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October 16, 2013 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-16

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8A - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

I

"Why is Jafar here?"
Unoriginal, uninspiring
'Wonderland'

FX
Head Witch in Charge.
'Coven'bewitches.

By KELLY ETZ ment i
Daily Arts Writer feels let
a cop-o

In Murphy's world,
anything can
happen
By ALEC STERN
Daily Arts Writer
If the colder weather and
falling leaves weren't enough
to remind you that it's Octo-
ber, our tele-
vision screens A-
are once again
filled to the' American
brim with zom- Horror
bies, witches,
ghouls and StOry COVen
ghosts. Among Pilot
the signature
Halloween Wednesdays
programming, atl0 p.m.
Ryan Mur-
phy's wonder- FX
fully weird
anthology series, "American
Horror Story," made its return-
last week. The new iteration,
subtitled "Coven," delves into
the history of witchcraft and
the fictitious witching scene in
New Orleans. Many of "Hor-
ror Story" 's signature actors
are back and joined by excit-
ing newcomers in this wild and
alluring new chapter.
"AHS: Coven" starts out
distinctly and surprisingly
straightforward. Series staples
Jessica Lange ("King Kong")
and Sarah Paulson ("Mud")
play mother and daughter who
both attended Miss Robich-
aux's Academy for Exceptional
Young Ladies. These "excep-
tional young ladies" are, in
fact, witches. Paulson's Corde-
lia Foxx now runs the school,
which has enrollment of four
students including "AHS" alum
Taissa Farmiga ("The Bling
Ring") and Emma Roberts
("We're The Millers"). Kathy
Bates ("Harry's Law") also stars
as Delphine LaLaurie, a real-
life, 19th-century serial killer in

whom Lange's character Fiona
takes a special interest.
It's worth noting that, on
paper, nothing about "Ameri-
can Horror Story" should work.
Dylan McDermott wrestling a
ghost in a leather suit should feel
silly. Lange performing a campy
rendition of "The Name Game"
in the middle of an asylum-set
horror series should make you
cringe. But this is "American
Horror Story," which means
any conventional wisdom does
not apply. Murphy has created a
world so bizarrely and perplex-
ingly enticing that the words
"should" or "shouldn't" don't
exist. Kathy Bates as a histori-
cal character hell-bent on hav-
ing her own real-life Minotaur?
SURE. Just sit back, enjoy and
try not to question why it's so
amazingly compelling. It just is.
In terms of ambition, "Coven"
already feels more "Murder
House" than "Asylum." Where-
as the latter came out guns
blazing from the very start
(Nuns! Mad Scientists! Aliens!),
"Murder House" was arguably
a more subdued saga, focused
on its singular haunted house
storyline. So far, "Coven" seems
to follow "Murder House" 's
delicate footsteps, introducing
one, witches-as-the-oppressed
dramatic narrative. With that
being said, the after-show sea-
son preview suggests that like
"Asylum," "Coven" will get
crowded (Zombies! Franken-
stein!).
Naturally, most of the pre-
miere episode, "Bitchcraft," is
about fleshing out the tone of
the miniseries, which isn't quite
nailed down yet. Though all
three iterations have a distinct
"AHS" feel, "Murder House"
and "Asylum" were able to
establish enough tonal and the-
matic differences to set them
apart from one another. Co-
creator Murphy has described
"Coven" as a lighter series than
its predecessors - he set out to

make it an easier watch than
the exceedingly dark "Asylum."
While the premiere establishes
this feeling a bit, it didn't quite
strike the right balance between
the desired playfulness and the
horror, at times feeling neither,
here nor there.
Regardless, the actors in
"AHS" have consistently out-
shined the series' plot or tone,
and "Coven" is no exception.
Lange continues to deliver a
master-class performance as
a witch determined to defy
the aging pr'ocess. Evan Peters
("Kick Ass") and Farmiga have a
beautiful chemistry together as
strong here as it was in the first
season. It's also no surprise that
Kathy Bates and Angela Bas-
sett ("Olympus Has Fallen") are
perfect in their spellbinding (if
you will) roles as rival sorcer-
esses.
"Bitchcraft" is also one of
the scarier entries in the "AHS"
series. Beginning with a truly
frightening 1830's torture
sequence, followed directly
by the revamped, hair-raising
opening credits, the premiere
doesn't let viewers forget that
this is, as promised, a horror
story.
All in all, "Coven" is a pleas-
ing start for a series that usu-
ally finds its stride somewhere
in the middle. Most of "AHS"
's standout episodes, includ-
ing "Rubber Man" and "Unholy
Night," begin to emerge around
the eighth episode of each
13-episode run. Fans of the
series will no doubt be glued
to their screens, as leads Lange
and Paulson are as mesmerizing
as ever. "Bitchcraft" is a wel-
comed reassurance that three
seasons in, "AHS" hasn't lost
any of its strange mojo. And
judging by some of the sexy
deaths (literally, deaths-by-sex)
in the premiere, it's clear this is
still the disturbing, outrageous,
crazy-good "American Horror
Story" we know and love.

The allure of a fantasy world
lies in the possibilities. Interest is
created in the unknown, in seeing
the unusual or
the unexpect- C+
ed. Originally,
"Once Upon a Once Upon
Time" played a rime in
on this inter-
est, creating Wonderland
*a charmingly Pilot
CGI-ed world
unlike any- Thursdays
thing else in the at 8p.m.
TV landscape.
Unfortunately, ABC
its spinoff "Once
Upon a Time in Wonderland" fails
to live up to expectations. The
problem isn't that "Wonderland"
can't stand on its own, onlythat its
unoriginality is so obvious.
Plunging the technicolored
splendor of Lewis Carroll's well
known children's story into dark-
er, grittier territory is nothing
new. Tim Burton literally did that
three years ago. And remember
the miniseries "Tin Man," Syfy's
edgy reimagining of "The Wizard
of Oz"? The point is, "Wonder-
land" mayhavetet better suc-
cess in keeping true-to-the-source
material, with a fantastical world
dizzyingly drenched in primary
colors and literally overflowing
with ideas.
As it stands, Alice's (Sophie
Lowe, "Beautiful Kate") confine-

the im
oddly r
ously u
to reali
backdr
At leas
Lithgom
style, h
withsta
Dc
r
The
freed g
Gadiot
Alicer
trips in
bly, the
a highl
(just h
to be
start l:
Entert
Rigby,
and t
(Navee
an evi
and mt
Undern
is a nic
the que
The

n a Victorian-era asylum holding anything back. Lowe
ss like a twist and more like - who plays Alice as an ass-
'ut. Lobotomies aside, even kicking adventuress, brandish-
agining of Wonderland is ing "Drink Me" bottles like mini
estrained.;As a series obvi- hand grenades - is the driving
;nconcerned with likeness force of the premiere. Hopefully,
ty, the computer-generated on her way to finding her lost
ops are less than inspiring. love, she'll stumble upon some
t the White Rabbit (John better-written dialogue. It's the
w, "This is 40") has a bit of Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha,
ot pink Lennon glasses not- "Shank"), however, who brings
nding. the pilot alive. Bantering with
Alice every step of the way - in
a truly fantastic British accent -
the Knave is the comic relief, per-
)IL venture petual eye candy and potential
down this love triangle all rolled into one.
The secondary cast tarnishes *
'abbit hole. some of the sheen of the two
leads. Bottled hottie Cyrus bare-
ly makes an appearance, while
Rigby overacti her heart out as
plot centers around a the Red Queen. At one point, she
;enie called Cyrus (Peter even tears up. It's like watching
"Night Wolf") whom a really intense scene in a high
meets on her subsequent school play. Andrews as Jafar is
nto Wonderland. Inevita- fine, and the fledgling chemistry
two fall in love and, after between the two villains makes
y inconceivable proposal them better together than apart.
ow old is Alice supposed Creators Edward Kitsis and
anyway?), are about to Adam Horowitz - who both
iving happily ever after. 'worked on "Once Upon a Time"
the Red Queen (Emma - along with Zack Estrin ("Zero
"Demons Never Die") Hour") should have had an eas-
otally randomly, Jafar ier time with "Wonderland."
n Andrews, "Lost") with Instead, the premiere takes on
i plot to capture Cyrus all the questionable elements of
ake Alice think he's dead. its predecessor without any of
neath all the exposition the ingenuity. As a teen-angst
e, basic adventure plot - fest, it sort of works. As a suc-
est to find a lost love. cessful series in its own right?
actors, at least, aren't Barely.

ALlBUM R EV IEaW

A

By HANNAH WEINER
DailyArts Writer
There's a Slate article circulat-
ing thatwrites off the "roots revival
movement" of our generation, dis-
missing bands
like Mumford A
& Sons and the
Lumineers as Let's Be Still
purely valuable
for their "attrac- The Head and
tion of collec- the Heart
tivity, even of Sub Pop
surrogate fam-
ily."
If you agree with this argument,
you should steer clear of The Head
and the Heart's new album,Let'sBe
Still.
Because of the band's inclusive-
ness, because of its mimicking a
surrogate family and because the
artists emanate this kind of ten-
derness, The Head and the Heart
have a fan base that takes pride in
this musical comfort. The band's
first album gave people the warmth
of music that can be played to fit
all scenarios; songs like "Rivers &
Roads" "Down in the Valley" and
"Cats & Dogs" offer security in the
swelling vocals, the rustic guitar
and the catchy harmonies. The
music is like a hug, a thick fuzzy
blanket or a hot mug of tea for the
head and the heart.
In Let's Be Still, the comfort
has maximized. Songs like "My
Friends" and "Another Story" reac-
quaint us with the familiar folksy
sounds of Charity Thielen, Jona-
than Russell and Josiah Johnson,.
uniting voices in lines like, "When
I'm down / you pick me up / my
friends." For most of the album,
they slip into their cozy groove of
piano, drums, guitar and vocals
that crescendo and finally fade out
with a profound, universal mes-
sage.

SUa POP

"We're a big family. Sike. We're not."

Whether they're singing, "Gone who've been waiting to hear her
are the days when the wind would break away from the harmonies.
brush my face" or "You are in It's not necessarily an entirely'new
grandmother's wisdom," Russell's sound, but it's nuanced - Thielen
sensory details touch on universal freshens the tracklist with her pris-
symbols of home, love and safety. tine vocals.
There's a reason we keep returning Similarly, "Shake" unexpect-
to indie-folk bands like The Head edly presents the audience with
and the Heart; for many, it provides electric guitar and synths (gasp!).
the wholehearted sense of family Yet this introduction doesn't shock
that's impossible to dislike. listeners because it matches the
energy that wavers throughout the
album. Instead, it makes us tap our
Feels like toes, bounce and tap - a phenom-
enon that fans of The Head and the
hot chocolate. Heart may not understand from
their typically relaxed and intro-
spective songs.
Don't worry, those songs still
But Let's Be Still doesn't stop exist on Let's Be Still. "Another
here, confining the band to a par- Story,"asongmeanttoreflectonthe
ticular sound. Instead, The Head Newtown tragedy, distills Russell's
and the Heart expand its sound rustic voice on an inspirational and
with more energy. Just listening to emotional track. He sings, "The sun
the opening track, "Homecoming still rises even through the rain,"
Heroes," introduces us to a side of and despite its cliched messages,
the band we haven't met before -it the music offers us reassurance. It's
bounces on upbeat drums, dances comfort music,no doubt.
happily on piano keys and sings There's no shame in listening
with a happiness and confidence to music for its emotional value;
that was hidden on the last album. everyone needs a security blanket
Charity Thielen's angelic (and or mug of hot chocolate every once
at times spunky) voice leads us in a while. Everyone needs their
through "Springtime" and "Sum- head and the heart soothed, and
mertime," giving Russell's vocals a every once in a while, everyone
break and exciting indie-folk fans needsto just be still.

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