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'Frank's' fright obscured by melodrama
By FRED RICE
If you thought the recent monster
flick "Brain Stoker's Dracula" was
excessive, well wait till you see this.
Directed by Kenneth1
Robert DeNiro and
In the first five minutes of this
epic, a ship is nearly washed over by
a tidal wave and dogs have their heads
smashed. Dr. Frankenstein (Kenneth
Branagh) gets drenched in amniotic
fluid. He cavorts through a 19th cen-
tury laboratory like a dancer with the
Geneva Ballet Co., shouting, "It's
alive! It's alive!" A very ugly crea-
ture (Robert DeNiro) stands before a
house in flames and cries to the heav-
ens that he will have his revenge on
the illustrious doctor.
These overwrought scenes and
others in "Mary Shelley's Franken-
stein" resemble material from a 19th
century novel. Of course, the film's
source material is the 19th century
novel of the same name, but Branagh,
as director, doesn't try to tone it down.
He and the rest of the cast ham it up
even further. This otherwise terrify-
ing film is laden with melodrama.
Staying true to Shelley's novel,
Dr. Frankenstein constructs a crea-
ture with the spare parts of humans.
The creature comes to life in a chemi-
cal vat rather than being struck by a
lightening volt. It is incredibly intel-
ligent and articulate rather than a stu-
pid, lumbering 200 pound meat pup-
pet (ala Boris Karloff) that strangles
everyone along the Swiss country-
side. This is also the first Franken-
stein feature set in the same century as
the novel. All the glorious 18th cen-
tury apparel, housing and cityscapes
But the important themne of the
book - the limits of science and the
social responsibility that it brings -
is reduced in favor of gushy love
scenes between Dr. Frankenstein and
his step sister (Helena Bonham-
Carter) that bring too much romance
into the story.
This would be OK in another
Branagh film, say his fluffy adapta-
tion of Shakespeare's "Much Ado
About Nothing." This would even be
tolerable here if the story did a better
job of explaining their love, but in
most scenes they only swoon in an-
ticipation of their upcoming marriage.
It is this inexplicable melodrama that
does not fit the story's epic scope, nor
combine well with its darker themes.
Branagh's performance as Dr.
Frankenstein makes him too likable.
He does become manic when he as-
sembles brains and guts, but he gets
along with his friends and family oth-
erwise. Supposedly the audience
should feel sympathy toward him as
the creature hounds and tortures his
soul, but Branagh looks too happy
starring in what he directs.
But after wading through all the
wretched excess, there are plenty of
horrific moments, delivered prima-
rily by DeNiro's sympathetic perfor-
mance as the creature. Even though
he commits gruesome acts of vio-
lence (you might want to cover your
eyes), he still evinces the confusion of
an abandoned child and the desperate
loneliness of a wandering pariah.
And boy, is this creature hideous
looking. His head is stitched together
like a baseball and like many base-
balls, looks like it has been thrown
about for too many innings.
DeNiro makes this overwrought
FRANKENSTEIN is playing at
Kenneth Branagh ravishes Helena Bonham-Carter in "Frankenstein"
By SHANE MICHAELS
When it comes to live theater, there are good scripts and
there are bad scripts. A playwright creates a working plot
*nd dialogue and then hands it over to a director to interoret,
which is executed by actors, designers and technicians.
Because of the nature of this process, there can be poor
November 5, 1994
and excellent pro-
ductions of poor
The latter is
the case for
" I c a r u s ' s
Mother," the early
Sam Shepard piece that was given a new treatment by
Basement Arts this past weekend in the Arena Theatre.
The one-act play concerns a group of friends who have
gathered for their annual outing to watch the Fourth of July
fireworks. The plot surrounds the group's individual reac-
tions to a pilot flying a fighter-plane through the sky.
But the trivial plot is contrived as a representation of
something much larger: The struggle for the identity of the
male ego in American society. Bill and Frank are the
traditionalists; frustrated and uncomfortable with the gender
power shift that they are witnessing.
By way of Shepard's sporadic, surrealistic script, Bill
and Frank begin to see the fighter-plane as something more
than just a pilot's joy ride. You guessed it, Neo-Freudians!
The fighter-plane is the phallic representation of the male
ego, conquering the sky and leaving trails of gas like
territorial - well, you get the point. From here the play
becomes a struggle for Bill and Frank to contact their
collective identity as they are obstructed by the rising
Female (Pat and Jill, their girlfriends or wives), and the
reformed Male (Howard).
The main weakness of this production is not found in the
director's interpretation or the actors' execution, but in
Shepard's script. In focusing so much effort on the subjec-
tive reality of the male identity struggle, Shepard has given
us characters devoid of plausibility and a play-fabric full of
motivational holes. It is hard to feel sympathy for characters
that do not function logically.
In this production, commendations are well-deserved.
The scenery is perfect - a huge phallic tree stands in the
middle of the theater (the Arena is setup in-the-round), large
and inhibiting as the focus of attention. It is surrounded by
a swing and a picnic blanket littered with empty beer cans
and potato chip bags, as reverence to the Old Male Ego.
The actors, given the difficult task of providing motiva-
tion within such an impersonal conflict, play genuinely and
at times powerfully (in the case of the frantic, final scene
where it is discovered that the fighter-plane has crashed).
Nick D.F. de Abruzzo's direction is also to be com-
mended. The staging is fascinating (if overwhelming at
times), and is in excellent sync with the jumpy rhythm of the
The director and production succeed in being faithful to
the script. Unfortunately, in the case of "Icarus," this faith-
fulness only makes the audience more painfully aware of the
script's inevitable problems-problems that stick out, well,
like gas trails from a phallic fighter-plane in the sky.
By TOM ERLEWINE
Velvet Crush are not a hip band.
They aren't popular, but they play pop
music, in the classic sense of the word.
And they play pop music very well, as
their new record, "Teenage Sympho-
nies to God" proves.
Since they wear their love for guitar
pop on their sleeve, it's easy to pigeon-
hole Velvet Crush as a retro-band. But
it's also wrong. Velvet Crush don't
replicate the past, they expand it. Cer-
tain hooks sound like the Byrds, some
harmonies sound like the Beach Boys
and they can rock like the Replace-
ments, but the band never sounds like
they are living in the past.
"I am completely well-aware that
it's 1994," said drummer Ric Menck,
"and I have no desire for it to be 1968.
I'm perfectly content to make the mu-
sic that we're making at this time, and
have it be judged on whether it's good
or bad, not whether it's hip or unhip."
Instead of treating pop as amuseum
piece, the band breathes life into clas-
sic song conventions. The band does
adhere to some pop traditions; they
structured their album like an old pop
's pop wraps
record -12 songs in 40 minutes. "We
spent forever trying to make it be a
listening experience from start to fin-
ish," said Menck. "'Teenage' is sup-
posed to take you on an emotional sort
of ride lyrically and musically."
Critics have been quick to praise
the band, yet commercial success has
been a little more difficult to come by.
"People in general don't know who we
are," said Menck, "because we don't
have the advantage of having a video
on MTV, which seems to be whatmakes
you popular these days." Velvet Crush
tried to fit into MTV's strict require-
ments, but they failed. "The first(video)
we did was rejected by MTV for being
too smart-alecky," explained Menck.
"Words would flash on the screen,
saying 'Buy Our Record.' I guess it
was a little too brutal for the sensibili-
ties of MTV."
While their popularity has been in-
creasing in the past year, it isn't likely
that Velvet Crush will be as popular in
the US as they are in Japan any time
soon. "We're really popular in Japan
-they chase us down the street there,"
said Menck. "I'm into it for like a day,
and then you want to go to the store and
buy acokeor something and people are
on top of you. I can't imagine what that
would be like everyday of your life. It's
cool that we go to Japan for ten days
and then we're outta there, so it's over
VELVET CRUSH will openfor The
Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy
Star at the State Theater in Detroit
tonight. Tickets are $18.50 in
advance; the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Call 313-961-5450 for details.
Nothing beats a good night of kung fu and 'Drunken' boxing
By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
In the art of kung fu there is simply
no substitute for discipline. With the
possible exception of getting really,
really sauced up during a fight.
W Master II
BWritten and Directed
by Lau Kar Leung;
with Jackie Chan
So goes the lesson of "Drunken
Master II," in which Jackie Chan re-
prises his 1978 role as Wong Fei-Hung
(in the original "Drunken Master") as
China's early 20th century leading
master of "drunken boxing." Sweet
alcohol eases the pain once more as
Hung's unorthodox style confounds
his enemies with his off-balance an-
Naturally, his father, another ac-
complished kung fu master, is dis-
pleased with his son's drunken boxing,
dismissing it as crude, ineffective and
just plain ridiculous. He finally had his
son convinced to dismiss the drunken
boxing after Wong had too much of a
*good thing in one particular fight and
got the puss beat out of him.
Yet when a priceless Chinese jade
heirloom is attempted to be smuggled
away by those imperialistic bastards
the British and their assimilated, for-
eign ass-kissing, suit-and-tie-wearing
Chinese henchmen, it's drunken box-
ing to the rescue.
But no one came to see intricate
plot amidst all the kung fu shenani-
gans. If that is what you're interested
in, you'd certainly head on down to the
Alyssa Milano insta-classic, "Double
Dragon," her finest work since the teen
steam fitness video. No, this film is
here to be enjoyed if you want good
old-fashioned fighting, and there's
plenty of it. According to the film it
would seem that every Chinese person
practices kung fu and shows it off at
evervvossibleinstance. Yet that really
shouldn't count against the picture; it
would have really been dull watching
soul-searching attempts at arbitration
rather than a tasty succession of ass-
Sure there is some of the requisite,
Confucian/fortune cookie advice, but
it is much more downplayed than in the
average kung fu flick. The drunken
boxing-and in particular the beat-red
face of Chan when he gets loaded and
makes his best Ernest P. Worrell ex-
pressions while pummeling his oppo-
nent - give it a near slapstick feel.
Chan is part-Carradine and part-Curly.
The extreme ridiculousness of his char-
acter provide the film with the ele-
ments of guilty pleasure and harmless
fun that are its charm.
The Michigan theater will be ex-
hibiting "Drunken Master II" tonight
to be followed by the original, in a full
night of drinking and fighting at its best
since "Road House." These two
"Drunken Master" films will be a rare
opportunity to see kung fu flicks in a
theater and plus, if you're lucky, all of
your nerdy "True Romance" fantasies
will come true and Patricia Arquette
will try to pick you up in the theater,
even if she is paid for.
Despite all of the obvious lowbrow
flaws, these kung fu flicks are a hell of
a lot of fun and a much better piece of
escapism than these video game turned
films, with or without Alyssa Milano.
Now if they could only get Justine
Bateman to star in "Sonic the Hedge-
hog," that would be a different story.
DRUNKEN MASTER I, to be
followed by DRUNKEN MASTER,
will be playing tonight only at the
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Serving Students since 1970.
Muslim Student's Association
Islamic Awareness Week
Monday, November 7
Brown Bag Discussion "The African American Experience"
Speaker: Dr. Mukthar Curtis Couzens 1:30 - 3:30
Dorm Presentation "Introduction to Islam"
Speaker: Mr. Kamran Bajwa West Quad 5:45pm
Tesday, November 8
Lecture "Significance and Meaning Behind
Practices of Islam"
Speaker: Imam Saleem Khalid Law Quad Rm. 100 7pm
Wednesday, November 9
Brown Bag Discussion "Women in Islam"
Speaker: Sister Caroline Al-Qadi
Stockwell Blue Lounge 1:30-3:00pm
Thursday, November 10
Dorm Presentation "An Introduction to Islam"
Speaker: Mr. Kamran Bajwa Markley 5pm
Lecture "Islam in America"
INTENSIVE MCAT PREPARATION