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February 06, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-02-06

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 5

Best wallof hands since "Labyrinth."

Kill the ..Messengers

DailyArts Writer
It's appropriate that, in their American
directorial debut, Hong Kong twins Danny and
Oxide Pang pull together
all of Hollywood's favorite *
horror formulas into one
ghastly package. The trite The
result is a scary movie that Messengers
could appeal only to sev-
enth graders, for whom At Quality16
half the thrill would simply and Showcase
be seeing a rated film with- Columbia
out having to sneak into the
theater. In its most reduced form, "The Messen-
gers" is just "The Grudge." The only difference
is that instead of Sarah Michelle Gellar moping
alone in Tokyo, semi-famous starlet Kristen
Stewart ("Zathura") mopes with her family in
North Dakota.
Yes, North Dakota. After getting into some
trouble in Chicago, Jess Solomon (Stewart)
and her family are forced to pick up the pieces
of their shattered lives and move out to a farm
in the Peace Garden state, where Jess's father
(Dylan McDermott, "The Practice") decides
to invest the family's last hopes, dreams and
money into, of course, sunflower seeds. With
the help of live-in hand John Burwell (John
Corbett, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), the Sol-
omons look to start over, unaware there's one
big problem: their new farm is haunted.

"The Messengers" opens with a black-and-
white flashback of the murder of the farm's pre-
vious occupants. Shot in black and white and
obscuring the identity of the family's assail-
ants, those first three minutes are a promising
display of suspense, if not originality - and
the film's last glimpse of either. The rest of the
movie quickly falls into the tried-and-truly-
boring scare tactics of recent horror like "The
Grudge" and "The Ring." Every otherworldly
spirit in "The Messengers" scampers across the
screen in that awkward and supposedly creepy
jump-cut movement, a stagnation of modern
horror that leaves you wondering if ghosts
move in such a purposefully disjointed manner
or if they're just epileptic.
of course, Jess and her younger brother
begin to experience this paranormal activity
before either of their parents. Of course, neither
parent believes Jess and dismisses her claims as
blatant cries for attention. Of course, Jess then
decides to take it upon herself to solve the North
Dakota mystery in the face of her family's lack
of support or trust.
As the plot unfolds, so do the innumerable
holes in the storyline. While the movie's tagline
and commercials advertised it as a horror film
based on the idea that children can see para-
normal phenomenon via electricity, the actual
movie never bothers to explain why it is that
only people under a certain age can see ghosts.
Not to mention the inexplicable crow infesta-
tion that begins by just pestering the family and

If you were a horror director in the Asian exploitation
industry, would you come to Hollywood and essentially
remake your own movies? Well ,these guys would.
Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang - This team of twin
brothers bred in Hong Kong made their stateside debut with
"The Messengers" but previously worked on "The Eye" and "The
Eye 2," the Japanese hits currently being remade here (Jessica
Alba is tentatively set to star in the first film, due next year).
Takashi Shimizu - The most extravagant offender here has
directed the American remakes ofttwo of his own movies: "The
Grudge" and "The Grudge 2."
Hideo Nakata - The director of "Ringu" and "Ringu 2" made
his English-language debut with "The Ring 2," a sequel to the
American remake of hisfilm. Got that?
then leads to the ultimate triggering of avian-
induced terror. Or the characters without any
purpose whatsoever - note Colby Price, played
by William B. Davis (the cigarette-smoking
man in "The X-Files").
As "The Messengers" progresses, the horror
does not. At one point of poltergeist violence,
one of the aforementioned seventh graders did
jump out her seat, but it became clear quickly
that her cell phone just happened to vibrate
during a moment of intended suspense. Five
bucks says she remembers the call better than
the movie.

A big bowl of
or most Americans, the clearly just discovered "the Coke
Super Bowl means three side of life").
things: football, beer and Frito Lay's two ads, under the
advertising. People aren't huddling Doritos brand name; were genu-
up to their screens just for the inely clever. A man runs bag after
game anymore. Commercials aired bag of Doritos through the check-
during the Super Bowl XLI hit a out aisle while the cashier, indif-
record $2.6 million per 30 second ferent at first, becomes gradually
spot, turning time-outs and quar- aroused. The final frame finds her
ter breaks into highly anticipated with tousled hair, struggling to
media victories. stand and requesting a cleanup on
The competition is register six.
fierce and companies When it comes to Super
know it. The ads Bowl ads, I expect epic com-
feature every trick in mercials. And at $2.6-million
the book, from sex- a pop, why shouldn't they be?
kitten consumerism This year, there were still
to celebrity sight- some were notable disap-
ings. GoDaddycom - pointments.
boasted this year's Garmin's commercial pro-
best underdressed/ moting GPS navigational sys-
wet girls, and famous CAROLINE tems was a disgrace to the
faces included ranged evening's typically for-
from Sheryl Crow to HARTMANN ward-thinking TV spots.
Dwyane Wade to even The ad centers on an ordi-
the Times Square Naked Cowboy nary businessman being attacked
(not to mention Robert Goulet). by a map that quickly expands
But there were some names to become a huge monster. The
that shouldn't have been dropped. man's GPS unit then morphs him
Carlos Mencia tried to play off his into a giant, chrome-covered hero
ethnic charm for Budweiser, but to combat the beast, all set to an
wound up looking like a jackass. obnoxious rock tune thatcyou prob-
And even though the overhyped ably heard in a commercial for
Kevin Federline promo for Nation- robo-action figures 10 years ago.
wide cleverly used the "Life comes Snickers sent an odd message
at you fast" slogan to poke fun at to manly sports fans by using the
Federline's rapid decline, I can't candy bar to induce a kiss between
imagine it did much to boost his. a mechanic and his male customer.
credibility - not that he ever had Both quickly reaffirm their mas-
any. culinity by ripping out handfuls of
Beyond the predictable formula carpet-like chest hair. (Do I need
for campaign success, there's usu- to explain why this is a no-go?)
ally a thinly veiled attempt to If you're actually interested in
tug at the nation's emotional pull watching the game, it's almost
strings. Where lasteyear's tributes impossible not to miss at least one
went largely to American troops, commercial, if not a whole hand-
this year's February Super Bowl ful of them. Luckily the digital age
commemorated Black History
Month. Coca-Cola took a contem-
porary, minimalist approach to Admit it - you
highlight major figures in African-
American history, and Frito Lay barely watched the
recognized the time-held tradition
of football fans with an announc- big game.
er's appreciative subtext that it's
'not just getting here, but what
getting here represents."
So which commercials went is catching up, and the Internet
home with a blue ribbon? Anheus- has transformed into Super Bowl
er-Busch shelled out cash for 10 backup. CBS, AOL and YouTube.
spots but pulled through with com posted every commercial
only a few noteworthy ads (see the online shortly after its airtime- if
yard-party face-off and Jay-Z's not before the actual debut. And
virtual playing field). Considering since ad critiques dominate gossip
the company's track record and circles immediately after the game
the evening's hefty price tag, the anyway, each site provided its own
commercials came off unexpect- unique rating system to determine
edly flat. Coca-Cola and Frito Lay, Sunday night's other winning
on the other hand, showed some team. Companies like Frito Lay
snappy originality. and Chevrolet took advantage of
Coca-Cola played it smartby the web early on by letting the
appealing to a variety of audiences public vote and pitch ideas.
with several completely unique The Colts might have taken
commercials. One of the ads ran home the Lombardi trophy
like a violent GTA-style video - courtesy of Tiffany & Co., natu-
game, until the alleged criminal rally - but the real prize earnings
helped himself to a Coke and will come from you, the devoted
began spreading his newfound joy consumer.
to the neighborhood by putting out
a fire, retrieving an old lady's sto- - Hartmann couldn't tell you
len purse and essentially rebuild- the final score if her life depended
ing the entire city through various on it. Send her your favorite
other admirable deeds (having ads at carolinh@umich.edu.

Straight from the
South of London

Daily Arts Writer
If you haven't heard of Lily
Allen, then you clearly haven't been
anywhere near
an indie blog
in the past two
years. Clap Lily Allen
Your Hands
Say Yeah Alright, Still
dominated the Capitol
blogosphere in
2005, and it helped push their debut
album to instant stardom. 2006
was Lily's year. Her debut album,
Alright, Still, launched in early Feb-
ruary in the United Kingdom, and
she instantly became blog fodder
thanks to her scathing jabs at pop
stars and stunning good looks.
Even fellowlabel-mate Colin Meloy
was giving props to the young Brit-
ish lass. Now, with the same album
finally set to debut in America, the
blog overload can begin once again
- and rightfully eo.
Though her album cover might
suggest someone childish and play-
ful - she's riding a bike next to
an English Bull Terrier wearing a
bobby's helmet - Allen bites hard.
What makes her special is how she

combines a sexy, kittenish attitude
with sharp lyrical rants. She also
uses her MySpace page as a post-
ing ground for her no-holds-barred
blow-ups concerning Britain's
NME magazine and the under-
ground dog-snatchers that ganked
her beloved Maggie May.
Then you get into her album.

The opening track, "Smile," "I'm from the streets, bitch."
throws Allen's attitude to the fore- Allen's passion for sex resonates
front, sampling Althea & Donna's throughout the album. "Knock'Em
"Uptown Top Ranking" as she Out" gives advice on how to evade
quips, "When you first left me sleazy British pick-up lines: "Ana
/ I was wanting more / But you no you can't have my number /
were fucking that girl next door Because I lost my phone." The com-
bination of trumpet bleats, fleeting
piano and hectic drumming mesh-
Brit import's debut es with the off-kilter rejection jabs.
Allen even resorts to biological
album finally hits warfare near the end of the track
by adding sarcastic quips about
the Sthaving herpes and syphilis.
the States- Lily drops a little street cred on
"LDN," which describes a run-in
with the police. More crisp first
/ What'dya you do that for?" Very lines declare, "Walking through
few artists can get away with such the city with my bike all day /
a line and make it adorable. The 'Cause the filth took away my
reggae backdrop blends perfectly license." And what would a London
with Allen's scathing indictment of street be without some drug ref-
her ex, creating a track both edgy erences? Lily's got those covered,
and accessible. too. "Everything seems to look as it

Courtesy of Capitol
should / ButI wonder what goes on
behind doors / A fella looking dap-
per and he's sitting with a slapper /
And I see it's a pimp and his crack
whore." The track is propelled by a
persistent bass line and drum pat-
tern, occasionally interrupted by
trumpet calls.
Though the album is front-
loaded (but what good pop debut
isn't?), Ms. Allen still combines
sharp street lyrics, danceable reg-
gae beats and an English touch
that makes her the perfect female
answer to Mike Skinner.
Though she may never reach the
universal appeal of other female
hip-hoppers - see Lady Sovereign
or Missy Elliot - Allen has man-
aged to carve out a deeply idiosyn-
cratic niche in the rap market. Her
music is fan-friendly, just don't piss
her off... or hit on her at a pub.

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