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March 10, 2014 - Image 8

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8A - Monday, March 10, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

8A - Monday, March 10, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

A

COLUMBIA
Two thumbs up is a bit of a stretch.
Pharrell's goofy
enjoyable 'I RI

WARNER BROS.
"Those masks = my face every day."
Latest '300' lacks grit

Hitmaker shoots
for charts with
meandering LP
By ADAM THEISEN
DailyArts Writer
Coming just months removed
from the Summer of Pharrell,
what were you really expect-
ing from this
album? Did B
you think it
was going to GIRL
be ten differ-
ent versions of Phafell
"Get Lucky"? Columbia
Would it be an
hour of pure
summer serving as a blast of
warmth in the middle of Febru-
ary? Would it be the smash-hit
album of the year? Well, despite
helping to create some of the
biggest singles of the past year,
Pharrell 'presents his second
solo album G I R L to remind
us that he's actually capable
of recording songs that aren't
number one hits. That's not to
say that G I R L is a disappoint-
ment, but, simply put, Pharrell
is not destined to be the super-
star that his record company
surely longs for him to be on the
strength of this LP.
This is not a batch of freshly-
cooked, radio-ready singles.
In fact, aside from "Happy,"
Pharrell's most recent world-
dominating song, the Jus-
tin Timberlake collaboration
"Brand New" seems to be the
only other promising hit. The
problem is that "Get Lucky"
tricked the world into thinking
that Pharrell had it in him to be
a great leading man, when real-
ly, he's so much better when he
works in a less prominent role.
"Lucky" worked because all it
needed from Pharrell's vocals
was functional catchiness.
Songs like "Blurred Lines" and
"Feds Watching," though, suc-
ceeded because Pharrell set the
stage with the production and
feel of the song, but then got out

of the way to let the main artist
perform.
On G I R L, Pharrell is that
main artist, so after' setting
the stage, he's still left to fill in
everything else. The results are
vocals that seem improvised,
tossed-off and goofy. His skill
as a lyricist is practically non-
existent (see "Hunter," which
features not only an incredibly
strained metaphor but also a
hilariously out-of-place "Duck
Dynasty" reference), and when
he tries to sing about girls, he
comes off like a teenaged son
of R. Kelly awkwardly trying to
imitate his dad.
The inescapable "Happy" is
the outlier here, but goddamn
it's an infectious one. "Happy"
is the song most reminiscent
of Pharrell's hits, and it's per-
fectly placed directly in the
center of the album in order to
give the lagging songs a boost.
While its appearance on the
'Despicable Me 2" soundtraek
may cause some to categorize it
as kids' music, nothing on the
album is more danceable or fun.
The track is further proof that
Pharrell can make some truly
inspired awesome pop music,
and its electric piano, clapping
and effortlessly natural singing
make it endlessly replayable and
an early contender for catchiest
song of the year.
Despite several A-List col-
laborators, the record is mostly
about Pharrell. Alicia Keys has
a mostly forgettable cameo, and
Miley Cyrus is in-and-out on the
record's dirtiest sounding track,
"Come Get it Bae." Daft Punk
also shows up on the chilled-out
"Gust of Wind" to provide its
familiar robot vocals. (Unfortu-
nately, no Daft Punk/Pharrell
track will ever live up to "Get
Lucky," and knowingly, the art-
ists avoid trying to recapture
lightning in a bottle.) The best
appearance comes from Justin
Timberlake, a man who knows
pop music just as well as Phar-
rell, and the two duet over an
enjoyable old-school soul beat.
The production of G I R L is

always on point and confident.
Harkening back to the soul
music of decades past, Pharrell
always plays to his strengths,
and perfectly utilizes groovy
drums and 70s guitars and key-
boards on nearly every track.
Pharrell's help is such an
incredible asset for any artist
trying to make the Top 40, but
he shouldn't carry all the weight
by himself His vocals wander
through his production - some-
times he tries to sound like Mar-
vin Gaye, and on "Lost Queen"
he picks up a vaguely African
accent, but he never sounds
sure of what he's doing. Open-
ing track "Marilyn Monroe" is
so overdone and changes what
it wants to be so much that it's
almost unbelievable that it's all
one track. Pharrell's sweet and
innocent voice makes all of his
boasts about women sound like
parody, and he just doesn't have
enough charismato carrymost of
the soul bongs.
Is G I-R L a failure? Well, it's
probably not what Pharrell's
record company was wishing for,
as it lacks any real attempts for
radio, aside from "Happy" and
maybe "Brand New." Listeningto
the weird meandering of most of
the tracks, it's hard to even imag-
ine how the record company let
this even happen.
However, taking it for what
it is, G I R L can be an admit-
tedly goofy, but enjoyable record.
Despite Pharrell's recent chart
successes, it's not the work of a
future superstar, a Bruno Mars-
like singer groomed for radio
smashes. Rather, it's the work
of a man in control of every
aspect of his album. All of Phar-
rell's strengths (his throwback
production and pop sensibili-
ties) and weaknesses (his lyrics
and vocals) are on full display
throughout G I R L. Pharrell
should mainly stick to produc-
tion work and features, but as
a novel peek inside the head
of a pop music genius, it's far
more memorable and fun than
anything a record company
could've tried to manufacture.

By BRIAN BURLAGE
Daily Arts Writer
At the conclusion of what
must be one of the blandest pre-
battle addresses ever recorded
on film, Greek
general Them- B_
istocles (Sulli-
van Stapleton, 300: Rise of
"Gangster
Squad") cries an Empire
with drama but Quality 16
without con- and Rave 20
viction, "Seize
your glory!" - Warner Bros.
as though the
scribes of his-
tory patiently await their victory.
The Greek word for this kind of
unwavering arrogance is hubris;
difficult to establish and even
more difficult to later disregard,
hubris is a catalyst for self-implo-
sion. It destroys from within.
Success builds on success, blur-
ring logic, masking failure, until
infallibility becomes the only
worthy objective. Director Noam
Murro's ("Smart People") "300:
Rise of an Empire" falls victim to
its own hubris. With the effort so
desperate and the story so focused
on delivering the perfect tale of
masnulinity and war, the film's
sole objective actually becomes a
blueprint for failure.
The film's story runs concur-
rently (it's not so much a sequel
or a prequel to 2007's "300") with
the Spartan-Greek effort against
the Persians at Thermopylae and
also on the naval conflict between
Greek and Persian fleets. Them-
istocles, general of the Greeks and
renowned politician, believes that
a new political framework called
"democracy" can unite a divided

Greece. He's willing to go to war
against the Persians to prove it.
Vastly outnumbered and lacking
support from much of his own
nation, he utilizes his character-
istic cunning to deceive and belay
the onslaught of the herculean
Persian navy.
Artemisia (Eva Green, "Casino
Royale") commands the Persian
force. She's a brutal, manipula-
tive and dominating leader whose
power of intimidation escapes
no one. Make a tactical error and
she'll tie stone braces to your
arms and heave you into the
depths. Hold steady eye contact
with her and she'll plunge a dag-
ger into your gut. Green delivers
a convincing performance as the
intense, power-hungry queen of
moral depravity. Her tendency to
err on instinct rather than emo-
tion contributes to the warrior
mentality of her character. Green
leaves no room for sympathy or
affection - Artemisia is as cold as
the blade she so skillfully wields.
"Rise of an Empire" will
appease viewers if they think of
it like the able-bodied, fully func-
tional sidekick to the real hero,
the Zack Snyder-directed original
"300." Because of its less-than-
enthralling fight sequences,
perennialtalk of war and politics
and overall lack of personality,
"300: Rise of an Empire" seems
more anecdotal than essential.
Even though it depicts a parallel
story to the Battle of Thermopy-
lae, the film really feels like an
afterthought of Zack Snyder and
company, who thought it might
be really cool to make a movie
about ancient naval warfare.
With every slash of the sword,
a stream of blood trails across

the screen. Every warrior is an
acrobat, every strategic decision
a do-or-die plot against destiny.
The film begins and ends in the
same instance of violence: Sol-
diers charging, clashing, grap-
pling, smiting each other, tossing
bloodied carcasses into the briny
Aegean sea. Everything in
betweenis aremonstranceoffor-
mer wars and rivalries, comple-
mented by scenes of aggravated
sexual intensity, vengeance and
historical context. The whole
effort feels contrived - carefully
wrought from the minds of exec-
utives who wanted to outdo an
already rambunctious depiction
of Greek mythology and war.
Was another
'300' necessary?
Not really.
But while the film may
sometimes be self-indulgent,
single-minded and even sloppy
to achieve its end, it still thrives
within the context of its genre.
After-all, graphic novels should
be over-the-top. A film based on
a comic based on loose accounts
of a fantastical war should be
allowed to exaggerate some
details. Is a film about 300
men defending their country
in the face of imminent death
interesting? Absolutely. Is a film
about the simultaneous naval
effort of undaunted, politically
driven Greeks necessary? Not
really. But is it entertaining? You
betcha.

ABC's imperfect 'Mind Games
By JOE REINHARD
DailyArts Writer "

Especially when starting out,
a show should be conscious of its
strengths and weaknesses, but not
afraid to take
risks. A healthy B-
combination of
ambition and Mind Games
caution is argu-
ably the best Pilot Episode
way to stand out Tuesdaysat Candid.
from the many 10 p.m.
other programs ABC ness isn't important; the majority
that premiere of the pilot deals with them trying
each year, at to help a boy and his mother out,
least in terms of quality. That's and luckily the show does a fine job
sometimes hard to do at the pilot handling the relatively straightfor-
stage however, and unfortunately ward plotline. It also introduces a
ABC's "Mind Games" is daring sense of moral ambiguity as they
and careful in the wrong places. use questionable means to accom-
The show's premise doesn't plish good ends, giving the show
exactly have an easy, precise eleva- some depth.
tor pitch, butoit goes something like It's when it gets into some of the
this: Two brothers run a business greater details that "Mind Games"
that utilizes psychological manip- runs into trouble. Though the
ulation to help solve people's prob- relationships between the charac-
lems. One brother, Ross Edwards ters are well done, the individual
(Christian Slater, "Breaking In"), is characters themselves are lacking.
a conman who doesn't always act Zahn's performance in particular
on the rightside of the law, and the will probably come off too crazy
other, Clark Edwards (Steve Zahn, and annoying for some viewers.
"Treme"), is an expert in human Although it's easy to give the show
psychology who also suffers from credit for taking such a risk (hav-
bipolar disorder. They work with ing a bipolar main character could
a team of other talented individu- also produce some stunning
als to run their business, which results if done right), his por-
they're struggling to keep afloat trayal so far makes the choice
thanks to each brother's fair share out to be a mistake. It may only
of flaws. be a single detail, but it impacts
At the heart of the story is their the pilot enough to drag it down.
brotherly relationship, rather than Meanwhile, "Games" fails to
their mental manipulation antics, take risks at points where they
and to the show's credit, the rela- are desperately needed. The
tionship is developed fairly well brothers may be annoying at
so far. That's not to say their busi- times but at least they're inter-

ABC

esting, unlike the other people
who work with them. The show
needs a more interesting, well
rounded cast to make up for
where the brothers (specifically
Zahn's Clark) don't deliver. So
far, there's little sense of that
happening.
"Mind Games" is imperfect,
with some very notable flaws,
but entertaining - "entertain-
ing" might not be enough espe-
cially given the track record of
the show's creator, Kyle Killen.
(In the past few years, he creat-
ed two excellent shows "Awake"
and "Lone Star" that both were
cancelled relatively early despite
general critical praise.) For now,
"Mind Games" has a nice intro-
duction to make it watchable,
assuming you find the premise
appealing and those aforemen-
tioned weaknesses don't turn
you off completely. Given some
time it may shed those flaws and
reach a quality comparable to
"Awake" and "Lone Star." Other-
wise, it will only fall into a trou-
bling middle ground - worth
giving a shot, but not even close
to being crowned the best show
on TV.

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