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November 19, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-11-19

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 -5A

Is Bond the
same man?

Jt always alarmed me when
female friends of mine said
they'd never seen a James
Bond film. That was sacrilegious
in my book. It
was also com- F
pletely unfath- ,
omable, as if
they were tell-
ing me they'd
never eaten a
steak. I mean, BRANDON
the Bond. CONRADIS
franchise is
an institution by now. How could
anyone go so long without seeing
at least one of the 22 films released
since 1962? It's like trying to hide
from the sun.
It should go without saying at
this point that I'm a Bond fanatic,
having been practically weaned
on the films since I was three. It
can also probably be inferred that
I awaited the release of "Quantum
of Solace" like it was the Second
Coming. Meanwhile, I still had
people telling me they didn't even
know what "007" meant, which is
about as blasphemous as it gets as
far as I'm concerned.
Then I realized why Bond has
escaped so many of my female
peers: the character is nothing
more than a male fantasy. He's the
guy so many men want to be - the
classy badass who leads a life of
danger, knows exactly whatto say
in any given situation, gets to play
with slick gadgets, drives nice cars
and always winds up with the girl
at the end. Bond films are the male
equivalent of chick flicks, which
is why it shouldn't have come as
such a surprise to me that so many
girls I knew couldn't have cared
less about them.
And all this relates to why
"Quantum of Solace" has been
getting so many negative reviews.
Now, it would be presumptuous
of me to throw pot-shots at afilm
that (amazingly enough) I still
haven't seen, but it's clear from
the backlash thatithe film tried to .
tweak the formula so many view-
ers have come to know and love.
And I'm fine with that. After all, it
shouldn't be surprising to anyone
who saw the very accomplished
(ifsomewhat overrated) "Casino
Royale," which took the Bond
mythos into far darker territory
than it had been before.
Besides, maybe the formula
needs a good tweaking. Sure, as
with any long-running franchise,
the Bond films haven't survived
for nearly five decades by con-
stantly pushing boundaries.

Instead, they have been success-
ful for the very opposite reason.
They've stuck with the same
formula and delivered, film after
film, exactly what viewers want-
ed: guns, gadgets and girls. But a
little experimentation now and
then certainly wouldn't hurt.
No, my problem is not with
the idea of changing the formula
around. Instead, my concern is
over what the filmmakers are
doing to Bond. The real key to
the series's success is the fact
that the films have stayed true
to the image of the character as
crafted not by Ian Flemming, but
by Sean Connery, the original -
and greatest - Bond. When film-
makers try to pry the character
from Connery's mold, viewers
get defensive. It happened with
the moody (and short-lived)
Timothy Dalton, and it could very
well happen to Daniel Craig. The
gritty, unapproachable new Bond
depicted in "Casino Royale" and
"Quantum of Solace" just hasn't
really clicked with alot of audi-
ences yet.
Many male viewers, conscious-
ly or not, watch the Bond movies
because they admire the char-
acter himself. Messing with him
Reshaping a
classic character.
is like defaming a beloved older
brother. To put it into perspective
for those girls who have never
seen a Bond film: Imagine if the
"Sex and the City" movie ended
with Carrie Bradshaw selling all
her shoes, ditching her boyfriend
and joining a convent. Women
everywhere would rain hell upon
the producers.
What the two most recent Bond
films have done is not as dras-
tic, but it's in a comparable vein.
James Bond has always been stoic,
suave and unbendable. Turning
him into a kind of brooding, pout-
ing killing machine just doesn't
seem ... right.
So come next film, Ihope the
producers find their senses and
go back to the old Bond so many
know and love. If not, I'm afraid
men everywhere may very well
lose a respected icon for good.
Conradis thinks he should be
the new Bond. Tell him why he's
wrong at brconrad@umich.edu.

"What do you mean, Marty? 'Taxi Driver 2' with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon is a great idea

Reel problems

DeNiro stars in a decent but
forgettable film about the
dark side of Hollywood
Daily Arts Writer
While HBO's "Entourage" often glamor-
izes a Hollywood lifestyle revolving around
blithe stars and glib agents, Barry Levinson's
("Wag the Dog") most recent
film, "What Just Happened," y
depicts the exact opposite.
Based on the memoirs of Wht Just
producer Art Linson ("Into
the Wild"), the film is a Happened
composite account of Lin- At the State
son's experiences marching Theater
on Tinseltown's front line.
Rather than focusing on a Magnolia
pretty-boy actor like Vincent
Chase, "What Just Happened" centers on old
and tired Ben (Robert DeNiro), a fading pow-
er-producer in an industry where the word
"comeback" isn't in the vocabulary.
With a long track record of near-misses and
complete bombs, Ben is in desperate need of a
hit. The film opens on a test screening of one of
his movies, a Sean Penn movie called "Fierce-
ly," during which Ben anxiously registers the
distaste and boredom on the audience's faces.
In the climactic scene of Ben's film, a group of

gangsters shoot a dog in the head, splattering
blood all over the camera. Many of the feed-
back cards bear shockingly frank criticism,
the likes of which can't be printed in this pub-
lication. When ;he confers with the passively
scheming studio head, Lou (Catherine Keener,
"The 40 Year Old Virgin"), she congratulates
and reassures him, saying it's tough to make a
movie but it looks "good." Translation: Ben is
in deep shit.
On top of that, Ben has three kids with
two different ex-wives. Waking up early to
an espresso-Red Bull cocktail, Ben hurries
to ex-wife number two's house to pick up his
kids and take them to school. This seems like
a noteworthy narrative flaw: Such a gesture
may just be too human to be plausible in a
town like Hollywood. But then a lot of things
would surprise you about life in Ben's Gucci
In addition to issues with "Fiercely" and
problems at home, another one of Ben's mov-
ies, this one starring Bruce Willis, begins
shooting in mere days. Willis, however, looks
like Brando in "Apocalypse Now" with a Griz-
zly Adams-style beard. Willis refuses to shave,
claiming it would be an insult to his artistic
integrity. Another studio head threatens to
shut the movie down and sue Ben for mis-
representation if Willis doesn't show up for
shooting "looking like a leading man." He is,
after all, the main lure for their target demo-
graphic: "pussy."
Spinning half-truths, greasing the right

wheels and trying to keep from falling over
the edge - with which he flirts dangerously
- is Ben's life in a nutshell. "What Just Hap-
pened" is a discerning film from an accom-
plished director and a great actor, but itraises
some questions that are a bit more interesting
than the film itself.
For instance, who exactly was this movie
made for? While "What Just Happened"
was independently financed, surely someone
must have asked about things like "target
audience," "marketability" and "projected
returns." Having failed to sell to a distribu-
tor at both Sundance last January and Cannes
in May, there were clear signs that studios
didn't believe they could sell a movie about
the movies to the general public. Or maybe
they balked at the chance, feeling it was a bit
too close to home, and a bit too disparaging.
While "Entourage" appeals to a long-standing
obsession with celebrity lifestyle, "What Just
Happened" is apparently a bit too authentic
for the fly-over states to handle. With a price
tag of $25 million, "What Just Happened" has
grossed about $1 million after four weeks in
There's no question about it - the movie
aptly conveys Levinson's and Linson's resent-
ment of a relentlessly brutal industry. And for
those who are interested in the industry side
of movies, it's engaging and insightful. But for
those who aren't interested in show business,
this film isn't much more than another easily
ignored title on the marquee.

SUnsound Arguments'

By MIKE KUNTZ trance-inducing polyrhythms and
For the Daily soaring electronic melodies. With
high atmospheric arrangements
Most people wouldn't associate and heavy, anthemic choruses dot-
Paul McCartney with dance music, ting the album, one might imag-
and for a while he didn't associate ine an exciting blend of two very
himself with it distinct sounds. But sadly behind
either. Releasing all the yelps, swirls and swells, it
his first effort * doesn't quite mix.
of instrumen- . Electric Arguments can essen-
tal dance-rock Th t Freman rially be split into two albums,
in 1993 under Electric the first half resembling the
the playful alias Arguments straightforward pop typical of
The Fireman, he ATO more recent McCartney releases
initially took no and the second half with a darker,
recognition for more cavernous sound focused on
his work, only claiming involve- texture rather than substance.
ment in the project months after Beginning with "Nothing Too
the release. Much Just Out Of Sight," McCa-
Enter Electric Arguments, his rtney's vocals are brought to the
first release as The Fireman in 10 forefront as he wails over bluesy
years after the 1998 album Rush- guitars and trashy percussion that
es, a new work promising a fresh make the entire track sound like a
interpretation of the rarelytreaded modern reworking of "When the
area where dance and rock'n'roll Levee Breaks." With this track
meet. Redirecting his talents to a - above all others - McCartney
more vocal-driven, soulful sound, proves he can still sing with the
and once again enlisting the help same fervor as in his prime.
of British electro-rocker Youth, The album continues with a
McCartney creates a daring com- few pop numbers, "Two Magpies"
bination of swampy hard rock, and "Sing the Changes," the lat-

ter packing an over-the-top cho- sic four-minutes-of-silence-fol-
rus with enough pomp to become lowed-by-a-hidden-track routine,
self-parody. The soulful moments resulting in an unfulfilling reprise
of "Highway" and "Light From of recycled sonic textures that are
Your Lighthouse," complete with hardly worth the wait.
gospel choruses supporting a With a musical career now
gruff and howling McCartney, are spanning over five decades, there's
nothing Paul McCartney can do to
either tarnish or improve upon his
PaulMCt perfect legacy with The Beatles.
carney Though fans of McCartney's ear-
goes dance. lier work may not be impressed
by the explorations of his latest
release, it nevertheless proves his
never-ending penchant for exper-
among the album's few redeem- imentation and creativity. The
ing moments. After the simple genre hopping on Electric Argu-
pop melodies of "Sun is Shining," ments serves its title well; McCa-
Arguments descends into the rtney conjures everything from
depths of an all-out dance freak- back-to-basics blues and soul to
out with sinister electronic ambi- the trip-hoppiness reminiscent of
ance taking charge. late-'90s club music, and throws
The remaining tracks, driven it together to form a conflicted
by heavy dance beats, more or album polluted with little conti-
less bleed together, with the life- nuity or consistency. Lasting just
less drones of "Is This Love?" over an hour (though seeming like
and "Universal Here, Everlasting much longer), Electric Arguments
Now" marking sleepier moments is a tiring work with few memo-
in an otherwise eclectic and rable moments, serving only as
abrasive album. Closer "Don't proof that McCartney's best work
Stop Running" includes the clas- is far behind him.

For a review of "Robot Chicken: Season Three" on DVD,
read online at michigandaily.com/section/arts.
for more information cal 734/615-6449
The University of Michigan College of Literature,
Science, and the Arts presents a public
lecture and reception
SCents' ort
How Plants Evolve
the Abiliy to Make
So Many Aroma
Michael M. Martin Collegiate
Professor of Molecular, Cellular
and Developmental Biology
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Rackham Amphitheater
LSA 4:1Opm

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