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December 01, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-12-01

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Tuesday, December 1 2009 - 5

Truth be told

This isn't your summer camp's tug of war.

Ninjas, bloody ni nas

Gore is at the fore and
acting is neglected in this
ninja action flick
By JACK PORTER
Daily Arts Writer
Ketchup, red ink and blood. In the world of
"Ninja Assassin," these liquids are all the same.
The threat of bloodshed is
always imminent in the film,
so sudden close-ups of a tattoo
artist applying red ink to a cli- Ninja
ent's back and ketchup squirt-
ing on a basket of fries send Asassin
premature shivers down the At Qualityl6
spine. After the initial shock, and Showcase
these jokey shots should
remind audiences, "None of W
this is real, it's only a movie."
On top of that, the film's downright wacky plot
distracts the audience from grasping the scope"
of the film's unsettling blood lust.
Raizo (Rain, "Speed Racer") is a rogue
ninja who turns against the mysterious ninja

clan who both raised and trained him to be
a killing machine. Now he's on the run, and
clan leader Ozunu (Sh Kosugi, "Journey of
Honor") is out to kill him for mutiny. Mean-
while, Europol investigator Mika (Naomie
Harris, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's
End") begins to discover the web of secret
assassins behind high-profile murders dating
back a thousand years. Naturally, Raizo's and
Mika's paths cross, and they join forces to take
down Ozunu and his evil clan.
Obviously, the plot is ridiculous and over-
the-top. The action scenes are only a small part
of a strange narrative cocktail that includes a
heart-rending coming-of-age story, melodrama,
training montages, romantic comedy elements
and conspiracy theories. The film's kitchen-sink
approach leads to deliriously silly moments, like
when Mika pulls up to a hotel with her Lexus
covered in shurikens. Raizo's ability to sense
what's in people's hearts (yes, like the kid with
the monkey from "'Captain Planet") is, inten-
tionally or not, another source of humor.
" -Asekpected, fights are the film's 'main
focus. The shadowy ninja showdowns are the
most engaging skirmishes, with arcs of steel
and blood splashing through the dark like a

Jackson Pollock painting. But all too often,
the combination of quick-cutting and jittery
camerawork ruins the elaborate choreogra-
phy. The filh wants to show gore, not ballet,
so the "Mortal Kombat"-style dismember-
ment is front and center.
Another sore spot is the uncharismatic hero.
Rain's pretty-boy looks could be ignored if he
had the acting chops to playa convincing assas-
sin - but most of the time he looks bored, not
badass. Sure, he's supposed to be impassive,
but on-screen the performance comes across as
lazy. There are a few moments where he cocks
his head to the side and barks, "Let's go!" with
swagger, but that's about it.
"Ninja Assassin"has all the makings of agreat
action movie, but squanders its potential with
jumbled action scenes, a dull hero and a fixa-
tion on gore. Seeing someone's insides is par for
the course in ninja flicks, butthefilm keeps the
blood flowing to the point of exhaustion. Seeing
someone bleed is one thing, but seeing dozens
of bodies instantly split in half is another. The
fils's sense of humor works,'htis feli a bit dis7-
ingenuous when placed alongside the excessive
and indulgent violence. Queasy scenes aside,
"Ninja Assassin" delivers a meaty action fix.

hen I first learned
about libraries grow-
ingup, I concluded
the fiction section was relegated
to interesting
books. These
were books in
which wood-
land creatures e
wore overalls
in abundance -
the Berenstain
Bears books, WITNEY
"If You Givea POW
Mouse a Cook-
ie" - and cats wore extraneous
clothing accessories - "The Cat in
the Hat," "Puss in Boots."
Non-fiction, however, sur-
veyed the drier side of the
library. Not one child could
be found sitting in the alleys
between shelves, voraciously
reading. This non-fiction sec-
tion, in my mind, contained
heavy tomes about gravel, hiber-
nation, evaporation, and vari-
ous stale-biscuit-colored North
American deserts. Dry. Dry as
dry can be.
In my time reading since
then, I have managed to traipse
over to the non-fiction side of
the library and I have found
that, at this point in my life, I
quite prefer it. While fictional
books contain things close to
my heart - cats wearing hats,
bears wearing corduroy, Mrs.
Dalloway deciding she will buy
the flowers herself and Lolita,
the fire of Humbert Humbert's
loins - there is a substantial
and riveting quality to non-
fiction writing. There are some
things you just can't make up
and present so affectingly, like
how Jonathan Lethem saw "Star
Wars" 21 times to cope with his
mother's illness and subsequent
death when he was a child, or
how Flannery O'Connor raised
noisy, arrogant peacocks which
were delivered to her doorstep in
a wooden crate.
Nus-fictiosn is its own beast,
incomparable with fiction.
These accounts are challenging
in a different way because the
events contained within them
ae presented'as truth. In turn,
as a reader you must face these
happenings, this life, death and
heartbreak secondhand - some-
one has experienced these things
before you, and is passing them
down through the written page.
The memoir belongs to this
category of non-fiction, where
the personal account is most
important. And reading memoir
is, in its own way, like inheriting
stories the same way you would
inherit your grandmother's
tales. While the word "memoir"
sounds garbled, French and
somewhat impenetrable, the idea
is not. These stories are about
life, as seen through others' eyes.
Through the intake of such per-
sonal, biased stories, we see the
multi-facetedway in which the
world works and is perceived by
people like and unlike ourselves.
it is with memoir that records

are made of underrepresented
personal experiences. The sto-
ries are disseminated to larger
groups of people through books
and (hopefully) preserved in
the public memory. There are
certain experiences that should
be remembered and held on to,
like in Helen Zia's journalistic
memoir-slash-history of Asian-
America, "Asian-American
Dreams: The Emergence of an
American People" and how she
herself experienced the violent
Detroit murder of Vincent Chin
based o his race.
There is also Jonathan Safran
Foer's recent essay in The New
York Times Magazine in which
he commented on the impor-
tance of food to his family, and
how the meager way his grand-
mother survived World War
It eating "rotten potatoes, dis-
carded scraps of meat," relates
to the choice he has made for
himself and his family to be
vegetarian.
Safran Foer's essay channels
how the choices made in the past
constantly influence choices we
make in the present and future.
Similarly, we use memoir to
help propel us along in our lives,
shaping our awareness of human
experience (including racism,
war, violence and illness). Thus
we shape the way we respond to
and carry ourselves through the
same ordeals. It's comforting to
know, in some way, that some-
one else has gone through thes
things before you.
The importance of memoir
really lies in the feminist adage:
"The personal is political." What
Non-fiction:
Only for readers
who can handle
the truth.
an individual lives through is
meaningful because it can lead
to discussions of race, ide-
tity and history. Being aware
of yourself and the politics you
are surrounded by, and sharing
these stories with others is what
the memoir is concerned with
- trading, sharing, and internal-
izing bits and pieces of life.
While I still do return to the
fiction area, pulling off books by
Louise Erdrich and Nicholson
Baker, there is a large part of me
drawn to the non-fiction narra-
tive and the political importance
these books carry. Conceptions
of dryness and biscuit-colored
deserts aside, the non-fiction
section of the library is now the
place where I read, voraciously
devouring books in the alleys
between shelves.
Pow is writing a children's book
about meerkats in mittens. To help,
e-mail her at poww@umich.edu.

ARTS IN BRIEF

Wining, dining and
rocking out on TV
By ANT MITCHELL main goal of "Dinner." More-
DailyArts Writer over, when the drummer asks
about using the stemmy parts
The kitchen: heart of the of leafy greens, the contrived
home, tastebud-inspired cre- and scripted feeling that almost
ations center all other cooking shows have
andthatpoint adopted is removed entirely.
of bonding for Instead of feeling forced or
any group. Dinner With fake, the banter and conversa-
This place of tion flow smoothly, making the
stove tops, The Band experience far more like hav-
counters Tuesdays ing new friends over for a meal
and cutting at11 p.m. and jam session than anything
boards proves 1FC else. This is perhaps due in part
to be a perfect to the use of Mason's Brook-
stage for the lyn loft as the setting, mak-
Independent Film Channel's ing everyone feel far more at
"Dinner With The Band," cre- home than they would ona fake
ating a comfortably laid-back kitchen or talk show set.
atmosphere. One importantdetail of "Din-
Sam Mason, New York City ner" (atleast in the pilot episode)
chef and head man for the din- is that the musicians chosen to
ner aspect of the show, cooks a appear on the show, while still
meal with a spotlighted musi- enjoyable to listen to and clearly
cal group every week. To be talented, are not yet. famous
completely accurate, it should enough to be pretentious or bla-
be noted that cooking "with" tantly media whoring. Yes, it's
advantageous for the band to
publicize their music, but they
do so in a palatably tactful way.
Culinary arts Sharon Jones of The Dap-
gts hi. Kings certainly had one hell
gets chill. of a voice, and the music was
impressive to a head-bobbing
and knee-jiggling degree, but
often consists of a kitchen full the band wasn't afraid to com-
of people lounging around plain about the food from past
drinking beer and helping chop gigs, or start up random conver-
up garlic when the occasion sations about forgetting people's
demands it. names. This is one advantage
Mason does basically all of keeping to the plentiful indie
the work, and this leads to the rock genre of musical groups,
entertaining symbiosis of "I aside from a greater probabil-
feed you, you play me jazzy ity of getting artists to appear:
goodness in my living room They aren't turned into spar-
while I drink beer and watch." kly and bedazzled stars - that
This shift between cooks and soulless sort that one can't help
musicians helps break up the but picture taking a bite of the
half-hour nicely, making "Din- prepared meal for the cameras,
ner" go by almost too fast. then later having a celery stick
Admittedly, it's hard to and make-up touch up.
learn a hell of a lot about food As a whole, "Dinner With
preparation from just 10 or 15 The Band" is a success - a
minutes of very relaxed and low-key, easy-going show that
not-very-instructive kitchen combines mtusic, fish battering,
hangout time, but it's fairly hanging out and bass playing in
clear educatios isn't really the a nearly gorfect dosage.

TV REVIEW
'Funny' show can't
live up to its name
The Very Funny Show
Thursdays at 11:59 p.m.
TBS
TBS: It's where old sitcoms go
to die. While the channel may for-
ever be remembered for its nearly
24/7 lineup of "Everybody Loves
Raymond" reruns, it has actually
introduced original comedy pro-
gramming with shows like "Lopez
Tonight" and "Tyler Perry's House
of Payne." The newest addition to its
lineup is "The Very Funny Show."
"The Very Funny Show" has an
extremely simple format: Host Tim
Meadows ("Saturday Night Live")
takes the stage at famed Chicago
comedy club Zanies, does a few
minutes of stand-up and introduces
two guest comedians who each per-
form a set.
"The Very Funny Show" is an
idea that benefits both TBS and
the comedians it features: It gives
two up-and-coming performers a
chance to appear on television and
provides TBS with a program that
costs almost nothing to produce.
Production values are nonexistent:
A single camera cuts between a full-
body shot of the comedian onstage
and shots of laughing audience

members. The only visual pizazz
in "The Very Funny Show" comes
from the garish lights that serve as
the stage's backdrop.
Stand-up comedy is usually seen
ip two guises on television: either
in the hour-and-a-half Comedy
Central-style special or in segments
wedged between celebrity inter-
views in late-night comedy pro-
grams. "The Very Funny Show,"
however, is a half hour of straight-up
stand-up. Half-hearted interviews
with the comedians in which they
discuss the thought process behind
their jokes serve as between-com-
mercial-break bumpers, but there
are no other diversions.
This lack of other material in
"The Very Funny Show" means it
rises and falls on the strength of
the material it features, and the tal-
ent selected is somewhat uneven.
The premiere featured Henry Cho,
a Korean-American comedian from
Tennessee whose material focused
on the tired trials of marriage and
child rearing. Slightly better was
Nick Thune, whose performance
method of strumming acoustic gui-
tar interspersed with one-liners
was reminiscent of comedy staple
Demetri Martin.
Because its format is so bare-
bones, "The Very Funny Show" is
capable of being hilarious or excru-
ciating depending on who its guest
comedians are. It's the television
equivalent to a grab bag: You never
know what you're going to get.
- BRIGID KILCOIN

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