Ushers new flick got it bad
BY HARRY KAPLOWITZ
In his new movie, “In the Mix,”
R&B songster Usher flashes his abs
a few times, does some dancing
and kisses several beautiful women
pretty much what he does in his
And while the kind of self-serv
ing charm he exudes is tolerable for
the four or five minutes he appears
on Total Request Live, it doesn’t
work on the big screen.
Maybe no one told Usher that
In the Mix” had to be an hour and
a half longer than most of his vid
eos. His attempt at leading-man
status falls about as short as the
majority of his lyrics.
“In the Mix” makes it hard to
separate Usher the recording art
ist from Usher the actor mainly
because the two are relatively indis
Playing Darrell Williams, a ris
ing star in the Brooklyn DJ circuit,
Usher emotes about as much cha
risma as a dull 2-year-old and his
attempts at genuine acting are as
flat as the film’s formulaic plot.
After saving the life of a mob
boss, Williams is recruited to play
bodyguard to a Mafia princess,
played by the forgettable-if-she
Chriqui. Canoodling, pasta eating
and speaking in hackneyed Mafia
dialogue ensues, and “In the Mix”
Shinoda s rap album a minor disaster
Linkin Park MC botches solo debut
BY ANDREW CHAN
At its best, hip-hop continues
the tradition of what used to be
called “race music.” Like soul and
jazz, the genre often is demonized
for its visceral reflection of current
Though it began in America’s
inner city, it has attracted affluent
white audiences for years, and mid
dle-class perspectives are becoming
It’s a strange transition, because
the tough aesthetic of the game
always was in reaction to oppres
sion and hopelessness.
Lipkin Park’s emcee Mike
Shinpda was not born into the
wprldng class and, as the only
commercially successful Asian
American on the rap scene, it
makes sense that he doesn’t know
THE Daily Crossword By Alan P. Olschwang
69 Banks of baseball
71 Slalom curves
72 College leaders
1 Mountain lion
2 Satie or Estrada
3 Counteractive sub
4 Alaska park
5 One in Toledo
6 McEntire sitcom
8 Take your time
9 Sound of a leak
10 "A Confederacy of
11 Studio sign
12 Actress Oberon
13 Syrian leader
19 Star in Cygnus
1 Soup veggie
4 Boxer Roberto
9 Plant pore
14 Coffee server
15 Juarez January
16 Loudness units
17 Sch. near Harvard
18 Start of William Blake
20 Director Kurosawa
22 For two, in music
23 Robert Pirsig book
24 Proofreader's mark
26 Smiled derisively
28 Part 2 of quote
32 Host of Parisians?
33 Actress Scala
34 Nuclear sub
39 Shaq of the NBA
41 Shade tree
43 Nappy leather
44 Members of a
46 Lacking bright
48 Speaker of
49 Part 3 of quote
52 Upholstery fabric
57 Part of U.A. R.
58 Greek letter
61 Pigs' pads
64 End of quote
67 Hail to Horace
68 Drink garnish
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ends with a cement-shoed thud.
While some singers-tumed-thes
pians such as Britney Spears and,
most recently, 50 Cent can chalk
up a bad movie to a trite script or
a flawed film concept, Usher has
no such luck. Earning himself an
executive producer credit for “In
the Mix,” much of the weight of this
dramatically burdensome flick falls
on his nimble shoulders.
Marketed and clearly made
to profit from Usher’s stardom,
“In the Mix” offers little, if any
thing, to the movie-going public.
Wrought with racial stereotypes,
a horrible story line and unforgiv
ably bad acting, the piece is about
as shameless in its intentions as a
middle school bully.
If you were born before 1991,
you’re probably not the film’s target
What makes Usher a successful
commodity to the teenybopper sect
is his ability to appear disarming:
He’s not rough around the edges
like many members of his musical
cohort who venture onto the big
Shallow and predictable, “In
the Mix” does as much to solidity
Usher’s movie career as Big Willie
Style did to solidify Will Smith’s
rap career. The only difference is
that Big Willie Style was sparsely
What else can you expect from
his place in its black vs. white,
gangsta vs. suburban equation.
On his first solo album, The
Rising Tied, he strives to be moral
ly and ethnically conscious. Lyrics
about the internment of Japanese
Americans and the misogyny of
popular hip-hop try to win him the
credibility he lacks on the surface.
But the most important quality
he’s missing is skill.
What’s been obvious since his
first records with Linkin Park are
the awkwardness of his rhymes and
the almost painful uncertainty of
Released under the pseud
onym Fort Minor, thi& album finds
Shinoda free from the insufferable
vocal adornment of bandmate
Chester Bennington and under the
wing of executive producer Jay-Z.
Mainly because his range is no
21 Prepare leftovers
25 Type of roll
27 Son of Seth
28 God of thunder
29 One Chaplin
30 Hop to it!
31 Ralph Emerson
35 Think better
36 Longitude lines
37 Refine rhetoric
38 Hebrew letter
40 Cohort of Haley and
42 Actress Farrow
2 3 ■■4“ 5 6 7 8 10 11 12 13
- "pH" 3
20 21 map? k
" 1 30 W IHI
K 35 36 37 38
57 59 62 63
-- ‘ 66 IHF 7
COURTESY OF LIONS GATE FILMS
Usher struggles to keep his head above water in his first attempt at a
leading role in the mafia love story 'ln the Mix.' DJs have it rough, too.
'IN THE MIX'
director Ron Underwood, the man
responsible for one of the biggest
flops ever, 2002’s “The Adventures
of Pluto Nash”?
Right off the bat, “In the Mix”
becomes a muddled mess that’s
more style than substance, lulling
the viewer into a false sense of cine
longer beipg limited to rap-metal’s
adolescent whining, Shinoda’s lyr
ics have improved marginally.
They are still forced and hack
neyed, especially when they try to
get the party started (“In Stereo”) or
prove a point about human inter
connectedness (“Right Now”).
But self-pity is unfashionable in
hip-hop and no longer seems to be
this rapper’s primary interest.
His most notable achievement
here is as a producer, incorporat
ing tuneful piano melodies with
Nevertheless, despite some cha
risma, Shinoda never gets his songs
off the ground when he is at the
mic. In collaborations with Black
Thought and Common, he manag
es to slide by on likability but ends
p having nothing to say with his
unthreatening, boyish persona.
The album is so innocuous that
it feels silly to think about it as an
expansion of rap’s style and subject
(C)2005 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
All rights reserved.
47 El Norte Sra.
50 Put on cargo
51 Gives lip to
52 Sierra Nevada lake
53 Seed covers
59 Grow weary
60 Dancer Pavlova
63 Physically provocative
65 Unseld of the NBA
66 Tonic's partner
matic security. Before too long, the
film sheds its sugary-sweet facade
and becomes a running punch line
Ultimately, “In the Mix” sleeps
with the fishes.
It proves once and for all that
Usher should stick to MTV and
duets with Lil’ Jon, which is where
he’s best: in small doses.
Contact the AdE Editor
THE RISING TIED
matter (something you might be
able to say about the work of back
packer Kanye West).
Rappers, even at their most
buoyant, used to perform as if they
were vessels of pain and anger,
but blandness such as this is not
unusual in hip-hop today.
In the end, The Rising Tied
doesn’t add to the genre’s stock
dramas so much as replace them
with toothless generalities.
Contact the A&EEditor
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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2005
an escape from
BY JACKY BRAMMER
Picture yourself as a music exec
utive. How exactly does one sell
’6os Cambodian pop crossed with
Nuggets-esque psychedelics and
dashed with a taste of Ethiopian
Simple you don’t. The music
Blast Dengue Fever’s Escape
from Dragon House at high vol
ume and watch as all existential
conversations about the necessity
of a riff here or a rest there evapo
rate into nothingness.
The music blatantly rocks too
much to be pigeonholed into any
stereotype or genre.
As the opening track, “We Were
Gonna,” gets cranking, about a
million questions arise. Primary
among them: Where did this
music come from?
It can’t be from this planet.
Andrew Lloyd Webber couldn’t
compose those organ phrases if he
were on mescaline and hooked up
to a Long Island iced tea I. V.
The pitch and timbre of singer
Chhom Nimol’s seraphic vocals
alone put the origin somewhere
around the rings of Saturn.
Midway through the next
track, “Sui Bong,” the listener is
convinced he has it figured out.
Septic organs, otherworldly vocals
and straightforward song com
positions equal a fairly original
That is fine until the minute
and-a-half mark, when a sleazy alto
saxophone straight out of film noir
joins the array.
When seedy jazz is added to
the equation, Escape from Dragon
House is upgraded to a remarkably
The picturesque, near-acoustic
ballad, “Sleepwalking Through The
Mekong,” continues the tour de
force, keeping the album squarely
in the realm of excellence.
Then comes “One Thousand
Tears of a Tarantula.”
Suddenly, a wailing baritone sax
creeps in like a bay-area foghorn.
Wr X. Z .
ESCAPE FROM DRAGON
More and more horns join the fray
as it starts to resemble a creation
that would make free-jazz pioneer
Cecil Taylor proud.
The song ends up a synth-pop
masterpiece that perfectly balanc
es melodic moaning with Nimol’s
Those new revelations blow
the formula to pieces, and what
you are left with is undoubtedly a
Sure, there are overtones of
early Doors in some of the instru
mentation on the LP, including
cascading organs and sharp gui
tars. Sure, Echo & the Bunnymen
would have something to say about
anyone playing neo-psychedelic
But let’s face it: Music is a melt
ing pot. When was the last time
anyone created anything entirely
Dengue Fever’s first album was
an homage to its influences in the
form of a collection of Cambodian
On the sophomore album, the
band branches out into brave new
For Dengue Fever, the future
is looking bright and could well
eclipse its already renowned past.
Contact theA&E Editor