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January 24, 2001 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-01-24

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Lip sync for charity...
Let student athletcs entertain yoI in ,
lpsync contest wh ie raising money to
buy books for an Ann Arbor elementany
school library 7:30 p.n M ichgao
Theater. $8.
tichigandaily.com /arts

TfTS

0

WEDNESDAY
JANUARY 24, 2001

8

Penn's 'Pledge' combines
memorable roles, realism
and a touch of honesty

By Christopher Cousino
Daily Arts Writer
The opening shots of Sean Penn's "The
Pledge" are visual beauties - crows in mid
flight fade into dirtied hands scratching flaky
dead skin off a crusty calf. Poetic, astute and
aware could be ways to describe "The Pledge"
and Penn (as the film's director) wastes no time
letting us know his plan -- yes, this is going to
be slow paced so you better sit back and just
watch.
('rafting a wonderful character study in a sus-
)Cpefe thriller without the standard, gimmicky
11lywood twists, "The Pledge" is a little, beau-
tifblfilm. both on the visual and emotional lev-
els. Based on a novel by the German writer
Friedrich Duerenmatt, "The Pledge" begins on
the day of Nevada homicide detective Jerry
Blacks (Jack Nicholson) retirement.
Through clever crosscutting, Penn takes us
out of the city into a frigid, forest snowfield as a
vtJng boy rides his snowmobile into a drift and
stuibles across a horrific sight - the dead
bctdy of an eight-year old girl. Immediately, the
polce are notified and sure enough. Black steps
back n action.
s this may sound like the usual Nicholson
ro , Penn toys with our notion of Nicholson and
pl4ys.off this very effectively. Is this going to beI
a prise of say, his "Chinatown" Jake Gittes, a1
By Wilhelmina Mauritz
Daily Arts I tei
I -~
Tei Gi" a very reminiscent of last summer's
Lies~ Benea'h' The whole aura of the movie is,
"The Gift" never lets iou get too comfortable bef
ing you another jolt of scariness that sends chills
your back. Even the opening credits had a quict

story about a cocky detective who gets in over
his head? Penn brings one of Nicholson's more
touching, true acting performances in years.
Nicholson does not seem like he's playing him-
self for once. Tender, quiet and astute,
Nicholson's Black is a man of devotion - to his
job, to his pastime of fishing and to the mother
of the dead girl, after he promises to find her
child's killer.
Quickly, a known child rapist is apprehended
and brought in for interrogation by Black's part-
ner Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart). As retarded
Native American Toby Jay Wadenah, a slovenly
Benicio Del Toro continues to further himselfas
one of the best actors working right now. While
his role is very brief, his dark eyes and other
worldly presence further the mystical tone of the
film. Though his colleagues close the case,
Black doubts Wadenah's bizarre confession. But
now that he's a retiree, it's time to hit the lake for
some large mouth bass.
Penn spends a lot of time drawing us into the
character of Jerry Black and his passion for the
rod 'n' reel. Lures, lakes and lines are all shown
in vibrant close-ups and awe inspiring wide-
angles. We feel the climate of the mountains of
Nevada; when Penn takes us into the snow,* it's
really cold (a viewing experience similarto the
Coen brothers' "Fargo"). Penn's connection with
the landscape borders on the sublime as Black
buys an age-old gas station and starts his new

Courtesy of WarnerBros.Pctures
Jack Nicholson plays Jerry Black, a retired Nevada homicide detective in suspense thriller "The Pledge."

life. But his promise continues to haunt him.
Penn's greatest achievement in "The Pledge"
comes in his adept casting and honest feel to the
film. Using an ensemble of stark looking charac-
ter actors (Helen Mirren, Mickey Rourke, Harry
Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard, Vanessa Redgrave,
wife Robin Wright Penn),."The Pledge" is a tri-
utmph of tiny memorable roles. Along with a
solid cast of unknown background players. Penn
gives "The Pledge" such an honest touch. And it
looks it too.
Whether it's amongst hundreds of turkeys on a
turkey farm, a steaming pot of coffee or the
Backstreet Boys poster hanging in the back-
woods gas station (the owner has a teenage

daughter), "The Pledge" looks honest-to-good-
ness real, which may be at times why it's so unset-
tling. Not to mention the fact that Nicholson in
his spiky hair and moustache looks more like
Henry Lee Lucas than anyone else in the film.
Penn's "The Pledge" is an engaging film that
doesn't spell out the answers to the Fates; ulti-
mately they decide. It's a pleasure to see a char-
acter film set in a different, uncharted world,
with a Nevada backdrop (actually filmed in
British Columbia). Though a much different
film; the recent "You Can Count on Me" boasts
a similar honesty - in character, setting and
pacing. Yes, it's okay to take a moment, stop and
look around.

Richard Lewis speaks
about addiction, survival

Fox's 'Life
offers old
humor
By Jacquelene Smith
Daily Arts Writer
What would it be like to have parents
that never really grew up? What if they
didn't care that you built a fort out of
blankets and chairs right in the middleof
the living room?
What if they had
absolutely no idea
what they were
Grounded doing? This is t
For Life scenario posed
Fox's new family
Tonight at 8:30 "Grounded ,f- r
Life."
While all .his
. may be amusing
for the two young
boys of the
Finnerty fami,
ultimately the
series lacks the comic ingenuity of"Th
Simpsons" and "Married wi9
Children" for which Fox has come tobe
known and what makes a series worth
watching. The premise is at first proms-
ing, but never capitalizes on its potentil
and results in being little more tn
mediocre, juvenile humor.
Sean Finnerty (Donal Logue, "The
Tao of Steve") and his wife (Megyn
Price, "Mystery Alaska") mnare
young. They definitely weren't read;
be parents. With a teenage daughter that
rivals a banshee for hysteria capabilit,
and two little heathens for sons, no one
would disagree that the couple has their
hands full. But really it's their own fau t.
The only source of discipline that he
kids have is their militant grandfather
who is easily outwitted by the two boys.
For Sean, it's a priority to be the "col
dad." His problem is then balancing thit
with any sort of authority over his chil-
dren because then he'd be forced to 4
like an adult-which he isn't ready tob.
The show keeps insisting that the
kids, especially their daughter Lill
(Lynsey Bartilson), are the ones that are
in charge. And they are. When the mom
comes downstairs, the sons insist that
she walk on the furniture to get to the
kitchen because the floor is really
molten lava. And she does. She barely
flinches when they later break severg
lamps in an attempt to avoid being
burned by the volcanic floor.
Sean and his wife take great pains to
avoid Lilly's wrath as well. She lays
down the law far better than her parents.
At one point, Sean climbs the stairs to
Lilly's room to confront her about a fake
driver's license he found there. He's con-
vinced he's got the upper hand. It's no
surprise that Lilly turns the dispute to
her favor by making the discovery of the
fake i.d. illegitimate because it was ev
dence gained through the violation c
her privacy.
"Grounded for Life" has its moments.
When Lilly explains how frustrated she
is with her mother's attractiveness,
there's a series of flashbacks, from
Lilly's point of view. Cut to the mom
washing the family car in a pair of daisy
dukes and a tank top; the neighborhood
boys watching and drooling. In the end,
the show is nevertheless predictable an*
relies too heavily on that brand of
whiney-humor that only the cast of
"Seinfeld" could ever really pull off. In
the end, "Grounded for Life" doesn't
offer the viewer much in the way of

intelligent humor.

By Rob Brode
For the Daily
All the seats were taken and peo-
ple were lined up thoughout rows of
books Monday night in order to hear
Richard Lewis promote his new
book, "The Other Great Depression."
Lewis is well known for his stand-up

The Gift
Grade: B+
At Showcase
and Oua ty 16
.y
I, 1 "' '

that made me jump in my seat.
ile story follows Annie Wilson
(Cate Blapchett), a widow and moth-
e- of three boys. Annie is a psychic,
a power she received apparently
from her grandmother, and makes
ler living giving people advice
using her ability. Annie wears no
crazy hats nor does she use a crystal
ball to predict the future. She has a
simple deck of cards, which she uses
along vith her natural gut instinct.
'The majority of the town doesn't
necessarily believe in what Annie
does but they all like her just the
same because she is a wonderful

Richard
Lewis
Borders
Jan. 22, 2001

comedy but
probably most
recognized
among our gen-
eration as Prince
John, the man
with the moving
mole, from
"Robin ood
Men in Tights."
While Lewis
is best known
for his comedic
skills, his auto-
biography is no
laughing matter.
Those who came

person. She is caring to evervone and always treats those
around her, especially her clientele, warmly and with a
great deal of respect.
For the most part her clients are town folk that come to
her for advice about medical problems and other simple
wveryday things. Of course. these are not the people that
are of interest in the movie. The people we see are those
with major problems, like an abused wife (Hillary
Swank), an abusive husband (played by Keanu Reeves), a
mechanic with a serious mental disorder (Giovanni
Ribisi) and a father with a murdered daughter but no
killer.
The latter is the main mystery of'" The Gift" which
revolves around Jessica King (Katie Holmes), the rich
daughter and philandering fianc6 to a simple teacher
(Greg Kinnear). A few days after she is reported missing,
Annie is asked to help find Jessica. At this point Annie

Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) uses her psychic ability to
induce vomiting in "The Gift."
begins to see visions of Jessica's dead body while she is
sleeping and suddenly she can't get the images out of her
mind.
Annie gets these visions throughout the movie, and
they are both scary and a bit confusing because at times
you aren't quite sure whether what you are seeing is a
vision or reality. This is supposed to add to the eerie fac-
tor of the movie but sometimes it was complicated.
There are also a variety of bizarre characters in "The
Gift" that at times make the movie feel a little ridiculous.
Giovanni Ribisi, for example goes way over the top with
his dramatics in every scene he is in. The plot sometimes
feels like it is trying to force suspects down your throat
and vet you know that if "The Gift" wants to be a suc-
cessful mystery all the way through, the killer will never
be the most obvious candidate.
At a time when horror movies and other sorts of sus-
penseful films are everywhere and most of them are not
at all scary "The Gift" is one that not only promises to be
a great thriller, it delivers. At times the built up suspense
was so much that I found myself preparing both physi-
cally and mentally for whatever was about to come next.

expecting to hear lighthearted tales
of "Richard Lewis the famous come-
dian" or "Richard Lewis the actor"
did not get their wish. Instead they
heard the story of Richard Lewis the
alcoholic.
It is nothing new for celebrities to
speak about their addictions. In fact,
one more book about a moviestar's
addictions may seem like overkill,
but Richard Lewis is not the stereo-
typical celebrity. When he was being
formally introduced to the audience
he stood up to take the microphone,
saying he was undeserving of any
sort of formal introduction. He men-
tioned that he had previously been
asked to write an autobiography but
turned the offer down because he
thought that writing about himself

was too "self effacing, too
grandiose." Only after losing many
friends to addictions did he decide
that an autobiography dealing with
his own addictions would be a good
idea.
"Screw the stars, millions have it
(alcoholism)," Lewis said. His story
of addiction is similar to thousands
of others across America. Although
the setting of his story is Hollywood
instead of Smalltown USA and the
supporting roles are taken by
celebrities instead of the average
group of Joe's, Lewis stressed that
alcoholism acts in the same manner
no matter who it is affecting. Lewis
used his experience as a way to con-
nect with the audience instead of
using it to drum up sympathy which
endeared him to the audience.
As Lewis spoke it became increas-
ingly clear that his speech was about
more than promoting a book. At no
point in the evening did Lewis read
portions from the book. He didn't
have to.. The book seemed secondary
to the solace that speaking about
alcoholism brought Lewis. When the
woman in charge of the event
announced that the next question
would be the last Lewis said, "I can
take more unless you have to close
the store." She ended up making this
last call announcement three times
before Lewis stopped answering
questions.
Even after the questioning was
over and the signing began he
encouraged those who hadn't bought
the book to stay so he could meet
them. Although the ultimate reward
for writing a book is usually a New
York Times Bestseller, seventy atten-

tive listeners seemed to
enough for Lewis.

be reward

z

Hard-edged grassroots trio North
Mississippi Allstars rock out Magic Bag

By Chris Kula
Daily Arts Writer
The North Mississippi Allstars are children of
rock n' roll - literally. Guitarist Luther and drum-
mer Cody Dickinson are the sons of Jim Dickinson,

i3

North
Mississippi
Allstars

the acclaimed Memphis pro-
ducer who built a career
recording and performing with
such groups as the Rolling
Stones, Bob Dylan and Aretha
Franklin.
Years of growing up in
.oonrlin oidlo kvnz Ik(-.ruc

with the band's grassroots success story that's been
two generations in the making.
The NMAS played two Detroit shows in April
of 2000, opening first for Gov't Mule at St.
Andrew's Hall and later supporting Galactic at the
Magic Bag.
In addition to articles in various publications
including Rolling Stone, Billboard, the New York
Times and the Washington Post, the band was fea-
tured in a Time Magazine spread about life on the
Mississippi.
The band's debut album, Shake Hands with
Shorty, features seven reworkings of classic blues
standards h Delta natives Fred McDowell and R.L.

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