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September 08, 2010 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-09-08

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6A - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom .
achete' slices for slicing's sake"

Danny Trejo has a thing for
blades in wild and violent
action flick
DailyArts Writer
Most of us would likely agree the most
absurd entries in the modern "B-movie" tra-
dition are those pretending
to be so much more than *
what their shallow content
suggests. Critics have been M
complaining for years that
films that once bore the At Quality 16
definitive marks of B-movie- and Rave
dom - namely, shamelessly 20th Century Fox
shoddy production values -
have undergone a grotesque
transformation into the well funded, polished
blockbuster drivel of today.
Fortunately, a timely double feature titled
"Grindhouse" (directed by Quentin Tarantino
and Robert Rodriguez) was precisely the film
fans of a violent, blood-spattered exploita-
tion film genre had been waiting for. It set in
motion a new wave of appreciation for a gritty
form of entertainment, a medium that seemed

lost when mainstream Hollywood reinvented
it for monetary gain. Rest assured the true
B-movies of yesterday are back with a ven-
geance, particularly if Machete Cortez (Danny
Trejo, "Con Air") has anything to say about it.
"Machete" is a politically fueled thriller
about an ex-Federale whose penchant for
sharp objects and brutal manner of dealing
with evil men will have right-wing moralists
and immigration officials talking for the next
decade, and rightly so. Machete has stunning
pros and crippling cons, but throughout all the
chaos, it never once gives us the impression
that it takes itself seriously; for that alone, it
deserves a measure of our approval.
As for any perceived political or racial moti-
vations, there are none in reality. It's simply
the good old Tarantino formula appropriated
by Rodriguez: Take an exploited demograph-
ic, give them omnipotent strength, turn them
against their aggressors and watch the fire-
works. It's a work of paracinema that will both
offend and disgust, but it somehow manages
a successful combination of the glamorized,
crowd-friendly violence that pervades Holly-
wood and the downright sadism of films like
"I Spit on Your Grave."
"Machete" loses points for its extreme sac-
rilege that's devoid of humor and serves no
See MACHETE, Page 7A

"Act now and get the complete set for only four easy payments of $9.95!"

A ballet biopic to make you bawl

DailyArts Writer
Although at times rivet-
ing, "Mao's Last Dancer" is
riddled with
melodramatic s
moments. The
story alone is Danw&
what makes At the
the movie tol- Michigan
erable, coun- Godwyn
the over-the-
top artistic vision.
"Mao's Last Dancer" is the
story of Li Cunxin, a Chinese
ballet dancer with peasant roots
who receives the opportunity to
dance in America in the 1980s.
-The film is adapted from Li's
autobiography and directed
by Bruce Beresford ("Driving
Miss Daisy"): Upon his arrival
in Houston, Li wishes to main-
tain his Maoist beliefs, but he
quickly and happily gets sucked
into an American lifestyle of
liberal spending and free atti-
tude. Throughout the rest of the
film, Li struggles to find a bal-
ance between these two distinct

There's no denying that
"Dancer" is entertaining, as
it's a recreation of a very com-
pelling story. The film does an
especially good job at juxtapos-
ing '80s China and '80s Texas.
The dancing in the film is also
quite beautiful; it seizes audi-
ences and transports them to a
different kind of theater, mak-
ing them feel like they're watch-
ing a real ballet.
Newcomer Chi Cao does a
convincing job of playing Li. A
leader at the Birmingham Royal
Ballet Company, Cao dances
the part of Li with elegance.
He even manages to deliver a
solid performance outside of
the dancing, believable as the
naive, abashed Chinese peasant
experiencing the culture of the
United States for the first time.
But along with the intrigue,
the film has a few too many
senselessly sappy moments.
When Li dances in front of an
audience in Houston for the first
time, he freezes up just as he's
about to begin, and has a dra-
matic flashback to his childhood
in China that's obviously trying
to evoke an emotional reaction.
This moment, like many others
in the movie, simply feels too

The film begs its viewers to
tear up. Take the moment near
the end when Li's parents come
to America to see their son per-
form professionally for the first
time. After he finishes danc-
ing, his parents are escorted
on stage, whereupon the family
cries incessantly and Li collaps-
Culture clash
and crying
abound in
'Last Dancer'
es to the ground. Regardless
of whether this moment was
included in Li's autobiography,
it should have been omitted or
portrayed in a different man-
ner in the film. As presented,
it feels grossly affected and
"Mao's Last Dancer" is worth
at least one viewing; Li Cunxin's
true story definitely holds atten-
tion. But after that, one may find
it too corny to bear.

E-mai joinats@umich.edu for
information on applying to Daily Arts.

America's Next Mao's Last Dancer.

RELEASE DATE- Wednesday, September 8,2010
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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(c)2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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