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January 06, 2000 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-06

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® Metro Detroit comic Kevin McPeek performs his stand-up.
Enjoy the funny stylings of this zany Detroiter at the Mainstreet
Comedy Showcase. 8:30 p.m.
8 mThursday
January 6, 2000

zS icbdau ku

Check out newly appointed film editor Matt Barrett's
review of the Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece, "Magnolia."

4

Despite 'Talented'

cast an'dector,'Ripley' misses

I4

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
Calling this movie "The Talented Mr.
Ripley" is an egregious misnomer. The
title character seems far more savant
than original talent. The folks behind
the scenes and above the title do their
damnedest to erase any memory of pre-
vious evidence of talent.
"Disappointing" or "Unfulfilling"
might fit our man Rip a little better
than his current description; putting
those to adjectives in the past tense
might fit my state
of mind upon
leaving' the the-
ater. So much tal-
The Talented ent gone to waste
Mr.-Ripley on this film, it
was apparently all
At Briarwood, Quality 16 spent on the title.
A rhrod, as The lost talent
& Showcase belongs to the
cast of Oscar
winners and nom-
: .. inees (and, in
Jude Law and
Philip Seymour
Hoffman, future
winners and nominees) Matt Damon,
Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and
writer/director Anthony Minghella
("The English Patient"). As the man
behind, the camera, it is clearly
MingheJla who is primarily responsible
for his film's disappointment. "Ripley"
is meant to be a psychological thriller,
a serial killer tale, a romantic intrigue.
It falls short on all three counts and

more.
The pacing of the film leaves much
to be desired and accounts for much of
its failure. There are moments of great-
ness, most of which involve Law's
blithely superficial ("Oh, God, don't
you want to fuck every woman you see,
just once?") Dickie Greenleaf, a trust
fund baby who has been living it up on
the Italian coast. His father meets Tom
Ripley (Damon) and, thanks to a mis-
understanding about Ripley's identity,
sends Ripley as his emissary to fetch
his AWOL son and bring him back to
the real world. The viewer never really
sure of Ripley's identity, either, given
that there is only one scene with Ripley
before he's given an expense account
and carte blanche to retrieve wayward
Dickie. It's entirely possible that
Minghella keeps Ripley's true self hid-
den, perhaps to point out that he has no
true self; unfortunately, though, this
tactic serves only to detach us more
from an already unlikable character.
For his part, Dickie is unlikable as
well - in fact, there's nary a character
to be found in "Ripley" whom you'd
want to befriend - but at least he
seems real. Law imbueshis character
with a horrible fascination for us. Next
to him, Ripley is deadwood; it's no sur-
prise when Dickie brutally, rightfully
informs Ripley that he's bored with
him. Everything is a plaything to
Dickie, but at least he's honest about
himself. Ripley is a consummate liar, to
be sure, but one tires of liars quickly
when sitting through a long movie,

unless they're incredibly captivating.
Unfortunately, Ripley isn't.
Likewise, Damon sleepwalks
through his role, all gritted teeth and
false smiles, all hoots and hollers and
far-too-contained violence. Is Ripley a
killer out of compulsion or conve-
nience? Is he a succubus or merely that
pitiful, bitter kid with the mouthful of
braces that never got picked for kick-
ball? The only thing for sure is that
Damon has done this before, and bet-
ter; quick-study Ripley is nothing if not
Will Hunting with a Chet Baker-
wannabe croon. He soaks in everything
around him like a giant sponge, wring-
ing segments of his acquired knowl-
edge and skill out as situation dictates.
He takes on so much water that he
sucks the life right out of everyone
around him but neglects to put it back
on display for us.
Ripley dispatches Dickie to the briny
deep with the help of an oar midway
through the film, spending the rest of
his time on the run. He takes over
Dickie's persona and haphazardly
woos Meredith Logue (Blanchett),
simultaneously juggling inconsolable
Marge Sherwood (Paltrow), Dickie 's
girlfriend and the police closing in on
him. The cat and mouse game Ripley
plays with his pursuers, as both
Dickie and himself, should be a lot
more invigorating than it is. As it
stands, the quiet tone Minghella takes
with his film damages his effort far
more than it helps with suspense. This
might be a tale of love gone horribly

Hitchcock's adaptation of another
Highsmith novel, though, "Strangers
on a Train," and the similarities
between Hitchcock and Minghella's
films are staggering. A certain obses-
sion with small, dead giveaway
objects and a preoccupation with
casual murder sans repercussions
permeates both. Minghella also
chooses a title sequence that recalls
the vintage work of Saul Bass, who
worked with Hitchcock, Otto
Preminger and other great suspense
directors.
Whether or not this is homage or
imitation is irrelevant; it does nothing
to alleviate the oppressively unsuc-
cessful elements of "Ripley."
Minghella lets his scenes go on too
long, lingering where he shouldn't
and creating characters so vibrant
that when they disappear from the
movie, the light of entertainment
flickers and then goes out completely.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" suffers
from the same ills its main character
does: it flashes momentarily bright
and then flames out, hitting peaks
and valleys (far more valleys than
peaks, I'm sorryto say). It's the worst
kind of roller coaster, the one that
offers so much adrenaline-producing
thrill and then makes good on so few
of its promises. It doesn't creep after
you in your dreams, as the best
thrillers do, or haunt you in the day.
"Ripley"'s promise is indeed unful-
filled. Its offerings are disappointing.
And its talent is squandered.

I

Courtesy of Miramax
in a bit of crooning in "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

Matt Damon and Jude Law partake

wrong: Ripley, who seems far more a
eunuch than the homosexual
Minghella intends him to be, in love
with Dickie; Ripley in love with idea
of becoming Dickie; Ripley impossi-
blv in love with Riplev. But "Ripley"

never takes a firm stand on any of
these ideas, leaving us to question
more than we ought.
Patricia Highsmith's novel has been
adapted once before, as "Purple
Noon, unseen by me. I have seen

Stone enlivens
'Sunday' football

Writers bring new,

Transformers' to
a new generation

By Laura Fyer
Daily Arts Writer
Nothing makes more sense than the
decision on Oliver Stone's part to create
a film about football. Further solidifying
his established role as an auteur film-
maker, Stone is not randomly selecting
subjects of study under his direction.
Rather, football, a contact sport that is
violent, aggressive, engaging, fast-
paced, and jarring, fits right into his
niche Qf style.
In "Ay Given Sunday," most of the
scenes are right in the middle of the
game. That is, the action is displayed not
just from the viewpoint of a bystander

casually watching
I
Any Given
ynday
Xt Briarwood
I ari3 Showcase
Sr
oft nate fror

from the sidelines.
The audience not
only watches the
players, they are
the players.
This kind of
participatory feel
is very effective
precisely because
of the inherent
football fan's fas-
cination with
viewing football
from all angles.
The real excite-
ment of plays
from televised
football games
m the replays, where

motion action with warbled grunts and
other shuffling sounds. Suddenly we're
up for a breath of fresh air and as the
camera pulls back, it takes in all action
with highly-agitated motions. All
sounds are heard, including players'
growls and loud cheers from the fans.
Apart from Stone's technique, the
story of "Any Given Sunday" brings
along with it a bundle of ideological
issues, stacking the sport of football up
against modernity. Tony D'Amato (Al
Pacino), coach of the Miami Sharks, is
screwed. First-string quarterback Jack
"Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) injures
himself during a game, putting the
team's playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
Unluckily, so does the second-string, and
D'Amato is forced to put into the game
his third of the herd, youngster Willie
Beamen (Jamie Foxx).
As casually prophesized by the "tro-
phy girlfriends" of the football players to
his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, Beamen lets
his ego inflate, and he slowly believes in
the idea that he is the only important
player on the team. He switches the
coach's calls during huddles, or even in
the middle of a play, disrespecting his
wiser teammates who have been Sharks
for years. Beamen's excuse? "We're.
winning, aren't we?" he retorts.
The media and modern society is what
fuels this young boy's narcissism and
sense of individualism. Beamen loves
not just the attention itself, but also how
quickly he achieves his fame. In these
contemporary times, football has its
pecuniary games as well. His rationale
is convincing -if you trample over your
teammates (like the fierce chariot riders
in "Ben-Hur" that blasts from
D'Amato's TV screen one afternoon),
focus on yourself as a national football
hero and grab the media's attention,
you'll rake in the money. The game of
football overshadows the game of strate-

By Adin Rsli
Daily Arts Writer
Continuing the longevity of the
"Transformers" franchise, "Beast
Machines" has succeeded in further
expanding the saga of the robots
from Cybertron locked in the battle
of good versus evil. Mantaining a
strong storyline and fan interest for a
16-year-old, toy driven universe of
characters is no easy feat. Just ask
one of "Beast Machine "'s main writ-
ers, Bob Skir, and he will tell you
that trying to keep the concepts and
ideas fresh and exciting can be a
challenging juggling act.
Skir and co-writer Marty Isenberg
have been busy shaking things up in
the "Transformers" world by intro-
ducing new angles and adding to the
rich "Transformers" history.
Spirituality, heroes who don't carry
guns, the Transformer's home planet

A

Courtesy or Warner Brothers
An aging Al Pacino plays coach Tony D'Amato to Jamie Foxx's hotshot player
Willie Beamen in Oliver Stone's football opus "Any Given Sunday."

gy as the quickest way to the greatest
amount of dough.
D'Amato champions the past. He
wants to go "back to the basics" of foot-
ball, when it wasn't about what the pub-
lic thought, nor how many women there
were to sleep with nor how much money
was to be made. The players were play-
ing with their hearts, for the love of the
game.
Countering D'Amato's unrelenting
ethics, aside from Beamen, is Christina
Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), Sharks pres-
ident and the daughter of its former
owner, now deceased. D'Amato's old-
fashioned coaching tactics enrage her,
less because she thinks he's wrong and
more because she's facing her own iden-
tity crisis of overweening power and
sometimes corruptive practices.
In addition to these issues that stag-
nate the process of the team, Stone
brings in smaller ethical conflicts all of
consequence to either Beamen's attitude

slow-mrotion action seen from low-angle
shots intensify and enliven our percep-
tion of the players - the position and
maneuverability of their powerful arms
and lIgiflow in one large sequence.
This-near-sensory and visual experi-
ence omes alive in "Any Given
Sunday Actually, the action scenes feel
like we're swimming a couple of laps in
a pool. Underwater, the players engage
in head-to-head tackles, backs and knees
bent, close to the ground, in a slow-

or merely society itself, involving team
unity, nepotism, religion, race, integrity,
avariciousness and modern technology.
He covers a lot of ground, but manages
to tie everything together.
"Any Given Sunday" practically type-
casts Pacino (similar to his recent part in
"The Insider") into his role of an aging
man who has spent years advancing his
career and is now facing an important
impasse in his life and job. Diaz, on the
other hand, ruins the tough-girl persona
of a female marketing mogul due to her
goofy-sounding voice.
How do we see Stone's perspective
on the whole fiasco? Off the bat, he
obviously seems to be on D'Amato's
side, rooting for the home-grown
values of the past and considering
modern tactics an affront to the
sport. But, the musical score in "Any
Given Sunday," hints at the realities
of a new generation embracing a cul-
ture that is quite different from the
past. From the funk-techno beats of
Fat Boy Slim to the charged, forceful
sounds of Kid Rock and DMX heard
in the background during the Sharks
games, the contemporary football
game is seen positively - maybe
even at its best.

Beast
Machines
Fox Kids
Saturdays at 11 a.m.

(Cybertron) pos-
sessing . an
organic core and
the decimation
of Cybertron's
original inhabi-
tants have been
only a couple
changes intro-
duced by Skir
and Isenberg.
"It's met with
a lot of contro-
versy on the Net,
with people
wanting to lynch

are very happy with the story we're
putting together."
For those of us who grew up in the
pre-politically correct '80s, one of
the most enduring thing about that
decade was the prevalent glorifica-
tion of guns. Be it in "G.I.Joe," "The
A-Team," "Rambo" and even in the
original "Transformers," there was
always an abundance of cool looking
guns. Who could forget the awe-
inspiring sight of Optimus Prime,
leader of the Autobots, flaunting his
Decepticon destroying laser blaster
throughout each and every original
"Transformers" episode?
However, in "Beast Machines," the
heroes are all unarmed. Could this
be a reaction to the cautious '90s
where television is often blamed for
youth violence?
"Let's just say that we (the writ-
ers), Fox, Hasbro and Mainframe
agreed to disarming our heroes, thus
pitting them against a planet of heav-
ily-armed villains which will push
them to their very limits, making
them all the more heroic for the vic-
tories that they achieve," Skir said.
Certainly a cheese layered reply,
but Skir added, "I personally would
rather see heroes winning the day
using their natural abilities and cun-
ning than firepower. That's my per-
sonal preference. Hasbro said that
this approach was what they were
looking for, so we were both in
synch. I didn't approach them with
this radical notion. We approached
each other and agreed. Fox will
allow certain forms of guns and
ammunition to be used in their
shows, they generally shy away from
it when it isn't necessary."
The gambles and risks Skir has
taken with the "Transformers"
mythos has apparently paid off. The
show, which airs as part of the Fox
Kid's block of cartoons, has been
ably keeping fans of "Transformers"
and cartoons alike glued to their
idiot box as one of the most watched
new cartoons around. As Skir men-
tioned, "'Beast Machines' is ruling
in the ratings, as Fox's number two
show behind "Digimon," following
that "Pokemon" swell, and number
one with boys, ages 6 to II. Put it
this way... they (Fox) have renewed
us for another year, and they are very
happy with us all!"

* VVDET
Shawn Colvin ; Arlo Guthrie
Great Big Sea. Beth Nielsen Chapman

us for 'ruining' Cybertron and cor-
rupting' their mythology. Marty and
I have taken a lot, of heat from
'Transfan Fundamentalists,' for good
reasons as well as bad ones," Skir
said.
Blame for Skir and Isenberg's
"corrupting thoughts" on the
"Transformers" storyline cannot be
completely pegged on merely the
duo it seems. "Mostly, we are play-
ing off the mythology we've inherit-
ed from "Beast Wars" (the series just
before "Beast Machines"). But, in
general, things from both the comics
and the cartoon have been creeping
into our scripts. Many of the ideas
used also are influenced by things
Hasbro ("Transformer"'s toy maker)
insisted on, Fox wanted and
Mainframe ("Beast Machines"' ani-
mation company) liked. Marty and I

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