Saturday, March 31, 2007

Episode 23

Man Of The Year - Let's pretend for a minute that Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is in the running to be the president of the United States of America. Why, you ask? Because that's what the writers of Man Of The Year must have done. Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, the host of a political/comedy/news show. When an audience member suggests that he should run for president, he takes the comment to heart and does just that. Before long, he's on the campaign trail with his manager Jack Menken (Christopher Walken), his comedy/speech writer Eddie Langston (Lewis Black), and a few other members of the staff of his show. Meanwhile, a new countrywide standard of electronic voting devices is put into effect by a company called Delacroy. Unfortunately, Delacroy technician Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) has discovered that there's a major glitch in the polling devices, but she's pressured into silence by company bigwigs Hemmings (Rick Roberts) and Alan Stewart (Jeff Goldblum). After Dobbs makes a surprising win based on the flawed poll results, Eleanor's conscience weighs on her to tell Dobbs what she knows. However, after meeting him, she's not sure that a comedian being president is necessarily a bad thing. Okay, did I miss a memo or something? Isn't this movie supposed to be a comedy? I sure thought so. There were some jokes in the movie (none of which I found particularly funny, mind you), but Man Of The Year is much more focused on drama than laughs, and before long I felt like I was watching a thriller. You've got an evil corporation, a scandal in the white house, big dudes in black SUVs and pick-up trucks chasing down, drugging, and trying to kill someone... Seriously, did anyone else expect any of that from the trailers for this movie? I was expecting a fun and fancy free romp along the lines of previous Robin Williams movies such as The Birdcage, or other presidential parodies like Dave. Something that my grandmother would find funny. Instead what I got was something more along the lines of The Sentinel or The Fugitive. Maybe not that intense, but along those lines. In the end, I'm not sure if I disliked Man Of The Year because it was genuinely bad or just because it was so far from what I was expecting, but one thing I am sure of is that I didn't like the movie. It tried to go back and forth between serious and humorous too often, and while my mother (whom I watched the movie with) chuckled a few times at jokes about Angelina Jolie's huge lips and other such pop culture subjects, I didn't laugh a single time. I was too busy trying to figure out if someone had accidentally switched the boxes for Man Of The Year and In The Line Of Fire at Blockbuster.

Corpse Bride - Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) and Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) are being forced into marriage with one another by their parents. Upon meeting each other, they aren't necessarily opposed to the idea, but they're still nervous. Victor is so nervous, in fact, that he screws up the wedding recital. After traveling to the woods to practice his vows, he mistakes a skeletal hand protruding from the ground for a good place to try the tradition of placing the ring on his fiancee's finger. Suddenly, the hand, along with the rest of the dead body of a woman in a wedding gown, rises from the dirt and drags Victor into the afterlife. It seems that he's just entered into a sacred bond with a dead woman (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). With Victor's sudden disappearance, a new suitor steps in to take the hand of Victoria by the name of Barkis Bittern (Richard Grant). Desperate to remove themselves from the clutches of their sudden brides and grooms-to-be, Victor and Victoria go to great lengths to be together after all. I gotta tell you right off the bat, The Nightmare Before Christmas this movie is not. Nightmare had lovable, memorable characters. Corpse Bride has a cast of loathsome, dull, and altogether forgettable individuals. Nightmare had toe-tappingly great songs that you didn't mind having stuck in your head. Corpse Bride has a few truly unnecessary and unimpressive musical numbers. Nightmare had an exciting, original story. Corpse Bride would have an original story if The Nightmare Before Christmas didn't already exist. Seriously. The main character is feeling blue. He stumbles into the forest and magically winds up in a different world or locale. Based on this series of events, some terrible mistakes have got to be righted and the day must be saved, which it eventually is (c' though you couldn't have guessed that). Altogether, Corpse Bride left me disappointed. It's hard not to compare this film with it's predecessor, and when that inevitably happens, it just doesn't stand up to The Nightmare Before Christmas. The one improvement that Corpse Bride had going for it was that the animation was slightly smoother, but not so much that it really made a difference. I didn't feel an emotional connection to any of the characters, and thus I didn't really give a damn about what was going on. Usually I'll say that even if I didn't like a movie, it's still worth a watch, but in the case of Corpse Bride, I'd have to say that you're better off just giving The Nightmare Before Christmas a repeat viewing.

End Of Days - The year is 1999. The world is on the verge of a new millennium. It's a time for celebration. Then Satan has to go and screw things up for everyone. On the eve of the new year, word comes down from Vatican City that the spawn of Satan shall be birthed from a human woman. The woman in question is Christine York (Robin Tunney), who Satanists have secretly been keeping their eyes on since the late seventies as the mother of Satan's child. Enter the prince of darkness himself, as played by Gabriel Byrne. He's hot on the heels of Christine, but a really down-on-his-luck New York City cop by the name of Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) isn't going to make things easy for him. Along with his partner Bobby Chicago (Kevin Pollack), Cane is on a mission to save humanity from the apocalypse, whether he believes all the religious babble or not. I was too young to fully appreciate the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was making mindless action movies in the eighties and early nineties. In an effort to make up for lost time, I saw some of his later attempts at action gold like The 6th Day, Collateral Damage, and this film. I recall genuinely liking End Of Days when I saw it back in 1999. Seeing it now, I'm not sure why. End Of Days takes itself a little too seriously. If there were a few more action scenes and a few less dramatic moments, the film would have been a lot better off. It's not without it's moments, though. One of my favorite scenes is one in which Satan takes a piss on the sidewalk, and lights the trail of urine on fire with a cigarette, blowing up a van. There's also a wonderfully ridiculous chase/action scene on a subway train during which Arnold shoots the devil with a rocket launcher. I mean, come on...who hasn't always wanted to see that? Yet, while I can't necessarily say that the bad outweighs the good, the mediocre certainly does. I, for one, am getting really tired of the stereotypically morose older cop who lost his family either to a divorce sparked by his being constantly wrapped up in his work or to an accident ending in the death of his loved ones that usually has something to do with his job. Kevin Pollack does his best to even out the playing field as the comical sidekick, but just doesn't nail it. Add to the mix that the girl they're trying to save is really annoying to the point that I wouldn't mind if they didn't succeed in doing so, and things aren't looking so good. The ray of sunshine here is Gabriel Byrne's performance as Satan. I've seen several Satan's before, and this might be the second best after James Woods' take on the character in the Disney animated version of Hercules. End Of Days isn't great, but it shouldn't completely disappoint you. Hopefully.

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