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January 06, 2012 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-01-06

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com Fyn 61

Friday, January 6, 2012 - 5

Characters and action
keep 'Holmes' intriguing

Daily Film Editor
In many ways, director Guy
Ritchie is the best and worst
director to handle the time-hon-
ored lore of Mr.
Holmes and Dr.
Watson. From
the beginning, Sherlock
this partaking
by Ritchie has Holmes: A
had the feel of Game of
a trilogy, and
while a third ShadoWS
film is not yet At Quality 16
in the works, and Rave
certain clues
- the greatest Warner Bros.

"Oh yeah, that's what daddy likes.'
Silence gets a voice
Nostalgic 'The in Rio"), in the historic change- slows down, breaths are pro-
over from silent film to talkie. longed. We have the opportu-
Artist' resonates Members of the old guard found nity to intimately whisper to our
themselves without a voice and boyfriends: What did she say?
without a sound the shiny ingenues who replaced What did he say? The delayed
them couldn't stop chattering reactions offer that liminal peri-
By JENNIFER XU long enough to notice. od of no-space, no-time, where
MagazineEditor It's an experiment on its own in-between there exists a whole
to see whether anyone would chasm of opportunity. The audi-
Let 2011 be known as the year show up to see a black-and-white ence can create the meaning
we collectively looked back. Nos- silent film dotted with nameless behind the abstract expression.
talgia won out in every respect: stars in tap shoes. But once the Though ultimately, our inter-
velvety "War gimmickry of it all fades away, pretations don't matter so much.
Horse" echoed that's when the celebration of A lot of emotions in our world
the solemnity film - and filmgoing - clicks in. were built on hand gestures and
of a John Ford It should be said that "The Art- body language, and the most
Western, "Mid- ist" is not amasterpiece. The sub- potent scenes are the ones with-
night in Paris" At the ject matter is not original, nor is out words, when Valentin looks
staccatoed with Michigan it the most artfully executed. The forlornly on at his sweetheart's
the jittering nuclear decayofsilentluminaries footfalls, crumbling into a mil-
energy of the The Weinstein was more melancholy in "Sunset lion pieces.
* Jazz Age and Company Boulevard," the exploration of We come to realize the beauty
the characters the musical as medium more exu- of "The Artist" lies not in cel-
of "The Help" boohoo-ed into berant in "Singin' in the Rain" luloid, but within our responses
starchy aprons and'60s kerchiefs. and the valentine to cinema more to it. The film serves as a sort of
And then there was Michel bloodthirsty in "Inglourious anthropological barometer of
Hazanavicius's yearning tribute Basterds." contemporary society, a test to
to old, gold Hollywood: "The Art- But there's something decid- show that for all the megarobo-
ist." The film, his first English- edly comfortable about "The tronic explosions that tickle our
language feature and a love note Artist," alternately familiar and fancies and checkbooks, we still
to Depression-era moviemak- elastic, that imbues the film with have the capacity to be amazed
ing, distinguishes itself from the its own character. It's a wonder- by the simple pleasures - just as
pack - with its glamour lighting fully reactive movie, one that we were a century ago.
and deceivingly simple ,alettet. respectfully bows down k, the Are we the same audience we
it lobks- likeit was actually'pro'' audientre'sineed-for easy 'einer=a4 were in the 1920s? Probably (defi-,
duced in that time period. tainment. Its purpose is to please, nitely) not, but there's a seed of
The plotline, gossamer-thin, and please it does. joy, handstitched into our DNA,
whirls around new-gal-in-town More importantly, the movie that plants itself into our heart-
Peppy Miller (a dewy-eyed Berd- serves as a periscope into what strings and larynxes. It is that
nice Bejo, "A Knight's Tale") and soundless cinema can provide. joy, far greater than the sum of
her artfully coiffed beau, aging When we watch a silent film, it's any old movie, which makes the
silent film star George Valentin as if the whole world had been aftershocks of "The Artist" so
(Jean Dujardin, "OSS 117: Lost bubbled through a distiller. Time undeniably magnificent.
Books best on small screen


of whi
at a th
ing. In
saw tha
well to
about b
fying g
fying e
less arc
were g
less inv
of Shac
same fc
less suc
with s
nique o

ch being option than the Paul Greengrass
ice success - have hinted ("The Bourne Ultimatum") style
ird film eventually com- of dark and blurry close-up com-
the first film, audiences bat, and while one might think
it Ritchie's style lends itself the effect would wear thin, peo-
a slightly warped Sher- ple still seem to enjoy the "mind-
habited world. It was more fighting" of Holmes in which he
oxing gloves than magni- plays out the entire fight in his
lasses, an altogether satis- head beforehand, planning each
xperience for those more strike carefully.
ted in explosions than con- Holmes himself is strangely
tion. portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.
("Iron Man 2"). The first time
around, Holmes was that kind of
)attle of wits eccentric genius Downey plays
so well: occasionally wild, but
slow motion ultimately precise and diligent.
Now though, Holmes seems
to have gone off his rocker.
Perhaps it's the fear of losing
mes had become a sort of Watson to the demands of his
a Jones-type character. upcoming marriage, but some-
of an archeologist doing thing has pushed this Holmes
heological work and much from gentleman savant to bor-
Nazi-fighting, audiences derline madman. The cause of
iven a detective who does Holmes's insanity may also lie in
'estigation and much more the words he says near the end
Strong ("Tinker Tailor of the film: "I see everything,
Spy") punching. "Game that is my curse." For Holmes,
tows," the second install- perhaps this knowledge is the
attempts to maintain this cause of his psychosis, like the
armula, but with decidedly madness of being the only sane
cessful results. patient in an asylum. Ritchie
the first, "Shadows" relies doesn't develop this concept fur-
on Ritehiesafascination ther, but it's interesting to con-
low-motion fighting, and sider and provides this Holmes
some may find the tech- with something greater than
verdone, it does allow for Downey's charm.
ces to clearly view what is Holmes is juxtaposed well
ling. It's certainly a better between the exasperated but

loving Dr. Watson (Jude Law,
"Hugo") and the sociopathic
but brilliant Professor Moriarty
(Jared Harris, "The Ward").
Ritchie's decision to have his
Watson be a stabilizing force
for Holmes (like Jackie Chan to
Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour")
as opposed to a foil for Holmes's
explanations was a wise one.
This Watson is a character all
his own, creating a sort of crime-
solving-duo dynamic enjoyable
to watch.
Moriarty is a Hannibal Lect-
er-like villain and his scenes
with Holmes are the highlights
of the film. One moment in par-
ticular features Moriarty madly
screaming as Holmes remains
stoic. This shows the difference
in their geniuses, but aside from
this short portrait, Holmes never
truly displays that calm again. It
would serve Ritchie well to bring
out this side of Holmes more
often, to create a more monk-like
A common theme in "Shad-
ows" is the concept of muddy-
ing the waters to catch a fish.
Ritchie has certainly kicked up a
lot of mud in this second install-
ment with explosions, gunshots,
cheap, laughs and"slkwmotion.
Sometimes it works, sometimes
it doesn't. Hopefully there is a
third film, and hopefully Ritchie
displays more restraint that time

Nothing new to see in 'Zoo'

Daily Arts Writer
To the delicate souls of impas-
sioned readers: Seek shelter
behind the remains of skeletal
Borders shelves. Blacken my
words with splashes of that half-
finished chai latte, or smother
your retinas with the heat of the
nearest book light. This may be
hard to read. At the risk of suffer-
ing an accusation of literary pros-
titution by the Holden Caulfields
of campus, a confession must be
made: In an industry of bankrupt
bookstores and cinema flops, tele-
vision may be the best new home
for your favorite characters.
If not solidified by the success
of hits like "Sex & the City" and
"Dexter," the recent swarm of TV
titles featuring one key phrase -
"based on the book by..." - seems
to signify that screenwriters
are rushing to rip scripts from
the bindings of best-sellers. But
what is it about recent television,
spawning cult followings from
"Game of Thrones" to "The Vam-
pire Diaries," that so successfully
intertwines the page and the
Freed from the confines of
viewers' waning attention spans,
television is allotted the depth
that the books' built-in fan bases
expect, yet the movies fail to
deliver. The Blair Waldorfs (orig-
inally of Cecily von Ziegesar's
"Gossip Girl" series) retain the
"villain" quality that is so often
a one-dimensional staple of Hol-
lywood, while simultaneously
complicating with each episode,
constructing a character with
motives, secrets and shames. As
the silver screen butchers the evo-
lution of endeared romances into
choppy dialogue and swift decla-

"How dare you say 'Harry Potter' is better than 'Twilight'!
rations of love (is there no better If film is a one-night stand,
example than Stephenie Meyer's television - like literature - is
"Twilight"?), television produces a long-term relationship. (That
a steadier pace and realistic - is, until the production company
as realistic as a drama-infused, unexpectedly breaks up with you,
human-mythical-creature love leaving a hot mess of "Communi-
triangle can be - relationships. ty" withdrawals in its wake.)
Through each season, a show
is granted a continuous stream
Com ingsoon: of opportunities to "get it right,"
o allowing television's greatest
'H oot' on H BO. adaptive advantage: creative lib-
erty. In film, the slightest stray
from the page is often deemed
unforgivable as fans flock to pre-
Heart-wrenchingly honest mieres of the latest "Harry Pot-
chapters of character develop- ter" films. But TV shows, notably
ment vanish beneath the pres- "Pretty Little Liars" and "True
sure of a film set. In an effort to Blood" in their deviation from
compact a story that surpasses the original written works, are
hundreds of pages within a time free to twist the plot in unex-
frame that narrowly escapes the pected ways, introduce unfamil-
mounting complaints of how iar characters and, in doing so,
inexplicably sore my butt is after create a form of entertainment
enduringthe local theatre's seats, - dare I say it - better than the
cinema fails to mirror the emo- original.
tional and mental process of a for- As studios continue to forage
lorn protagonist. The stale lights the bookshelves for fresh story-
flicker to life and the movie ends, lines, turning a page is as easy as
whereas the televised experience changing the channel. But have
lures the viewer in with episodes faith, readers. That towering pile
that resonate until the following of tattered "Gossip Girl" copies is
week. in good hands.

Daily Arts Writer
There's a reason some movies
are released during the holiday
season. There's
a certain kind of
shallow, mod- *'
erately pleasant
entertainment We Bought
that's just right a Zoo
for the whole
family. Not that AtQuality 16
the whole fam- and Rave
ily will enjoy 20th Century Fox
it, but they at
least won't be
offendedby it. Director Cameron
Crowe's ("Almost Famous") "We
Bought a Zoo" is one of these. It's
pleasant enough to watch, but
presents nothing challenging,
stimulating or original.
Matt Damon ("Contagion")
stars as Benjamin Mee, an adven-
ture-addicted magazine writer
with two kids who is mourning
the death of his wife. After his
son Dylan (Colin Ford, "Push")
is expelled from school, Benja-
min decides it's time to start over.
on an impulse, he buys a dilapi-
dated zoo in the countryside and
decides to renovate it with his
family and the zoo's diminished
but loyal staff.
Unfortunately, "We Bought a
Zoo" offers no surprises. Within
the first 20 minutes of the movie,
each story and character arc has
been neatly set up to be followed
to its predictable conclusion. Ben-
jamin will fall in love with the
beautiful head zookeeper Kelly
(Scarlett Johansson, "Iron Man
2"), Dylan will fall in love with
the cute, young zoo employee Lily
(Ele Fanning, "Super 8") and the
old, sick tiger whose life is only
sustained by the medication Ben-
jamin insists on giving him will
become a metaphor for Benja-
min's own struggles dealing with
his wife's death. It's all too easy,

and we've seen it all before.
The story hinges on Benja-
min's goal of re-opening the zoo
in a few short months. This turns
out to be a nearly impossible task,
and he comes up against various
obstacles - his complete lack of
knowledge of zoos, a strict inspec-
tor intent on Benjamin's failure,
fights with his son and his inabil-
ity to recover from the trauma of
his wife's death. The problem is,
the audience doesn't feel what
these characters are feeling. Since
we're a safe six months out from
Benjamin's wife's death, we never
feel the same sense of loss that
affects him and his children. And
the reasons for Benjamin's quar-
rels with his son are never fully
clear. The movie rabidly avoids
intensity, preferring instead to
simply amble along. It's sort of
funny, and sort of sad and sort of
pretty, but not enough to really be
"We Bought a Zoo" also lacks
subtlety. Characters deliver lines
about being free and letting go,
and you can almost see the film-
makers winking at you. The
soundtrack, a glossy combination
of pop hits and packaged inspira-
tion, tells the audience just how
to feel at all the right times. The
cuteness of Benjamin's daughter

Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones,
"Footloose") is beaten over the
audience's head until she feels less
like a character than a device to
illicit sympathy. You would have
to be unconscious to leave this
movie feeling or thinking any-
thing other than exactly what the
filmmakers wanted you to think
and feel.
We bought a
boring movie.
Since the ending of the movie
can be easily determined from the
beginning, the film's final third is
bereft of tension. Instead of wor-
rying about what will happen to
these characters, the audience
must simply gaze at their beauti-
ful faces as they go about their
pleasant work. The movie looks
right, and has all the right mov-
ing parts, but a strong story never
emerges from among the fine per-
formances and the pretty images.
In the end "We Bought a Zoo" is
a vapid movie, a passable family
film for the holidays, but one for-
gotten as soon as one leaves the

"Don't worry, tiger, you'll make bail in the morning."


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