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September 16, 1998 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Shloman Reads at Shaman
University English Prof. Clayton Eshleman will read tonight at
Shaman Drum. Eshleman will choose from his latest book of
poems, "From Scratch," which discusses the collision of poetry
with other forms of art. Admission is free, and the reading begins
at 8 p.m.

ARe ~dTSw h~


0 This semester's first edition of Weekend, etc discusses
the ups and downs of being (or not being) 21.

September 16, 1998



By Aaron Rich
Daily Arts Writer
Picture a world where poker is the game, but five
card draw is so exceedingly simple that nobody
thinks to play. A world where the ante is upwards of
a grand and the pot can reach $60,000. A world
where one minute you can be up and on your way to
Vegas, and with the flip of a card you can be broke,
on the street.
This place does exist. It is the world of John Dahl's
"Rounders." The game is Texas Hold'em.
Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is a poor law ste-
dent, who lives in New York with his equally poor
law-student-girlfriend, Jo (Gretchen Mci).
McDermott, a rounder - a genius at reading caws,
watching the opponent and making money at the
card table - pays his tuition with money wo* at
poker clubs throughout the city. After losing a for-
tune one night, he "retires" from the game and
becomes a manual laborer to pay the bills.
Just when McDermott is getting his life in some
order, his old buddy Worm (Edward Norton) is let
out of jail. Worm, who has $25,000 debt on his back,
immediately begins dragging McDermott aroind to
card games in an attempt to use his friend's talent and
savings to get in the black. Being the consammate
nice-guy, McDermott vouches for Worm when a
thug demands the money he is owed.
With hopes of removing the price from ht friend's
- and his - head, McDermott reluctantly gets back
into the underworld of poker where nothing - espe-
cially law school and love - seems certais.

raises Damon's stakes

More than just a film about the-good-boy-being-
bad syndrome, "Rounders" is a lesson in poker, gam-
bling and being a wise-guy. Much like Martin
Scorsese's "The Color of Money" - where the mode
of the vice is pool - part of the entertainment here
comes from just seeing the pros do what they do -
and hopefully learning how they do it.
Dahl sets up this poker school very well by using
a voice-over by Damon, explaining what is happen-
ing and why. Here, Damon's control of his craft
truly shines as he speaks to us
in a near whisper, letting us in
on this secret, illicit part of
life. When physically acting,
Rounders Damon is confident and smart
and full of just enough cock to
make his role work.
The film builds gradually
At Showcase up to the last showdown
and Briarwood scene between McDermott
and Teddy KGB (John
Malkovich), the now-owner
of most of McDermott's
money. KGB is a juicy and
$? fresh Russian immigrant who
craves Oreo cookies and
bears a striking resemblance to V.I. Lenin. This
scene is just a taste, though, of the solid acting
throughout the film.
Martin Landau brilliantly plays the grandfather-
you've-always-wanted law professor, Petrovsky,
and John Turturro slithers his way in as the hus-

tling, but much-needed poker buddy, Joey Knish.
One large hole in the acting comes in the form
of Gretchen Mol. She reads her lines like a scared
eighth-grader and removes depth from an already-
too-superficial character.
Better than what we learn about stud poker is
what seems to be kept a secret. We see Worm cheat
by loading McDermott's hand with face cards, but
we never see how he does this. We are told wxat
McDermott knows is in his opponents hands,Wt
he never explains how he keeps track of the cards.
We are just civilian spectators to this high-stakes,
high-skill game.
In the end, the framing story - that of a struggling
lawyer - gets lost in the shuffle. It seems as if this big
part of the story line is just a simple tool used by the
writer to get McDermot and Jo to fight and to pull a
moving monologue from Prof. Petrovsky.
McDermott never comes across as a man who
loves the law, and in fact the opposite is true-f
likes breaking the law. This set-up becomes a bit
ridiculous when the chips start falling, and we
find ourselves in the middle of a poker film.
Much like in "The Color of Money,"
"Rounders" shows a world that is far beyond our
own - both in sin and skill. Yet it is part of our
sphere. Dahl makes sure we know this by keeping
us interested in the action - through glitzy card
tricks. He also emotionally ties us to the charac-
ters through quick dialogue. Most important, Dahl
shows how to win without being dealt a straight-

Courtesy of Miramax
Matt Damon stars as Mike McDermott, a poker addict trying to save his old pal,
in the new Miramax release "Rounders."

New football season scores high


NCAA Football '99
EA Sports
Sony Playstation
Just when you thought Chuck
Woodson left campus, here he comes
again, this time gracing the cover of
EA Sports' "NCAA Football '99."
The sophomore edition of this series
comes packed with crushing tackles,
big plays and every division I-A
school that you never knew existed.
This title won't disappoint fans of
"NCAA '98," who will appreciate all
of the changes and additions that
"NCAA '99" offers. The action
moves at a faster pace, animations are
cleaner, and virtual college bands rock
fight songs after big plays and touch-
The dynasty mode, where players
can take on the challenge of coaching
a team through several seasons,
received a major overhaul from last
year and is, by far, the strongest aspect
of the game. The dynasty now con-
sists of five years instead of four, giv-
ing you a chance to see the team you
built from scratch in action in its final
season. Real recruiting takes place,
and depending on who is sent out on
recruiting visits - whether it's the
head coach or the graduate assistant
- you could wind up with players
ranging in skill from blue chip caliber
to walk-on benchwarmers. High pro-
file juniors leave for the draft early,
creating unexpected voids in your
lineup. If you aren't able to produce
wins at your school, you may be leav-

ing early as well when the athletic
director cancels your contract. If that
happens, you'll have to continue on at
a less prestigious school.
New bowls and awards have been
added to spice up the chase for the
national championship, and "NCAA
'99" now includes analog passing,
pump/pitch faking and trajectory con-
trol kicking. The analog passing is
tricky to master, but can provide the
most flexibility. The ability to control
the trajectory of punts, kickoffs and
field goals improves range and adds
an extra element of kicking strategy
that has been missing in past games.
The best new feature, though, is the
play editor. If you
get tired of the tradi-
tional plays that are
offered for each .
team, then you can
opt to create three of
your own offensive
and defensive alter-
natives. This is very
useful in the dynastyr
mode, as you can design plays
specifically around your teams'
strengths and star players. A virtual
announcer calls off last names of the
more famous college players after big
plays, and new last names can be
added - something cool for people
who like to create their own charac-
ters. Let's hear it for Sanders!
To keep up with improving industry
standards, EA Sports gave "NCAA
'99" a 3-D polygonal engine, allow-
ing for more realistic gameplay.
Tacklers in EA Sports' past football

games used to just throw shoulder
tackles. Now they wrap up, flip, or roll
offensive players to the ground. The 3-
D engine really sparkles when looking
at instant replays. The camera can be
moved around to virtually any posi-
tion on the field and can zoom in
close to capture bone-jarring hits and
critical one-handed touchdown grabs.
Some improvements still have to be.
made for next year, though. Forced
fumbles often backfire on the defense.
If an offensive player scoops the b4l
back up, that player tends to rumble
on for a rather large gain. Every so
often, a blitzing linebacker may break
through the line and bounce off of the
quarterback who scrambles
and becomes ridiculously
hard to tackle. Either that,
or the QB will
- IA release a crazy,
pass which is usually
hauled in far a big
gain - very frustrat-
} ing on those crucial4
third downs.,
Minor anloyances
aside, this game shines atop the col-
lege football game market. EA Sports
did a good job improving upon last
years' version and has wlkt players'
appetites for next year. It's only fitting
that a Heisman Trophy winner was
chosen to be on the cover of this
MVP-caliber product. Chalk up
another national footlzll champi-
onship in video ganing for EA
-Deven.n Q. Sanders


' 1



By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
"Simon Birch," suggested by John
Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany,"
is dripping with Hollywood cliche
from its very beginning. Simon
Birch, the smallest baby ever deliv-
ered in Gravestown, a boy that no
one gave a chance to live a day, much
less a lifetime, dreams of being a
hero. The boy with an undersized
heart somehow has the biggest heart
in the entire town.
And yet the character is so endear-
ing and lovable that he is able to sal-
vage a movie that suffers from an
atrocious voice-over and some
unskillful storytelling.
Simon (Ian Michael Smith) is a
boy with destiny on his mind, and he
feels that someday he'll perform
some sort of miracle that will make
the world around him a better place.



Courtesy of Hollywood Picture
Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) and Simon Birch ([an Michael Smith) are con-
fronted by a large dog.

At Showcase
and State


Smith is so con-
vincing in the
part that he
leaves the audi-
ence feeling as
if he truly is the
title character.
Simon is the
focus of the
movie and an
essential part of
making things
work, if the role
was miscast the
movie could
have been a dis-
and inquisitive

A foul-mouthed

some Saturday morning kids show.
But as much as the makers suc-
ceed in dealing with the two boys,
they fail in the other aspects of the
Jim Carrey appears briefly at the
beginning and the end of the movie,
and is heard throughout it via a nau-
seating voice-over.
After the first two minutes of the
movie, viewers know the fates of two
main characters simply because the
writer chose to include it. This infor-
mation adds nothing to the begin-
ning, and only takes away from the
Ditto, later on when Carrey either
alludes to what will happen next or
simply tells the audience things that
it can figure out on its own. This
misuse of voice-overs comes across
as an unnecessary filler that severely
damages the film.
Another down point is Simon's
family. Both of Simon's parents
could care less about him and essen-
tially give him free run of the neigh-
There is nothing more to the par-
ents than the fact that they are mean,
old people. The characters are so one
dimensional and simple that they are
completely unrealistic. When Simon
gets in trouble and ends up at the
Sheriff's office, his father suggests
that he spend the night in jail rather
than pick him up. And this is a grade
Simon's vision of himself as a hero
seems all the harder to swallow when
his parent's are taken into considera-

dreamer, Simon is constantly on the
outside looking in when it comes to
the church, schoolmates and the
world in general. One of the few peo-
ple who he feels comfortable around
is a school pal named Joe (Joseph
Joe seems able to relate to Simon,
mainly because he, too, is an outcast.
Born to a single mother (Ashley
Judd), the identity of Joe's father
remains a mystery and the source of
much interest to the town's people.
The two outcasts have a tight bond
that is handled with care and skill by
the makers of the film. The scenes
between the two characters seem real
and not as if they were pulled out of

tion. Someone had to keep planting
the idea that he was special into th
boy's mind at a very young age, and
if it wasn't his parents then who wa
Yet somehow, Simon developed
into an insightful and bright y g
boy and its his sly comments.a
keep the film above water. Simon
constantly struggles with his lust fo
girls, all of whom seem to peg him a
nothing more than cute - "sh
means cute like a baby turtle, an
girls don't kiss baby turtles" - an
his musings on the opposite se:
carry truth for a person of any age.
Simon is cast as Baby Jesus in
church Christmas production an*i
behavior sets the stage for what turn
out to be one of the year's funnies
scenes. Smith is so on the mark, tha
the idea of award nominations for hi
performance isn't that unrealistic
And while some will say that th
director overuses Simon to ge
laughs or that Smith's role may nc
be that far from his reality, the fac
that he comes across as a funny an
charming character is undeniable.
Overall, "Simon Birch" has *(
very funny parts, but the story is to
off the mark for the movie to com
together as a whole. The voice-ove
gives too much away, and the seconc
part of the framing sequence witt
Carrey is painful to watch.
But the relationship between th
two boys and an enchanting perfor
mance by Smith help "Simon Birch
squeak past the glut of average i
crowding today's theaters.
Check out the

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