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Sun Airway: an underground gemstone

(02/18/11 12:00am)

While I often find myself traversing the soundscape of underground Philadelphia-based indie electronic bands for the newest sounds, I never expected to find a gem like Sun Airway's Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. In fact, the only reason I listened to the album in the first place was because Dead Oceans, one of my favorite record companies, produced it. The debut album of duo Patrick Marsceill and Jon Barthmus' ambient sound not only echoed in my ears but made a profound comment on the transient nature of relationships ?and love. The album begins with the song "Infinity," a fitting title as the synthesizer in the introduction creates an almost limitless feel to the listener. It is as if one is wandering through the paintings of surrealist Salvador Dali, endlessly searching for meaning. The opening rhythms soon give way to Barthmus' voice, which has the light and airy sound of Owl City's Adam Young but is grounded in a sort of inexplicable sadness. This tone continues throughout the album, even though the music is primarily pop in nature. This combination might not seem as if it would work, but Sun Airway pulls it off with a sincerity that would rival a ?young choirboy's.


Sanctum fails to trump Avatar's effects

(02/04/11 12:00am)

Sanctum, like Transformers, is one of those movies that would have been far improved if someone took out all the people and dialogue of the film. While the unknown Alistair Greirson (Kodoka) directed the film, you would not know it with executive producer James Cameron's name all over the promotional material. While this is an obvious ploy to link Sanctum with award-winning Avatar's technological superiority, the tasteless acting and plot made the film subpar.Sanctum's plot concerns a group of people who get trapped in the largest unexplored underwater cave in the world in Papua New Guinea. The leader of the expedition, Frank, (played by Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing) first attempts to direct the group out of the cave by following it deeper to the ocean, but he not only has to contend with nature but also the irksome emotional problems of everyone else. His son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield, Broken Hill), just wants Daddy to love him. Billionaire Carl (Ioan Grufford, Fantastic Four) believes he is far more experienced than he actually is, while his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson, Where the Wild Things Are) will not stop crying. Last but not least, "Crazy George" (Dan Wylie, Chopper) is Frank's volatile assistant. The rest of the movie consists of spelunking in increasingly dark places. It did not take long for me to start wanting every character to die a horrible and gruesome death, and luckily, many of my wishes were realized.


The Way Back: fine acting breathtaking scenery

(01/28/11 12:00am)

Films glorify many things, but walking is not one of them. We prefer our films at faster speeds then that of the pedestrian. Peter Weir's new film, The Way Back, based on the book The Long Walk, is exactly that: an odyssey through some of the most desolate, inhospitable and beautiful places on Earth. The film concerns a group of inmates in a Siberian gulag in 1941, who escape and trek southward through the mountains of Siberia, the steppe of Mongolia, the Gobi Desert of China and the Himalayas of Nepal to their freedom in India. The film begins with the Polish Janusz (Jim Sturgess, 21) in an interrogation chamber listening to his wife recite an obviously forced confession that dooms him to 20 years in a brutal work camp. Upon his arrival at the gulag, the warden recites the "nature is your jailer" speech, a standard in all escape movies ranging from The Bridge on the River Kwai to Star Trek VI.


Burn Season of the Witch

(01/21/11 12:00am)

Every job involves perils, and when I took up the noble calling of reviewing movies for our fine newspaper, I knew the danger I would be facing. I knew that carefully crafting articles would take my precious time, that inferior movies would test my already stretched patience and that deadline-focused editors would push me ever closer to the brink of insanity. Yet I never foresaw that a movie would seriously and forever damage my intelligence. After bearing witness to Season of the Witch, a veritable war crime on good taste and cinema in general, I now fear that my GPA will suffer because my brain's cerebral cortex has shrunk after being exposed to pure idiocy (and as Rice students, we all know that our grades define not only our futures but our very souls).


True Quality in True Grit

(01/14/11 12:00am)

As a general rule, I try to eschew teen girlpower coming-of-age stories. Yet I could not resist abandoning my initial misgivings and going to see True Grit, a Western written and directed by the famous Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo), and a remake of the 1969 film with a 14-year-old heroine. Fortunately, my fears of pink cowgirl boots and ribbons on ponies quickly disappeared as the young Mattie Ross ("Grand Cru"'s Hailee Steinfeld) earned her place among the gunslingers of Sergio Leone and Tom Ford films.The film opens with an older Mattie narrating the story of her father's murder as the audience sees his body lying in the snow. This is the first, and certainly not the last, example of the Coen brothers' macabre brushstrokes on the canvas of the American West. The story begins shortly after the homicide when the precocious teenager heads to the frontier to bring back her father's body and settle his accounts. After securing the coffin and adroitly haggling with a former business partner of her father, Mattie moves on to her ultimate goal: avenging her father's death.


Baker Institute Student Forum debate: America's stimulus legislation

(01/14/11 12:00am)

At its signing, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act legislators hailed the bill as the Keynesian fiscal stimulus needed to cure the recession. Yet more than a year after the Obama White House signed this "economic Viagra" into law, the economy remains as flaccid and slow-moving as ever. Furthermore, the law represents an unwelcome and dangerous intrusion of government and has plunged our deficit into staggering and unprecedented depths.Apologists of the stimulus have two main arguments, the first being that we are technically now out of the recession. This is indeed true, but the slow and sluggish recovery hardly amounts to any sort of success. Rather, the dangerous tide of unemployment remains unstopped. The current rate of ?9.6 percent could even go over 10 percent. Sanguine projections about the health of the economy mean nothing to the millions of Americans out of work.


RIP, Dobby

(12/03/10 12:00am)

Watching Harry Potter is a lot like going back home for the holidays and seeing old friends. Our generation has known and followed the adventures of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) as they have made their way through Hogwarts and the magical world at large. The newest installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, is not perfect, but it is a solid addition to a series that has helped define our collective childhoods. For the three of you reading this that don't already know the plot by heart, the movie follows Harry, Ron and Hermione as they skip their seventh and final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to search for and destroy dark objects known as horcruxes, fighting the evil Voldemort in what has become an all-out magical civil war. Being a Harry Potter film, the three must also contend with their budding teenage lust in some of the film's weakest scenes. Unlike the earlier films, the mood of the movie is mostly somber and several sympathetic characters die. Audience members unfamiliar with the other movies or books will find the plot incomprehensible, as director David Yates does not waste any time on establishing background knowledge.


Please stop Unstoppable

(11/19/10 12:00am)

The opening scene of director Tony Scott's (The Taking of Pelham 123) Unstoppable sets everything up to be good. The camera makes menacing, sudden cuts, foreboding music plays in the background and the text ominously scrolls on the screen. The terrifying subject of this opening: trains. Yes, trains. It was at this point of the movie I should have gotten up and left. But I stayed, and the only thing that helps me sleep at night is the idea that if my review prevents just one person from seeing this unbelievably terrible piece of trash, then I have done some good in the world.


Due Date has proven actors, but is still a miscarriage

(11/12/10 12:00am)

Of all the events and milestones in a lifetime of movie watching, perhaps none is more salient or monumental than one's first R-rated movie. Mine was John Hughes' uproarious buddy-comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Director Todd Phillips' (The Hangover) latest offering, Due Date, is, for all intensive purposes, a remake of this '80s classic, except with a lot more drugs and a few more masturbation jokes. However, despite a few laughs, it fails to live up to its predecessor.The plot of the movie follows the straight-laced and unfortunately named Peter Highman, played by Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and the lovable oddball Ethan Tremblay, played by the poorly groomed Zach Galifianakis (also of The Hangover), as fate and comic mishaps bind them as travel buddies. The two first meet in the Atlanta airport, and, after exchanging some poorly phrased words with an air marshal, Peter reluctantly agrees to hit the road with Ethan to Los Angeles. As the title implies, Peter is expecting the birth of his first son by Caesarean section in several days, which gives the plot its obligatory timeline. Ethan is travelling to Hollywood to make it big as an actor.


Insanity on in Noises Off

(11/12/10 12:00am)

My decision to end my acting career after my role as "chorus member" in Sunset Mesa Elementary School's stellar and mandatory musical The Prince and the Penguin has longed caused consternation and sadness among theater lovers. It also made me feel a little out of the loop while watching the Rice Players' latest offering, the Michael Frayne satire Noises Off, directed byprofessor Justin Doran. The play whimsically satirizes the experience of being a thespian as it follows a dysfunctional group of actors performing the terrible and raunchy comedy Nothing On. People with experience in the performing arts will likely enjoy the play the most, as they can relate on some level with the disastrous mistakes made during the play within the play, but Noises Off still has some laughs to offer to those of us unfamiliar to theater.Act I gets off to a slow start, as we see the mock production company doing their final and rushed rehearsal of Nothing On. Director Lloyd Dallas (Wiess College junior Dustin Tannahill) expresses his exasperated rage at his unprepared actors as we are introduced to the various characters and their on-stage and off-stage personalities. The play begins to pick up in Act II, as the set twirls around and we now see the first scene of Nothing On that was in Act I from backstage. The situation spirals out of control as various relationships and drama between the actors becomes revealed. Finally in Act III when we once again see the same scene - this time again from the perspective of the audience in Act I - everything has reached a fever pitch of mayhem and insanity as the characters spoil their bodies and their minds in a desperate and futile attempt to make the "show go on."


Conviction found guilty of murdering viewer's time

(10/22/10 12:00am)

While it may surprise certain ex-girlfriends and former high school teachers of mine, I do, in fact possess a heart. Therefore, I cannot help but feel good and a little choked up when George Bailey discovers Zuzu's petals are still in his pocket in Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life or when Will Hunting decides to go after the girl in Good Will Hunting. So I approached Conviction , a movie based on the real-life story of Betty Anne Waters (played by Hilary Swank of Million Dollar Baby fame), a woman who became a lawyer to exonerate her falsely imprisoned brother Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell of Frost/Nixon ), with the hope that I could revel in the human spirit before I had to leave the theater and get back to slogging my life away in the cruel yoke of academics. Unfortunately, the only thing I felt during the film was the all too familiar feeling of ennui.The plot follows the close relationship of the Waters siblings after the violent murder of Kenny's neighbor in the lower-class community of Ayer, Mass. The evidence seems overwhelmingly stacked against Kenny, but Betty remains steadfast in her belief in his innocence, even when a judge sentences him to live the rest of his days behind bars. Despite being a high school dropout and single mother, Betty overcomes the educational hurdles to pass the bar exam.