD contains
only the original episodes and, via
commentaries, highlighted instances
where material was cut.
Each episode also features a full-
length commentary from "Simpsons"
creator Groening as well as executive
producers, directors, writers, guest
stars and voice actors. Unlike the dead-
air commentaries on many DVDs,
these are informative and entertain-
ing; beyond the usual technical jargon,
there's a surprising amount of anec-
dotes that detail what went into making
each show happen.
company Happy Madison, is video-
game oriented, but, no, it's not based
on one like so many pitiful renditions
(there's always "Bloodrayne" if that's
your bag). It follows Alex (Allen
Covert, "The Longest Yard"), a video-
game tester with 10 years of experi-
ence. Like his youthful colleagues, he
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
20th Century Fox
"Combo, grandma! Use the combo!"
Due to the infamous "Homer-head"
fiasco caused by the cheap plastic pack-
aging of the show's sixth season, Fox
decided to release the seventh season in
two different forms. The more common
set includes a glossy construction-paper
casing and plastic sleeves, and it's the bet-
ter of the two options. The other version
is essentially the same as the sixth season
Homer head (this time it's Marge); it's
nondurable and a sorry excuse for a so-
called "collector's edition."
As executive producers Josh Wein-
stein and Bill Oakley point out in the
commentary, the goal of season seven
was to bring "The Simpsons" back to
the family. But of course, when your
family is the Simpsons, returning home
is always hilariously complicated.
Special Features: ****
has a perpetual man-boy persona that actually endears
him to the audience. Alex and his colleagues play games
all day. They brag about making out with chicks (even
though they never have), they still live with parents and
they sleep in toy racecars. But they are not childish in
the derogatory sense of the word - instead, they are
stuck in a benevolent kind of arrested development that
renders them perpetually innocent and goofy.
When Alex is thrown out of his apartment, he's forced
to live with his grandmother and her two friends. Doris
Roberts (TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond") utilizes
her simplistic maternal persona for good here, playing
Alex's grandma. Regardless of how irritating she and
her friends might be, there's a courtesy, care and appre-
ciation they have for each other.
What differentiates this film from other recent com-
edies is that it successfully subverts and reinvents old
clich6s. Yes, gamers will always be universally regarded
as dweebs (think "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"). But these
gamers also happen to be well adjusted. They casually
drink, party, communicate with others and, above all,
love to get stoned.
So is this a stoner comedy? Well, yes and no.
Yes, they're stoners, but what makes them unique is
their ability to function quite highly. They aren't too
whacked out ("Cheech & Chong"), they hold down
sophisticated jobs and can raise their dialogue to decent
levels of discourse. Peter Dante's ("50 First Dates")
super-stoner character, cleverly named Dante, is the
ultimate cheap thrill, incorporating absurdity in all its
familiar and stupidly funny forms. He's the pot dealer,
monkey owner, nudist and easy laugh. Also superb is
Shirley Jones (TV's "The Partridge Family") as the
elderly female lothario ready to brag about relations
with Charlie Chaplin and Abbot & Costello.
In fact, there's plenty of dumb-funny stuff to savor
here. Much like the games that the characters enjoy so
much, "Grandma's Boy" is mostly mindless entertain-
ment, in line with films like "Sorority Boys" or even
"Detroit Rock City." It's a vacant romp we can all appre-
PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA
Beach Volleyball Tournament
:1 I ~ BOO-,