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September 15, 1997 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-09-15

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 15, 1997 - 9A

Uplifting
M 011
Daily Arts Writer
In the near-phenomenal British
import "The Full Monty," six guys are
huddled around a security-circuit TV in
dilapidated factory building. They are
tching a shoplifted copy of
"Flashdance"; Jennifer Beals, in full
welder's getup, is basking in a shower
of white sparks.
"I hope she dances better than she
welds,"suddenly notes one in slight dis-
gust. "Look, what is this?" The others
nod in full agreement. They know what
they're talking about.
High concept, Brit style: unemployed
'_l. factory workers start a male strip
ue! What could have been an
unsightly piece of self-conscious
smarm (and would have been, if the
script found its way across the Atlantic),
instead reveals itself to be a bright,
Richard Lester-
esque fable; it's as
life-affirming a RE
story as can be told
about guys in the The
welfare line dis-
Avering the plea-
sures of really dirty At Mi

Right up your 'Ally': Fox's
smart, soapy 'McBeal' shines

"You want us to do what?" William Snape, Mark Addy, Robert Carlysle, Steve Huison and Tom Wilkinson are unemployed steel
workers aghast at the possibility of going "The Full Monty."

stances; he's like a fugitive from the set
of Mike Leigh's improv-fest "Life Is
Sweet," wandering into a real plot for a
change.
The film, meanwhile, shamelessly
piles on every let's-put-on-a-show-to-
save-the-old-orphanage trick, every
motivational McGuffin in the book.

One of the guys
VIEW
Full Monty
chigan and Showcase

needs the money to
keep the custody of
his son. Another
never mustered the
gall to tell his wife
he's unemployed,
and lives by max-
ing out card after
card. Yet another is
battling suicidal

this is still going to sell out theaters in
Peoria, Ill., lies in a bizarrely innocent
approach the authors have to the sub-
ject. The dancers are so intimidated by
the looming prospect of public disrob-
ing that they take all the potential dis-
comfort from the audience and upon
themselves. Try frowning if the story
makes its own characters queasier than
you'll ever be.
And there's not much to frown about
either, as the film nearly devoid of
female characters actually turns femi-
nist around the edges: the men cope
with the fact that they are being judged
solely on the basis of their appearance,
only to realize that they don't have to be
- ha!
"The Full Monty" finds the elusive
right tone and keeps it: a mix of good-
natured pity toward its hapless protago-
nists and genuine reverence before their
collective drive - regardless of the
result.
And here's the main joke: the result is
not half bad. In the climactic Big Show,
the dancers make up in enthusiasm for
what they lack in finesse - and the
crowd, on screen and off, goes wild.

When those knickers do fly off, it's at
once a triumph of the will, an affirma-
tion of the all-in-fun philosophy -- and
a mass mooning of the world that
makes this idiocy possible. In the end,
the word that comes to mind to describe
"The Full Monty" is, oddly enough,
"uplifting," and I now leave you to pun
on this epithet at will.

By Bryan Lark
Daily Arts Editor
Are you ready for some football?
Monday Night Football, that is.
Although it may be a shock to many,
including advertisers and network pro-
grammers, the answer to this question
will not always be a resounding "Yes."
After years of being subjected to the
likes of "Pauly" on Fox; long-dead
"Murphy Brown" on CBS; a Wayans
brother on the WB and something star-
ring Meredith Baxter or Tori Spelling
on NBC, one network has finally found
a suitable alterna-
tive to the gridiron
for those who R
know the last quar-
ter of a game is
most important.
That alternative
is Fox's offbeat,L
promisinging new
soapy comedic drama, "Ally McBeal'
airing convienently opposite Monday
Night Football from 9-10 p.m.
Starring Calista Flockhart of "The
Birdcage" semi-fame as Ally,
"McBeal" tells the story of witty,
resourceful single gal Ally trying to
make it as a big city lawyer.
I know what you're thinking -
"That Girl" meets "L.A. Law." Maybe
so, but "Ally McBeal" manages to rise
above formula with one cheesy, though
engaging, gimmick. Said gimmick is
the appearance of Ally's Walter Mitty-
like fantasies, quips and inner thoughts
in the form of surreal and often hilari-
ous effects-laden asides.
This feeling that the audience is in on
all of Ally's secrets creates an immedi-
ate bond between protagonist and pub-
lic - see Ally imagining sex in a giant
coffee cup; Ally imagining arrows
piercing her heart; and Ally imagining
an egotistical secretary's head expand-
ing.
This type of high-tech tom-foolery is
meant to attract the viewer, just some
hype created to boost ratings (which are
seemingly irrelevant since Monday
Night Football will kick Ally's butt until
January), but it's up to the quality and
chemistry of the show to keep the view-
er's attention for an hour a week.
And "Ally McBeal" does that, most-
ly thanks to the Midas touch of TV
drama whiz kid David E. Kelley, cre-
ator of "Picket Fences" and "The
Practice" among others. The magic that
Kelley has worked with "Ally" is to cre-
ate one of the most original and engag-
ing shows to come along since "Twin
Peaks" or even last year's mercilessly
cancelled nude-businessman-sleeping-
in-a-box thriller "Profit."
The set-up of "Ally"'s plotline (also
courtesy of Kelley) goes like this: Ally
is a lawyer who never wanted to be a
lawyer. She only went to Harvard law
school to save her relationship with
Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows), only for
Billy to dump her. Years later and now a
successful but underappreciated lawyer
in a huge firm, Ally is having problems
with her male colleagues thinking her
butt is quite firm.
Fired for having the nerve to file sex-
ual harassment charges, Ally agrees to

work for law school classmate Richard
(Greg Germann) whose law philosophy
is "money - piles and piles of it."
She's in for more than she bargained for
when the only other associate at Greg's
firm is - you guessed it - master lit-
igator Billy Thomas, who now happens
to be married to a beautiful lawyer
named Georgia (Courtney Thorne-
Smith).
Presumably, the episodes following
last week's series premiere will deal
with Ally's wacky thoughts about trying
to get over the man she never got over.
Although "Ally'"is
best and sharpest
E V I E W when the focus is
on Ally's general
Ally McBeal life observations
. Fox ("Law is like love:
Romantic in con-
Mondays at 9 p.m. cept, but the prac-
tice can give you a
yeast infection.") than observations
about her life ("Why does he have to be
so cute?").
Kelley would be best advised o
make this a show less like the inner-
demon-heavy and awful "Herman's
Head" and more like an ensemble-
heavy "L.A. Law" told from inside
Grace VanOwen's mind.
Still, the success of "Ally McBeal"
hasn't everything to do with Kelley, its
creator. No, "Ally" succeeds on the
strength of its creative and stellar sup-
porting cast, led by Flockhart's strong-
yet-self-conscious and self-effacing
Ally, the alternately riveting and side-
splitting cast includes the hilarious
Greg Germann of "Ned & Stacey";
brooding lawyer-stud Gil Bellos;
"Melrose Place" refugee Courtney
Thorne-Smith; and "ER" regular Lisa
Nicole Carson as the only cardboard
cutout so far, stereotyped as the sassy
roommate who gets many of the best
lines.
So real yet so surreal, where else on
TV but "Ally McBeal" would you find
heavy issues including sexual harass-
ment directly before the main character
happily imagines her breasts growing
so large that her bra strap snaps?
Not only is "Ally" the perfect alter-
native to Frank Gifford, it is the perfect
companion piece to follow "Melroe
Place": where "Melrose" is played out
and predictable, "Ally" is fresh and
pleasantly out-there; and when
"Melrose" descends into soapy clilh
(a catfight between Sydney and Jane,
for example), "Ally" cleverly exploits
soapy clich6 (a catfight between Ally
and Georgia consisting only of polite
exchanges of "I really hate you," and
"Do you really, because I hate you," r
"Thanks. You're not just saying that?"
that appropriately end with uproarioAs
laughter).
Premiering last week to higher rat-
ings than "Melrose" non-football fa
everywhere seem to be embracing
"Ally MeBeal," and deservedly so. ;
But if interest in his smart and funiy
new show is ever to sag, Kelley shouk
avoid Fox's pleas to bring Heathei
Locklear on to sex-up and save "Al}
McBeal." For then, we will be tru
ready for some football.

dancing.
Each character sharply silhouetted by
a single chief trait, the sextet comprise a
cartoonish team almost ready for
Saturday-morning TV: the leader, the
fat guy, the depressed guy, the old guy,
the shifty guy and the lone more or less
legitimate stud. The leader is played by
Jbert Carlysle, psychopathic Begbie
"Trainspotting." Carlysle, a spookily
versatile thespian, turns in a credible
performance under incredible circum-

depression.
Funny thing is, every mossy cliche
gets completely redefined by the sheer
absurdity of what kind of a show is
being put on. Since our heroes more or
less realize that there is not a Mr.
Universe in their ranks, they decide to
compensate by, yes, going full monty;
that is, by providing the crowd with the
ticket's worth of schlong.
The secret to how a plot point like

"Full Monty" star Robert Carlysle is a
macho, macho man.

A most dangerous game: Patterson's thrilling,
imperfect 'Hide and Seek' deserves to be found

'GOOKS
Continued from Page 8A
Hide and Seek
James Patterson
Warner Books
What Maggie Bradford needs is a
ood matchmaker. And one who can
*d her a husband who isn't afraid of
her morbid track record. Because
Maggie isn't like other women. Now
standing trial for the murder of her third
husband, soccer superstar Will Shepard,
she is suddenly realizing that her life
has not been as perfect as it had origi-
-nally appeared.
"Hide and Seek" is the newest thriller
by up-and-coming suspense writer
James Patterson. Filled with mystery
d deceit, this novel provides some
t-paced and intense reading.
The book's main character is Maggie
Bradford, one of the music industry's
biggest stars. But behind the hit songs
and beautiful singing voice is a dark
past from which she will do anything to
escape.
Once the battered wife of an alco-
holic military officer, her marriage was
brought to an abrupt end when she
Wiled her husband in self-defense. She
as never brought to trial, and escaped
'to 'New York with her daughter shortly
after the incident to start a new life.
But many years and one husband
later, she crosses paths with the hand-
,ome and famous soccer player, Will
Separd - a man who also happens to
be one of her biggest fans. His persis-
tence and charm eventually wear down
her guard, and she allows herself to be
yawn into a storybook marriage.
Unfortunately, behind Will's good
16ks and charisma lies something
darker than anyone could imagine. As
Maggie is slowly immersed in Will's
jpchotic fantasies, her basic instinct is
te, fight for survival - an instinct
ch could easily lead to her death.
"Hide and Seek" is an interesting
60o'k in many ways, as it does not mere-
Jreate a web of intrigue and suspense
is entertaining but easily forgotten.
evotes a great deal of time to explor-
'Mg the nature of Will's psychosis, as
well as weaving a tale about a woman's
struggle to rebuild her life. All these
aspects give this novel a great deal of
depth found lacking in many other sus-
pense novels.
Another interesting thing about this

The story is told mostly from
Maggie's point of view, but occasional-
ly switches to Will's view for a nice
contrast. Maggie's world is more
grounded and realistic, but once
Patterson jumps to Will's, readers are
able to experience his evil distortion of
reality on a closer level.
The novel occasionally falters; for
example, some readers may be con-
fused when the circumstances behind
Will's death seem to defy reasoning.
Also, a few portions of the book are
hard to get through because
they drag on for too long.
But overall, this book
is decent if readers
can look past its
faults.
"Hide and -
Seek" is not with-
out its imperfec-
tions, but still pro-
vides a fascinating
story. It is an excellent illus-
tration of how a person who has been
psychologically wounded can continue
to make the same mistakes. "Hide and
Seek" blurs the line that separates truth
from deceit to reveal the nature of true
evil.
- Julia Shih
The Only Way I Know
By Cal Ripken Jr. with Mike
Bryan
Viking
Cal Ripken, Jr. is a name that has
become synonymous with baseball. Not
baseball, the billion-dollar business that
has consumed the national past-time,
but baseball, the game that has brought
so much joy and fulfilled so many
dreams for people throughout the
decades.
After making huge headlines by
breaking Lou Gehrig's long-standing
record for consecutive games on Sept.
6, 1995, the Baltimore Orioles' star
speaks his soul in his wonderfully writ-
ten autobiography, "The Only Way I
Know."
Ripken's handsome face and physi-
cally domineering form have graced
countless magazine covers and sports
section front pages for more than a
decade. He is known as "Iron Man," the

player.
Having been instilled with a diligent
work ethic at a young age, Ripken was
taught to do everything to the best of his
ability.
This way of thinking carried him
through an illustrious baseball career as
well as enabling him to break Gehrig's
distinguished record x the attitude that
if he could, then he should.
Ripken writes about the trials of
moving through the Orioles system, of
learning the game "the Oriole Way" and
how to believe in him-
self, before
breaking into
the major
8Jl leagues
with a
bangHe
won the
Rookie of
-- -" lthe Year
award in 1982
and then the
American League. MVP
Award the following season after help-
ing the Orioles win the World Series.
Each chapter details the highs and
lows of each season in which Ripken
played, including his triumphs and
slumps.
But most impressive within each
chapter is the intellect and wisdom
which Ripken displays when he dis-
cusses the other aspects of life as a
ballplayer.
Ripken reveals the problems that the
game of baseball has encountered, as
the business aspect of the game has
slowly taken over. He shows his con-
cern about the deterioration of the
minor-league system as well as the need

to keep the relationship between the
players and fans healthy.
Throughout his book, Ripken
becomes even bigger in the eyes of
fans, as we can't help admiring the man
for his modesty, honesty and strong
belief in values.
Most inspiring is Ripken's confession
on the subject of the record. Though
occasional criticism gave him doubts
about his validity at pursuing .this
record, Ripken realized that he was not
playing everyday in order to break the
record. He was playing everyday in
order to contribute to the team, and do
what he was paid to and loved to do.
Ripken tends to ramble quite often by
going off subject to tell little anecdotes
or sidenotes, but he usually gets back to
finish his point.
He proves himself quite adept at
painting the picture of baseball in all its
hideousness and beauty, while inadver-
tently creating more admiration for
himself just by speaking about what he
believes in.
"The Only Way I Know" is an incred-
ible book which teaches not only about
the workings behind the game of base-
ball and the making of a great player,
but also about what it means to have
motivation, dedication and a dream.
Ripken stimulates feelings of exhilara-
tion, joy, triumph and sadness all while
creating a book that is a must-read for
all baseball fans and for anyone looking
for some inspiration.
Though baseball has disheartened a
number of people in the last few years,
it is good to know that the genuine spir-
it of the past-time lives on in heroes like
Cal Ripken, Jr.
- Julia Shih

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