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January 26, 1998 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-01-26

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8A - The Michigan Daily -- Monday, January 26, 1998

'Baked' trip proves only half-fun

C

By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
Billy Bong Thorton. Wesley Pipes.
New Hollywood stars? Well, not exact-
ly, even though the two are major play-
ers in the pot-smoking comedy, "Half
Baked." The names relate to the names
of the stoners' favorite pipes.
Make no mistake about it, plot is sec-
ondary in this movie. Except for the
marijuana twist, it's
nothing more than the
typical save-the-jailed-
friend routine. The (
makers seem to be 9
much more interested
in making sure each
scene tops the one
before it in terms of
humor. The result is an uneven movie
that's brutally funny at times and mind-
numbingly dull at others.
Dave Chappelle, best known as the
ruthless night club comic in "The Nutty

U

Professor" co-wrote the script and stars
as Thurgood, the leader of the group.
He gets quite a few laughs, and stands
out from the large ensemble cast. One
of his better scenes involves him trying
to show his girlfriend a good time in
New York with only eight bucks.
Jim Breuer ("Saturday Night Live")
doesn't do much in his film debut as
Brian, the most far-out character of the
group. His
dumb appear-
R E V I E W ance and awk-
ward one-lin-
Half-Baked ers become
increasingly
a n n o y i n g
At Showcase throughout the
film. His only
bright spot is a wickedly funny rip-off
of the "Who's coming with me?" scene
from "Jerry Maguire."
The rest of the gang consists of
iuillermo Diaz as Scarface and

Harland Williams ("RocketMan") as
Kenny. Williams was horrendous in
"RocketMan" and does no better in this
role that seems to be a carbon copy of
his previous performance.
The plot gets rolling when Kenny is
thrown in jail and his friends have to
find a way to post bail.'They soon dis-
cover that Thurgood can take several
pounds of marijuana from his place of
employment without an eyebrow being
raised. They quickly become dealers,
always reminding themselves that they
are raising money. not making it. Soon,
business is booming, but the friends
face some inevitable conflicts as they
push towards their S100,000 goal.
Along with certain members of the
cast, the comedy benefits from a large
number of cameos, including Snoop
Doggy Dogg, Willie Nelson and
Janeane Garofalo as a pot-smoking
poet. Also look for an appearance that's
sure to erase your good-boy image of

Bob Saget.
One of the main problems of the film
is that for every good scene. there is a
scene that tries to be funny but fulls
miserably short. One example is the
several times that characters seem to fly
through New York while high on a par-
ticular type of drug.
Director Tamera Davis ("Billy
Madison") seems to do little more
than put the actors in front of the lens
and let them go to work. The scenes
that work well have more to do with
the actors and less to do with her
direction.
Right now, it's Academy Award sea-
son and theaters are flooded with qual-
ity wannabe nominees. Don't look for
"Half Baked" among the group. Buti'
you're in the right "frame of mind:' aia
go see it with a good group of people,
this flick could provide a welcomed
break from the dreary routine of school
and work.

The cast of "Half-Baked" enjoy the high life on the sliver screen.

Novels unearth complexities

Yow
Julia Alvarez
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
In Julia Alvarez's third novel, "Yo!,"
the inside cover page reads: "All of the
characters and events in these stories are
entirely fictional, inventions drawn from
imagination and experience. No refer-
ence to any living person or real event is
intended or should be inferred." In any
fictional novel, there will be a disclaimer
similar to this.
In Spanish, "yo" means '"." "Yo (short
for Yolanda) is also the main focus of
Alvarez's book. The character bears a
striking resemblance to Alvarez: she is
of Dominican Republic descent, as well
as a professor at a small, East Coast col-
lege.
Alvarez gives a cross-hatching of Yo.
Each chapter is written with a different
voice that is crossed in the next chapter
by another character's version of Yo.
Every voice covers a different blank
space of the portrait: A sister, angry that
her life has been "fictionalized" by her
sister; a lover, visiting Yos extended
faimily in the Dominican Republic; a
cousin who was sent back to the Island
because of secrets revealed in Yo's high
school diary. Alvarez creates a montage
of Yo that shows the multiplicity of ways
in which one character's actions can
aftect others.
She writes with an incredible scale of
voices, but in reading between the lines,
we wonder two things: Is Yo Alvarez?
And, why isn't she a bit more critical?
Alvarez has a particular
concept of "past,"

There is a lack of Yo-criticism that is
interesting - many of the chapters that
start out strongly critical of her character
reach a mini-catharsis that leaves Yo in
the clear.
One such chapter is narrated by a for-
ner creative writing student who recog-
nizes one of his stories in her book. He is
placated in the end by his wife who reads
the short story and brings up a discon-
certing warm-fuzzy about how the story
reminds her of an event in her past. To
combat the fuzzy, there is also a chapter
written by a stalker.
Imagine if someone asked you to
prove everything you'd ever said or writ-
ten. This is the most interesting part of
"Yo!," because all of the pleasant things
Yo has ever said or written about human-
ity are thrown back at her in the author's
worst nightmare like a demon that Yo
unearths. But it is not overplayed or
forced.
What keeps this montage oscillating
between voices and opinions is Alvarez's
prose, believable and and entertaining.
- Cara Spindler
Slippage
Harlan Ellison
Houghton Mifflin
Throughout his over 40-year career
as a science fiction writer, Harlan
Ellison has struggled to lead his genre
into general acceptance.
His work is a testament to his suc-
cess. seen in television and movie
scripts, translated into 26 languages.
and his books are taught in 200 uni-
versities in the United

The collection opens with the chaot-
ic, form-bending, "The Man Who
Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore."
The story is the absurd travel journal of
a time-traveler who cures bone marrow
cancer one day and, dressed in a boy-
scout uniform, drags a screaming old
lady across the street another day. This
tricky story pulls together centuries of
literature, history and people in a seam-
less package. The story was originally
published in Omni magazine, and was
included in the "Best American Short
Stories of 1993" anthology.
Ellison's skill does not rest solely in
such hallucinogenic pieces. "Anywhere
but Here With Anyone but You," begins
with a man who finds that his wife and
family have disappeared. Ellison turns
this common theme into a dark fantasy
story. The story hinges on paranoia and
mental illness, intersecting too closely
with our world.
Ellison's novella "Mefisto in Onyx,"
is one of the strongest stories in the col-
lection. The reader meets an African
American with mind reading abilities
who must go into the mind of a blond.
blue-eyed killer. Ellison cuts away mod-
ern illusions of equality in the criminal
justice system with his fantasy premise.
The novella is also being scripted by
Ellison for a movie starring Samuel L.
Jackson.
F-rom there, Ellison takes the reader
through the Bermuda Triangle, an invis-
ible war between creatures from anoth-
er dimension for control of Earth, Hell
and Mars. When Ellison interjects mid-
way with a piece about his own creative
process, it blends flawlessly with his
waves of fantasy.
In "Chatting with Anubis" two char-
acters actually hold a startling conver-
sation with the Egyptian guardian of the
underworld. They find Anubis guards
"the final resting place of the one who
killed the gods," and a frighteningly
real secret.
Finally, Ellison's true faith in the
dreams that inspired his lifetime of sto-
ries tips the dark scales. In "Scartaris,
June 28th," a few hard lives are bound
together by a god who no one believes
in. The hope of this waiting god com-
pletes Ellison's violent, brilliant collec-
tion.
"Slippage" reads like the earthquake
that tore into Ellison's house. The initial
stories expose cracks from the hidden
fissures in our own world, brushed into
the open with fantasy strokes. And as
the cracks widen, Ellison allows darker
creatures and themes to creep toward
the surface. This pace serves as a fran-
tic introduction to the scope of Ellison's
career.
- Jason Boog

Slot is featured on the "Full blast" soundtrack with the song "Crushing Your Head."

'Blast' scores as a local compilation

with which sheStates.
has dealt in But all this can
all of her best be seen in his
novels. favorite form, the
Her sec- short story.
ond, semi- Ellison's newest
historical %== =work, "Slippage,
novel "In the features his most
Time of the recent uncollected

Butterflies,"explored
the lives of three political
activists, the Mirabal sisters, during the
Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican
Republic. In a postscript, Alvarez wrote,
"I wanted to immerse my readers in an
epoch in the life of the Dominican
Republic that I believe can only finally
be understood by fiction ... be redeemed
by the imagination."
By questioning what is "real,"Alvarez
ultimately questions how the readers
themselves believe, how we think
"Truth" and "Fiction" are created. She
tows a line that borders on biography and
then disclaims it.

material, and a quote from
"Jesus Christ," who is quoted as
saying, "I love Ellison's writing," on the
back cover.
The collection opens with an essay
by Ellison, telling of two recent cata-
strophes in his life,: a heart attack and an
earthquake that destroyed his home.
"My body and the kindly Earth have set
up shop against fue," he writes. Ellison
hints that this might be his last work,
and prepares the reader for the urgency
of the collection. Ellison summarizes:
"the theme is: do it while you can.
Slippage rules. Gravity ain't forgiving
. PAY ATTENTION."

Various Artists
Full Blast Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack
Small Stone Records
The soundtrack for "Full Blast" has to be the first Detroit
music compilation in years that won't embarrass you and the
whole southeastern Michigan music scene. And it's for a
movie starring porn actress Tracy Lords and "Kung Fu"'s
David Carradine, nonetheless.
It's hard to find a sampling of Detroit music that isn't
incessantly full of crappy funk or ska or classic rock bands.
who all seem to come from Ann Arbor or East Lansing; it
seems like everything is sub-par from the local area.
But "Full Blast" lives up to its name, opening with a catchy,
hammering guitar riff on Morsel's track, "Ocho." Slot's
"Crushing Your Head" follows right on its heels.
violent but still dreamy and sweet. Ebeling
Hughes provides a jingling little song called.
"Tvinkle Little Star." The song's musical
idiom might grate if applied to a long play-
er, but works fine on a soundtrack. It's
enough to restore faith in Motor City music.
And the list of acts goes on. Mog Stunt
Team, Speedball and Gravitar all make an
appearance here. Members of each band also
work in Detroit record stores. Maybe the whole thing
is a big record store conspiracy. Nah, that's crazy talk, like
saying John Tesh is an alien.
Even normally unpalatable groups such as Wig and Walk
on Water end up being surprisingly tolerable, the latter sound-
ing oddly like Danzig and the Stooges. It is a Stooges song,
but it's still odd.
There are occasional weak spots, but that's largely because
some of the bands specifically Wytchyker and Speedball are
better live than on record. But even these tracks aren't truly
bad, just not as sparkling as their cohorts.
The whole thing makes for a tasty slice of this area's best
non-wuss sonics, from The Goddammits's punkishness to
Gravitar's largely instrumental noise rockitude. Get it. Who
knows how long it'll be before you get another crack at a
decent regional collection?
- led Watts

The Interpreters
"Back In The U.S.S.A."
Freeworld
***
Take one look at the band photos and cover art for its debut
release "Back In The U.S.S.A.," and immediately you predict
that The Interpreters are a new band of young Russian
upstarts with a love for black turtleneck sweaters and a pen-
chant for espionage.
Even the names of the three band members would not b
out of place in a James Bond movie: Herschel Gaer, Pats
Palladino and the ever KGB-esque Branko Jakominich.
But when you delve further into the secret world of The
Interpreters, we learn that the band is not from Moscow after
.all, but instead from New Jersey and Philadelphia. We also
discover that the 16 tracks on "Back In The U.S.S.A"
are a rather impressive collection of high octane
squirts of pure leaded mod-punk.
With legendary Who/Kinks producer
Shel Tamy behind the mixing table for
debut single "Dogskin Report," it's not a
surprise that some classic references ari
heard on more than one of the songs on
"Back In The U.S.S.A."
Imagine a swirling flammable mixture
with faint elements from the "Rubber Soul"
era of Lennon and McCartney, mixed with a few
tablespoons of Townsend and Davies, a large bag of Sour
Patch Kids, some Jolt Cola, a shot of Wild Turkey and
generous portions of assorted chocolate snacks and you
stumble on the recipe for "You Are The One," " Today
and Every Day," "Make Lip Your Mind" and "Ironic
Blowout." The latter of these borrows the riff from "M
Generation" so blatantly that it would even make Puff
Daddy jealous.
Prepare for the fact that most all of these crunchy pop
chunks have a similar tempo, and that none are blessed
with lyrical genius. But look forward to relishing the
thick guitar tones, ludicrously speedy bass lines and
enough melodic garnish to leave you stuffed to brimming
and out of breath, with maybe just the slightest of
headaches.
- Brian Cohen

a

The Academy of American Poets Prize
The Bain-Swiggett Poetry Prize
The Michael R. Gutterman Award in Poetry
The Roy W. Cowden Memorial Fellowship
The Louise and George Piranian
Scholarship
will be announced
Tuesday, January 27
3:30 p.m.
Rackham Auditorium

______________ 9

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