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April 12, 1999 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-12

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FE Tristan Egoif reads at Borders Books and Music. Egolf's debut
novel "Lord of the Barnyard" examines controversy in a small
town. 7:30 p.m.

ftI~ Stcfii~wu &t

Daily Arts will review "Another Day In Paradise," a crime
film about junkies who take two teenagers under their wing.
Monday
April 12, 1999

'Barrymore charms in otherwise lousy 'Kissed'

By Erin Podoisky
Daily Arts Writer
"Never Been Kissed" is a comedy, there's no
doubt about that. It might even be a romantic
comedy. But the one thing it surely isn't is
funny. Don't be fooled by the other moviego-
ers sitting around you laughing. They're not
aughing with. They're laughing at, because
Never Been Kissed" is laughably bad yet
laughably entertaining in its way because of

Never Been
Kissed
At Briarwood
and Showcase

just that. We're told at the
beginning that this isn't a
dream sequence, but that
"things happened - well,
life happened." If this is
life, then it's time to rede-
fine the term "pipe
dream."
Produced by star Drew
Barrymore, the film
relies on her winsome
smile to carry it from one
preposterously pre-
dictable plot point to the
next. Barrymore's face
must have hurt something

will relive her time as Josie Grossie; Josie
won't be Josie Grossie anymore; Josie will
find love and so will every other unlikely sus-
pect. In fact, the only surprise of the film is
that it doesn't end where you think it will -
and would like it to - instead going an extra
inning at a schmaltzy baseball game set-up and
lasting five minutes longer than it has to.
Movies like this weren't always so connect-
the-dots obvious. There was a time when they
were fun because they were somewhat original
and had far more heart (John Hughes, et al).
But we're at a point in film history where that
just doesn't cut it anymore. We're supposed to
believe that high school has changed so much
in seven years. We're supposed to believe that
kids actually do the incredibly cruel things
(like the old invite-the-nerd-to-prom-then-
don't-pick-her-up trick) we see them do in this
film - and that they get theirs for breaking
the golden rule. We're supposed to believe that
the social scene of high school is an impossi-
ble monster that Josie, having failed the first
time around, still wants to be a part of. We're
supposed to believe so many things that's it's
hard to swallow any of them, even the tiniest of
details such as, say, Josie's inaugural school
outfit.
"Never Been Kissed" isn't even worthy of
being called connect-the-dots, though. There
are lots of bumps and lots of places where you
can feel the writers at work, saying to them-

nerdy and ugly during flashbacks to her
painful teen years, and it succeeds tenfold.
Perhaps it does ts job too well, though,
because the Josie of the present isn't all that
appealing either. It's hard to see what teacher
Sam Coulson (Michael Vartan) sees in her
other than a strangely advanced vocabulary -
maybe this is some sort of female fantasy
where the handsome young Shakespeare-lov-
ing teacher is willing to throw all caution to the
wind in these lawsuit-charged times just to
come on to his pupil. It's the kind of fantasy
that makes sprightly young girls drag their
boyfriends to films like this.
There's another alternative to everything
written above, however. That is this: Maybe
"Never Been Kissed" is actually a parody.
Maybe it's horribly misunderstood as a roman-
tic comedy and is, in reality, nothing more than
a well-hidden farce. It's certainly not a parable,
but it has elements that could peg it as a satire.
The problem with this line of thinking is that
the movie takes itself far too seriously to ever
have serious lampoonish leanings. This isn't
all one big joke about high school. Nor is it a
fable. No, it's a failed attempt at the second
chance myth, the idea that if you get the
chance to do something over again, things will
be different. That may very well be true, but in
"Never Been Kissed." the second chance is just
as painful for us as the first chance was for
poor Josie Grossie.

Courtesy of Fox 2000

Drew Barrymore gets jiggy wit it in "Never Been Kissed."

fierce by the time principal photography
wrapped. From the first minute, it's readily
apparent what's going to happen next: gram-
Iar police officer Josie "Grossie" Geller
Iarrymore) will be sent undercover to high
school, where she will attempt to be cool; Josie

selves "we need a funny joke right here!" and
"this scene will never work unless we force
2+2=5!" and thinking that they're ever so
smart and witty. Things might have been okay
if the artifice and central conceits of the film
had been better disguised, but they aren't.

They're plain as day, as tangible as the dots and
the bumps. And that robs them of nearly all
their entertainment value.
Of course, the film isn't all bad. It doesn't
fail completely. It has the unenviable task of
making Barrymore's Josie unappealingly

'Dark 'History X'
*blitzkriegs to DVD

Joe'

overcomes

MLW

alcoholic cliche

By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
As a movie, "American History X"
is far from perfect. There is serious
lag throughout the story and the way
in which the ending is handled kills
any attempt at a serious message.
Reports indicate that the film was
fought over in post-production, with
its director Tony Kaye threatening to
*ake his name off the project and
replace it with Humpty Dumpty (he
didn't). The fact that the film passed
through many hands is clear, as the
story never really seems sure of
where it's going.
But there is one bright, shining
pearl in this sea of turmoil -
Edward Norton. Oscar-nominated
for his turn as a skinhead looking to
mend his past and save his little
rother Danny (a dreary Edward
Furlong), Norton owns the picture.
Packing intensity reminiscent of a
young De Niro or Pacino, Norton
overpowers the otherwise mediocre

film with his performance. The actor
is the cream of the crop for his gen-
eration - hands down.
When the film begins, Derek
(Norton) is fresh out of prison and
Danny is in with the same hate-
crowd that his brother once led. We
learn about Derek's past through a
series of flashbacks, shot in black
and white, as Danny writes a paper
about his brother for school. Also
figuring into the mix are Stacey (an
annoying Fairuza Balk), Derek's girl-
friend, Sweeney (Avery Brooks),
Danny's guidance counselor, and
Cameron (Stacy Keach), the leader
of the skinhead group.
In terms of extras, the DVD ver-
sion of "American History X" only
has the film's trailer and three delet-
ed scenes. Two of these cut clips are
throwaways, not being very long or
significant.
The other is a longer scene
between Cameron and a member of
his crew. The scene works well on its

By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
Through the stellar acting of its cast,
"My Name Is Joe" rises above the
usual story of a one time alcoholic try-
ing to steer clear of the bottle. Here,
Joe (Peter Mullan) is a recovering alco-
holic with a full plate of problems liv-
ing in a shady section of Glasgow. The
film opens with Joe speaking at an
Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and
never lets liquor slip out of view. In his
daily life, dealings with friends and, in
particular, his relationship with love
interest Sarah, Joe's past problems with

Courtesy of New Line Cinema
Edward Furlong and Edward Norton discuss hate In "American History X."

own and is interesting to watch, but
was rightfully excluded from the
film's final cut.
An audio commentary by either
Norton or Kaye could have provided
refreshing insight to the murky
clouds surrounding the film's final
cut but their voices remain unheard.
Or better yet, a commentary track
with both Norton and Kaye, talking

openly about their feelings on the
film.
A word of caution to the squea-
mish: "American History X" is a
very violent movie with several
graphic hate crimes, one of which
will stay in your mind for days after
seeing it. But beyond the violence, is
the year's best acting performance,
regardless of what Oscar has to say.

My Name
Is Joe
At Michigan Theater
r

the bottle are
always on his
mind.
Joe is an
endearing charac-
ter who tries to
squeeze the most
out of his life. He
may have a some-
what checkered
past, but this is
irrelevant to us
when we see him
in action -- such
as when he
coaches a soccer

_ ... _ _ ..

Chan kicks into theaters with Twin Dragons'

the Best Actor award at the past Cannes
Film Festival, soars in the role of Joe.
The character is torn and struggling in
life, but is much more than the typical,
former alcoholic who's battling to beat
the bottle. His life is on both the
upswing and in a downward spiral at
the same time, and Mullan nails this in
his portrayal.
Louise Goodall also stands out as
Sarah. Although the actress has only
appeared in one other movie, she is on
target throughout the film, whether
bantering with her secretary or laying it
on the line with Joe. And David
Hayman is dead on as the despicable
McGowan The character is so reserved
and laid back when making demands
that he makes it seem as if breaking
someone's legs is an everyday occur-
rence.
Director Kenneth Loach does a skill-
ful job handling the film's story, giving
viewers a well-balanced blend of com-
edy and drama. Throughout the movie,
several characters face major, life-
altering crises, but Loach never lets
things wallow in despair, mainly
because he's always got a shot of
humor when things in the plot get
depressing.
The film's one major down point is
the fact that it's in English and has sub-
titles in English for clarity's sake. For
the most part, the dialogue is pretty
comprehensible, and when it isn't - so
what? It is not essential that we hear
and understand every single word that
is spoken and the inclusion of subtitles
comprises a little piece of the movie.
Unless they are absolutely necessary
there is no reason for subtitles, and
here they are nothing but an annoying
distraction.
"My Name Is Joe" is an engaging
movie with a variety of fascinating
characters. One of its strongest points
is its conclusion, where Loach refuses
to compromise the integrity of the pic-
ture with how things end. A similar
effort should have been made on the
subtitles.

By Jonah Victor
Daily Arts Writer
Hey, it's Jackie Chan!
Whoa! There he is again!
Wait, haven't we seen this
all before? But it's okay,
because Jackie Chan has
never never done it before.
TWin Right?
Dragons The man who rules his own
** sub-genre of karate-comedy
movies returns in "Twin
At Briarwoodwcase Dragons," yet another rehash-
ing of the classic story of
twins separated at birth, and
growing up in two contrasting
lives.
Chan plays John Ma, the
virtuoso pianist and world
famous conductor. He also
plays Boomer, the mechanic and part-time auto
racer involved in the Hong Kong mob.

"Twin Dragons" was originally released years
ago in Hong Kong and then brought to America on
video. The version that is now showing at theaters
is reedited and dubbed in English. The movie
might as well have been left in Chinese, as the dia-
logue contributes little to the understanding or
enjoyment of "Twin Dragons."
Although all of the actors are Chinese, the
dubbed voices are distinctly American which con-
tributes a moderate amount of humor. Ironically,
the only Chinese accent is owned by Chan's char-
acters, and Maestro Ma is supposed to be 'from
New York City.
The twins receive each other's nervous system
signals, causing them to act the same at the same
time in different places, which in itself should
have produced a good many chuckles in several
scenes, but lacks proper comic timing.
At first it seems difficult to follow the plot, until
one realizes that there is no plot and the film is
merely a compilation of old movie cliches. This
should have been stale and wearying, except that

the inconsistency of acting and dubbing give it a
new life or lack of one. There is some fun to be
had in "Twin Dragons" and for 10 minutes it
reaches the point of being hilarious when Boomer
attempts to lead his brother's orchestra. At other
times "Twin Dragons" revels in its ineptitude.
Chan provides a full helping of explosions,
breaking glass, boat races, car races and his own
trademark slapstick karate. Most of the special
effects are of the old-fashioned non-digital quali-
ty, which is a breath of fresh air compared to the
computerized explosions and such we see today.
Unfortunately at times there seem to be some
glitches with the double-Jackie effect. Before the
end, "Twin Dragons" buckles under it's own
weight for lack of supporting story.
Much of "Twin Dragons" is so bad that it's
sometimes amusing. There is some light fun to be
had in the eye candy of chases and fight scenes.
Here is yet another martial-arts/slapstick adven-
ture for Chan .fans to enjoy, but everyone else
should go see "The Matrix."

team that has tasted from the cup of
victory but one time. Joe picks the
players up in his van, takes them to
games and then tries to guide them to
triumph. At one point, when asked if he
has a family, Joe produces a picture of
the soccer squad.
Alcohol aside, most of Joe's prob-
lems stem from his friend Liam and the
local McGowan crime gang. Liam and
his wife are deep in debt with the gang
and Joe becomes involved in the situa-
tion to protect his younger friend.
Drawn into the world of crime, Joe first
hides this information from Sarah, and
ends up causing a serious rift in their
blossoming relationship because of it.
The cast,- made up of relative
unknowns to American audiences, is
first rate and elevates the film to a
higher level. Peter Mullan, who won

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