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January 04, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-04

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8 - Friday, January 4, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Smith's skills carry I am Legend'

Despite lingering plot
questions,
'Legend' excites and
frightens
By SHERI JANKELOVITZ
Daily Arts Writer
Robert Neville (Will Smith, "Inde-
pendence Day") wakes up each morn-
ing, exercises with his dog and then
rents movies. A day like any other.
The only difference is that Neville is
alone, supposedly the last man alive
on earth - that is, until the night
comes.
That's where things get interest-
ing. During the night, the "dark seek-
ers" come out to feed. Dark seekers
are mutated victims of a virus, once
thought to be a cure for cancer, which
eventually wiped out almost the entire
world population.
At first glance, "I Am Legend"
seems to be yet another post-apoca-
lyptic film - human race is wiped out
by a deadly virus, last man on earth
attempts to salvage the human race
- but surprisingly, it isn't. Rather than
relying on special effects to drive the
story, the film wisely relies on Neville
and his human plight. That's not to say
the special effects aren't something to
marvel at: a completely desolate New
York City, overgrown with weeds and
teeming with wild animals, is quite a
sight.
What sets "I Am Legend" apart is
the humanistic sto-
ryline. His family
is dead, along with ***'
everyone ,else, and
Neville only has his I Am Legend
dog left to confide in. At Quality16
Ohyeah, and the dark and Showcase
seekers.
Each day, Neville Watner Bros.
works furiously to
find a cure for the virus. Why a cure
if he's the only man left on Earth? The
movie wisely doesn't try to answer
all of the questions it poses, since
most of them really don't have logical
answers, and, most of these questions

won't even occur to you until after the
movie anyway, which is probably a
good thing.,
Like most movies of its kind, the
actual revealing of the creatures is a
letdown. Much of the film's intensity
relies on brief glimpses of these dark
seekers in pitch black settings. Once
the creatures are finally revealed to be
some sort of variation on a video game
zombie, the film loses some of its ten-
sion.
No one is left in
Manhattan except
Will Smith. That's
a good thing.
Smith offers up a new kind of action
hero, one who isn't unrealistically
macho - though that's not to say it
still isn't the same old Will Smith the
world has come to know and love. He's
all alone and just barely hanging on
to his sanity. It's strange how when
watching "Legend" Will Smith seems
to be the only actor capable of fitting
into this role. It's a character that Will
Smith was born to play, especially
considering how most of his co-stars
are traditionally mere springboards
for his witty one-liners anyway. In "I
Am Legend," co-stars cutting into the

BRIEFS
From page 5
by, right? Despite Nicolas Cage being involved, it
turned out to be an unexpectedly good time.Well,
"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is more of
the same. Almost exactlythe same.
Replace Thomas Jefferson with Abraham Lin-
col" and ancient Egyptian treasure with ancient
Aztec treasure and you've got the framework for
the second film. If you're asking how Abe Lincoln
could in any way be related to the lostcity of gold,
leave it to Ben Gates to explain itto you through a
series of ciphers, puzzles and codes.
The "National Treasure"series (Who would've
ever predicted this would become a series?) con-
tinues to be more interesting than, say, the mon-
strosity that is "The Da Vinci Code," and it's an
unusual bit of live-action, family-friendly fun sel-
dom seen of late. Don't go expecting your kids to
learn anything, though, because you might find
them failing history when they write a report
about how Paul Revere killed Hitler to steal his
stash of African conflict diamonds.
PAUL TASSI
Terrible writing ends a
classic series
AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Twentieth Century-Fox
Yesterdayitwasmadeofficial.RidleyScottread
the eulogy. James Cameron brought the flowers.
'And Gov. Schwarzenegger, sniffing back tears
himself, comforted the mourners. The "Alien"
and "Predator" franchises, sadly, are dead.
"AVPR," the name used for this film by people
eagerly awaiting the release of "Battlefield Earth
2," could very well have brought acclaim back to
its family. After the disappointingly hackneyed
and tame "AVP: Alien vs. Predator" (2004), the
ideaofhavingtwo of cinema's most famous galac-
tic monsters duke it out on Earth sounded like
just the kind of rejuvenation the series needed
- too bad no one told the filmmakers that what
made the earlier films so good was their focus on
well-written scripts andthoughtful characteriza-
tion, none of which are on display in this shame-
ful second cousin.
Instead, "AVPR" boasts lots of contrived
and unexciting action, all structured around
a batch of brainless characters who act like
they just stumbled out of a typical slasher
movie. It's all flash with zero emotional
investment.
Bad movies come and go all the time, fiz-
zling out at the box office and dying quick
deaths just as "AVPR" has. It's just too bad this
clunker had to take two perfectly respectable
franchises with it.
BRANDONCONRADIS

Party in the city where the heat is on
"Will Smith Show" are almost entirely
absent.
You'll find yourself holding your
breath, peeking out from behind your
fingers and, all the while, caring about
what happens to poor Robert Neville

and his dog. These are mighty accom-
plishments considering the fact that "I
Am Legend" was probably intended to
be another typical Will Smith vehicle.
But perhaps this film could be consid-
ered the ultimate Will Smith vehicle.

Dewey
walks
the walk
By ANNIE LEVENE
Daily Arts Writer
The success of a slew of recent
biopics featuring famous and
tortured musicians has ensured
that the genre could remain
sacred for only so long. After all,
we are a nation that embraced
four "Scary Movie" films. "Walk
Hard," an unapologetic take
on the 2005 Johnny Cash film
"Walk the Line," follows Dewey
Cox's (John C.
Reilly, "Tal-
ladega Nights:
The Ballad ofW
Ricky Bobby") Walk Hard:
journey from a The Dewey
boy to a tragic Cox Story
bluesman. The
film is the lat- At Showcase
est installment Columbia
from writing,
directing and
producing wunderkind Judd
Apatow ("Superbad").
Dewey's love affair with the
musical world begins soon after
his involvement in the accidental
murder of his older brother, Nate,
who is diagnosed as "a particu-
larly bad case of somebody being
cut in half." Fortunately, Dewey
is a quick study on guitar, other-
wise, he would have been in for
some pretty expensive therapy
bills.
Married at the age of 14 and
discovered singing in a bar soon
after, Dewey's rise to stardom is
fast and furious. True to biop-
ic form, the fame comes with
women, drugs and an inevitable
downfall. As the decades pass,
changes to Dewey's style accu-
rately reflect what was really
going on in the musical world.
Subtle jokes include off-hand
mentions of legends like Bob
Dylan and a not-to-miss seg-
ment when Dewey meets the

Classic.

They visit every year, but expect
something new from Emerson

Eat your heart out, Dov Charney.
Beatles that hit home for those
of us who aren't 12-year-old
middle schoolers looking for a
cheaper laugh.
The actual music of the film is
also a pleasant surprise. Reilly,
who has a background in musical
theater, does double duty, acting
and singing all of Cox's songs.
The recordings, including innu-
endo-laden ballad "Let's Duet,"
are catchy and somewhat believ-
able as number one hits.
Apatow and fellow writer and
director Jake Kasdan ("Freaks
and Geeks") rely heavily on Reil-
ly, who portrays Dewey from age
13 until he's a senior citizen. The
actor's ease with both comedic
and melodramatic material earns
him the right to upgrade from
sidekick status into a full-fledged
member of the merry band of
Frat Packers, such as Ben Stiller,
Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson.
While Reilly shoulders much of
the comedic burden, the film's
supporting cast work hard to pick
up some of the slack. Tim Mead-
ows ("Mean Girls") is especially
good as Dewey's bandmate and

enabler. Other familiar faces,
ghosts of "Saturday Night Live"
past and present, as well as some
of Apatow's favorites, show up
throughout.
The weakness, as is often the
case in this type of film, are the
female supporting leads. Kris-
ten Wiig ("Knocked Up") and
Jenna Fischer ("The office") do
just fine as the women in Dew-
ey's life, but they aren't given
much to work with. Fischer, as
Dewey's second wife and backup
singer Darlene, is wide-eyed and
pretty, but does little more than
nag Dewey into being a cleaner,
though somewhat less enter-
taining, man.
The film doesn't do anything
wrong: the jokes are funny and
the plot is clever. However,
"Walk Hard" lacks that fuzzy,
feel good ending that made other
Apatow films like "The 40 Year
Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up."
We like laughing at Dewey, and
we tap our toes to his music, but
we don't really care if everything
works out, even though we know
it will.

By BEN VANWAGONER
DailyArts Writer
in the realm of classical music,
these four men need no intro-
duction. These are four men who
have been setting the standard in
quartets for years and who have
been performing
together, for 30.
They've played in Emerson
every major con- String
cert hall in theQ
country and in
dozens through- Today at8p.m.
out Europe - the At Rackham
only concert Auditorium
halls that have
not hosted this
distinguished group are the ones
that wish they could. Time maga-
zine called them "America's great-
est quartet" and that is just one
of many accolades they've earned
recently. Oh, and they've won
eight Grammys.
The Emerson String Quartet
visits Ann Arbor every year, and
every year they play a concert with
a vastly different program. The
Quartet is famous for its incredi-
ble versatility, for its ability to play
both classical and modern pieces
with equal grace and fervor. Last
year was Dvorak, this year will be
Janacek, Saariaho, Bartok and the
University's own Bright Sheng. If
you haven't heard of these com-

posers, don't feel too bad. Neither
had I.
"Oh, but you must know
Janacek? He's a Czech com-
poser," said Phillip Setzer, one of
the Quartet's two violinists, in a
phone interview. He was quick
to assure me that my ignorance
wasn't important, that the concert
would still engaging because it
wasn't about knowing all the com-
posers or how many fugues they'd
written.
"The [University Musical Soci-
ety] has chosen a really interest-
ing program this year, one I think
will be very rewarding," Setzer
said. "It's not a concert with a
bunch of Mozart and then one
modern piece, where the modern
one sticks out like a sore thumb
and just doesn't fit in. It's going to
be all modern, and they are some
wonderful selections."
Setzer's enthusiasm was palpa-
ble. I'd reached him in a cab as he-
rushed from rehearsal to another
engagement downtown, but he
spoke as if he'd been planning the
speech for years.
"All the pieces are very power-
ful. The first one is the Janacek,
and it's asortoflove letterhe wrote
to a younger woman - a love he
never realized," he said. The Saa-
riaho piece has it's own story of a
slightly different kind of love.
"She wrote it for my mother,

who had just passed away. It's
full of so many strange, wonder-
ful sounds. It's a beautiful, haunt-
ing work," Setzer said. The third
selection is a composition by Uni-
versity prof. Bright Sheng, entitled
"The Miraculous," and it will be
the work's U.S. premier.
"The program is quite chal-
lenging, but in a good way, like
a really good novel," Setzer said.
"I won't be able to stop concen-
trating for a second. I think the
audience will have quite a treat
hearing this."
The relative obscurity of the
composers in tonight's program
highlights one of the rising con-
cerns in classical music: relevance.
Why is this music - not just classi-
cal in general, but modern classical
- important to a young audience?
Why should it be important? Why
should you go?
"Classical music is art," Setzer
said. "In fact, it's some of the
greatest art ever produced. Saying
you don't need classical music is
like saying you don'tcneed the great
authors, or the great painters, and
you do, you need all of them."
And classical music is even
more, he claims: "It's not about
being snobby. Classical music is a
very powerful way of communi-
cating - it's communicating with-
out words, and I think that's very
profound."

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