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November 6, 2012

Election Day Special: Dave

Dave: Unique
(1993, 110mins, Comedy)

Originally I was reviewing 1995’s Nixon. I always thought it was a underrated film, one that was well acted and directed. But as I was watching it, I said it just the same old, same old. I wanted something I thought was unique. I then remembered the 1993 film, Dave. Here’s a film that has no historic importance and is made up completely from the ground up.

The story is simple, the U.S. President has a stroke. He’s now in a coma and the news is kept quiet. Why? Because this President was “getting around” and if this got out, it could be potentially a large scandal for the country. A temp agency owner who looks exactly like the President is now a part of this. He is put in the President’s place to keep the scandal at a stand still with no one noticing any issues.

This idea in the end becomes a big back up plain that works perfect for the former and new President. The original President isn’t a likable guy, in fact even the first lady doesn’t like him. The new President is a likable guy. When he comes into the Presidency, he also in turn restores the Presidency. But the real pleasure of this film is the little pieces that not to many people notice. I tried to think of another film that centered around a President and it didn’t even tell you his party. I think this might be the only one. This creates a generic President and the film doesn’t get wrapped up into the two parties. This is something that doesn’t happen much in films about politics, which make things even more enjoyable.


Kevin Kline shines in this film. (Like every film he is in)

Perfect in casting I would have to say.
And the rest is awesome…

Sigourney Weaver
Frank Langella (lovely evil!)
Kevin Dunn
Ving Rhames
Ben Kingsley
Charles Grodin
Laura Linney
Bonnie Hunt
Directed by Ivan Reitman

All around a perfect cast that stands out.

All in all this is a fun film to watch. It’s even family friendly and one I think everyone would get a kick out of watching where all one guy wants only to do good for the country.

November 6, 2012

Election Day Special: Bulworth

Bulworth – Gimmick

Now here’s a gimmick for you; take Warren Beatty, a poster child for White America, make him rap and booty dance with Halle Barry while dressed in mid-90s hip-hop fashions all the while on the run from a supposed assassination attempt.  Sound good?  Well, some of it is, while some of it comes off as a feeble attempt to address the fact that politicians are just put in place to give “we the people” a sense that we “voted” them into office while the truth is that they are in the pockets of interest groups and lobbyists.  That’s 1998’s “Bulworth” in a nutshell.

I could stop the review right there, but watching “Bulworth” in my less politically enlightened days and watching it now proves to me that this film didn’t get the credit it deserved when it was released* and how it was a zeitgeist for politics not only in the Clinton-era, but in the Obama-era now.

As I prefaced, “Bulworth” is the story of California Democratic Senator, Jay Billington Bulworth, running for re-election in 1996 (which was also the year in which Bill Clinton was running for re-election against GOP candidate, Bob Dole).  In hope of keeping his seat, Sen. Bulworth has transitioned from a typically Liberal stance, to a more “back to traditional American values” Conservative stance.  Upset with his new political agenda, as well as his broken marriage, Bulworth takes a contract out on his life in hopes of his daughter inheriting a substantial life insurance policy, which is given to Bulworth by an insurance lobbyist .  Not fearing reprisal, Bulworth begins a newer “political agenda” where he takes off his filter and starts telling his supporters and critics what politicians really think about them.  From going to a black church and explaining that the African-American community doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of politics and telling the Jewish community that their Jewish paranoia is actually real, Bulworth lets it all hang out, including his tongue while dancing with Halle Barry in an after-hours hip-hip club.

Beatty, a known friend of the Democratic establishment, skewers politicians from the left and right, as well as the 24 hour media coverage of politics, which plays a major part in the overall plot.  He points out how struggling members of our society get swept under the rug and find other “elected officials,” case in point, Don Cheadle’s drug dealer character, L.D.

Speaking of Beatty and Cheadle, the acting is quite strong.  Some of the supporting roles include Sean Astin, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino, and Jack Warren, with Platt as a standout, playing a campaign manager caught between the preservation of his career and “loyalty” to his candidate.

The things that irked me, and this plays into the whole gimmick, is the pounding rap soundtrack throughout the film.  Trust me, I love gangsta rap as much as the next hip-hop head, but it was unnecessary in some scenes.  The other problem I had was the use of a “chorus” by way of two black girls who essentially become Bulworth’s hype girls.  Personally, I found it a little obnoxious, annoying and didn’t really understand its place besides maybe comic relief, which falls flat.

Overall, “Bulworth” is a good political satire that tackles some of the hard issues, and to be honest, there hasn’t been another movie that was combined both tongue-in-cheek humor with something thought provoking in the political comedy genre .  Yes, we all know that special interest groups and lobbyists run Washington (as much as we want to tell ourselves that they don’t) and the middle class is disappearing while America becomes a two-class system.  The one thing that does hold “Bulworth” back from being a great movie is that hip-hop gimmick.  It works at times, but it becomes a joke in and of itself, and almost becomes cringe-inducing once you see Beatty in a skully and baggy pants.  

*Yes, the movie received plenty of recognition from the Awards circuit (Academy and Golden Globes) but it wasn’t widely distributed and was able to make it’s production costs back in it’s theatrical run.

Fun Fact:  There are 111 uses or derivatives of the word “fuck” used in the film.  Clocking in at 108 minutes, that is more than one “fuck” per minute.  1.027 to be exact.

September 3, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Wire, Season Four

The Wire, Season Four – Chilling

*Spoilers Ahead*

Through three seasons of “The Wire” we have gone from the streets, to the docks, and back to the streets so it was only natural that we visited somewhere that we would think would be safe and would give us a break from the chaos of West Baltimore.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the case when we visit the School District of West Baltimore in Season Four of “The Wire.”

So far we’ve seen junkies, gangsters, murderers, pimps, mobsters, crooked cops and politicians, and you can make the case that they’re all scourges, blights on society, but it’s all the more tragic when you see the neglect the school system faces and with the “robbing Peter to pay Paul” mindset you understand why West Baltimore is in such disrepair.

This season we meet more new characters and the re-invention of a few old ones.  The most prominent ones include Michael Lee, a street smart kid that catches the eye of the Stanfield Crew, Duquan Weems aka “Dukie”, and Randy Wagstaff, two extremely tragic figures of how the school system fails and bureaucracy blocks enhancement for West Baltimore’s youth, and we see the new career direction of former Detective Roland Pryzbylewski, now a math teacher for the West Baltimore School District.

As we have come to expect from “The Wire,” we have a fair share of “offings” of well liked characters, and some interesting twists from others.  I would have to say that Season Four is the strongest season of “The Wire” so far as it keeps close to the streets but it also explores the failures of the local government, how criminals take advantage of the local youth, and why hope in a hopeless situation is so dangerous.

Fun Fact:  Felicia Pearson, who portrays Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, is an actual convicted felon from East Baltimore who was discovered by Michael Williams, who portrays Omar Little in “The Wire”.


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