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February 10, 1992 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-02-10

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Monday, February 10, 1992

Page 5

Dead poets die hardest
The makers of Dead Poets Society and Die Hard
team up to concoct another Sean Connery bomb

Medicine Man
dir. John McTiernan

1

1

by Austin Ratner
W ith the talented John McTiernan
(director of Die Hard) and Tom
Schulman (writer of the Oscar-win-
ning screenplay for Dead Poets
Society) collaborating on Medicine
Man, you might expect a riveting,

fast-paced, high-action thriller ... set
in a quiet New England boarding
school? Only true potato-heads
would've thought to team this odd
couple, unless maybe they were
planning a sequel to Toy Soldiers.
The film is set in a beautiful, sup-
posedly South American rain forest,
making Medicine Man a case of the
right place, the wrong director, the
wrong actors and the wrong script.
Promoted as an adventure film with

a socially-conscious angle, Medicine
Man is a surprising waste of energy.
Not only does the film fail to deliver
the adventure or social commentary
it promises, but it also fails to capi-
talize on the strong visual and ethnic
background available.
There are far too few shots of the
rain forest - most of the film is
confined to the small clearing
around the hut of Dr. Robert
Campbell (played by Sean Connery,
sporting a gratuitous ponytail),
where he's been conducting research
to cure cancer with some local jun-
gle fruit. The Brazilian Indians who
live in the area and assist Campbell
provide the most genuine and re-
freshing scenes in the film, but none
of them play central roles.
Director McTiernan simply
seems to have no idea what to do
without a lot of guns and explosives
or his native characters. Rather than
make use of the Indians as charac-
ters, when he chooses to focus on
them, McTiernan tends to show
them running around naked.
In one absurd sequence where the
Indians are working in a long line at
a table, he pans across the whole
row of exposed tushies and then -
to make charges of voyeurism hard
to deny - the row of naked breasts.
The queer chirpy drum and pipe mu-
sic which accompanies this scene
makes it seem even more ridiculous
and misconceived.
The movie does focus on
Campbell and research assistant Dr.
Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco). We
are condemned to nearly two hours

Sean, what are you thinking? First Highlander 11: Electric Boogaloo, now Hollywood Pictures' Medicine Man?

of banal, forced dialogue between
these two irritating people as they
meet, don't fall in love
(understandably) and go off on a trip
through the jungle in search of an
Indian medicine man and the cure
for cancer - which Campbell found
and then lost.
Connery, who conveys a steady
charm whether orbiting Jupiter or
commanding a submarine, suffers
little from the often nonsensical
script. Bracco (Goodfellas), on the
other hand, doesn't fare as well. The
movie's heavy reliance on the dia-
logue, which someone erroneously
decided was cute, along with the
script's poor definition of character
and psychological circumstance,

leave Bracco with nothing to offer
but an annoying New York accent
and a nice figure.
Probably one reason the movie is
so long is that Bracco delivers her
lines like Edith Bunker with
Novocain in her mouth. During most
of the movie, I was tempted to stand
up and scream out Sam Kinison's
trademark, "SAAAYYY IT!"
(Melanie Griffith has a similar diffi-
culty with speaking at normal
speeds).
Even if the pace was quicker, it
would do little more than get us out
of the theater sooner - faster pacing
doesn't help when the conflicts are
never particularly clear or interesting,
to begin with. Such social evils as

capitalistic disregard for the sanctity
of foreign ecologies and cultures are
clearly supposed to be present, but
they play second fiddle to Crane's
and Campbell's excruciating rela-
tionship.
It's never clear why the govern-
ment in this generic South American
region is building a road through the
Indians' home, or why they would
start bulldozing at night - or why
the laborers care so much about the
project that they actually beat
Campbell with sticks when he tries
to stop them. Such blurry presenta-
tions sap the movie of any possibili-
ties for tension or drama.
MEDICINE MAN is playing at
Showcase and Briarwood.

Unfortunately, Lorraine Bracco and Sean Connery do not swing to a violent
death at the end of Medicine Man.

* , II(
Thurber on Crime
James Thurber
Mysterious Press
S.O.S.! I was surrounded by a pile of magazines, an-
thologies, and journals, thoroughly exhausted from
frantically skimming millions of current words, hop-
ing beyond hope that I would find something written
for the sole purpose of amusing people. It wasn't Dave
Barry, God forbid, that I was looking for, but rather a
short story with an honest-to-goodness plot, written
with the intention of making people chuckle.
So what was the result of my quest? I found myself
wading, then swimming, and then carried away in a del-
uge of angst. Today's short stories take themselves way
too seriously, and drowning in the overwhelming
melancholia has become a serious threat.
Then a piece of driftwood floated by. It was, and I
am eternally grateful for it, the new collection,
0
Thurber's humor is always based
in the uncommon domain of the
common man, at once subtle and
hilarious.
Thurber on Crime. Just the thing for today's market -
there's nothing like it anymore (with the possible ex-
ception of Garrison Keillor). I suppose the powers that
be decided that if no one today will write like Thurber,
we may as well recycle the good, old stuff.
If Thurber on Crime is anything, it's fun. James
Thurber, dead now for over 30 years, was best known
for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and his work
*0

for the New Yorker. He gave the world a fascinating
array of material - from a Broadway show to those
bizarre and pleasantly unartistic cartoons. And, of
course, his writing.
Thurber is what a humorist ought to be. He doesn't
amuse by taking vicious swipes, nor does he create in-
credibly witty characters who spout epigrams that
have been carefully thought out or stolen from quick-
tongued acquaintances. Thurber's humor is always
based in the uncommon domain of the common man, at
once subtle and hilarious.
Thurber on Crime, you see, isn't a detailed collec-
tion of hard-core crime fiction, as the title might sug-
gest. It is instead an excuse to bring together some of
Thurber's work and publish it for a new generation to
discover, or an old one to recall. The book's crime con-
nection is tenuous at times, but most of the pieces are
close enough to forgive the editor, Robert Lopresti, for
wanting to slip in just one more of Thurber's whimsi-
cal tales.
The book's subjects range from feature articles
telling everything you ever wanted to know about
bloodhounds (a Thurber favorite) to an illustrated ac-
companiment to Poe's The Raven. Thurber also pens
delightfully warped half-page fairy tales (the moral to
his version of Little Red Riding Hood is "It is not so
easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.")
and manages to convince the reader that Macbeth is ac-
tually a murder mystery - and you'll never guess
who dunnit.
The most enjoyable story, though, is "The Catbird
Seat." If this were the only thing Thurber had ever
written, it would still deserve a book of its own. The
way in which the main character, Mr. Martin, (of
See BOOKS, Page 8

Joanou is
a deluded
Analysis
Final Analysis
dir. Phil Joanou
by Marie Jacobson

Billed "a psychological thriller,"
Final Analysis is plagued with
delusions of grandeur. A poorly-
made, poorly-developed Hitchcock
imitation, Analysis mistakenly fan-
cies itself as the epitome of sophis-
tication rather than the superfluous,
flatulent film audiences flocked to
last weekend.
The initial plot isn't without
some interesting twists and turns:
two beautiful sisters (Uma Thur-
man and Kim Basinger) meticu-
lously plan a murder and inge-
niously enlist an unwitting psy-
chologist (Richard Gere) to extri-
cate them with the insanity defense.
When the psychologist discovers
their devious plot, he must save
himself and expose the conniving
sisters for what they really are -
deadly psychopaths.
All goes relatively well until
the Basinger character must change
from a passive, abused wife to a cal-
culating killer. Then we discover, in
scene after scene, just what bad act-
ing is all about: goofy, imploring
looks; cross-eyed, maniacal laugh-
ter; choking, gulping sobs; and hy-
per-dramatic soliloquies.
It's enough to make you hurl.
Whoops, wrong movie - but at
least Garth and Wayne don't pre-
tend to be real actors.
The others fare slightly better.
Gere continues to revel in his anal-
retentive roles. Eric Roberts is con-
centratedly creepy as the gangster
husband who gets his head clonked

- ,

Hot, hot, hot. Gere and Basinger steam it up in the latest bomb from the
director of U2 Rattle and Hum. At least Gere's better looking than Bono.

I

vLeI
AJ

in, and Thurman artfully presents a
troubled, complex character. But in
this setting, with a second-rate de-
tective drama soundtrack, cheap
chills, and stagy cinematography,
nothing can rescue the film from
superfluity.
Analysis passes up every oppor-
tunity to explore the issues com-
prising its plot. Rather than explore
the very real pain experienced by
molested and abused women, the

film depicts them as deranged, hys-
terical crackpots.
It quickly condemns the insanity
defense without even the slightest
deference to the complexities of the
law and champions lame thrills
rather than a ethical dilemmas. My
diagnosis? Final Analysis is a com-
plete basket case.
FINAL ANALYSIS is playing at
Showcase and Briarwood.

S

won*

who what where when

0

Are you a concerned citizen for
the Arts in Michigan? Join local
professionals and hear what they
have to say in a free lecture entitled
"The Arts in a Market Econ-

the Trueblood Theatre, 105 South
State, at 7 p.m. Call 663-0696.
Feelin' blue? The smooth sounds
of the a cappella group, The Mel-

information, call 936-ARTS.
For a good dose of culture, check
out Tuesday's Campus Orchestra-
Campus Chamber Orchestra, with

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