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March 26, 2010 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-03-26

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8 - Friday, March 26, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Vital systems fail in 'Repo'

One'Minute' of fame

A cool concept gets foiled
by implausible plot devices
and unfocused aims
By TIMOTHY RABB
Daily Arts Writer
When watching a God-awful movie, at
least a fraction of enjoyment can be had by
wondering about the ori-
gin of such filth. Worse ,**
than a God-awful movie,
however, is one with an Repo Men
excellent original concept
that falls by the wayside. At Quality16
Introducing "Repo Men," a and Showcase
cross between the beauti- Universal
ful, advert-filled cityscapes
of the critically acclaimed
"Blade Runner" and the manure-ridden stor-
ylines of other shoddy future-films in the vein
of "Gamer" and "Death Race."
In the not-so-distant future, the state of
American health care has reached abys-
mal depths. So essentially, it's just plain old
America with a few extra bells and whistles
and looming, mammoth skyscrapers in the
distance. Modern medicine has triumphed
in ways never before conceived, and a large
corporation referred to as "The Union" tai-
lors artificial organs for terminal patients to
the cacophonous tune of around $615,000.
Such extortion necessitates the employ-
ment of "repo men," mercenaries who are
required to repossess an organ if the patient
neglects payment - and by repossess, they
mean to rend the organ from the patient's
insides.
Remy (Jude Law, "The Imaginarium of Dr.
Parnassus") is one such employee, and he and
his partner Jake (Forest Whitaker, "Street
Kings") revel in their duties. They playfully
joke and make a game of their gruesome

occupation. But the audience is eventually
expected to believe Remy's sudden change of
heart when an accident renders him in need
of The Union's services, as well as support
this sketchy anti-hero's altruistic new objec-
tive - how quaint.
"Repo" fails by trying to be too many
things at once - a critique of corrupt politics
and corporatism, a profound buddy movie
and a harrowing moral dilemma. And it just
doesn't work alongside a soundtrack typical
of a Jason Statham movie; the music seems
like it's egging on the Union workers and
conventionalizing their actions rather than
deploring their corruption. The only movie
for which such a strategy can work is one in
which we agree whole-heartedly with the
actions of the protagonist and root for his
cause from start to finish; such an element is
nonexistent in "Repo." The moral compass-
es of Remy and his wife as well as Jake are
apparently stuck somewhere in the Bermuda

Triangle, because your emotions will inevita-
bly vacillate between a minute bit of empathy
and a good deal more of disgust.
Let's not forget Whitaker. He's been a
hit-or-miss actor after his acclaimed per-
formance in "Last King of Scotland," and
it would be nice to say this movie was any-
thing but a poorly calculated shot on his
part. His constant blinking and melodrama
- which might make him convincing in
another role - become an annoyance as the
film progresses.
"Repo Men" gets kudos for a rock-solid
concept, but a concept's execution is the key
to its fruition, and it's impossible to accept
that Remy's jocund approach to his work
could be suddenly reversed by a ridiculous
twist of fate. More work could have made the
characters more believable, and a movie with
such enormous potential that isn't willing to
demand more depth from its characters is a
crying shame for all its waste.

By CAROLYN KLARECKI
Senior Arts Editor
The opening sequence for "Minute
to Win It" sets the stage for a television
epic. With a bright
orchestral theme and *
a booming narration
- "Some call them Minute to
soccer moms, we call
them warriors. Some Win It
call them dad, we call Sundays at
them the next gen- 8P.M.
eration of athletes" NBC
- it feels more like an
Olympic event than a
game show. Unfortunately, the inspira-
tion of this opening theme of NBC's lat-
est game show doesn't carry through to
the rest of the show and is ultimately a
setup for disappointment.
The idea behind the show is just as
awesome as its Olympian theme song.
Contestants must complete 10 harder-
than-they-appear tasks that make use
of various household items. Dozens of
challenges are posted online, people
practice and perfect their execution,
send in an audition tape and NBC flies
them out to the showto perform them
in front of a studio audience for the
prize of $1 million. These challenges
include emptying a Kleenex box with
one hand, stacking five apples on top
of each other, bouncing ping pong
balls off three plates into a bowl and
everything in between, each in only a
minute's time. So far, so good, right?
But the sloppy execution of "Minute
to Win It" dilutes everything great
about it.
Its first real problem is that some-
one thought Guy Fieri would make a
great host. This is the first time the
Food Network star and self-proclaimed
"kulinary gangsta" is tackling a show
that doesn't involve food (save for the
occasional apple stacking). He's pretty
annoying on Food Network, but there
he at least knows what he's talking

tants is a precious commodity and Fieri
doesn't yet have it. Maybe in time, he'll
grow into his own and become a Howie
Mandel or Ben Bailey, but for now Fieri
is just plain awkward.
This is probably magnified by the
unfortunate realization that "Min-
ute to Win It" is unnecessarily long.
While the tasks only take one minute
to complete and contestants will only
complete ten tasks at most (and that's
highly unlikely), there are only ten
minutes of actual action. The rest ofthe
hour is filled with Fieri failing atengag-
ing the competitors in casual conversa-
tion, resulting in little substance and
lots of bore.
Luckily, the contestants them-
selves are hilarious and mostly make
up for Fieri's lack of spark. Big Steve
and Rachy-poo (are cute nicknames a
requirement for this show?) were remi-
niscent of "The Price is Right" contes-
tants, but without T-shirts prominently

0

Guy Fieri, get back 0
in the kitchen.
featuring Bob Barker's face. The show
includes segments of their audition
videos, so we're treated to a gratify-
ing glimpse of their intensive practice
regimens consisting of them scooting
around their backyards on a towel.
With "Deal or No Deal," it almost
seems like the contemporary prime-
time game show is back. And though
"Minute to Win It" has its flaws, it
wouldn't take much for theshowto rise
up to that level of national acclaim and
success. Cut it down to a half hour or
get a new host, or both, and the show
will live up to its title sequence. But
unless that happens, "Minute to Win
It" is goingto have to earn an epic repu-
tation before it boasts one.

Rabbit gives itself a revamp

By EMMA GASE in a thick Scottish brogue. How-
Daily Arts Writer ever, its latest record, The Winter
of Mixed Drinks, does a lot less
At first listen, Frightened Rab- to differentiate Frightened Rab-
bit might seem like your standard bit from its numerous counter-
moody, folk parts. And while Mixed Drinks is
rock, break-up *- definitely easier to swallow than
album band haggis, the Scots' most recent
that hails from Frightened effort doesn't hit the sweet tooth.
the U.K. But This time around, Frightened
as the band Rabbit forgoes its poignant, self-
proved with its The Winter of deprecating folk-pop songs for
heart-rending Mixed Drinks an emphasis on droning melo-
2008 release Fat Cat dies and heavy-handed guitars.
Midnight Organ Gone are the charmingly self-
Fight, it's more loathing Scots who constructed
than just a bunch of young lads some of the most frantically
wailing about the trials of love emotive and personal songs out

..,
:
__...

of the Glasgow scene. Fright-
ened Rabbit's focus is now on
the less personal Scottish seas
and the vague and elusive notion
"loneliness" evidenced in songs
like "The Loneliness and the
Scream."
Album opener "Things" is a
drastic departure from "Mod-
ern Leper," the delicious first
sip of Rabbit's prior album.
In "Things," lead singer Scott
Hutchinson's signature accent
drawls over a drone of reverb-
heavy electric guitars layered
above feedback and a relent-
less bass-heavy drumbeat. The
entire song builds in promise
of a crescendo, as Hutchin-
son's urgent songwriting style
becomes more evident, yet the
song never fully reaches any
sort of release, instead winding
down just as you are expecting it
to take off.
Refusing to be pinned down,
Frightened Rabbit then treats
the listener to the delightful and
sunny "Swim Until You Can't
See Land." Easily likeable, one
can see why it's the chosen sin-
gle of the album. A cheery fin-
ger-picked guitar leads off the
track, followed by Hutchinson's
urgings to do exactly as the title
suggests while the band backs
him up with perfectly pitched
harmonies. Unlike "Things,"
"Swim" really does take off
in the final minute, delivering
satisfaction in the climax with
horns, well-placed strings and
some rowdy handclaps.
Mixed Drinks certainly ven-

tures in a different direction (if
not an exciting or significant
one) for the Scottish folk aficio-
nados. It appears the band final-
ly caved, adding bass to its music
and another guitar player for an
extra set of hands to help fabri-
cate its thickly layered record.
The production, which is con-
siderably slicker than before,
remains centered on Hutchin-
son's distinct and at times over-
wrought vocals. Mixed Drinks's
charm works when the band
focuses on harmonies, jaunty
melodies and sing-a-long repris-
es, but loses its potential edge on
directionless songs like "Foot
Shooter" that get lost in the
swell of production.
Too far out of
the rabbit hole.
You can't blame a band for
trying to evolve its sound -
Frightened Rabbit's progression
is natural and even commend-
able. With Mixed Drinks, it just
happened to lay it on a little
thick. Even so, the band's obvi-
ous knack for lyrical melody
seeps through the Phil Spector-
like drama on standouts like
"Living in Color," but would be
more effective if they toned it
down a notch. The figurative
rabbit simply needs to retreat
into its hole a little further, and
all will be well.

A dramatic account of
U' students' stories

0

"How many high-fives can we do in one minute?"

I see no frightened rabbits.

A bl bloopy drug-addled ambiance

By SHARON JACOBS
AssistantArtsEditor
Even before this month's release of the self-
titled album by collaborative project Broken
Bells, the world knew that
James Mercer and Brian
Burton are anything but
normal. Broken Bells
Mercer, the sweet tenor
at the helm of The Shins, Broken Bells
is prone to spewing image- Columbia
rich non-sequiturs all over
any song he writes. The
Shins's 2007 single "Phantom Limb" tells a
story of two lesbians in high school, but from
hearingthe lyrics nobody could have guessed.
Burton, better known as Danger Mouse,
has a penchant for mixing up funky beats
and strange sounds. Masterminding Gnarls
Barkley's ubiquitous 2006 single "Crazy," he
somehow managed to make uber-falsetto
crooning into a cool and catchy hit for every
social circle.
So it's no surprise that, though it certainly
has mass appeal, Broken Bells should sound
a bit "out there." Opening track "The High
Road" floats Mercer's typically cryptic lyrics
over swirling, mutating electronic beeps. The
finished product sounds like the drugged-out
ramblings of a highway wanderer and fades
out with the oddly comforting refrain that

"It's too late to change your mind / You let
laws be your guide."
"Mongrel Heart" brings the weird,
unearthly fun of Broken Bells to its climax.
After opening with a pulsing multi-textured
groove, the track picks up when Mercer
comes in, his lines separated by whooshing
wind sounds and an eerie chorus of "oohs"
and "ahs." The momentum comes to a head
at the two-minute mark, when an expansive
instrumental interlude crashes in, headed
by a trumpet melody straight from southern
Spain.
Several of the songs on Broken Bells reveal
one of the newly minted group's strongest
suits: its preference for unusual instruments.
One section of "Mongrel Heart" uses patterns
of white noise as a rhythmic base. Sporadic
laser bursts add an extraterrestrial feel to the
Mixing The Shins
with Danger Mouse.
otherwise beach-pop psychedelia of "Your
Head Is On Fire." Meandering, trippy "Sailing
To Nowhere" might be one of the first pieces
of popular music to use a Native American
rainstick as an instrument - it could even be

real rain, actually.
Broken Bells does have its share of Shins-
style low-fi guitar and simple synthesized
grooves. Behind Mercer's heavy-echo vocals,
"Citizen" is mainly backed by a straightfor-
ward two-measure piano melody.
But it's difficult to trace the origins of many
of the sounds on Broken Bells. The "how'd
they do that?" aesthetic is something all elec-
tronic music should strive toward - anything
is possible in a genre unbounded by the limi-
tations of physical instruments. Broken Bells
know how to take advantage of their medium,
and the result is refreshing.
.Though much of Broken Bells is stoner
dreaming, ultimately it works. Mercer's warm
voice and simply patterned melodies keep the
tracks from feeling aloof or lonely. There's
plenty of experimentation, but each track is
clearly structured and nothing seems extra-
neous. Every stray blip or bloop on Broken
Bells adds to its ambling, drug-addled ambi-
ance. With the Broken Bells moniker, Mercer
and Danger Mouse have found that rare mix
of "directed" and "drifting" that makes elec-
tronic music really flow.
With The Shins on hiatus and Danger
Mouse as independent as ever, it looks like
Broken Bells gould be around for a while, lyri-
cal and compositional abnormalities and all.
But, really, who needs normality when you've
got these two around?

By SHARON JACOBS
Assistant Arts Editor
A fraternity brother who doesn't
drink. A multiethnic girl whose hair
provides a lesson in
identity. A rape vic- What's
tim. A boy coming to YourStory
terms with his sexu-
ality. What do these Tonight and
characters have in tomorrow
common? They're all at 8p.m.
real students at the Michigan Union
University. And their Free
tales will all be told
onstage this weekend in the student-
produced play "What's Your Story?"
Friends and collaborators Mitch
Crispell and Robbie Dembo, both LSA
juniors, stumbled on the conceptbehind
"What's Your Story?" after a dinner at
Noodles & Co. on State Street last fall.
"Robbie just kept saying, 'I want to
put on a play, I want to put on a play,' "
Crispell said, "And I was like, 'Shut up
Robbie, you can't put on a play!' ... (But)
then I started thinking about it."
Outside Noodles, Crispell and
Dembo saw a man with a sign ask-
ing passersby to share their stories.
Inspiration hit: They would create and
produce their own play, using stories
written and performed by fellow stu-
dents.
"Everyone has a story, and we're
just telling some of them," Crispell
explained.
"What's Your Story?" is composed of
distinct scenes of anonymously submit-
ted monologues held together by a sto-
ry-gathering character, B.D. written by
Crispell and Dembo, who observes and
sometimes comments on the action.
"We're trying to inspire empathy,
show interconnectedness and really
inspire people to share and to listen,"
said Patricia White, an LSA junior
heading the group of student directors
working on the show.
"People from different religions,
different sexualities, different -back-
grounds, race and ethnicities" shared a
variety of personal experiences, White
added.
Fifteen actors will lend their voices
and bodies to the stories.
"I really have learned the impor-
tance of taking the time to listen to
other people and what they have to
say," said actor Olivia Horn, an LSA

freshman. Horn will retell two stories
- one of her own and one by an anony-
mous author.
"It was definitely a lot easier for me
to get into character (when) I knew it
was my story," Horn said. "(The anony-
mous piece) was a lot harder because it
wasn't something that I had personally
been through, soI had to really reflect
on it and put myself in that person's
shoes, moment by moment."
LSA senior Joel Arnold agreed that
empathy is key in the transmission.
"(We're) going into the show with a
mindset that we want to take all that
perspective that we gained and give it
to other people," he said.
Arnold will portray a student taking a
deeper look at his faith after being diag-
nosed with a chronic pain condition.
"Hisbig question is, 'Why would this
God that I've heard about, the compas-
sionate, benevolent God, let this hap-
pen to me?"' Arnold said.
Another scene, which White dubbed
"Frat Boys," combines two stories.
"One is this guy who is quite a beer
pong champion, and he's talking about
A play inspired by
a guy with a sign.
how proud he is as a freshman to be
invited by the seniors in his frat to play
beer pong ... and one guy has never had
a drink and is really proud of that,"
she said. "We all have that stereotypi-
cal frat boy in our mind, but (the scene
shows) two really different aspects of
that."
The flow of the storyline links all
these disparate stories together, expos-
ing feelings and experiences to which
and audience can relate.
"When the lights go up at the end,
you will have just seen accounts of
emotion... across the spectrum of what
people can feel," Crispell said. "You
will have heard about rape, you will
have heard about racism, you will have
heard about joy and sorrow and rela-
tionships and what friendship can do
for someone and what hate can do ...
and hopefully you'll feel this incredible
desire and passion to ask from someone
else their story."

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