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September 30, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-09-30

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 -5

8-bit nostalgia, for
a limited time only

The new season of "CSI: Calvin Klein."

A t mentality
With a charming cast and original writing, 'Mentalist'
brings fresh inspiration to new fall season
By Jamie Block I Daily Arts Writer

C BS's new show, "The Mentalist," his abiliti'
combines two things that rarely go aware of h
hand in hand these days: a crime with good
drama and entertainment. underappr
Some might be skeptical of a show in TV line-up
which the opening sequence includes a wife well. By u
shooting her malicious husband to death in of the blat
front of a smirking police subtle, the
agent. But it's these kinds of Agent Jo
ridiculous scenes that make ters who a
"The Mentalist" uniquely far more d
entertaining among cur- The The two b
rent crime dramas, all of MentaliSt by and Ker
which take themselves far by Owain
too seriously. What makes Tuesdays at Tim Kang
the show enjoyable is 'not 9:00 p.m- dy-crime
the crime-related material; CBS underlying
rather, the comedic and for the re
dramatic scenes that take the new w
place within the crime team present engag- Amanda R
ing dynamics and conflicted relationships Jane's unc
that keep the viewer interested and enter- added laye
tained. must lie it
"The Mentalist" follows agent Patrick chief Tere
Jane, played by Simon Baker, the resource- ney ("Pris
ful heartthrob in "The Devil Wears Prada." respect of
Agent Jane is a former television star and is whenever
thus experienced in exploiting human gull- despite all
ibility. He is also a master of inference, able is still cle
to notice the smallest details and extrapolate these origi
a life story. Most importantly for Agent Jane nal charac
as a character, he's extremely arrogant about its compet
. r E A.R TSP Ei V
A new hip-hop
take on theater

es, while at the same time fully
is arrogance. The pragmatic jerk
intentions is an underused and
eciated character in the current
,and Baker pulls it off charmingly
sing his observations as a mixture
tantly obvious and the incredibly
show makes his skills believable.
ane's team is comprised of charac-
ren't necessarily original, but are,
eveloped than other similar roles.
umbling best friends, Wayne Rigs-
ndall Cho, are played respectively
Yeoman ("Generation Kill") and
("Rambo"). But unlike other bud-
teams, there seems to be a strong
g competition between them
spect of their superiors. There's
,oman Grace Van Pelt, played by
ighetti ("The OC"), who's wary of
onventional methods, but has the
r of believing that Jane's abilities
n the supernatural. Then there's
esa Lisbon, played by Robin Tun-
on Break"), who has earned the
her team by cracking the whip
someone steps out of line, but,
of Jane's mishaps and violations,
arly sexually attracted to him. It's
inal relationships among unorigi-
ters that set the show apart from
itors.

The plot - to the extent that it even mat-
ters - follows the search for a serial killer
nicknamed "Red John," who has a personal
history with agent Jane. In the pilot, when
faced with a killing that appears to follow
Red John's pattern, agent Jane and the team
must figure out whether he's really respon-
sible. With so much emphasis put on agent
Jane's abilities early on, it's almost point-
less to watch any investigation in which he
doesn't participate because you know what-
ever other people say will turn out to be
wrong. Luckily, there aren't many of these
scenes.
Suspenseful plot moments are too pre-
dictable and thus fall tragically flat. The
show 'devotes so much time to developing
the crime team that the actual plot is either
incomprehensible or nonexistent. It's impos-
sible to keep track of which suspect is which
or remember how any of them are related.
But in the end, most of the suspects don't
matter anyway, so the viewer doesn't feel
cheated when the real villain is unmasked.
"The Mentalist" has good writing and a
great cast. Baker could carry the show on his
own, but due to the charisma and energy of
the supporting cast, he doesn't have to. With
so many complicated relationships, original
observations and witty retorts, "The Men-
talist" promises to be a stand-out among
crime dramas this fall.

J haven't picked up my Razor
Ramon and Brett "The Hit-
man" Hart action figures in
many years. This might surprise
some of my loyal readers, butI
stopped dicking around with that
stuff back when Little Penny com-
mercials were
still cool. I am
not asking you to
be impressed by
this.
Unfortunately,
many of my
peers still spend
an inordinate
amount of time PASSMAN
with their child-
hood playthings. Even with the
advent of new gadgets, some of you
really like your old shit to the point
that you're willing to ignore the
newer, better ways to waste your
time. It's OR to be a little nostalgic,
but it's not OK to pretend every
product made after 1997 is tearing
at the fabric of American society.
And this includes video games, too.
People: It's time to put down
your Nintendos.
Old video games are kind of fun
- and some of them are genuinely
great - but that doesn't mean you
should be playing "Paperboy" for
more than two hours a year. It also
doesn't mean that modern consoles
are nothing more than means to
download old software.
Now, I should probably make a
few things clear. I like old video
games. In fact, I played "Super
Mario WIld" not very long ago.
(Fuck Laiy's Castle.) ButI also
like modern video games because
they're typically better, and I'm not
eight years old.
This past week, Capcom
released "Mega Man 9" for wire-
less download on the Nintendo
Wii and PS3(An Xbox 360 down-
load is coming this week.) For $10,
anyone with a next-generation
console can buy a brand new
"Mega Man" game. As someone
who spent a lot of time not beating
"Mega Man" games as a kid (they
were way too hard - not "Battle-
toads" hard, but pretty difficult),
I was decently excited about the
prospect of a revitalized "Mega
Man" when I heard about the
game. And then I saw my house-
mate playing it and got a little sad.
"Mega Man 9" looks like it was
made in 1989. This is no accident.
Though the game was recently
developed, someone at Capcom
decided their new video game
should look like an old video game.
As such, "Mega Man 9" looks like
a classic, 8-bit side-scroller, com-
plete with the jerky animations and
a goofy, old-school soundtrack. I
assure you this is not nearly as cool
as it sounds.
There's really no cultural com-
parison for "Mega Man 9." The
current Ford Mustang and Dodge
Challenger are distinctly retro
but that doesn't mean they come
without catalytic converters and
CD changers. I don't have to pour
lead additive into my gas tank,
and that's a good thing. The most
apt comparison seems to be the
Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodri-
guez double feature "Grindhouse,"
which was an homage to grind-
house cinema. "Grindhouse" has
an intentioiially antiquated look
to it - missing reels, damaged
film - but there's also a lot of CGI,
especially in Rodriguez's film. It's
a modern film with retro sensibili-
ties. But "Mega Man 9" is just an

old video game. A really old video
game. Like "this-thing-may-blow-

up-my-HDTV" old.
On the one hand, I applaud Cap-
com for attempting to revive the
classic side-scroller - a cause I've
championed for years - but on the
other hand, I can't get past the fact
that they're just pandering to over-
ly nostalgic goons. The developers
could have stuck with a simple,
2-button control scheme but with
a modern audiovisual treatment,
and the game would have been no
worse. In fact, it would have been
much better. Eight-bit graphics are
kind of cute for a few minutes, but
you're a crazy person if you would
honestly rather look at NES graph-
ics than PS3 graphics. So instead
of properly rejuvenating one of
the premier - but largely forgot-
ten - side-scrollers of yesteryear,
Capcom went all Pottery Barn on
us and churned out an old-looking
"Mega Man."
And I'm pretty sure most people
don't agree with me on this one.
Generally speaking, anyone who
plays modern games has at least
some appreciation of (read: not
obsession for) old games. But
there's a substantial segment of the
population that deifies their old
games while quickly writing off
modern platforms. Most of these
people are quick to point out that
modern video games are too com-
plicated and that they just want
the simple games they played in
between watching "Doug" and eat-
Seriously, it's
about time you
put away your
last-gen consoles.
ing Dunk-a-Roos. If people truly
lack the motor skills to operate an
Xbox controller then that's fine, but
I think the majority of these people
like the nostalgic appeal of old
games more than the actual games
themselves.
And while "Mega Man 9" might
be the most extreme example of
retro-pandering, other legitimate
games are trying to appeal to peo-
ple who are put off by games they
didn't grow up with. "NHL 09"
is probably the best hockey game
ever made because it gives players
an unparalleled degree of control.
Yet the game also offers - and
promotes on the back of the box no
less - an "NHL 94" control scheme
for those unwilling to dabble in the
realm of analog sticks. Consider-
ing you can't even make Wayne
Gretzky's head bleed, I don't really
see the appeal of this feature.
Maybe this is no different than
trying to convince my parents that
there are actually some half-decent
modern bands, butI doubt my dad
likes Jethro Tull strictly because
he grew up on it. If that were the
case, my childhood home would
be decorated with "Fuck Spiro
Agnew" posters.
So put down your old toys for
a minute and at least give some
modern games a chance. You can
be excited about "Mega Man 9,"
but only because it's a "Mega Man"
side-scroller - not because it looks
like hell.
Passman got his Nintendo
stolen and is just really, really
bitter. Big surprise. E-mail him at

passman@michigandaily.com.

By SARA SCHNEIDER
For the Daily
"Platanos and Collard Greens"
has visited more than 75 college
campuses and
captivated more
than 10,000
audience mem- and Collard
bers since its Greens
debut in 2003,
even though the Friday at 7 p.m.
fact that it's not MLB Auditorium 4
actually about
food (as the title
implies). The play, sponsored by
the office of Multi-Ethnic Student
Affairs, will be performed at 7:00
p.m. in MLB Auditbrium 4.
Despite its delicious title, "Pla-
tanos and Collard Greens" - writ-
ten by David Lamb and Summer
Hill Seven - is actually about
racial tensions between Hispan-
ics and Blacks. A hip-hop "Romeo
and Juliet," it tells the story of
two members of Hunter College's
student government campaign -
Freeman, an African-American,
and Angelita, aDominicana-who
become romantically involved in
an environment filled with racial
pressures.
As the lovers become closer,-
other characters begin to dis-
approve of the relationship.
Angelita's mother opposes any
connection between Blacks and
Latinos, and disapproves of her
daughter being with someone
who the mother considers racially

inferior. Meanwhile, African-
American women, tired of losing
intelligent Black men to lighter-
skinned women, accuse Freeman
of betraying his roots. Engulfed in
prejudices and indignation, what
these characters seem to forget
is that Angelita and Freeman are
just two kids who happen to like
each other.
The play certainly tackles deep-
seated issues, but don't be dis-
couraged by the apparent Debbie
Downer attitude, because above
all, the point of the show is to
entertain. It opened in New York
with strong reviews and even
stronger actors, and the belief that
creating great theatre takes pre-
cedence over any sociopolitical
statement. The play is fun, funny
and designed to be unconvention-
al. Audience participation is thor-
oughly encouraged, and don't be
surprised if a character unexpect-
edly turns to the audience and
delivers a beat-poetry soliloquy.
Believing in hip hop as the
future of American theater, "Pla-
tanos and Collard Greens" has
actors break into rhymes and
rhythms just as characters break
into songs in musicals.
"Our performance focuses
mainly on the poetry," producer
and playwright David Lamb said.
"Even when it's dialogue, it's
rhythmic, not stilted."
Lamb wrote "Platanos and Col-
lardGreens"asatheatricalpresen-
tation of his novel, "Do Platanos

ARTS IN BRIEF

"Platanos and Collard Greens" shows Friday at 7 p.m.
Go Wit Collard Greens?" Growing turally, generationally and socio-
up in the Astoria Housing Projects politically. Using hip hop and
of Queens, Lamb witnessed ten- humor as vehicles to diversify the
sions between Latinos and Afri- theater, "Platanos and Collard
can-Americans first-hand. After Greens" doesn't attract the aver-
obtaining degrees from Hunter age theater-goer. Barack Obama
College and Princeton, and a Law once said that the most segregat-
degree from New York University, ed time for Americans is church
he worked on Wall Street as a pub- on Sunday, but David Lamb dis-
lic finance attorney. Even with his agrees: The most segregated cli-
mate in' America is found in the
theater.
Elitism uprooted "We have very, very, very, very,
very few European, white audi-
in theater. ences,"Lamb said. "It's a question
of interest, the feeling you will be
able to relate to it ... When you're
in the majority you don't neces-
professional success, Lamb real- sarily realize that there are issues
ized that his true calling was in that will relate to you." But, he
the arts. He formed a publishing argues, when people of a non-mi-
company through which he pub- nority race do come to the show,
lished his first novel. The work they usually enjoy it immensely.
was soon transformed into a play "The audience laughs out loud
and subsequently launched his, about 40 times in the play," Lamb
career in playwriting and produc- said. After, he recited a quote from
tion. Bernard Shaw: "If you're going to
"Platanos and Collard Greens" tell the truth, you'd better make
is a play of ciss-crossing - cul- them laugh."

Film
Overworked chick
flicktakes the wrong
tracktoward romance
*
"Nights in Rodanthe"
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Village Roadshow
There's a right way and a wrong
way to make a chick flick enjoyable
for both men and women. The right
way is to craft a believable love story
between two likeable people, with
realistic complications to keep them
apart and the requisite gazing out at
the stars/beach/moon/landscape in
order to ponder it all.
"Nights in Rodanthe" illustrates
the wrong way. The characters spend
ridiculous amounts of time simply
gazing out at the beach, the stars and
space in general. Hopefully, they're
seeing something better than this

piece of dreck we're forced to watch.
Adrienne (Diane Lane, "Unfaith-
ful") and Paul (Richard Gere, "Chica-
go") are two middle-aged divorcees
who have lost their way. Luckily, they
both find themselves spending time
together (she as the inn-keeper, he
as her only guest) for a weekend at a
dilapidated innby the sea.
The two naturally fall in love, but
only because the plot requires it.
Realistically, these two know noth-
ing about each other and only begin
to bond over whiskey and throwing
canned foods into a garbage can -
how romantic.
The film wants to abandon real-
ism in favor of preposterous soul-
searching, but it's difficult to take
it seriously. It doesn't help that the
climax of their "romance" comes
in the middle of a massive tropical
storm, a contrived metaphor for the
stormy passion brewing between
the two - inadvertently illustrat-
ing how much of a disaster this film
actually is.
SHERIJANKELOVITZ

a

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