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October 23, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 - 5

A 'Saw' after
my heart

Not sure we want to know what's behind that grin.

Dreams' of past and present
Neil Young's confusing, solid album

Through my four years
of college, I've had
one tradition that
hasn't faltered yet. It's not
ending up in handcuffs on
St. Patrick's Day. It's not fail-
ing every
math class
I attempt
to take. "
And it's not
watching
the Univer-
sity lose aP
PAUL
howl game.
All right, TASSI
it could be
that last one, but it's not. It's
the "Saw"series.
My freshman year, I piled
into a car with some kids
from my hall I barely knew to
go see two men try to escape
from a locked bathroom.
Now, three years later, I'll be
together with the same peo-
ple, who I still live with, ready
to do it again one last time for
"Saw IV." In these middle
years, I've realized one thing:
The "Saw" series has much
to teach us. It reveals nearly
every problem plaguing mod-
ern movies, and all others
should look to its example.

"Infernal Affairs") and
nobody even seems to notice.
It's cheap: Here's the bud-
get for a "Saw" film: Scrap
metal - $1,200. Fake blood
- $400. All cast and crew sal-
aries - $100,000. Marketing
- $800,000. That's how you
make a million-dollar film,
and like "The Blair Witch
Project" before it, the "Saw"
series has raked in an insane
amount of money despite its
minimalist style.
Contrast that with, say,
"Spider-Man 3." The movie
is about 90 percent special
effects, and its production
costs were so enormous it
needed to be the third-high-
est-grossing film ever to
recoup them. Sure it did,
and the film was huge, but
producers forgot to pay for
important things like compe-
tent screenwriters and a sane
director. A $300-million turd
maybe very shiny, but it's still
a turd. Now repeat this exam-
ple for "Pirates," "X-Men,"
"Transformers," etc. Hell,
even "Evan Almighty" cost
an estimated $175 million.

ByDAVIDWATNICK
For theDaily
A retrospective examination of
Neil Young's 40-plus-year career led
me to conclude Young's primary artis-
tic aim has always been to confuse
his audience. So it

really shouldn't be
much of a surprise
he titled his new
album Chrome
Dreams II, mak-
ing it a sequel, at
least titularly, to an
unreleased album
from the '70s that

Neil Young
Chrome
Dreams I
Reprise

underrated '80s synth-rock experi-
ments).
Opening the album with three 20-
year-old, previously unreleased songs
(not from Chrome Dreams, because
that would make too much sense)
seems like an oddly submissive choice
for the man who once issued the
mythical decree "It's better to burn
out /Than to fade away." Though a bit
lyrically shallow, the gentle acoustic
leadoff "Beautiful Bluebird" features
a gorgeously quaint melody reminis-
cent of Young's commercial zenith
Harvest or the more recent Prairie
Wind. Young is at his insular best on
the follow-up "Boxcar," a banjo char-
acter sketch of an apathetictrain hop-
per.
The album's emotionalcenterpiece,
"Ordinary People," is an 18-minute
lyrical flood about urban decay in
America. The piece is accentuated
with moody horns and poignant gui-
tar touches. Though they might've
sounded a bit more natural coming
from Bruce Springsteen, blue-col-
lar lyrics like "Down at the factory
/ They're puttin' new windows in /

The vandals made a mess of things /
And the homeless just walked right
in" are concrete byYoung's standards
but still compelling. Discounting one
embarrassingly dated Lee Iacocca
reference, they've held up brilliantly
for 20 years. (?)
Sometimes backing band Crazy
Horse, which has long buoyed
Young's lengthy guitar jams, is only
represented here by drummer Ralph
Molina, but that hasn't prevented
Young from creating two great new
guitar workouts. "Spirit Road" is an
intense, distorted squall with tena-
cious solo breaks. "No Hidden Path"
matches in potency, but meanders a
bit more, making it more similar to
"Down By the River" than anything
else in Young's massive catalog.
"The Believer," a lighthearted soul
ode with one of his most accessible
melodies, findsthe 64-year-oldYoung
having fun, somewhat of a rarity in
his typically resolute songwriting.
That carries over on "Dirty Old Man,"
an exciting, barn-stomping rocker
where Young, obviously in character,
chastises himself as exactly what the

title implies with brief accounts of
alcoholic and adulterous misadven-
tures. Other details of what being a
"dirty old man" entails have presum-
ably been left to the imagination.
The only real flop is "Shining
Light," with trite lyrics reminiscent
of Christian rock. Verses like "Shed
your light /All around me /Now that
you've found me / And I've found
you" have doubtless been repeated in
mega-churches across the country.
Closing with the peaceful piano
ballad "The Way," Young proves his
scope one last time, augmenting his
voice with a children's choir. The
precarious move works surprisingly
well, helping to foster a blissful tone
of conclusion.
And though "The Way" shows he's
definitely not burning out, Chrome
Dreams II delivers enough to prove
he's not fading away. His new work
still shows vitality absent in the
works of all his antiquated contem-
poraries. While he may never write
another "Hey, Hey, My, My," he hasn't
yet succumbed to the corrosive aging
it cautions.

few of his fans even knew existed.
But there's the catch: The listeners
who are most likely to avoid II forits
uninviting title are the same people
most apt to appreciate it. Granted,
theyprobablywon'tadore allof the 65
minutes of music found in the album,
but its stylistically varied songs (its
only connection with its predeces-
sor) means there's something here for
everyone (unless they're looking for
something like Young's feloniously

And I'
I kn
lation
Arts I
years
"Saw"
tastes
shit as
Fast a
Drift"
by the
them,

Th
t
'

For 'Baby,' the mood is right, the plot astray

'm only half kidding. It's consistent: Every year
sow this is in direct vio- I hear the cries of "Really,
of the "Things Daily there's another 'Saw' movie
Hates" list from a few coming out?" Yes, damn it,
back that included the and it's great. Every Hal-
series, but Daily Arts's loween, without fail, I know
and I go together like a there's going to be a new
nd tuna sandwich ("The "Saw" movie, like the sun
nd the Furious: Tokyo rising or the leaves changing
is a legitimate movie, color. The fact that we're at
e way). I ask you, and the fourth movie may make
to stay with me here. a few people skeptical, but
you're forgetting they made
like 46 "Friday the 13th"
movies wherein Jason goes
le theory of everywhere from space to
hell to Elm Street. The last
relativity time a film saga was "Saw"-
like consistent was the annu-
ells us that al Christmastime viewing
of the new "The Lord of the
aw' rules. Rings" movie.
I saw previews for "Path-
finder" at least four years
ago. It was released near
s what we can learn the beginning of this school
that creepy little trike- year. The result of the mas-
doll: sive delays? They managed to
shape it into one of the worst
original: When was movies ever made. Not an
st time you saw a movie easy feat. And don't get me
wasn't based on a book, started on "The Assassina-
ic book, a video game, a tion of Jesse James," which
TV show, an old movie, was delayed numerous times
ie from another country just to be released with an
hild's toy? All you're left added extra hour of Brad Pitt
n the past four years is sitting on a porch, staring
touille" and "Saw," the into space.
being the most original So even though a new 15-
r film of my generation. minute short film of a guy
1 you know they're taking a dump released every
king Alfred Hitchcock's Thanksgiving could've sat-
Birds" now? How about isfied all of the above crite-
aturistic horror-thriller ria, I chose "Saw" because,
ation of "The Wizard well, I like it. Oct. 26, I'll be
"? Oh, it's coming. Hell, there for one last time in col-
t to see "The Godfa- lege, watching the cybernetic
remade before too long ghost of Jigsaw pit new vic-
ng Milo Ventimiglia tims against each other. If
ichael Corleone. It's a you want, I'll save you a seat.

By BRANDON CONRADIS
For theDaily
You may find it odd to learn that
"Gone Baby Gone," a new thriller
based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
("Mystic River"), is directed by Ben
Affleck.
But look again.
After all, Affleck
first shot to super-*
stardom not with a Gone Baby
breakout film role, u
but with a little Gone
screenplay he co- At Quality16
wrote with buddy and Showcase
MattDamon called
"Good Will Hunt- Miramax
ing." Perhaps the
surprise is that Affleck's transition
to behind the camera didn't come
sooner.
In any case, it's obvious a great
amount of passion and sensitivity
wentinto crafting"Gone BabyGone."
This well-made, mostly compelling
film finds Affleck, who co-wrote the
screenplay with Aaron Stockard,
turning his gaze toward the same

working-class sector of Boston that
served as the setting for the Lehane
adaptation "Mystic River." As with
that film, it's the gritty, authentic
blue-collar atmosphere that serves as
the heart of the narrative.
What comes second, alas, is the
plot, which even the most casual
viewer will find inconseliuential.
Like "Mystic River," the film fol-
lows a working-class Bostonian as
he becomes entangled in a complex
crime involving the denizens of his
old stomping grounds. The gimmick
here is that the protagonist is young
P.I. Patrick (played by Affleck's
brother Casey, also in theaters right
now with "The Assassination of
Jesse James by the Coward Robert
Ford"), who, along with investigative
partner Angie (Michelle Monaghan,
"Mission: Impossible III"), becomes
embroiled in a mystery involving a
kidnapped girl and the neighborhood
locals and sleazebags who populate
his violent sector of Dorchester.
Since this is based on a Lehane
novel, there are carefully plot-
ted surprises over the course the

The brothers
Affleck work both
sides of the camera
increasingly twisted and grotesque
investigation. But ultimately, it's not
the mysterythatleaves animpression.
What "Gone Baby Gone" does right is
create a vivid and often unflinching
portrayal of life in the margins of a
rough-and-tumble city. Even Patrick
- you know, our hero - is a foul-
mouthed former drug abuser who
uses his connections with the Bosto-
nian underworld in his sleuthing.
Much of the success in this respect
is because of Affleck the director,
who wisely puts his camera on ordi-
nary locals to create a slice-of-life
feel. Many of the supporting per-
formers are clearly nonprofessionals,
and those who are tend to be more
impressive than the film's big-name
stars, particularly Amy Ryan ("Capo-

te") as the missing girl's damaged
mother.
Unfortunately, as a thriller, "Gone
Baby Gone" is merely serviceable.
While Affleck may have an eye for
the essence of city life, he isn't adept
at the fiercer drama the film clearly
hopes to achieve. Many of the twists
and character motivations are tele-
graphed too early, so when the time
comes, the ultimate revelation of the
mystery hits with a dull thud.
It mostly works, to be sure. Affleck
has obvious talent behind the cam-
era, and even some of his writing does
reach the proper emotionalmark. The
film concludes with a tense, morally
ambiguous moment in which Patrick
must decide between preventing a
child from returning to crime-rid-
den Dorchester or following through
with his legal duty and seeing that
she does. If "Gone Baby Gone" had
emphasized that kind of emotional
dilemma in place of typical thriller
conventions, it might have been a
touchstone like "Mystic River." As
it is, it's a worthwhile but ultimately
unmemorable watch.

Here':
from
riding
It's
the la,
that w
a corm
play, a
a movi
or ac
with i
"Rata
latter
horro
Did
rema
"The
the fu
adapt,
of Oz'
expec
ther"
starri
as M
sad s
best-p
Depar
other

tate out there as even
icture winners ("The
rted") are stolen from
places (Hong Kong's

- E-mail St. Paul the
Philistine Tassi at tassi@umich.
edu and listen to his gospel.

ARTS IN BRIEF

FILM acters' bond. Both feel loss, one for
Lit oa husband, the other for a friend,
Little 'Lost,' i and try to find some way to come
out of the dark place where grief
gained and addiction brought them.
It just about works. Del Toro
** shines quietly, and Berry's eyes
"Things We Lost in the Fire" show pain at every close up, but you
At Quality 16 and Showcase can't help feel as if both actors have
Dreamworks their eyes on the prize ahead. This
is a prestige movie, and though it
No one really talks about going has moments oftrue understanding
through people withdrawal. It's for what it means to be addicted to
mentioned in passing, that ache to a life that can never be again, it still
call up a former lover or significant is a contrived piece of art, tempting
other, that itch of communication like a drug but never completely
we all want to scratch. We want to satisfying.
think about addiction to love, not SARAH SCHWARTZ
the messy, black side of love lost.
It's this relationship "Things We TV
Lost in the Fire" tries to explore. Y b off
It goes so far as to juxtapose the re better
shakes and anger of the heroin t t bus
addict Jerry Sunborne (Benicio tak i
Del Toro, "Traffic") and the break-
down of Audrey Burke (Halle
Berry, "Monster's Ball") after she "Carpoolers"
accepts her husband's death. The Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.
connectionbetween the two story- ABC
lines and two battles make up the
heart of the film and the lead char- While it's true you save money

by driving with other people, is it
worth it when you're riding with
morons?
"Carpoolers" gives us four men
driving to work together, plain
and simple. Although centering a
show on a commute is a service-
able concept, ABC blows it by hav-
ing strange, ignorant characters
with nothing intelligent to say.
That doesn't stop them from say-
ing it, of course, which is the main
problem of the show. A silent, 30-
minute car ride is preferable to
listening to "Carpoolers."
Jerry O'Connell ("Crossing Jor-
dan") is the only established cast
member, playing the "cool guy" of
the crew. He's also the dumbest,
which is quite a feat if you look at
the rest of them.
The storylines aren't especially
entertaining, either. A wife buy-
ing a $400 toaster doesn't eat up
half an hour.
The cheap humor of "Carpool-
ers" might give an initial chuckle,
but after the first commercial, you
might find yourself wishing that
someone would cut the brakes.
JOHN DAAVETTILA

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