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January 14, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-01-14

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, January 14,2009 - 5A

A knockout political thriller
Despite their notoriety, the Frost/Nixon
interviews seem new again in Ron Howard's
gripping dramatization
By Andrew Lapin I Daily Film Editor

Television journalism has
always been a self-parodying
medium,with the
running joke that
a news story isn't
as important as .
the way it's deliv- Frost/Nixon
ered. There was At Showcase
actually some- Universal
one at CNN who
decided "Star
Trek" type holograms would real-
ly spice up the network's Election
Day coverage. Yet as the gripping
film "Frost/Nixon" proves, there
was a time when news specials
could still maintain a modicum
of credibility. It's ironic, perhaps,
that this credibility had to come
from British goofball David Frost
and presidential disgrace Richard
Here's the story: After Nixon
resigned the presidency in 1974
following the Watergate scandal,
the American public was hungry
for some sort of closure. Three
years later, variety show host Frost
secured a series of interviews with
the former head of state, by the end
of which Nixon had given a sort of
tacit confession. He revealed his
private philosophy for the first
time: The president has the right
to perform any illegal act he con-
siders essential for the country's
well-being. Clearly, "essential" is a
relative term.
We all know much of this from
history class. But director Ron
Howard ("The Da Vinci Code")
takes the viewer beyond what
was televised to reveal the pro-

cess through which the interview
was hatched and executed. It
shows how Frost (Michael Sheen,
"The Queen"), a celebrity playboy
with almost no journalistic pres-
tige, was able to convince Nixon
(Frank Langella, "Starting Out
in the Evening") into agreeing to
the interviews, paying huge sums
of money out of his own pocket
in the process. Frost gradually
realizes the greater significance
of his report when he amasses a
pair of researchers (Oliver Platt,
TV's "Huff" and the excellent Sam
Rockwell, "Choke") who desper-
ately want to see Nixon confess, if
not end up behind bars.
Of course, the most exciting
and dramatic parts are the actual
interviews. Despite the absurd
simplicity of watching two people
in chairs recite lines we've already
heard, the palpable sense of con-
flict in the air is what drives the
entire picture. The interviews are
filmed as an extended metaphor for
a boxing match; when Tricky Dick
purposefully gives meandering
responses, everyone treats it like
a knockout punch. During breaks
in the taping, each side meets with
their advisers to plan their attack
strategy; the only thing missing is
the squeezable water bottle.
The producers were smart to
retain their two original Broad-
way leads. Langella unexpectedly
evokes tenderness and sympathy
for one of the most despised men
in American history, and Sheen
always gives the air that he knows
more than he's letting on. While

"Pull my finger."
the film is set up to portray Frost Nixon is made out to be a tragic Regardless of its historical accu-
and Nixon as spiritual equals, it figure in the Shakespearean mold, racy, the scene just doesn't really
falters a bit, spending too much and he gives numerous long-wind- work within the context of the
time on Nixon and not enough on ed monologues to further drive film. x
Frost. What drove Frost to con- this characterization home. In Yet "Frost/Nixon" should per-
duct these interviews in the first one bizarre sequence, he drunk- haps be granted license to portray
place, other than the thirst for rat- enly dials Frost at night, rambling its story in epic grandeur. After
ings? We never learn. nonsensically for a good long time. all, when dealing with two larger-

than-life characters, any other
treatment of the story wouldn't do
it justice. The film glows with the
same '70s cool that worked won-
ders for two of last year's best mov-
ies ("Zodiac" and "The Hoax"),
and "Frost/Nixon" should stand as
one of this year's best, as well.


Film Review
Saying 'Yes' to a classic Jim
Carrey performance
"Yea Man"
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Warner Bros.
Jim Carrey is at his best when he restrains his zani-
ness - when he's less of a cartoon and more of a human
being. "Yes Man" delivers the Carrey who successfully
merges the two - the same Carrey from "Liar Liar"
and "Bruce Almighty."
Carrey plays Carl, a man who spends his life saying
"no" to every opportunity. After attending a seminar
in which he is instructed to say "yes" to any and all
requests, he decides to do just that. Of course, his new
behavior leads to numerous crazy instances where
Carrey takes flying lessons, learns to speak Korean,
drinks enough Red Bull to stay up all night and more.
What isn't surprising is the film's warm message
about saying "yes" to life. What is surprising about the
film is how funny it actually is. Trailers make "Yes Man"
look like a generic, ho-hum comedy. Don't buy into that.
There are some big laughs to be had as well as a genu-
inely touching romance between Carl and Allison (a
luminous Zooey Deschanel, "The Happening").
This film demonstrates how a premise so slight can
still be enjoyable when told the right way. And with so
many dark and depressing films circulating in theaters
this time of year, it's nice to have one that not only
has an uplifting message, but also makes viewers feel
better after watching it. Now that's something to say
"yes" to.
Film Review
The remake that should never
have made it to the Earth
"The Day the Earth Stood Still
At Quality 16 and Showcase
20th Century Fox
A contender for one of the worst movie remakes in
history, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" tarnishes the
reputation of its 1951 sci-fi progenitor. The lackluster
and constantly predictable plot centers on mysterious
spheres that suddenly appear throughout the world.
An alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reaves, "Street Kings")
emerges from a sphere and delivers a grave message for
the inhabitants of Earth. Hysteria ensues.
The main problem with the story is that nearly all
of its scenes are useless, especially those featuring a
whining Jaden Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness").
If all the expendable scenes were exised, the movie
would be about 20 minutes long. But because this
abridged version is not yet available, we must all suffer
through Smith's intolerable hissy fits for the duration
of the already banal film.
Yet another of the film's flaws is its glaring portrayal
of humans as a bunch of assholes. Between the incom-
petent secretary of state (Kathy Bates, "P.S. I Love
you") and the less than flattering representation of the
U.S. military (who shoot first and ask questions later in
every sci-fi movie), the movie tries its hand at revamp-
ing the 1951 film's theme of humans on the verge of
self-destruction. Case in point: In the remake, envi-
ronmental change becomes the atom bomb of our time.
The only redeeming aspect of the movie is its special

effects, which look fantastic and add a minute amount
of intrigue to the story. But ultimately, the only thing
worth watching during this movie is your.clock.
Film Review
An animated adventure for
audiences of all ages
"The Tale of Despereaux"
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Surprisingly charming and wonderfully told, "The
Tale of Despereaux" is easily one of the best animated
films of the year. The plot follows three characters
whose individual stories intertwine to create a memo-
rable adventure as they save the imaginary kingdom
of Dor. There's Despereaux (Matthew Broderick, "The
Producers"), a mouse who defies the expectations
of his cowardly kind and Miggery Sow (Emma Wat-
son, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"),
the delusional slave-girl who loses her identity in her
obsession with royalty. Finally, there's the rat Roscuro
(Dustin Hoffman, "Last Chance Harvey") who is ban-
ished because of a terrible misunderstanding.
"Despereaux" marvelously depicts weighty themes
like courage, sacrifice and redemption in the manner
that any simple children's story should. Both adults and
children alike can easily appreciate the film's inspiring
morals and brilliant storytelling.
The animation is beautiful, with heavy emphasis on
contrasting colors. Vibrant reds and oranges shine as
people celebrate a holiday in the streets, while the sewer
of Rat World, to which Roscuro is banished, is appro-
priately dingy and dark. The only downside is that the
film has a bit more dialogue than an animated film ide-
ally should. Adults may not be bothered by the lengthy
discussions, but "Despereaux" is primarily a children's
film, and kids may find their attentions drifting during
these prolonged scenes. For the most part, though, the
extra dialogue doesn't detract from the "Despereaux"
experience, and the movie remains fabulous for view-
ers of any age.

year in metal music

DailyArts Writer
In the metal scene, 2008 was about rebirth more
than anything else. New blood re-energized the flail-
ing subculture, but the biggest news was of old mas-
ters rising from the ashes, in one way or another, to
deliver their best albums in years.
Metallica made the biggest blip on the main-
stream's radar, releasing its long-overdue apology
to' thrash metal fans in the form of Death Magnet-
ic. While not a masterpiece by any means, the LP
restored some much-needed faith to thousands of
lapsed Metallicans.
But the most surprising, though much less known,
return to form was mounted by the long-dead band,
Cynic. Fifteen years after the breakup that followed the
band's first album, second album Traced in Air finally
saw the light of day in'08.While drawing on jazz-fusion
like its acclaimed predecessor, second album Traced in
Air took the band's sound to new extremes.
Metallica is fighting
to keep pace.
Other industry mainstays appear to be stuck in
their own respective ruts. It's hard to still care about
pop-metal bands Slipknot, Disturbed and Mudvayne,
none of whom have sounded fresh since the turn of
the century. Critic's darlings Meshuggah and Opeth
treaded water this year with new albums that just
ripped-off their own decade-old masterpieces.
On the cutting-edge ofmetal, something altogether
different is happening. Drone, ambient black metal,
post-metal and funeral doom are all combining in the
same avant-garde constellation (nay-sayers claim the
music sounds like a symphony of refrigerators).
The Monolith Deathcult's Triumvirate points
toward another trend: the increasing use of synthe-
sizers in metal. Like Dimmu Borgir and Rammstein
before them, the band uses the guitar as just another
instrument in their operatic compositions. They use
tribal chants, strings, squelchy synths and other sam-
ples to great effect on the LP.
Metal's purity is breaking down as the old estates
of thrash, death and black metal begin to lose their
identities. Increasing hybridization means that metal
as we know it might someday dissolve into other
genres, its core lost forever. Metallica claims that old-
school metal is still relevant - it's too bad that these
best albums of the year suggest otherwise.
Arghoslent - Hornets of the Pogrom
Appropriately, this band sounds just as angry as
its name suggests. Their achievement on this album
was their successful use of major scales in their
relentless death metal attack while avoiding the
cheesiness of melodic death metal or power metal.
Keen songwriting sensibilities and lyrical solos help
ensure that it will remain one of 2008's most com-
pulsively playable albums.

Skepticism -Alloy
If you have to pick up one funeral doom album
this year (God forbid), look no further than Skep-
ticism's latest disc. As expected, the band plays up
the cinematic scope of its plodding but fascinating
epics. Sweeping chords accented by organ blasts
create the feeling of attending a twisted and demon-
ic religious service.
Sculptured - Embodiment
While Sculptured also exploits the sounds of
organs, their music is fast, furious and unpredict-
able. Non-harmonic tones crash against complicat-
ed riffs while impassioned, clean vocals take over
between growling sessions. Imagine King Crimson
joining forces with Mastodon, and you've got half
the picture.
Cynic - Traced in Air
Traced in Air is a bit of an enigma. Even when it
bangs and thrashes, its vibe is decidedly chill. The
sparkling production and processed robo-vocals
spread out what would otherwise be an. impen-
etrable wall of sound. Complex riff cycles will sat-
isfy purists, and the utopian sci-fi trappings will
entrance outsiders.
Dir en Grey - UROBOROS
J-rock superstars Dir en Grey have always been
experimental, but never like this. The band makes use
of Indian quarter-tone scales and dissonant chords to
populate their haunted sonic mansions. Lead singer
Kyo's vocals channel Faith No More's Mike Patton,
from slithering croons to rabid scat. They're the last
band on Earth that still does nu-metal right.

Dir en Grey frontran Kyo



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