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September 25, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, September 25, 2007 - 5

No TVfor
G oodnews, nerds. Thanks to NBC's
recent decision to dump iTunes
and start its own pseudo-down-
load service, NBC Direct, you'll soon be
able to download free episodes of "Bionic
Woman" to watch at your leisure. Well,
kind of.
When NBC Direct fully launches some-
time in October, it will allow users to
download certain NBC
TV shows - including
"The Office," "30 Rock"
and "Heroes" -totheir
computers. But there
are noteworthy stipu-
lations. Downloads
from NBC Direct will
be loaded with a built- MICHAEL
in self-destruct timer, pASSMNi
which will only allow
viewers to watch shows within one week
of downloading them. The shows will also
have commercials that viewers will not
be able to bypass and should have an air-
tight digital-rights management-control
system that will limit them to Windows-
based computers.
But in case you don't spend your days
frantically refreshing the RSS feeds on
your favorite TV blogs, let me bring you
up to speed on how NBC got here. At the
end of August, NBC announced it was
severing ties with Apple and would not be
offering its new fall shows for download.
According to tvsquad.com, Apple cited
NBC's inability to determine its own epi-
sode pricing - somewhere in the ridicu-
lous $4.99-per-episode range - as the
network's cause for abandoning iTunes.
NBC countered by saying it left iTunes
because of a lack of content-packaging
options. Regardless, NBC isn't adding any
new content to iTunes. In a few months,
Apple: 99
Rest of the world: 4
It's getting closer.
all of its existing content will be stripped
from Apple's servers.
Not one to go to the dance alone, NBC
quickly sought out Amazon.com's Unbox
server as its new home for episode down-
loads. The network loaded four of its
upcoming pilots onto Unbox and gave
them away for free as a way to attract peo-
ple to the server and upcoming shows.
Somewhere in that time frame, it seems
NBC decided it needed a new, more per-
manent solution. While the network has
been offering free streaming episodes
of some of its series for over a year now,
iTunes downloads satisfied a substan-
tial but misguided consumer base. Sure,
Unbox is an option to retain those cus-
tomers, but it's nowhere near as popular
as iTunes and doesn't support Mac OS X.
It seems unlikely the NBC suits are going
to let their ready-to-download shows
wither away on a second tier server. This
is where NBC Direct is supposed to come
But again, NBC Direct is clearly not
a replacement for iTunes. It's position-
ing itself as a hybrid between streaming
shows and downloads, which should leave
streaming users pleasantly surprised but
iTunes users unsatisfied. Of course, the
network has a solution for this.
In what has been vaguely described as
"other business models" in an NBC press
release, NBC will be altering its Direct
service within months. The long-term
plan appears to involve the inclusion of
Mac-compatible HD downloads. These
downloads might be available on a down-
load-to-own basis, a subscription package
or otherwise.
It's unclear whether NBC Direct will

be phasing out its free downloads once its
upgraded service launches in 2008, but
it's not unreasonable to believe this may
happen. Along with Fox, NBC is work-
ing on a new streaming site, Hulu, which
might take the reigns from NBC.com's
streaming service. The cynic in me has
a hard time believing NBC Direct will
continue to provide free downloads on a
regular basis once its new streaming and
premium download services are up and
While NBC was busy blowing up its
Internet-distribution platform, ABC
announced its own streaming agree-
ment with AOL. There seems to be little
benefit from the AOL deal - ABC already
streams through their own website - but
the eight people who still support AOL
(seriously Mom, stop paying for that crap,
it's useless) will have to click two times
less on their browser to find "Ugly Betty"
This has all gone down in a few weeks
time. With almost all of the major net-
works making significant moves in the
last couple weeks, I can't help but be
concerned for the long-term relevance of
iTunes TV downloads. The networks have
clearly demonstrated their willingness to
develop their own proprietary software,
and soon enough Apple may be usurped
from the market it created.
It was only two years ago when Steve
Jobs announced TV downloads viaiTunes
for his new iPod and convinced the public
it should expand its television viewing
beyond conventional means. Now it looks
like the godfather of Internet TV might
have to make some major concessions if
he wants to sell anything at all.
- Passman's Pod is filled to the
brim with "House" and "Fraggle Rock."
E-mail him at mpass@umich.edu.

The coffee can't be that bad.

Shallow 'Va lley'
Haggis's theatrics betray apt material in 'Elah'

Managing Editor
The most persistent image in "In
the Valley of Elah" is of Tommy Lee
Jones's face, filled with restraint
and quiet regret.
As Hank Deer-
field, the father of **
a soldier who goes
AWOL upon his In the Valley
return from Iraq, of Elah
he is self-assured
and confident, At Quality16
trampling the local
and even mili- and Showcase
tary police, a ser- Warner
vice from which Independent
he only recently
retired. Alone he
is composed and methodical, soli-
tary in a local hotel where he places
the occasional call to his wife (Susan
Sarandon). But as he asserts himself
into the investigation of his son's dis-
appearance, he is impossible to con-
trol. Even as he pursues leads guided
chiefly by unspoken prejudices only
to later learn of his mistake, he jumps
into the next unabated.
The character is a cozy fit for

the spirit of "In the Valley of Elah,"
which is quiet, intent and fastidious-
ly respectful. Muted though it may
be, Paul Haggis's first film as a direc-
tor since "Crash" is a rough inquiry
into the moral cost of the war in Iraq.
The mainstays of this fiction - waves
of which will famously spread over
Hollywood this fall - are characters
like Deerfield, the long-time military
types who will refuse to understand
a war that isn't rendered in black and
white. "My son has spent the last 18
months bringing democracy to a shit-
hole," he snaps, "and he deserves bet-
ter than this." He's sure of himself as
he's been institutionally instructed
to be for most of his life, but as Deer-
field investigates what happened to
his son, his face begins to look more
and more troubled.
There's a key revelation that closes
the movie's first act that's paramount
to the discussion of the remaining
scenes. Since the film is purportedly
inspiredbyactualevents, mostmedia
haven't been hesitant to reveal it,
but here we are. If you don't want to
know anything else about the movie
before you see it, stop reading now.
After a few nights in the military

town where his son disappeared,
Deerfield's boy is found dead, his
body burned and chopped into piec-
es. From what the coroners can tell,
he was stabbed at least 42 times,
though those are only the blows that
struck bone. The parent's realization
of the truth provides the movie's fin-
est and most devastatingscenes, and
they lead into a surprisingly conven-
tional murder-mystery plot charged
with the sort of blunt, class- and
race-conscious pandering typical of
Deerfield slowly befriends the
local detective (Charlize Theron)
who becomes the head of the case
and the son she raises on her own,
and when one night he tells the little
boy the story of David and Goliath
(from which the film takes its title),
the familial parallel is lost on no
one. There are other interjections
like this, several of them involving
suspects in the crime, and they are
individually well-drawn for the most
part, but they're ultimately pointless
because the film's dramatic thrust
has so little interest in them.
Instead, the main force here is the
investigation, which is protracted

and full of false leads. Those scenes
are anchored by a transparent device
of new videos being removed every
few days from his son's damaged
cell-phone camera, which he took
with him in Iraq. The movie makes
it clear that something happened
before he came home, too, but it
insists on revealing it with a shallow,
inert mechanism rather than the
plain-faced honesty favored by the
film's best sequences. -It's an unnec-
essary, pushy distraction.
"In the Valley of Elah" winds
down as a reflection on the tragedy of
the son's death and what the investi-
gation into it reveals. It is a surprise,
and a strange and frightening one.
More to the point, it's concerned
with how Deerfield is affected by it,
which allows the movie to make its
obligatory statement about the mili-
tary in Iraq. The film's final shot in
that vein is so painfully obvious that
its dramatic effect is easily under-
cut by its audacity. Like much of
Haggis's work, there's the shadow of
a great movie here, but his ultimate
reliance on narrative gimmicks dif-
fuses the complex social tensions he
aims to stir.

This guy was at Cafe Ambrosia last week. You know, the one with the Moleskine and the coffee and the boots ..
Doghas no new tricks

Dane Cook and his
delusions of comedy
By NOAH DEAN STAHL to sleep with him, knowing
- For the Daily the next guy they find will be
the one.
Dane Cook is not funny. Charlie, accepting his fates,
This seems simple enough, sleeps with as many as he can
but I've just watched "Good encounter, as depicted by a
Luck Chuck," which suggests "Wedding Crashers"-esque
someone is montage featuring copulation
confused.To . from the rafters to a wheel-
think that a barrow. Egging him on is his
"star" like Good Luck shallow best friend Stu (Dan
Cook earned Fogler, "Balls of Fury," whose
money Chuck chief contributiontothe filmis
to star in repeated references to having
"Good Luck At Quality16 sex with a microwaved grape-
Chuck" is and Showcase fruit). Along the way, Char-
telling of Lionsgate lie finds his true love in Cam
what Cook Wexler (Jessica Alba, "Sin
and film City"), a beauty with a strange
suits think moviegoers want penguin obsession. They meet
in a comedy. In an industry obstacles in the form of what-
pipeline overflowing with ever-can-go-wrong-does-go-
mediocre, star-powered pic- wrong boilerplate as Charlie
tures, flimsy plot lines and tries to break the curse and be
worse dialogue, this is about truly happy.
as bad a movie as you're likely
to see.
The film begins with a The high point?
preadolescent game of seven
minutes in heaven - the The verb blow-
highlight of which is the verb
"blowjobbing" - and quickly jobbing
jumps to the adult protagonist
in a tough situation of falsely
admitting love. The concept
of true love comes and goes Back to Cook. Though he's
throughout the movie as an received praise for his origi-
attempt to capture sentiment nal stand-up routines, he has
in a dull and unfunny roman- recently found himself amid a
tic comedy, and as you might swirl of slander calling him an
have guessed, it's not success- increasingly unfunny sellout.
ful. Allow me to join the chorus.
After being hexed as a child For most of movie he smiles
by a Marilyn Manson-looking awkwardly and amusedly, as
girl for rejecting her advances, if thinking to himself, "How
Charlie (Cook, "Employee of did I go from being an enter-
the Month") repels the women tainingcomedian with a dedi-
he sleeps with. The kicker, cated following to starring in
though, is that after Charlie, a Jessica Alba movie?" Alba
they instantly find true love. does her part, too. She doesn't
Somehow, all women find out quite act - not that she could
about Charlie's secret, includ- if she tried - instead bum-
ing the typical blondes with hling around as a cutesy klutz
lecherous glances and manu- whose good looks do most of
factured breasts and also the storytelling.
Eleanor Skipple, an obnoxious It obviously depends on
behemoth of a woman with what you call "good" or
front, back and side acne and a "funny," but I think you get
conspicuous tuft of pubic hair the point: "Chuck" is the sea-
sprouting from her bathing son's lowest common denomi-
suit. Women seek out Charlie nator.

By CHRIS GAERIG slow-blooming folk composi-
Daily MusicEditor tions. Yet with the release of his
latest album, The Shepherd's Dog,
For an artist who's gone from it's off-putting to sludge through
indie-pop unknown to the genre's the same thick tracks of plodding
homecoming king, it seems only bass lines, airy croons and scat-
logical that Sam Beam, founder tershot banjo.
and sole mem- As if to continue his lengthy
ber of the Flo- trip across the country while
ridian folk * g d attempting to lullaby everyone to
moniker Iron sleep, The Shepherd's Dog is sloth-
& Wine, should Iron & Wine like and monotonous. "Wolves
stick to his (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)" is a
guns. But the The fluttering collection of light per-
trend of late Sheheprd's cussion and phasing melodies. Its
seems to adapt Dog intermittent ambiance is inter-
for even wider spersed with finely plucked gui-
fame and pres- Sub Pop tars and Beam's signature raspy,
tige. And so airy vocals. Similarly, "Resurrec-
comes a change tion Fern" falls distinctly into the
in an artist's sound - mo' money, canon of Iron & Wine's earlier
mo' problems, right? work: down-home sentimental
When Modest Mouse hit the lyrics carelessly strewn over
charts with Good News for People minimalist instrumentation.
Who Love Bad News, it strayed Even with the similarities,
from its original druggy-freak- Beam has slightly tweaked his
out fan base. And when people sound. When the opener "Pagan
started to give a damn about The Angel and a Borrowed Car" kicks
Streets, a British rap/speak story- into its up-tempo gear, it seems
teller, the group traded its grimy, as if Beam has finally found a
under-produced sound for high- way out of his begrudgingly slow
gloss keyboards and production. songwriting and into more ambi-
But not Beam. With his sky- tious territory. Unfortunately,
rocketing record sales and "Pagan Angel" and cuts like
"Garden State" following, he con- "Lovesong of the Buzzard" and
tinued crafting the same feathery, "The Devil Never Sleeps" are few

The linear
progession of
Iron & Wine.
and far between.
He can't entirely be blamed
for these deviations into faster-
paced tracks. Beam has proven
time and time that he otherwise
excels. He won't abandon the
mold of his earlier work because
it's what he's best at. The record's
preeminent song, "Flightless
Bird, American Mouth," is a deli-
cate piece, leaning on lofty vocal
melodies and subtle accordion.
If The Shepherd's Dog proves
anything, it's that Beam's musical
progression is linear rather than
cyclical - but for a reason. Art-
ists rarely realize their stride so
fully. Iron & Wine has shown on
each mundane release it knows
exactly what to do. Can it really
be spontaneous if Beam meant to
do it? Socraticly mundane, per-
haps, but in any case The Shep-
herd's Dog is exactly what you'd
expect, whether that's a good
thing or not.

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