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December 01, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, December 1, 2014 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, December 1, 2D14 - 5A

Vaudeville inspires
'Madagascar' film

'Gotham' clumsily
develops characters

'Penguins'
impresses with
surreal animation
By JACOB RICH
Daily Arts Writer
On its surface, "Penguins
of Madagascar" is another
frantic joke-a-minute (closer
to joke-a-
second)
kiddie-
comedy Penguins of
following in Madagascar
the footsteps
of the Rave 20 and
borderline Quality 16
schizophrenic DreamWorks
"The Lego
Movie." Complete with beat-
you-over-the-head metaphors,
frequent unfunny pop-culture
references and one-note
characters, "Penguins" could
well have been little more than
a franchise cash-in, exploiting
its most popular comic relief
characters to just sell some
merchandise.
Fascinatingly, it feels less
like a corporate circle-jerk
and much more like a labor
of love. The passion here is
most evident in the wonderful
animation. Even more than in
the previous "Madagascar"
films, the animation is sharp,
gorgeous and fluid. The
Penguins' computer-generated
movement strays from the
still-based-in-reality standard
of modern animated fare like
"Frozen" and "How to Train
Your Dragon" and instead
chooses to emulate the more
surreal hand-drawn shorts
(think early "Mickey Mouse"
and "Popeye") from the very
beginningofanimation.Objects
and characters in "Penguins"
are protoplasmic in form, and
they are allowed to dance
and flow across the screen in
whatever fashion the director
sees fit. The Octopus villain
in particular is animated with
a stunning amount of variety

The Usual Suspects.
and free-form creativity.
"Penguins" 's freedom of
movement combines with a
non-chronological editing
rhythm to pace visual gags
with near-perfect delivery.
In contrast with the film's
pop-culture-based, one-liner
humor, the Penguins' visual
antics are vaudevillian in
nature, and the animators=
expertly draw from key rules
used by early screen comedians
like Chaplin and The Marx
Brothers. Echoeing Chaplin in
particular, the Penguins have
a dysfunctional relationship
with their environment. One
moment, they could be using
if to their utmost advantage,
twirling and jumping between
commercial passenger jets with
ease. The next, everything in
their environment proves an
obstacle or a deterrent, as they
haphazardly goof around in a
top-secret base. The nature of
the environment in "Penguins"
expertly serves the film's
humor
The characterizations of
each animal character lack
substance, as they're all
basically parodies.of existing
spy-movie tropes, but the
excellent voice acting from
each cast member (with the
exception of a serious waste of
Ken Jeong, famous for the "The
Hangover" films) partially
makes up for it. Joining

the usual penguin cast (the
mostly unknown DreamWorks
mainstays Tom McGrath,
Chris Miller, Christopher
Knights and Conrad Vernon)
are the superb-as-always
Benedict Cumberbatch ("The
Hobbit: The Desolation of
Smaug") as the leader of a
secret alliance of animal spies;
and John Malkovich (NBC's
"Crossbones") as the diabolical
Dr. Octavius Brine, a revenge-
hungry octopus disguised as a
mad scientist.
While its animation and
voice acting are near perfect,
"Penguins" has yet to break
away from some of the more
egregious kid-movie sins
that DreamWorks films have
consistently committed. The
film, like many in the "Ice Age"
franchise, plays the onscreen
death of animals for humor
too often for a kids' movie.
There also is far too many
jokes that are thrown in for
the adults. Disney films have
managed to be interesting
and heartwarming to all ages
since the beginning; why
does DreamWorks insist on
including throwaway pop-
culture references that the-
kids won't get? The "How to
Train Your Dragon" series has
found its own brand of non-
cynical warmth; it's time the
other DreamWorks franchises
followed suit.

FOX series at
risk of wasting
its potential
By MATT BARNAUSKAS
Daily Arts Writer
At its halfway point, "Gotham"
has proven itself an entertaining
show, but several glaring flaws
continue to
make watching C+
it frustrating.
By hiding Gotham
some of its Mid-Season
weaknesses Finale
and focusing
on the show's Mondays
strengths, at 8 p.m.
the mid- FOX
season finale,
"Lovecraft" brings an above-
average end to a flawed beginning
- but sweeping dirt under the rug
canonlydo so much.
Opening with the attempted
assassination of Selina Kyle
(Carmen Bicondova, "Battlefield
America") at the home of
Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz,
"Touch"), "Lovecraft" gives
butler Alfred Pennyworth
(Sean Pertwee, "Elementary") a
standout moment. Facing three
killers, Alfred just kicks ass.
Pertwee's rough-around-the-
edges portrayal of the famous
butler has been one of the
strengths of the show so far; he's
a character with purpose, unlike
several others in the show.
Selina and Bruce's escape
into the city allows the two
to interact more. The pairing,
introduced in the last episode,
brings a new approach to the
famous relationship between
the future caped crusader
and femme fatale. However,
character development has
been inconsistent. Bruce has
been relatively well-explored,
showing hints of the crazy
determination that creates a'
superhero. On the other hand,
Selina is the victim of writers
who feel the need to drop not-
so-subtle hints of her future,
practically saying, "Look! She

only drinks milk ... like a cat." It
doesn't help that she insists on
being called Cat. This obvious
explication weighs down other
characters, too. The most
egregious is Riddler-to-be,
Edward Nygma - "He likes
riddles, get it?"
The attempt by the police
to find the children remains
standard fair for "Gotham."
One of the series' greatest
shortcomings is its procedural
element. Cases have been far too
easily resolved not because of
good police work, but just some
luck or chance. Then there's
Harvey Bullock's (Donal Logue,
"Sons of Anarchy") trump card,
"I'll go talk to FishMooney(Jada
Pinkett-Smith, "Hawthorne"),"
which is used far too often as
a go-to crutch. "Lovecraft"
reduced these deficiencies by
pairing up Harvey and Alfred,
two of the more enjoyable
characters. "You're prettyhandy
for avalet," says Bullock. "Butler
mate. I'm the butler," Alfred
asserts. "Gotham," show more of
badass Alfred, please.
"Gotham"'sstrength is stillits
exploration of the city's criminal
underworld. The simmering
unrest in Carmine Falcone's
(John Doman, "The Wire")
organization has emerged as
the primary focus. At the center
are the Penguin's machinations
(Robin Lord Taylor, "The
Walking Dead"). The Penguin's
rise from low-level criminal

to Falcome's trusted eyes
and ears has been laden with
backstabbings (figurative and
literal) and lies, which led to the
series' strongest episode so far
in "Penguin's Umbrella." Taylor
brings a certain demented joy
to the future crime lord who
delights in his deceptions.
The focus on "Gotham" 's
strengths makes for a better
episode but draws attention
to the flaws that have hobbled
the show since day one.
The relationship between
protagonist Jim Gordon (Ben
McKenzie, "Southland") and
Barbara Kean (Erin Richards,
"BreakingIn") isthemostblatant
example of screenwriters trying
to force an ill-conceived pairing
on an ambivalent audience.
The show is trying to hinge the
audience on' the relationship,
but Barbara is one of the worst
written characters on television
right now. The character is
indecisiveandbarelyexistsoutside
of her relationship to Jim. Same
goes for obligatory love triangle
member Renee Montoya (Victoria
Cartagena, "Salt"), avice detective
whose only role is telling Barbara,
"You deserve someone better" and
standinginJim'swayoutofspite.
The ending of the mid-season
shows'promisewiththescn'enting
of Arkham Asylum as a primary
location in the second half, but if
"Gotham" doesn't fix its primary
character and writing flaws, its
potentialwillbewasted.

A Portrait of the 'This Dude' as a'Whatever He Does' - James Joyce Madlibs.

An open letter
to Frank Ocean

By RACHEL KERR
DailyArts Writer
Dear Frank,
The day after Thanks-
giving, I . was still recover-
ing from my turkey-induced
stupor, sprawled out on my
couch, scrolling through my
Twitter feed, and - behold
- I see you've dropped a new
track! Leave it to you, Frank,
to remind me how much bet-
ter you are than everyone else,
releasing new music when
the rest of us are still a little
buzzed on tryptophan.
This new track of yours,
"Memrise," is the first solo
stuff we've seen from you in two
years, since the release of the
still-bangin' channel ORANGE
in 2012. After Def Jam Records
released that album, and after
it earned a spot on countless
"Best of 2012" lists, and after
you won a Grammy for Best
Urban Contemporary Album,
you promised you'd come back.
And while I trust you, it's a
little unfair how you've been
toying with me since. I don't
know how much longer I can
wait for your next effort. I'm
getting impatient. I hope that
by uploading the new track to
your Tumblr, you're teasing
that your follow-up is close.
The problem is that "Mem-
rise" sounds more like an
interlude than actual content.
While the lyrics satisfy, per
usual - "I memorized your
body exposed / I could fuck
you all night long / from a
memory alone" is nasty - the
delivery is more reminiscent
of a poetry read than an actual
song. And, it's only 2 minutes
long. It leaves much more to

be desired from you, the art-
ist who brought us master-
pieces like "Bad Religion" and
"Pink Matter." Though I love
the sound of the piano overlaid
with your synth-like vocals on
the track, I need more from
you, Frank.
You told us the album was
basically done in, like, April.
Billboard projected the release
of the untitled project for this
fall, but with 2015 quickly
approaching, I'm starting to
lose hope. I heard Pharrell
Williams, Tyler the Creator
and Danger Mouse are all sup-
posed to have spots on the
record. In August, it was also
confirmed you were working
with the likes of Hit Boy and
Rodney Jerkins. But, to me,
that only means one thing: the
album still isn't done.
I understand that perfection
takes some time, but you've
left me with little to hold on
to. One can only unsuccess-
fully hit the high notes on
"Thinkin Bout You" so many
times before shit just gets sad.
Your track with Earl Sweat-
shirt on Doris ("Sunday") was
one of the best on the album,
and you can't ever go wrong
collaborating with Beyonced,
like you did on her 2013 self
titled album with"'Superpow-
er." But I want some solo stuff,
Frank.
This hiatus has gone on for
way too long. I miss you. I'm
lost without you. Release your
new album. Please. At least
tell us when it's dropping. The
silence is deafening.
Sincerely,
A Desperate Fan Who
Knows Every Word To "Super
Rich Kids"

Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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