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September 09, 1999 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-09

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16A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 9, 1999

Square
releases
new
'Fantasy
Findl Fantasy VIII
Square
Sony Pfaystation
After a two-year break, the design
team at Square has launched another
hard-hitting servo against free time,
G.P.A.s, and social activity with the
highly anticipated release of Final
Fantasy VIII. Now all of us video
game AIdicts have yet another fix
destinedto-shutdown our lives for a
week. .
It's Very hard not to state the obvi-
ous when I say that the game is
beyond excellent - in fact, that
might be an understatement. It's even
harder to try to convey the level that
this game is on in such a small
amounioT fete.without revealing too
much of the story.t
The storyline pits a youg group
of mercenaries known - as SeeDs
against a the government of
Galbadia, a country bent on world
domination. You are Squall
Leonhart, the main character, and a
promising SeeD candidate. At least
that's how things begin. In typical
Squaresoft fashion, romance sneaks
in, and the story soon becomes twist-
ed and more and more complex as it
progresses.
Mysterious elements are thrown in
such a warrior by the name of
Laguna of whom nothing more is
really known, yet is strangely linked
to Squall and his comrades through
dreams. As a result of this complexi-
ty, there is quite a bit of dialogue in
the game, but the storyline is certain-
ly strong enough to keep things
interesting.
The game itself is a work of art
from the gameplay to the graphics.
Square;,has revamped many of
FFVII's, already supreme elements
and added several new ones, such as
a highly addicting side-game of
cards called Triple Triad (similar to

'Twin Falls' investigates
phenomenons of twins

By Erin Podoisky
Daily Arts Writer
I've always been kind of fascinated by Siamese twins. In
my eighth grade science class - or maybe it was sex ed, I can
never keep it straight - my teacher called them "conjoined."
She reveled in the word, worked her mouth around it like it
was a swirl of cotton candy from the county fair, like it was
the political correctness of the word and not the twisted pair
of bodies it represented that mattered to her. I was more con-
cerned with the double dose of pained existence enclosed in
the many names for the same malady. Two sides of the same
body, two hearts and one set of legs, or four legs and one
heart. What would it be like to literally be a part of another
person? I was mesmerized by the pos-
sibilities.
In "Twin Falls Idaho,"the movies get
their first serious look at the genetic
Twin Falls phenomenon of conjoined twins
Idaho thanks to identical twin collaborators
Michael and Mark Polish. The. Polish
brothers, who aren't joined at the hip
At Michigan Theater outside of the world of the film, wrote
and directed this story that is clearly
very close to their hearts. They play
Francis and Blake Falls, two individu-
als joined as one who have lived a soli-
tary life in unison. Francis is weak,
easily given to illness, while Blake is
strong. Thrown together by circum-
stance, the brothers yin and yang between codependency and
hatred, umbilical cord-strength emotional attachment and
antagonism. They fight with each other in their quiet, whis-
pery way. When Francis won't take his medicine, Blake takes
it for him, caring for his brother not because he has no choice,
but because they're irrevocably intertwined both through the

body and the soul. And as in so many relationships, or part-
ner needs the other more than the other needs him.
Hired by Francis as a birthday present, a prostitutetamed
Penny (Michele Hicks) wanders into their one-step-u-from-
being-condemned motel room and is at first repukld then
intrigued by them. She leaves and returns, struggles ith her
own disgust that eventually gives way to fascinatic and, at
some point, love. She tries to understand them as oe and as
two, as men and as entity. It's easy to see that's a pri'lege that
few have granted Francis and Blake.
Hicks plays Penny as a slightly more grown-o Winona
Ryder in "Beetlejuice," vamping innocently andaking the
broken, barely breathing twins under her wing, itroducing
them to experiences and emotions neither has evr felt. The
Polish brothers are more than up to the task; she ahost is, but
not quite. Penny is dark and vulnerable as thtwins are
translucently strong and fragile, each in his ownvay. That's
the beauty of "Twin Falls Idaho," the idea that outf two bod-
ies so hopelessly merged could grow two distinctndividuals
with tragic hopes and dreams that can never be fuilled. They
can hate each other but never live apart; they canove others
but never be with them as they can be with each ther.
The Polish brothers, at times, deliver the messge of dou-
bles a bit too strongly and don't trust their audien, to, excuse
the pun, put two and two together without a little xtra boost.
A line is repeated here, a visual joke is made thre. But for
the most part their effort is straight and true, an this small
movie has a heart twice as big as its competitoryIt offers a
point of view we don't often see, especially withct pointing
and laughing at circus freaks, but there's nothig freakish
about Francis and Blake. All of those peopkthat they
encounter in their daily life who don't know how> live with
both themselves and with others are the freaks. tancis and
Blake have mastered the art of better living throup symbio-
sis and individuality. They're the normal ones.

sorceress is one of the characters in "Final Fantasy VII."

Magic: The Gathering). The graphics
have been brought up a notch since
FFVII, with emphasis placed on
making the characters look more real
than cartoony. No longer will you
find outrageously spiky hairdos,
gun-hands or strangely shaped char-
acters.
Even the backgrounds during bat-
tles are well done and varied, con-
taining many layers and moving
items.-Most match the surrounding
terrain down to minute details such
as signs on buildings and hatches on
floors. And as if the graphics weren't
already a confirmation of a good
investment, the dolby surround
sound and beautiful soundtrack will
make you completely forget about
the outside world.
The CG sequences are breathtak-
ingly realistic and highly detailed.
Motion-capture photography was
used to give these scenes an authen-
tic look. In fact, it might be a safe
wager to say that they are the best
CG scenes to grace a Playstation
screen thus far. Aside from just their
overall look, the manner in which
they are intertwined with the game
play give the game the feel of an
interactive movie more than a game.
It's extremely tempting to just put
the controller down and watch.
FFVIII's battle engine is highly
complex, which will turn off some
gamers, but is very rewarding once

learned.
In a truly innovative rpg twist,
characters no longer depend on
magic points to cast spells. Instead
they rely either on drawing spells
from enemies and stocking them. or
from Guardian Forces. Guardian
Forces are living beings that give
your team members the ability to
summon or cast spells. They can be
called upon virtually without limit,
but have their own hit point total and
thus can be killed/knocked-out of
commission.
One aspect of the game that could
have used a little refining is the bat-
tle difficulty. Don't expect to see the
"game over" screen too often as the
minor monsters aren't too good at
what they do. Don't misunderstand,
the battles will get your adrenaline
flowing and heart jumping, but a lit-
tle practice with spells and items will
keep you alive for a long time. The
bosses, though are a slightly differ-
ent story...
The team at Square deserves all
the accolades that will be coming to
them. They have managed to greatly
improve upon legend, instead of just
copying and re-releasing it. Final
Fantasy 'VIII will be a true classic,
but I think you already knew that.
(Now if you'll excuse me, I have to
get back to disc 3...gotta get this
done before classes get bad!)
- Deveron Q. Sanders

TV special tells show

22 CA
house

AMERAS 24 HOURS/DAY
42

Thinking of
writing for the
Daily?
Want to learn
more?
Look for us at
Festifall!

The Washington Post
No one ever had grasped that unique-
ly American promise, "the pursuit of
happiness," quite the way Phineas
Taylor Barnum did.
Barnum, born in 1810, saw that by
mid-century American workers for the
first time had free time and money and
were willing to spend them on being
entertained.
And entertain them is exactly what
he set out to do.
Whether he was a born salesman, a
brilliant entrepreneur or just an enthusi-
astic huckster, Barnum understood his
clientele - from the growing contin-
gent of immigrants who couldn't yet
speak English to the elite of New York
City who were eager to fork over big
bucks to hear arias from a singer he
called the Swedish Nightingale.
Even if he engaged in a form of exag-
geration that sometimes bordered on
scam, Barnum was true to his goal: He
wanted to give the people their money's
worth, and to keep them coming back to
his museum, and later his circus, to see
other extravaganzas he promoted.
But the colorful showman may never
have uttered the condescending remark
widely attributed to him: "There's a
sucker born every minute." As much as
Barnum loved razzle-dazzle, that
remark, believes screenwriter Lionel
Chetwynd, would have been entirely
out of character.
Entettaining, informative and largely
sympathetic, A&E's "PT. Barnum," air-
ing Sunday and Monday at 8, drama-
tizes his personal life and his lively
career. And as it turned out, barnum's
81 years weren't entirely full of parades
and cotton candy, Swedish
Nightingales, Tom Thumbs, Jumbo the
elephants and "Feejee mermaids."
As Beau Bridges plays him in the
cable service's miniseries, Barnum was
an energetic man who was devoted to
his wife, Charity, and their four daugh-
ters and determined to make good in a
culture still heavily weighted toward the
well-to-do and the aristocratic.
Upbeat and extroverted as he was, he
nevertheless faced tragedy as well: the
deaths of his parents, of one of his
beloved daughters, of a grandchild and
finally of the wife who had shared his
dreams and secret motto ("now or
never") and reluctantly tolerated his
long absences. Barnum suffered disas-
trous business reversals and was
snubbed by the New York elite. The

elaborate Connecticut estate he called
Iranistan burned down just as he and his
family were preparing to move in.
Yet somehow there was always
another deal to buoy his entrepreneurial
spirit, another trip, another fortune to be
made.
"In Australia, we would call Barnum
a lovable scallywag," said director
Simon Wincer.
"PT. Barnum," filmed last winter in
Montreal and Vancouver, is the first
miniseries Wincer has directed since he
made "Lonesome Dove" a decade back.
"Barnum was an extremely impor-
tant person in 19th-century America, an
enormous influence in contemporary
America," said Wincer. "People don't
realize the impact that he's had on peo-
ple's lives. The way he advertised, the
way he sold, the way he would exagger-
ate - he really created the world of
advertising as we know it today. He
really introduced glitz into our busi-
ness, and Americans are good at that.
And he was an honorable man. Even
though he pulled off a couple of scams,
the people always got their money's
worth" ,
Wincer is fascinated by 19th-century
America, a period when the society
shifted from rural to urban life.
"When Barnum was a kid, (the pop-
ulation of) New, York was 100,000;
when he died, Manhattan was a
metropolis," said Wincer. "The U.S.
was being flooded with immigrants,
becoming a multicultural society.
Barnum's followers were very much
the sort of lower classes, the working
classes. That's where he realized this
great untapped market. He provided
entertainment for them for the week-
ends because they had money to
spend. With Jenny Lind, he intro-
duced opera to the masses."
Barnum discovered Lind, whom he
called the Swedish Nightingale, in
Europe, and brought her to the United
States. In New York, interest in her was
so intense that Barnum auctioned off
orchestra seats for her first concert, at
Castle Garden, to the city's elite, selling
some for bids of several hundred dollars
- a sort of one-upmanship over
tycoons who had not accepted him
socially. He went on to promote Lind's
.tour of 95 concerts before they parted
company.
Among his many endeavors, not all
of which are dramatized in this minis-
eries, was Barnum's early decision to
buy the failing Scudder's museum in

nan) s stcry
New York City and rechristen iwith his
own name. He exhibited odd ies he'd
found during his world-widt travels,
including what he called the"Feejee
mermaid," which turned out 6 be the
upper body of a female Monkey
attached to the lower half of a lrge fish.
But the museum patrons didn't seem
to care that they'd been bamioozled,
and Barnum learned that "a bi hook"
would get people inside. But he also
knew they wouldn't return unliss they
were offered an interesting sho. And
return they did, hoping to see tle other
exhibits, wild animals, perfomances
and lectures - "500,000 natual and
artificial curiosities from everytorner
of the globe," according to Ba-num's
advertisements.
In 1842, he signed up tiny Giarles
Stratton, naming him Gen. Tom
Thumb and taking him to Lonton to
meet Queen Victoria. Strattob and
Barnum became life-long friends,and
Stratton once made a tour especially
to help bail 'Barnum out of financial
difficulties.
The impresario's innovative circus
parades gave spectators a taste of what
they'd find under the big top if they'd
buy a ticket. Under the Barnum &
Bailey tent, they would find something
new - "the Greatest Show on Earth,
he promised: a ringmaster presidin
over three rings, not one, with acts pe
forming simultaneously in all of ther
(In 1907, after Barnum's death in 189
Ringling Brothers purchased the c-
cus.)
Later, Barnum took up politics n
Bridgeport, Conn., serving first as ps-
ident of the Fairfield Coty
Agricultural Society, then as mayor.nd
three terms as a Connecticut state is-
lator. He was also a trustee of efts
College, a founder and first presidet of
a bank in Bridgeport and a land del-
oper. But except for a few referees,
"P.T. Barnum" leaves the politicaside
of his life to other filmmakers.
In fact, even though this portral is
four hours long, it doesn't includdll of
Barnum's wide-ranging travel and
endeavors as he made and lost veral
fortunes.
But it does point out that afr his
first wife, Charity, objected ) his
drinking alcohol, Barnum bedne a
devotee of temperance. He alsaspoke
publicly in 1865 in favor of "fran-
chising Negroes" and is picture argu-
ing against the pro-Confederatesenti-
ments of his son-in-law.

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