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January 04, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, January 4, 2008 - 5

ARTS IN BRIEF

Charlie's
rules of War'

All-star cast makes 'War'
an instant classic among
countless political dramas
By IMRAN SYED
DailyArts Writer
The maneuvering and negotiating
that goes into war is complicated. Deals
are made by members of Congress, com-
promises are structured, numbers are
crunched and the corridors of the Pen-
tagon, the White House
and the Capitol are
abuzz with the wran-
gling and haggling that
could determine the fate Charlie
of the nation. Wilson's
In the conventional
cinematic sense, this War
could all be very boring. At Qualityl6
But "Charlie Wilson's and Showcase
War," a flawlessly cal- Universal
culated rendition of
America's covert role in
the Afghan-Soviet war
of the 1980s from director Mike Nichols
("Closer") and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin
(TV's "The West Wing"), proves that it can
also make for a compelling, easily digest-
ible film that manages to be both incisively
relevant and superbly entertaining.
The filmstars TomHanks("CastAway")
in the title role of the real-life Texas con-
gressman who learned of the Afghan
resistance to brutal Soviet advances and
decided to do something to help defeat
the communists. With millionaire social-
ite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts, "Erin
Brockovich") at his side, Wilson manages
to turn Congress and the CIA toward the
Afghan cause, thereby initiating the larg-
est covert war in American history. The
Soviets were defeated, but of course, the
war still isn't quite over.

What Wilson managed to do almost
single-handedly is remarkable. So much
of what is happening in the world today
can be traced back to the decisions this
one man made more than 20 years ago.
It would be tempting for a filmmaker, in
this first Oscar season to feature a full
slate of films about the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, to impress upon audiences
the supreme significance of this story.
Nichols and Sorkin, however, deftly avoid
that trap. "Charlie Wilson's War" stands
apart from the year's other political films
because it manages to engage and inform
while eschewing the overwrought theat-
rics that turned many viewers away from
films like "Rendition" and "In the Valley
of Elah."
Expertnuance and asofttouch arehard
enough to come by in Hollywood as it is,
but they are especially unexpected from
the pen of Sorkin. The celebrated, Emmy-
winning creator of "The West Wing"
is undoubtedly the perfect man to tell a
story about American politics, but Sorkin
has also recently been criticized for his
cartoonishly earnest characters and over-
cooked themes ("Studio 60 on the Sunset
Strip"). Here, though, he delivers a script
that is as lively, vibrant and responsive as
the many colorful characters it contains.
The film's many stars are given roles that
Charlie Wilson
started a war.
We're still fighting it.
are limitless, impossible to overact and so
easy to make memorable.
Hanks and Roberts are superb as
usual, but it's the film's other Oscar win-
ner, Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote"),
who steals the show. As the haggard, out
of shape Gust Avrakotos, the agent in

Contestants hinder
'Duel'
Weeknights at 8 p.m.
ABC
A week-long competition full of
oddly pompous contestants? Who
wouldn't want to watch?
ABC's new game show, "Duel,"
has things we've seen before: a
flashy set, a toothy host and an
unbelievably large pile of money
rewarded for fun-fact knowledge.
What sets "Duel" apart from oth-
ers are the contestants. From law-
yers to ex-door-to-door vacuum
salesmen, "Duel" has them all,
complete with arrogance that's
immediately grating.
The rules of "Duel" are fairly
simple: contestants are asked
a question with four possible
answers. Then they place chips
over the answers they think are
correct, losing chips that cover
incorrect answers. They don't nec-
essarily have to know the answer,
but they do have to watch their
pile of chips; contestants lose the
match if they run out or fail to pick
the correct answer.
Watching game show contes-
tants make fools of themselves
on TV is getting tiresome, and it
seems like there isn't a game show
valuing true knowledge anymore
- "Jeopardy!" aside. So class it
up "Duel," and start asking ques-
tions you won't find on the back of
a cereal box.
JOHN DAAVETTILA
Same recipe is still a
'Treasure'
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pic-
tures
Did you like the first "National
Treasure" movie? Not too shab-
See BRIEFS, Page 8

COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL

"War is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

charge of the CIA's Afghan desk, Hoff-
man brings out his patented understated
comedic quality, which ultimately drives
the film. Without Avrakotos, Wilson
wouldn't have had the knowledge or
insight to make his war happen. Like-
wise, without Hoffman's snappy retorts
and odd soliloquies, this film simply
wouldn't be as good.
Responding to Hoffman's under-hand-
ed quips and Roberts' charm, Hanks finds
the perfect balance between the many
different sides of his character, all while
maintaining that sharp ear for dialect
and humble, bemused expression that
audiences have come to love him for. He

portrays Wilson's enthusiasm and pas-
sion thoroughly, butuses subtle, lingering
glances and hanging phrases to portray
with great hindsight the uncertainty that
surrounds the story.
For Wilson, a man known for his many
personal indiscretions, it was an act of
pure conscience and supreme courage to
generate support and funding in America
for a rebel cause thousands of miles away.
The untold ramifications that his actions
have had are not a side note to this film's
premise. It is the very inconclusiveness of
the film that is ultimately larger than any
of its characters and even its remarkable
story.

New Cash Money
LP doesn't stack up

By CHRIS GAERIG
Daily Music Editor
Of the collection of '90s hip-hop
label troupes - No Limit Records,
Bad Boy Records, Ruff Ryders, etc.
- few come close to the success
and longevity of the New Orleans
goliath Cash Money Records.
Boasting graduates like Mannie
Fresh, Juvenile (label infighting
aside), label head Baby (a.k.a. Bird-
man) and rap-superstar Lil Wayne,
the label seemed to have the most
talented and chart-topping crew
around. It's only natural, then, that
a collection of the
label's monumen-
tal singles would
be released. Various
Unfortunate- Artists
ly, Cash Money
Records: 10 Years Cash Money
of Bling Vol. 1 is Records:
the second such toYearsof
retrospective, Bling Vol.1
one that is sorely Universal
lacking when
compared with
the older and more essential release
Cash Money Records Platinum Hits.
Of 10 Years's 11 tracks, only four
don't appear on Platinum Hits, an
egregious oversight that pushes 10
Years toward cash cow status rath-
er than a fresh perspective on the
label's catalog. If you don't already
own the earlier release, though,
these seven recurring tracks are
must-haves. Cuts like BG's "Bling
Bling," Big Tymers's "Get Your Roll
On" and the label mates' collabora-
tion "Project Bitch" are all instant
classics. The bubbling, video game
blips that signified a Cash Money
single run through most of these
tracks and are immediately enjoy-
able.
10Years'ssavinggraceasaworth-
while compilation is the strength of
the tracks that don't appear onPlat-
inumHits. Big Tymers's "Oh Yeah!"
is childishly playful and undeniably
singable, while the cut "Still Fly" is
an epic track with a jumbo airliner
of a chorus and royal horn lines.
A quick look at the tracklist,
though, shows what this disc is all
about. With nine of the songs per-

formed either by Lil Wayne or Big
Tymers (which included members
Birdman and Mannie Fresh), 10
Years is a supplement to the long
delayed Wayne release The Carter
III, as well as Birdman's recentspot
5 * Stunna. There are no tracks by
The Hot Boys (a Cash Money main-
stay that even featured Lil Wayne)
or Juvenile, and only one by BG.
Another complaint that can be
made about 10 Years is all of the
incredible tracks that are missing
from the Cash Money collection.
Tracks like "Back That Azz Up,"
"#1 Stunnas," "Shine" and "Ha" are
all sorely missed on a disc that's
supposed to be a reflection of the
label's biggest accomplishments.
Lil' Wayne and
Birdman spread
their wings on
new release
But if many of these were includ-
ed on this album, there would be
almost no difference between this
and Platinum Hits.
Granted, each track on 10
Years is an explosive single with
more hooks and quotable lines
than anything released in recent
memory. Nevertheless, there just
doesn't seem to be any reason for
the album's release with Platinum
Hits still sitting on store shelves.
But can you really blame a label
called Cash Money Records for
trying to make money any way
possible?

"Do look fat in thi:

Unexpected pregnancy is fodder
for cute, charming "Juno"

By PAUL TASSI
Daily Film Editor
"Juno" aspires to be this year's "Little
Miss Sunshine." It succeeds in the respect
that it's charming, offbeat and nominat-
ed for awards. It fails, however, in being
anything more than really "cute," which
is pleasant to watch but not particularly
memorable.
Juno MacGuff (Ellen
Page, "X-Men: The Last
Stand") is 16 and "her
eggo is preggo," as a
local clerk putsnit. The Juno
father is Paulie Bleeker At Qualityl6
(Michael Cera, "Super- and Showcase
bad"), her cross country-
running and baby-faced Fox Searchlight
best friend. After being
turned off by the goth receptionist and
strawberry-flavored condoms at the abor-
tion clinic, Juno decides to have the kid
and give it away to someone who wants
it.
The potential parents she finds are
Mark and Vanessa Loring, two yup-
pie suburbanites who can't conceive a
child on their own. Mark (Jason Bate-
man, "The Kingdom") writes commer-
cial jingles but is a rocker at heart, and

Vanessa (Jennifer Garner, "Elektra") is
heartbroken and desperately longing to
be a mother.
As Juno, Page is quirky and frank,
sometimes annoying, but mostly a sym-
pathetic lead. Cera, who plays her best
friend/boyfriend has the skill to make
anything coming out of his mouth sound
absolutely adorable. They make quite a
pair, even if they're not together through
much of the film.
The most shocking part - in a film
that you don't expect to be shocked - is
the extremely creepy pedophilia vibe
between Juno and Mark. Clearly not
ready to grow up yet, Mark bonds with
Juno through music and slasher movies.
This starts out perfectly innocent, but
quickly turns bizarre during a certain
slow dance in a back room, which surely
elicits audible gasps and cries of uneasi-
ness from the audience.
The obvious comparison every-
one wants to draw to "Juno" is with
"Knocked Up," and it's quite a leap to
make. Despite having "unwanted preg-
nancy" as a theme, the two films have
little else in common. They explore
two different aspects of the situation.
One having to do with raising the child
together, the other with giving it away.

"Knocked Up" does this in signature
Judd Apatow style - fart jokes and sex
talk - while "Juno" is more toned down,
using silent moments of awkwardness
and words like "wiener."
The soundtrack is worth mention-
ing here because some are comparing it
to the likes of the "Garden State" album
Judd Apatow had
nothing to do with
this movie.
that graced many hipsters' iPods for a
long time. Featuring The Kinks, Belle &
Sebastian and The Velvet Underground,
it soars at times, though others may claim
some tracks sound like a producer gave a
12-year-old a guitar and told him to make
up a song on the spot.
That debate aside, "Juno" is a good
film. Not the classic hit it could have
been, but enjoyable nonetheless. An
indie comedy with perhaps too much
heart, it's a welcome anomaly in a year
of comedies characterized by the likes of
Apatow's films.

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