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January 30, 2007 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-01-30

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8 - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michiganclaily.com

8 - Tuesday, January 30, 2007 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

'Aces':
Big guns,
tiny plot
By ELIE ZWIEBEL
DailyArts Writer
To ease the transition between "Ocean's 12"
and the upcoming "Ocean's 13," Joe Carna-
han ("Narc") took it upon
himself to direct "Ocean's*
12.5" under the pseudonym
"Smokin' Aces." As Carnah- Smokin'
an isn't the director respon- Aces
sible for the "Ocean's"
trilogy (that would be Ste- At the Showcase
ven Soderbergh), he com- and Quality16
pletely misses the mark on Universal
how to make an entertain- -
ingly hip criminal-action flick.
"Aces" is quite clearly an "Ocean's" offshoot
with only the most minimal casting adjust-
ments. Instead of an angry Bernie Mac black
man, Carnahan uses two angry Bernie Mac-
esque black women; instead of Andy Garcia
as a ruthless casino owner, there's Garcia as a
manipulative FBI agent. Except for the unique
absence of "Ocean's" central character (George
Clooney's Danny Ocean), Carnahan's unorigi-
nality threads throughout "Aces" with pre-
dictable and formulaic plot twists frosted with
excessive expletives and gore.
After agreeing to be an informant on mafia
activity, Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven,
"Entourage") becomes the object of a $1 mil-
lion bounty, reason enough for 11 hit men to
race to Lake Tahoe in hopes of collecting before
the eccentric entertainer enters FBI custody.
Whether there's any Zionist significance behind
the naming of Israel is debatable (and mostly
dubious).
Whilethethrillingpolice-drama "Narc"dem-
onstrated Carnahan's potential with a provoca-
tive plot and aunique, raw style, "Aces" is a clear
display of how Carnahan's abilities have some-
how devolved over the past five years. He now

0

(Insert lame joke about liking it "ruff" here.)

At leastonescene in themnovie wassmoking.
chooses gratuitous brutality to jolt the audience
into quiet submission. This may actually work
to Carnahan's benefit: The viewer becomes so
shocked by all the bullets and blood that they
can't even think about the film's plot twists.
Stylistically speaking, "Smokin'Aces" appeals
perfectly to Ritalin-popping children through
the use of MTV-generation cuts shorter than
anything even Michael Bay could have con-
cocted. And not only is there inconsistency in
sequence and shots, but "Aces" constantly shifts
between a bevy of personalities. Each hit man
has a unique persona ranging from neo-Nazi to
Spanish torturer
Piven's practice as the resident douche-bag
on "Entourage" prepared him well for being an
absolutely abhorrent asshole. Ryan Reynolds
("Just Friends") unexpectedly, though not in a
completely unbelievable fashion, demonstrates
some of the movie's only emotion, while Ben
Affleck's ("Hollywoodland") role as a bounty
hunter is almost so brief it should be consid-
ered a cameo - though his chopper 'stache is
certainly noteworthy. Ray Liotta's ("Identity")
and Andy Garcia's ("Ocean's 12") respective
roles are forgettable footnotes, much like the
cinematic debuts of Common and Alicia Keys.
Though Jason Bateman ("Arrested Develop-
ment") has so few lines you could count them on
both hands,he provides the movie's only laughs
as a self-deprecating middle-man of crime.
The film shows no strong devotion to any
of its characters; in turn, the audience feels
no strong dedication to any of the characters.

THEY ALWAYS SHOOT - AND
SOMETIMES SCORE:
Collateral (2004): Tom Cruise finally plays to his truetype as
the cold-hearted hitman who leads nice-guy taxi driverJamie
Foxx on an all-night tour-de-murder.
The Whole Nine Yards (2000): Bruce Willis and Matthew
Perry buddy up in a behind-the-scene farce that makes as much
fun of dentists as mercenaries.
Grosse Point Blank (1997): John Cusack and Minnie Driver
inject a little romance into the business of murder. Despite some
writingand acting flaws, it'sgot a Michigan locale, high school
reunion anxiety and a satisfying mini-course in using a ball-
point pen as a weapon.
The Professional (1994): Luc Besson's provocative tale of
a complex hit man taking care of his abandoned 12-year-old
neighbor introduced mainstream American to French badass
Jean Reno, the terrifying inner psychopath of Gary Oldman and
a then-unknown child actress by the name of Natalie Portman.
Again, this may work to Carnahan's benefit, as
almost none of the characters survive. After all
the bullets have fallen and the body count has
risen, "Smokin' Aces" weakly attempts to pitch
an ultimate plot twist that comes as no sur-
prise.
While trying to piece together a pulp fiction
cinematic style with a splice of a shocking Guy
Ritchie finale, the film comes up short, stimulat-
ing nothing but the adrenaline gland.

A modest a
absolutely
By PAUL TASSI
DailyArts Writer
Once in a lifetime a film comes
along that brilliantly captures the
human spirit.
"Blood and . ,
Chocolate"
wants to be Blood and
that soulful Chocolate
tale, expos-
ing through At the Showcase
metaphor and Quality16
how society's MGM
prejudices
towards one minority group can
destroy us all.
It's also a really crappy movie
about werewolves.
Oh, where to even begin? How
about Romania? Somewhere in
Bucharest, the future werewolf
queen Vivian (Agnes Bruckner,
"Blue Car") falls in love with starv-
ing artist Aidan (Hugh Dancy,
"Basic Instinct 2"), much to the
distress of her betrothed, were-
wolf king Gabriel (Oliver Martinez
"SWAT."). It's like an interspecies
Romeo and Juliet, except not. At
all.
It's not clear what this movie is
trying to be. The few action scenes
largelyinvolve humansfightinglive
wolves with silver butter knives,
which isn't nearly as exciting as
it sounds. Rather than hulking,
computer-animated monsters, the
wolves are real and actually kind of
cute; it's hard to root against them.
The equally uninspired romantic
plot involves a montage ofthe happy
couple literally lying in grass fields,
playing in fountains and dancing in
the streets, which, obviously, leads
to love. Forbidden werewolf love.
Being a werewolf, by the way,
is awesome. You can drink all the
absinth you want and attend goth-
ic raves where everyone dances
in slow motion like they're being
attacked by invisible bats (possibly
due to all the absinth). Did a girl
turn you down for a dance? Eat her!
You're a goddamn werewolf! And
why walk down the street normally
when you can leapfrog over park-
ing meters and hop off walls for
THE FUN IS JU
ARTSPAGE@MIC

illegory on
nothing
no reason? Werewolves- don't have
time for sidewalks. And sure, you
can leave all your clothes behind
every time you transform into a
wolf. Who cares? Buy new ones;
werewolves are rich. They drive
Maseratis!
The film also informs us that, to
werewolves, "blood tastes as sweet
as chocolate," so we have a sense of
comfort knowing that indeed the
title was logical and notcompletely
ridiculous as we first thought. Wait,
no, it's still a terrible, terrible idea.
What is the target audience for
this movie? All the fanboys who
drooled over Kate Beckensale's
spandexed ass in "Underworld"
won't be nearly as pleased with
Agnes Bruckner, whose consistent-
ly pouty expression makes her look
like an six-year-old someone put in
a time-out for the duration of the
You'd think it'd
be hard to make
werewolves lame.
film. And special effects junkies
will be less than mystified by the
transformation from man to wolf,
which involves little more than a
swan dive and a flash ofsilver light,
missing only the phrase "It's mor-
phin' time!" to be completely pulled
from "Power Rangers." It's most
likely "Blood and Chocolate" will
develop a following of 14-year-old
goth girls who wish they too could
find true love as the queen of the
werewolves.
The movie fails on so many lev-
els you lose track of them all. Stab-
bing a cute wolf in the chest is not
a good action sequence. Turning on
a female werewolf by cutting your
arm open is not a good love scene.
And thinking that the world needs
to see the overlooked romantic side
of werewolves isn't a good reason
to make a movie called "Blood and
Chocolate."

Predictable rom-
com flounders

By CHRISTINA CHOI
DailyArts Writer
There are few things in life as
depressing as a funeral or as elat-
ing as a new
love. So what -
do you get
when you put Catch and
them togeth- Release
er? Funeral
sex aside, At the Showcase
the answer is and Quality16
"Catch and Sony
Release," the
lukewarm story of Gray Wheeler
(Jennifer Garner, "13 Going on
30"), a young woman who has
recently lost her fianc6.
Acclaimed writer Susan-
nah Grant ("Erin Brockovich")
deserves some originality points in
her directorial debut for including
a supportive male cast in lieu of the
standard female one to help allevi-
ate Gray's woes. As she struggles to
regain normalcy, she finds comfort

in her ex-fiancd's friends - the sen-
sitive Dennis (Sam Jaeger, "Lucky
Number Slevin"), the quirky Sam
(Kevin Smith, "Dogma") and the
easygoing Fritz (Timothy Oly-
phant, "The Girl Next Door").
While Dennis and Fritz can be
easily slapped with labels of Nice
Guy and Love Interest, respec-
tively, Sam's constant quotes from
boxes of Celestial Seasonings-
brand tea and blunt wit anchors
the film's loose claim to comedy.
In a dinner scene, a self-conscious
Gray spontaneously confesses that
she once made out with another
girl. After a moment of shock, Sam
restores the light mood with the
question "So were you bitch or
butch?"
The girlish Garner snuggles
right into the role of the vulnerable
Gray, who alternates from impul-
sively painting her walls a Tampax
blue to settling the legal affairs of
her now ex-fianc6. Along the way,
she stumbles upon a major discov-

When the press photo is this lame, what do you expect?

ery - that her husband-to-be was
secretly paying child support to an
illegitimate 3-year-old son named
Even Garner can't
salvage strained
romance.
Mattie (coo-worthy newcomer
Joshua Friesen), the product of an
affair that only Fritz knew about.
This connection leads nice-
ly into the rapidly developing

romance between Gray and Fritz
that utterly lacks believability as
anything more than a rebound.
The couple's first kiss occurs just
after Gray slaps him in the face for
lying to her. Is this meant to show-
case the extreme vulnerability and
confusion of Gray'sstate of mind?
Or does Fritz just like it rough?
Such a strained love story is too
much for a film that has enough
trouble interposing comedy and
sensitivity in the wake of a somber
funeral. While all of these themes
are successfully juggled by the
film's midpoint, it's only a matter of
time before the whole thing inevi-
tably falls flat.

0
0

6votuttopt4?ry Ch ritttasttj
Christian faith that celebrates evolution and science
DVI) series and discussion
Wednesdays at 4:00 pm, twice a month
Next meetings: Jan. 31, Feb. 7
Guild House Campaus Minsrry
80 2Monroer rosstom w e uracl
wwv. sitemaker umdch edu guildlhouse
I I
L~vi~p the CQuestiojs of Falath av,.d Lfe -
4od I's still spea/sCe

STS Flight Finder" "SRIE
1 .0064.44
-- I-w wstraeco

The 2007
Hopwood
Underclassmen
Awards
Academy of Amesrican Poets Prizr
Bain-Swiggett Poety Priore
Michael R. Gutterman Award in Poetry
Jeffrey L. Weisberg Poetry Prize
Roy W Cowden Memorial Fellowship
Will be announced
Tuesday,January 30, 3:30 p.m.
Rackham Amphitheater
(fourth floor of the Rackham Bldg.)
Poetry Reading by
Linda Pastan
Author of:
Queen of a Rainy Country
Carnival Evening: New and Seected lems 1968-1998
An Early After i/
7nhe Imper/cdParadise
7e Five Stages ofjGre*/
Free and open to the public.

6

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For more information, call a research nurse at:
Michigan Head*Pain & Neurological Institute
3120 Professional Drive * Ann Arbor, Ml
(734) 677-6000, option 4 * www.mhni.com

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