10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 29, 1996
By Neal C. Camrth
Daily Arts Writer
The new science fiction picture
"Screamers" is a dismal, sloppy effort
that might, however, appeal to fans of
the genre. Sci-fi has been bankrupt cre-
atively of late in the movies and
"Screamers" is but one more indication
of this malaise.
The film establishes a convoluted,
intra-galactic system of power relations
that is set in the year 2078. Colonel
Joseph Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is
head of the Alliance forces on one sec-
tor of the planet Sirius 6B. The Alliance
has been formed to oppose the New
Economic Bloc(N.E.B.), aruthless car-
tel that has exploited the resources of
planets throughout the galaxy.
After being double-crossed by his
own superiors, Hendricksson decides
to single-handedly bring an end to the
futile war that has persisted for years.
So, he ventures out into the apocalyptic
wasteland (filmed in Quebec), domi-
nated by nuclear winter, high levels of
radiation and autonomous mobile
swords, or "Screamers."
These Screamers (their name derives
from the paralyzing, high-pitched squeal
they emit when they attack) are little
computerized killing machines that were
originally crafted by the Alliance in
their struggle against the N.E.B. But
Win Free Tickets
to Michael Hoffman's
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All you have to do is
answer this one question: In
what Jodie Foster-directed
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answer and WIN!
Weird Jumanji'is caught in the jungle.
"1'd rather shoot myself than be in another movie this dumb." - Jennifer Rubin
By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
Think of"Jumanji" and along comes
an image of wild animals stampeding
through suburbia. There's undeniable,
enormous demented fun in this se-
quence; no wonder an absolutely iden-
tical scene can be found in Terry
Gilliam's "12 Monkeys," working to
an equally gleeful effect (has our con-
cern for the environment mutated into a
masochistic desire for it to crush us?).
The rest of"Jumanj i," however, looks
more like an elaborate excuse for these
scenes, a standard plot padding cush-
ioning shards of inventiveness and wit.
"Jumanji" is an ancient, mysterious
board game, a slightly less malevolent
second cousin to "The Witchboard."
We see it unearthed in the '60s by a
troubled young fellow named Alan
Parrish. He shows the game to his girl-
friend and together they figure out the
simple rules. With each roll of the dice,
the game throws increasingly impos-
sible tasks at you, calling out hungry
beasties from some alternate universe
to chase you around the house.
And there's no doubt that the unwanted
guests aren't fugitives from a local zoo: In
an interesting creative coup, the special
effects team has reversed the approach
used in "Jurassic Park." Unfathomable
monsters in Spielberg's movie were made
to look as real as possible. In "Jumanji,"
more or less familiar animals-lions and
monkeys - are eerie, sneering and dis-
Joe Johnston; with
Robin Williams and
Alan Parrish rolls the dice and gets
physically sucked into the game via a
fairly cheesy "Brainscan"-style visual.
Fast-forward to the present day, where
the game is discovered by a girl (Kirsten
Dunst) and her younger brother. Now,
these kids are even more troubled than
Parrish ever was - their parents have
just died in a car crash, and the boy
shuts himself off from the world com-
(now played by Bonnie Hunt), as we
learn, went through years of therapy
and Prozac to block out Alan's dra-
matic exit from her memory.
The first half of "Jumanji" practi-
cally overflows with dark, disturbing
- and surprisingly unnecessary -
undercurrents. Fortunately, after about
an hour into the film, the melancholy
setup section is over and the dice are
rolled once again. Bearded, idiot sa-
vant-ish Alan (Robin Williams) reap-
pears from the board, insisting that the
game is played to the end so its conse-
quences can be erased; the rest of the
movie hurtles along at a brisk pace,
shuffling scenes and setpieces like cards.
The action itself is genuinely exciting
stuff. A tropical rain floods the house
from the inside, and crocodiles immedi-
ately start circling in the puddles. An
army of much more than 12 monkeys
invades a sleepy New England town. A
carnivorous plant devours a police car,
delicately folding it in half. A lightning
bolt splits a Victorian mansion. In oth*
words, we get good surrealistic fun thr
has as much to do with Walt Disney as it
does with Jan Szwankmeier. The only
problem is that'we are, in fact, stuck
watching the action rather than the char-
acters in it. "Jumanji" is simply not very
interested in its humans.
Robin Williams remains in his "Being
Human"mode- sad, serious and under-
stated; he's also reduced to the "Don't go
there!" role ofa jungle guide to the ki
Bonnie Hunt definitely deserves bet
than playing a second banana to an
animatronic monkey. Asforthe kids them-
selves, the girl, for some reason, takes
every outlandish plot development for
granted; the boy turns into a werewolf
halfway through the movie and becomes
a tad hard to relate to.
Maybe the filmmakers were trying to
make a point that the poor kids are so
shell-shocked by their own private di-
saster that even frenzied forces of n
ture can't bother them anymore. That,
a pretty powerful statement, come to
think of it. Then again, the worst pos-
sible thing one can do to a fantasy-
adventure flick is make the characters
indifferent to their predicament.
with Peter Weller and
transcend the limitations of the role.
His is the only compelling character
and,intheend,theonly onethat doesn't
turn out to be a Screamer.
The film's principal shortcomings
can be traced to director Christian
Duguay. His handling of narrative is so
murky that even though he attaches a
spoken preface at the beginning, the
first quarter of the film is needlessly
confusing. And once Hendricksson sets
out on his quest for peace and the
Screamers assume center stage, the
premise is of little import.
Duguay's camerawork is clunky and
rather awkward at times. His approach
to scenes is like Joe Camcorder trying
to be Antonioni. And the pace is such
that I was continually checking my
watch to see how much longer I would
have to endure this mess.
The source material for "Screamers"
is the interesting work of the late sci-
ence-fiction novelist Philip K. Dick,
whose writings have served as the in-
spiration for films such as "Blade Run-
ner" and "Total Recall." "Screamers"
is based upon his 1952 short story "Sec-
ond Variety." It deals with Dick'spromi-
nent theme of the blurring of the line
betiveen man and machine in
scenes is like Joe
to be Antonioni.
But screenwriters Dan O'Bannon
("Alien" and "Total Recall") and Miguel
Tej ada-Fl ores ("Revenge of the Nerds")
reveal little knack for theniatic explora-
tion and instead have scripted a con-
ventional schlock film, replete with gory
killings and a curvy love interest (Jen-
Be a good droid and stay away from
now the Screamers have begun to re-
produce on their own and they are
achieving more and more sophisticated
forms (including a waifish little boy).
No one understands the Screamers and
no one can stop them. I
Weller gives a fine performance as
the.weary, embittered Hendricksson.
Though much of his dialogue is laugh-
able and the role is not very well-writ-
ten, Weller's personality allows him to
L __ 1
Amm A J- -W m1b. -W
The DeRoy Professor in Honors
will give a lecture titled
"Risk and Reward;
The Role of Risk in Return"
Tuesday, January 30 at 4:00 pm
in the Askwith Auditorium,
140 Lorch Hall.
Continued from Page 8A
group's finest songs over the years,
including"The Spiderand the Fly," one
of their earliest originals, "I'm Free,"
"Wild Horses," "Angie" and Keith
Richards' overlooked gem "Slipping
Away" off the "Steel Wheels" album.
Along with "Like a Rolling Stone," the
Stones cover "Not Fade Away" and
Willie Dixon's "Little Baby."
Consummate performers that they
are, the Rolling Stones sound great on
every track, and "Stripped" has a live,
fresh feel to its sound.
This version of "Street Fighting
Man" won't be the soundtrack to any
riots, but the point of the album is to
capture the band in an off-the-cuff
way, and that it does. Fans won't be
disappointed by "Stripped"'s laid-
back, informal air. As a bonus,
"Stripped" also contains live videos
' of "Shattered," "Tumbling Dice" and
"Like a Rolling Stone" on the CD-
ROM portion of the disc. It may be
"Stripped" but it's still a part of the
full Stones experience.
- Heather Phares
A Rough Z'Aggin Bible
Here I am, Mr. Nice Guy, trying to
give the nobody rapper BAM a chance
to prove he's worth a sumpin'-sumpin,'
right? So I pop "A Rough Z'Aggin
Bible" in the ol' CD player and listen to
"Intro" where BAM goes on and on
about how he's the man and the playa
hatas need to recognize - you know,
the same lame-ass lines all thenobodies
try to spit.
But, I think to myself, you can't judge
an entire CD by its intro. So I go on to
cut two, the title track. The beats (like
every other beat on this CD) are awful;
the lyrics (like every other lyric on this
CD) are awful. Pathetically, the only
unique thing I can say about this song is
it's the first time I've heard a rapper use
the word "sperm."
"So what if the first song sucks," I
say out loud to no one in particular.
"There are 15 more cuts; some are
bound to be decent." Fifteen more
cuts to listen to without falling asleep.
FIFTEEN MORE SONGS! GOD
I try to crack a smile. The next song,
"Fuck the Lawz," destroys the attempt.
From his "fuck the police" stance to the
use of a "z" instead of an "s"in the title,
BAM seems to openly concede that
he's the rap equivalent of Milli Vanilli.
But even Milli Vanilli could fool the
public for a while.
Needless to say, the endless bom-
bardment of dry, tasteless cuts like
"Blaze Witcha Boy," "Shakem Well"
and "Thugminded" eventually took
their toll on my sanity. To free my
mind from the demented BAM de-
mons, I did what any rapanthropist
would do. "A'Rough Z'Aggin Bible"
has now contributed to the nation's
- Eugene Bowen
are obviously happy to show off their
musical abilities on a project of this
sort. Like ska, the record is pure bliss;
Like jazz, the songs are thick in texture,
instrumentation and writing - three
things that sometimes fall between the
cracks in the usually carefree world of
Along with covers of Monk's "I Me9
You" and Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song
are fun originals like "Prime Suspect"
and "Don Tojo" with their dripping
bass lines and jumpy horns. The rest of
the disc is equally as enjoyable - a
definite thrill for a ska, jazz or any type
of music fan.
- Brian A. Gnatt
New York Ska-Jazz
New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble
Probably the most innovative ska
record in a long while, the New York
Ska-Jazz Ensemble's self-titled debut
throws a bit of variety into the batch of
everyday ska and jazz and shakes them
up to create a great groovin' and
skankin' ska record.
With their homegrown off-beat
skankable jazz, the New York Ska-
Four Rooms Original Motion
"Various Artists" gives a somewhat
incorrect impression of the soundtrack
to the current film by Quentin Tarantino,
Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez and
The vast majority of the whopping
tracks on this album are composed and
performed by Sub Pop's lounge lizards
Combustible Edison, whose loopy,
cheesy sonic pastiches fit the movie,
whose central character is a franticbell-
hop named Ted.
There will be time for Q and