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February 13, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-13

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, February 13, 2009 - 5

Unchecked power

For the Daily
February is a notorious dumping ground for
sub-par superhero movies (see
"Ghost Rider" and "Jumper").
Unfortunately, "Push" fol-
lows in this regrettable tradi- Push
tion. The film's visual beauty
and brilliantly executed action At Showcase
sequences are bogged down and Quality16
by a convoluted storyline with Summit
super-powered characters who
are impossible to track. It's
nothing more than a big-budget, well-directed
episode of "Heroes."
In the universe of "Push," people with super-
human abilities live among ordinary citizens.
The crackpot origin of their powers is given in
the opening credits, but by the end of the movie
Striking visuals with
no substance.
few viewers will remember or care. People with
superpowers are tracked by Division, a shady
government agency. To accomplish their mys-
terious evil agenda, Division is developing a
serum that will enhance peoples' superpowers.
The story follows a woman named Kira (Camilla
Belle, "10,000 BC"), who escapes from Division
with the only sample of this serum and flees to
Hong Kong. There, she finds help among a group
of superhumans, including Nick (Chris Evans,
"Fantastic Four") and Cassie, played by ageless
wonder Dakota Fanning ("War of the Worlds").
What follows is a spectacularly confusing tale
comprised of a few dazzling set pieces mixed
with long-winded exposition.,
"Push" divides individuals into categories by
their abilities. The film's title comes frpm the
most powerful group, known as Pushers, who
have the ability to "push" any thought into some-
one's mind. Nick is a Mover who can telekineti-

cally move objects; Cassie is a Watcher who has
visions of future events. The rest of this article
could be spent listing the remaining categories:;
characters with new powers seem to appear
whenever it's convenientfor the plot.
The film's main characters are all action movie
stereotypes, but a handful of quirks make their
depictions seem fresh. Nick is the goofy-yet-vul-
nerable protagonist hopingto avenge his father's
death. Cassie is the sassy, all-knowing teenager.
Both have grudges against Division: it killed
Nick's father and has Cassie's mother in custody.
Part of the film's limited appeal is the heroes'
ineptitude. Unlike most superheroes, Nick and
Cassie are far from experts with their abilities.
Nick can't even use his powers to win a dice
game in a back alley and the far-superior Divi-
sion agents beat him up throughout the movie.
Cassie, meanwhile, constantly misinterprets her
visions. For some reason, she believes alcohol
will clarify these visions and ends up buying a
bottle of vodka. Yes, Dakota Fanning gets drunk
in this movie.
Narrative failures aside, "Push" is a feast for
the eyes. It was filmed on location in Hong Kong,
with an impressive lack of green screens. The
city comes alive in the hands of director Paul
McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin"), treating
audiences to sequences in the slums as well as
glitzy casinos. The action sequences are easily the
most engagingsections of the film. They are shot
in the claustrophobic, shaky style of "The Bourne
Ultimatum" against the backdrop of Hong Kong's
radiant neon skyline. Unlike most spectacle mov-
ies, "Push" would have benefited from more of
these tight, stunning fight scenes.
But "Push" just can't seem to find its target
audience. There isn't enough violence for action
junkies, comic book geeks will roll their eyes at
the run-of-the mill superpowers and the unnec-
essarilycomplexplotwilldrive awayviewerswho
just want to pass time. McGuigan is a true talent
and will become a Hollywood mainstay as soon
as he has a proper script with which to work. But
"Push" is full of so many double-crossings and
plot holes that few will walk out of the theater
with a clear understanding of what happened.

"The Gspot must be around here somewhere.
Swet 'Coraline

Director Henry
Selick's animation
scores again
Daily Arts Writer
Revered animated-film direc-
tor Henry Selick has a new picture
out. It's not a clas-
sic. Selick's new *
film, "Coraline," is
the story of Cora- oralne
line Jones (voiced
by Dakota Fanning, At Showcase
"The Secret Life of and Qualityl6
Bees") a girl who Focus
moves to a gloomy
woodland apart-
ment building with her remarkably
negligent parents (Teri Hatcher of
TV's "Desperate Housewives" and
John Hodgman, the bespectacled
"PC" from Apple' commercials). She
stumbles upon a hidden door that
leads to a parallel universe in which
everything is the same, except more
marvelous and fantastical.
In this world her parents are caring
and devoted; her once-oddball neigh-
bors are still pretty odd, though in an

entertaining, vaudevillian sort of way;
and the chatterbox neighborhood boy
can no longer talk - his cat assumes
the role of conversationalist. Oh, and
everyone has buttons for eyes.
The film is an affirmation of Selick's
ability to create a world so extraordi-
nary and bizarre that it should literally
make viewers' jaws go slack. With a
resume like Selick's, perhaps that's no
surprise. His first feature film, 1993's
"The Nightmare Before Christmas,"
is considered to be one of history's
most iconic holiday films - animated
or otherwise. Three years later, he
adapted Roald Dahl's beloved "James
and the Giant Peach." Five years after
that, however, he forayed into mixed
animation and live-action with "Mon-
keybone," a critically catastrophic
box-office disappointment.
With "Coraline," Selick returns to
the mediun with which he is most
comfortable: stop-motion animation.
He also uses a different technology:
3D animation, which has started tobe
considered by some as the newest cin-
ematic innovation.
3D films are not new by any means.
The industry made a push for it in the
'50s and then again in-the '70s, though
the shtick didn't hold up and 3D tech-
nology took its place in the ranks of

pop-culture ephemera.
In "Coraline," certain 3D aspects
definitely enhance the film. At other
times, however, these elements feel
like cheap parlor tricks. What the film
amounts to is an awkward amalgam
of old and new innovations. This is
particularly the case because of the
admirable - though admittedly primi-
tive - style of the animation. From
an artistic standpoint, it's important
that filmmakers like Selick are mak-
ing stop-motion features. That said,
a film like "Coraline," which employs
the use of both stop-motion and 3D, is
emblematic of the differences between
traditional and modern animation and
revelatory of the limitations of a film
that uses both.
"Coraline" is a light and fun movie
that is, more than anything, an inter-
esting formal endeavor. There's no
question that it pales in comparison to
"The Nightmare Before Christmas"
and "James and the Giant Peach."
Whether it will be remembered and
recalled in the same breath as those
films depends on the success of new
3D technology. "Coraline" could just
as easily be seen as either a significant
step in the direction of film innova-
tion or a well-meaning technological

Nicktoons's X factor

For theDaily
Ever find yourself humming the theme song to
that old '90s X-Men cartoon?
For those craving the group's *
animated return to television,
there's some X-cellent news. Wolverine
Since the first X-Men comic and
in 1963, the gang has become
one of the most popular super- X-Men
hero lineups in American Fridays at
culture. Aside from multiple
comic book series published 8 ppm.
by Marvel, the X-Men have Nicktoons
recently dug their way into the
mainstream with three feature films. Less cele-
brated - at least by a majority of people - are the
X-Men cartoons. "Wolverine and the X-Men" is
the latest animated show, succeeding "X-Men:
The Animated Series" and "X-Men: Evolution."
This retelling of the X-Men story breaks the
norm by beginning not at the time of the group's
formation, but rather at the time they disband.
A mysterious attack on the home of the X-Men
leaves the school and X-Men base in ruins. Pro-
fessor X and team member Jean Grey go miss-
ing, and the remaining X-Men decide to hang up
their tights in exasperation.
In the meantime, the ruthless government-
run Mutant Response Division is capturing and
detaining mutants and anyone who sympathizes
with them. Without the X-Men, there's no super-
team to defend the helpless remaining mutants.
Now it's up to Wolverine to get the
gang back together.
This series's is the most manly
incarnation of the character to
date. He's still the motorcycle-
riding rebellious outsider with
kick-ass sideburns who thinks
everyone's name is "Bub." But his
voice is lower and more intimi-
dating than ever, thanks to Steve
Blum (the voice of Spike from
"Cowboy Bebop"), and each of his
arms is the size of his torso, mak-
ing bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman
look like Steve Urkel.
Wolverine is joined by fellow
teammates and fan favorites Beast,
Wolverine takes
charge at last.
Rogue, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler,
Cyclops, Iceman and Colossus.
Comic fans will be pleased that
most of these well-known Marvel
mutants are very similar to their
comic book counterparts.
Except for Cyclops, that is. Jean
Grey's disappearance has turned
the formerly confident frontman
into a miserable mess, and he has
given up his role as the leader of
the X-Men for a life of moping
around. This allows Wolverine,
once the outsider of the group, to
try his hand at responsibility, tak-
ing Cyclops's place as the captain
of the X-Men.
The animation is stylistically

similar to anime and the visuals of "Wolver-
ine" are noticeably more impressive than those
of "X-Men: Evolution." The environments are
drawn more intricately and the characters'move-
ments animated more naturally. As a result, the
fightingscenes are tremendous. It's impossible to
top the three X-Men
movies when it comes
to mind-blowing
action scenes, but
these cartoon battles
come close.
The cartoons onl
Nicktoons Network
are not exactly tai-
lored to the adult shaping the
demographic, but
"Wolverine and the Check'
X-Men" seems to be starting
a better fit for older
viewers than either
"Evolution" or the
original X-Men car- Comph
toon. The premise email s
of "Wolverine" is Februa
more complex, and
the smart-ass Spi- Enter ft
derman-esque one-
liners are left at the +8GB
door. Of course, kids + $75S
will still enjoy the + $50 8
show, but now more + U-go'
seasoned X-enthusi- + UM C
asts can too. + Munc

E r yoAu NN
vnions for you

your email
February 11th
ete the Unions
urvey between
ry 11 - 20, 2009.
or a chance to win great prizes including:
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by George Kellp
4 rdvddo abounds in
this 1920s comedy
where d little bit of
bluff goes d long wdu
Directed by Philip Kerr
Department of
Theatre & Drama
February 12 at 7:30 PM
February 3 & 1 4 at 8 PM
February 1 5 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre
Ticketa $24 & $18
Students $9 w/lD
Direty o Miipsoerr
Ticket si$.2 $h.ed

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