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January 25, 1995 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-25

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ARTS

'Murder' an open-and-shut case

By PRASHANT TAMASKAR
The Courtroom Drama. An in-
tense, psychological experience or
a hell date with Wapner? While
"Murder in the First", the latest from
director Marc Rocco is based on a
fascinating true story, in recycling
such an old technique the producers
have failed to develop anything sub-
stantial or engaging.
Kevin Bacon is Henry Young, a
convict at the Alcatraz prison in the
San Francisco Bay. An unsuccess-
ful escape attempt places him in
solitary confinement for an indefi-
nite amount of time. There he is
punished physically and mentally.
Upon his release three years later,
Young immediately kills the man
who told the guards about his plan
to escape. He is put on trial for
murder. His attorney, James
Stamphill (Christian Slater) is a re-
cent law school graduate who has
never tried a case. The rest of the
movie centers on the relationship
between Stamphill and Young, and
the trial itself.

Although the characters are rather
predictable and one-dimensional,
there are a few excellent performances
in the movie. Bacon is brilliant as the

W HMurder in
theFIrst
Directed by Marc Rocco
with Christian Slater
and Kevin Bacon
man who was put in jail for the federal
offense of stealing five dollars from a
post office.
Slater's character is your typical
young hot shot Harvard graduate
who is trying to escape from the
shadow of his successful older
brother. He plays the part well, but
that doesn't really make up for the
lack of creativity in the role. And of
course, this film would not be com-
plete without the malicious warden
who enjoys abusing his power. This

time it is played by Gary Oldman,
who thankfully is fairly restrained
as Warden Glenn. However, the
movie never displays the other side
of this man, focusing only on his
cruelty.
This story about how the jail sys-
tem turned a man into a killer is really
quite remarkable. To its credit, it also
raises an important issue: Are we fully
responsible for our actions? Stamphill
uses the argument that Young was
only the weapon, and that Alcatraz
was the true murderer. However,
"Murder in the First" should be lauded
simply for being daring enough to
bring up this issue, especially at a
time when conservatism is extremely
popular.
But being daring is not enough.
And even though the production does
have its moments, such as the use of
mock news reels, these moments are
few and far between. Besides the
aforementioned characterizations,
Stamphill has trouble communicat-
ing with his client. But when they do,
a strong bond forms.

Christian Slater and Kevin Bacon play grown-up in the thrilling new coutroom drama "Murder in the First."

The one-sided plot and unorigi-
nal characters end up spoiling this
movie. However, for "Murder in the

---7

First," this is truly unfortunate, con-
sidering the fact that because of its
remarkable story line, this film could

have been outstanding.
MurdnTinthe irsUis laing~at
Briarwood and Showcase.

'Immortal'
By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
Borrowing heavily from "Citizen
Kane" and rather little from the purported
actualeventsofLudwigVanBeethoveen's
life, "Immortal Beloved"isapoignant tale
of an artist struggling to create despite an
increasing handicap hidden amongstavat
of speculation upon the source of his
unnamed affection.
If the filmis to be believed, when the
lovely, lovely Ludwig van finally suc-
cumbedtodeath in the early 19thCentury
he willed his estateto amysterious woman
whom he titled his, "immortal beloved."
Historians acknowledge that the immortal
beloved letter existed, but deny that it was
a will; instead claiming it was nothing
more than an unsent mash note.
Yet if the fact that a near-biography
has historical inaccuracy at its base can
be ignored, "Immortal Beloved" is a
worthwhile effort.
The narrative of the film is told in a
flashback-detective style highly remi-
niscent of "Citizen Kane." Just as a
reporter attempting to decipher the
meaning of "Rosebud," Charles Foster
Kane's final word, this film is struc-
tured around Beethoven's secretary at-
tempting to unlock the mystery of who

a tantalizing illusion
his immortal beloved was, his increasing deafness yet struggles to
Gary Oldman's portrayal of ignoreit,todeny it,andtocreate amidstthe
Beethoven is a remarkably low-key tri- increasing loss. Beethoven's leaning into
the piano in an attempt to amplify the
"Moonlight Sonata" may never have hap-
pened; he may not have even been deaf at
Immortal the time of its conception, butitmakes for
poignant cinema.
Beloved Yet amidst Oldman's portrayal is
Directed by Bernard Rose that underlying fact amidst the supposi-
tions: Writer-DirectorBernard Rosejust
with Gary Oldman and simply didn't care to get the facts
Isabella Rossellini straight.
Rose didn't care about the skeletal
umph, particularly for an actor who too events of Beethoven's life, only the dra-
often (particularly in his more recent matic connotations raised by his loss of
films) revels in over dramatic rantings hearing andhis unrequited love. The sepa-
and overt displays of machismo. Yet ration of the specific events of the man's
Oldman's Beethoven is sensitive and life from the more abstract human emo-
vulnerable; haunted both by his unspo- tions of loss and frustration he felt didn't
ken love for an unknown woman (al- need to occur. An otherwise engaging
though the film pretends to be able to dramaisthemfore,likeRogerMaris'home-
unlock the mystery) and his growing run record, rendered an asterisk. Despite
deafness. its triumphs it is somehow unfairly tainted.
Beethoven's loss of hearing - the The enjoyment of the film is almost un-
source of his ability to create - provides avoidable; the appreciation of this film
thefilm'smosttouchingmoments. Again, can, and should be had, but must sadly be
as in the pining for his character's love, it done at the expense of reality.

An older-but-better Tom Jones remains the king
By BEN EWY melange of bar flies, Detroit club kids, of shaking hands with people from the
Tom Jones has entered the world overaged Don Juans, geriatric crowd and he even took time out to sign
of the hyper-cool. Jones has bridged boogiers and jet-set trend setters. Jones a vinyl copy of his first album. He was
a musical generation gap and the was somehow able to please all of the dressed immaculately and changed his
audience he attracts is equal parts outfit with each set. Jones also per-
adult and teenager. His show at the - formed a small striptease by first taking
State Theater Friday night proved off his sport coat and then slowly unbut-
the type of wide appeal Tom Jones toning his shirt throughout his sets much
has which is due to his ability to to the crowds delight.
switch musical genres with flawless ,!State Theater Jones also showed why he has
panache. January13, 1995 earned his way into the sex symbol
The audience was an ecclectic club. His gyrations and hip thrusts
demographics and still have a won- would have made Elvis blush. Jones
derful time himself. The air was filled sauntered his way across the stage
with a combination of marijuana, like a tiger in heat and had problems
Designer Imposters perfumes and raw keeping his hands off of his member.
sexual tension. Jones coyly teased the audience into a
The music was both campy and frenzy and his final bow was appro-
classic. His covers for the night cov- priately enough with his derriere to
ered a wide range of generations and the crowd. Jones was too much for
artists, everything from Yaz to the many of the women who littered the
Black Crowes to Sam and Dave. More stage with a storm of panties while
than a cover-artist, all of the songs Jones, unaffected, crooned his way
that Jones sang were refracted through through "What's New Pussycat."
his soulful, gravelly voice, An evening of pure entertainment,
He was the consummate gentle- Jones proved that you don't need to
man, taking a bow after each song stop partying when you hit thirty.
and complimenting the crowd. Jones Hats off to Jones for letting us all
has always been conscious of treating know that there's nothing wrong with
Tom Jones wants to rock your world his audience well and he made a point being more than a little bit tacky.

is Oldm
success.

an's restraint which makes this a
Beethoven is obviously aware of

IMMORTAL BELOVED is playing
at Showcase.

Beatnik spiders, hippie elves, Bilbo ii

By ROBERT YOON
Die-hard fans of J.R.R.
Tolkien's "The Hobbit" may
bristle at all of the beatnik spi-
ders, the hippie elves and the other
creative dalliances that pepper the
Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild's
(YAG) stage adaptation of the fa-
mous fantasy tome, but I have a
feeling that the ol' Tolk-meister
himself would have given the pro-
duction two trollish thumbs up,
assuming (of course) that trolls
have thumbs.
Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit" in
1937 as a gift to his children, so it is
quite fitting that YAG's "Hobbit,"
which premiered Friday at the Per-
formance Network, was written and
developed primarily by people too
young to see a PG-13 movie without
an accompanying adult. The script
was a collaborative effort by direc-
tor Joanna Woodcock, 16-year-old
assistant director Andrea Grieb, and
40 YAG performers, ranging in age
from eight to 13.
"The Hobbit" is a memory play
as told by Bilbo Baggins (Kim
Jacobson), the lead hobbit / narra-
tor. Perched on a rock and dressed
like either Bartles or Jaymes, he
remembers when he was recruited
by the wizard Gandalf (Nathan
Power) to join an expedition to smite
the evil dragon Smaug. Along the
way, young Bilbo (Philip Pappas)
and his dwarf comrades encountered
a variety colorful foes, including
three hunger-crazed cowboy trolls
and a gang of leather-jacketed, ban-
danna-coifed goblins.
The entire cast shouldered their
acting duties quite well, but the run-

away performance of the evening
easily was that of Nathan Power.
Sporting a subtle pony-tail and a

head. Talk about erudite literary ref-
erences.
The final battle scene looked
eerily like a fraternity party gone
wrong, with throngs of boisterous,
flannel-clad, backwards-baseball-
cap-wearing dwarves trashing some-
one else's property.
Despite an errant wig and a loud
buzzing noise through part of Act
Two, YAG cleverly and resource-
fully recreated Bilbo's world using

drag: highlights from the
music, lighting and several inven- of the Performance Network's cyni
tive props. One prop, however, clumsily designed stage. The that
should have been left home - Network's trademark pole, firmly all,
Gandalf's "wand," an ordinary bi- planted in the middle of the room Gen
cycle reflector which Power used so as to obscure the view of every THE
repeatedly to blind the audience (on single audience member, was dis- 29 a
purpose, I think, but I don't have guised as a tree. This wins my (418
proof). award for Best Use of a Crummy are
Set designers Charlie Grieb, Building. p.m.
Ron Pisoni, and Patrick Powers Well-done as it is, "The Hobbit" 7:36
deserve kudos for their cavernous probably is better suited for younger Tick
creations, which made clever use audiences than for the brooding and Call

'Hobbit'
ical '90s college scene. But
's the way it should be. After
Tolkien didn't write this for
eration X.
EHofBrT7Jiays January26
at the Performance Network
8 W. Washington). Showtimes
Thursday and Friday at 7:30
Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and
0 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
ets are $6 adults, $4 hobbits.
663-0681.

The Hobbit
The Performance Network
January 20, 1995
Hari Krishna-esque tunic, Power
was quite at ease playing the aged
wizard Gandalf. Jacobson and
Pappas also logged solid perfor-
mances as Bilbo, although young
Bilbo was played by a male and
adult Bilbo by a female. Perhaps
they explain this in the sequel,
"Hobbit II: The Crying Game."
Without a rigid script to follow,
the actors got to add an elementary
school playground spin to the pro-
duction. In one scene, Bilbo won a
riddle contest by asking, "What do
you call Batman and Robin after
they've been run over?" (Flatman
and Ribbon). Later, he saves his
dwarf friends by luring away their
arachnid captors with a barrage of
"Your Mama" insults: "Your mama
is so stupid, she (insert disparaging
remark here)."
But the laughs didn't stop there!
In a scene that may be too intense
for younger audiences, the cowboy
trolls systematically bludgeoned
each dwarf with a stuffed sheep.
The ensuing vision of dwarf car-
nage was mildly reminiscent of the
"Bunny Foo Foo" song, wherein the
aforementioned bunny scoops up
field mice and "bops" them on the

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