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January 12, 2009 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-01-12

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8A - Monday, January 12, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Cruise's newest falters as a by-the-numi
By Noah Dean Stahl I Daily Arts


Long plagued by studio indeci-
sion, budget inflation and intense
media scrutiny, "Valkyrie" finally
made it to theaters. Produced and
distributed by United Artists, the
recently revived MGM mini-studio
now run by Tom
Cruise, the movie e
was initially set
for a summer Valky
release, then
February 2009, At Quality 16
then December and Showcase
26, 2008 before United Artists
finally finding
the silver screen
on Christmas Day. Questions about
Cruise's current box office appeal
and shake-ups at the studio -
Paula Wagner, Cruise's longtime
production partner and co-owner
of UA, resigned from her posi-
tion at the studio in August - had
"Valkyrie" on the ropes. In other
words, "Valkyrie" was an obvious
underdog long before its theatrical
The movie stars Cruise as
another underdog: Colonel Claus
von Stauffenberg, the leader of a

plot within the German military to
assassinate Hitler. It is of nominal
importance to note that Cruise's
performance was quite sufficient.
Cruise is a proven actor, so an
adequate performance is pretty
much a given; unfortunately, even
a satisfactory performance from
an accomplished actor can't save a
movie like "Valkyrie."
In an attack on the German
front in Tunisia, Stauffenberg loses
an eye and several fingers, further
cementing his feelings of resent-
ment toward the Third Reich. He
is then recruited by Major Gen-
eral Henning von Tresckow (Ken-
neth Brannagh, "Harry Potter
and the Chamber of Secrets") and
General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill
Nighy, "Pirates of the Carribean:
At World's End"), members of an
organization bent on restoring
Germany's political prestige with
the upending of Hitler's Germany.
Whether the group cares about
Hitler's heinous crimes against
European Jews and millions more
is unclear; their plot to assassinate
the FOihrer appears solely focused

America's borders:
porous and boring


I used to make Westerns. Now I make ceiling fans.

From Page 5A
closure. But the conclusion is more
rich and rewarding than could ever
be expected.
Walt never connected with his
own sons, and his transference is
clear and fair. What does it mean to
be a man? Who the hell knows? But

by its ending, "Gran Torino" com-
municates all the right ideas about
livinga complete life.
Still, it's a crowd-pleaser at
its core; a film made for people to
laugh and cheer with. Newcomer
Nick Schenk's screenplay has great
heart and ideas, and Eastwood
gives everything perfect life in a
way only he can.
Legendary screenwriter Wil-
liam Goldman ("Butch Cassidy

and the Sundance Kid," "Absolute
Power") once wrote about how
genuine and lasting Clint East-
wood is, and he's absolutely right.
Goldman stated something to the
effect of: Eastwood is better, truer
and taller than any actor out there.
Stallones and Costners may rise
and fall, but Eastwood has direct-
ed and performed better than any
other Hollywood star. With that in
mind, "Gran Torino" could be the
sunset of a long and fruitful age of
Eastwood may always be
regarded as the gun-toting Ameri-
can with the trademark rasp and
glint. But in the wake of "Gran
Torino," all of his movies may be
met with a new appreciation. East-
wood daringly acts his own age in
"Torino," and in the film he puts
his entire career in perspective.
The film works so well because
it's a parody, a serious drama and
a high-minded personal reflection

- all at once.
After seeing "Gran Torino,"
audiences might finally believe that
Eastwood is more self-conscious
than he shows about the works
with which he has been involved.
When he was making the "Dirty
Harry" films, the left demonized
him as the patron saint of lawless
violence. Yet, watching "Harry"
flicks after "Torino" reveals a rich-
er context. They depict a man with
an opinion who knew that by esca-
lating the grandiosity of each film,
people would see the fallible quali-
ties of stoic masculinity.
Yeah, Walt flexes his rifle with
a case of Pabst, but his journey is
as lovable as it is laughable. "Gran
Torino" is Clint Eastwood, more
skilled and aware than he's ever
been. And we may finally, actually
understand him. Like the man who
directed and starred in it, and the
car that gave it its title, the film is
an American classic.

It's hard to say which is more
worrying: what
the quality of
Security USA"
says about the Homeland
future of docu- Secjty USA
mentary tele-
vision or what Tuesdays
the content of at 8 p.m.
"Homeland ABC
Security USA"
says about the
future of our nation's safety.
The show depicts different
subsections of the Department
of Homeland Security in action,
showing just how the American
government takes down the bad
guys and protects its citizens from
everything from cocaine to illegal
immigrants to imported bat meat.
But this is a look at homeland
security that may be more worry-
ing than it is enlightening.
It's not that the border patrol
officers, customs officers, TSA
officers and other homeland
security officials do a particu-
larly bad job on the show (if they
do, it wisely isn't being shown on
national television). It just seems
like these officers don't have their
eager for smugglers and potential
terrorists to try to enter the coun-
try, simply because it would make
their jobs more fun. But even
when border security officers are
having the time of their lives lift-
ing pound after pound of cocaine
out of a spare tire, it still makes
for boring television.
In fact, the few moments that
were legitimately worth watching
were those when homeland secu-
rity was shed in a humorous light.
In one instance, a rather attractive
Swiss woman with belly-dancing
aspirations and no working visa
simply can't stand the detention
center, calling it "too ugly for me"
with alook of pure disdain. Anoth-
er incident involves a bratty teen
who can't believe his newly bought
tobacco pipes are being confiscat-
ed at the border, actually saying to
the officers, "(I) should've stuffed
them in my pants."
That's not to say it's a good
idea to go out and sass your local
customs officer, but it's pretty
entertaining for television's sake.
Of course, when the competitors
for the most exciting event in the
show range from officers screen-
ing packages for contraband meat
products to random citizens com-

plaining about airport security,
the "highlights" aren't particu-
larly thrilling.
One thing the show does that's
intelligent and commendable is
spend almost equal time covering
the Canadian and Mexican bor-
ders. This helps counter the mis-
conception that the United States
is purely focused on our neighbor
to the south. But the show some-
times gets redundant when the
same type of incident is shown
on both borders. And that's the
show's main flaw: There's just
not enough variety among the
segments. There are too many
drug busts and human smuggling
incidents, each less exciting than
the last. In the entire hour-long
episode, only three or so differ-
ent types of security threats are
With these rather routine
busts, the show tries to jazz
things up with cliffhangers. But
after officers' investigations,
x-rays and drug-sniffing dogs
have all indicated that there are
probably drugs in a tire, it's more
than a little ridiculous for the
voiceover to say, "What's inside
the spare tire? Officers are about
to find out." In case any of you are
shaking with anticipation about
what really was in the tire, it was
drugs. Shocking, I know.
"Homeland Security USA"
doesn't show anything the
American public didn't already
know about customs officers,
the TSA and the other branches
of the Department of Homeland
Security. While it wisely shies
Seriously, the
TSA is dull.
away from being pure propa-
ganda, the show still feels like a
failed attempt to glorify border
and customs security and make
people less annoyed when their
travel plans get interrupted for
a security screening. With no
real insight, action or suspense,
the only entertainment "Home-
land Security" provides is some
accidental comic relief. But the
phrase "My God, we have human
skulls here" is apparently coming
up later this season, so that could
be worth checking out.





Suburban Chicago Secondary
Teacher Recruitment Fair
Saturday, January 31, 2009
9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
College of DuPage
425 Fawell
Glen Ellyn, IL
" Bring copies of your resume
" $20.00 registration fee payable at the door
" Check our website for more information:

Vote for the Best of Ann Arbor
before January 23 on our web site.



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