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Man of the Year (2006)
Is it a satire, a comedy, a thriller? I guess it is just a mess.
'Man of the Year' has a lot of ideas thrown into a glass bowl. We see all those ideas through the glass, and then some are picked out. Some of them turn out to be too hot (or actually hard) to handle so they are thrown back. We are left with an unsatisfying movie which could have been a great satire, a funny comedy, a weird romantic film, or maybe even a working thriller (although I do doubt that).
Robin Williams is Tom Dobbs, a host of a television show not unlike Jon Stewart's 'The Daily Show'. He runs for president as an independent in only thirteen states, wins in all of those, and gets enough votes to become the next president of the USA. I would say, take it from there. But then it is apparently necessary for Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) to discover the computer voting system had a glitch which caused Dobbs to win. Nothing was done about that for financial reasons. It also throws in cigarettes, or at least what it can cause. Christopher Walken takes care of that part.
That 'Man of the Year' never finds its focus is not really my problem. But that the film therefore becomes a waste of time kind of is. Robin Williams has the opportunity for improvising and great one-liners, but none of them delivers. His jokes are too much on the territory of a teen comedy, often close to annoying. The thriller part enters with Linney who wants to tell Dobbs about the glitch, and Jeff Goldblum desperately trying to prevent that. It all seems silly.
The film should have followed the "Oprah for President" storyline, without any computer glitch. Since popular faces on television are actually able to win elections, why not have some fun with that. The trailer showed something I was really looking forward to, the film itself is something I have seen before, only better. That said, the jokes in 'The Daily Show' are a lot better than the those heard in the fictional program in this film. Even if you don't like 'The Daily Show' you will see that. The show and this film have Lewis Black in common. They should have had some of the writers in common.
Reno 911!: Miami (2007)
Not that bad really
'Reno 911!: Miami' is based on the Comedy Central television series and unfortunately I have never seen a single episode. If I had I would have liked this film a lot better I guess. For those like me, 'Reno 911!' is 'Police Academy', only a lot smarter. Throw in a little 'Super Troopers' and you understand what I am talking about. The camera is used as in the reality shows, following our characters on the missions. Those are in Miami by the way, and they are the only available cops. Why and how is not that important.
There are some hilarious moments, great ideas, a lot of fun, but for some reason it never really worked for me. I had a good enough time, and I am sure fans of the series will love the film as well, but in my opinion there could have been more. The first twenty minutes the film has trouble finding its way with only the occasional laugh. Once they are in Miami it gets better, but seems uneasy about the fact it has to fill an entire film, not just a 20-minute episode. The great ideas take too much time to build, leaving us with little to laugh while we are waiting.
In the end I had a pretty good time watching 'Reno 911!' and it made me quite curious about the series. That alone is reason enough for me to recommend this if you don't really want to see a masterpiece. On the other hand, for those not familiar with the series I could recommend better and funnier films. May be 'Super Troopers' to start with.
'Inflation' is a short film depicting Germany's inflation between the two World Wars. With quite some special effects, director Hans Richter compares the US dollar with the Deutsche Mark and shows that in a short period of time the dollar is equal to 50.000.000 DM. The story in this film, which could be seen as a documentary, is just that.
The film is interesting from a technical point of view. The somewhat surrealistic images are created through various kind of special effects and although dated, they still look pretty nice. Although I would sooner recommend a Dziga Vertov film (same time, more different techniques), 'Inflation' is still well worth seeing. After all, it only takes a couple of minutes.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
The title 'Snakes on a Plane' is the kind of title that makes a story unnecessary. In fact, the film could have done without the first twenty minutes or so; we all know the real film starts once the main characters are all on that plane. Those characters include a lot of poisonous snakes and of course FBI Agent Samuel L. Jackson, who is taking a key witness from Hawaii to Los Angeles.
Why is not important, the snakes are there, killing off every characters that is not introduced including the captain. Now we have both the snakes and the plane out of control. It is to Jackson to save the day. On the ground we follow another FBI Agent, tracking down snake experts and illegal snake holders to help Jackson the best way possible.
'Snakes on a Plane' is a movie that delivers exactly what the title promises it does. It is both fun and thrilling, from time to time at least, and therefore to be recommended for people who were looking up a title like this in the first place. It may be ridiculous, it delivers. If you think the title is silly, I guess you should avoid this film entirely.
Failure to Launch (2006)
Another failed romantic comedy, saved by being just that
I a getting tired of the over-confident characters Matthew McConaughey plays. In 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days', 'Sahara', 'Two for the Money' and now 'Failure to Launch' we have seen this character. It kind of works in dramatic films, and when done right maybe in a romantic comedy, but not when he has the face of McConaughey. In the end you simply can't see why the female lead falls for this guy. Here it may have something to do with a personal tragedy, which means she feels sorry, not love.
Sarah Jessica Parker is Paula. Her job is to date men who still live with their parents, being a substitute care-taker. Therefore the men will want to leave their parents to join her. Her latest client is Tripp (McConaughey), hired by his parents (including Kathy Bates). We also meet two of his friends, also still living with their parents, and her roommate. She is Kit (Zooey Deschanel), the weird and most interesting character in this film.
Since every romantic comedy as made in Hollywood needs the leads unexpectedly falling in love, a crisis, in the end getting back together, and an interesting story involving the sidekicks. The crisis, since she is hired by the parents, is logical from the start, all of the rest happens too. The sidekicks story is funny enough, also dealing with love, but the film throws in a bunch of animals as extra sidekicks. We have stupid sequences involving chipmunks, dolphins and a mockingbird (well, that one kind of works). To fill time we have the guy stuff sequences including mountain biking, rock climbing and paint balling.
Admittedly, I was able to smile from time to time and I was not bored. It delivers what it promises it will, so complaining seems wrong. Still, the film could have done without McConaughey and the time filling sequences, and maybe the focus should have been on the Deschanel love story. I guess that would have meant a complete other film. I think I might have enjoyed that one more.
Has some intelligent views, but has chosen the wrong genre to show them
With his comedy 'Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World', a terrific title, Albert Brooks raises some interesting issues, stretching from America's foreign affair policy and how their intervening (no matter what kind) can lead to worser conditions than before. How I will not explain, but since the film still has to be a comedy, it fails completely.
Simply said it is Brooks who is send by the US government to India and Pakistan to find out what makes Muslims laugh. Brooks takes a big swing at himself in the process, which is kind of an achievement since there are other cultures here. He could have made fun of that but he didn't. Still, and again, this is a comedy and the swings at himself are nicely found from time to time, but never funny.
The ending, although not funny, is the strongest point here. It deals with leaving countries you have 'invaded' before the job is done and with having a huge part in causing problems in the world. It does not make the movie worthy of your time, but at least it shows it has intelligence. Not humor though...
Bottle Rocket (1994)
The beginning of Anderson & Wilson
'Bottle Rocket' is the first project written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, starring Owen and his brother Luke. This short, shown at Sundance, made sure they got to make the feature film 'Bottle Rocket' (1996). Of course they came with 'Rushmore', 'The Royal Tenenbaums' and 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou' next.
This short, shot in black and white, is sort of the same as the first fifteen minutes of the feature film version. It shows three friends named Dignan (Owen Wilson), Anthony (Luke) and Bob (Robert Musgrave) preparing for a heist, not much more. Before the real deal they practice once, buy guns, and then it's show time.
The dialogue and natural acting makes this an above average short film. The writing is pretty clever and most moments will make you smile. Most of the time it is quite exciting to see one of those "first films" from established directors; 'Bottle Rocket' is no exception.
Better, but still bad
I did not like the first 'Garfield'-film, and although this sequel is an improvement I didn't care much for this one as well. Too many talking animals and a story involving a mix-up, which is too simple to begin with, make a boring movie out of elements we have seen many times before.
The mix-up is between Garfield and Prince, a London cat who just inherited a whole castle. The inhabitant of that castle, Lord Dargis (Billy Connolly), thought he would have it all. Only after the cat is dead and buried the place will be his. He gets rid off Prince, but the loyal butler Smithee (Ian Abercrombie) finds him back, only it is Garfield instead of Prince. Now owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) finds Prince, thinking it is Garfield. He is in London for a subplot involving his love Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) who he wants to marry.
As in the first film it is Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield who can bring the occasional smile to your face. Again the dancing sequences, one repeating a famous mirror scene from the Marx Brothers, belong to the highlights. 'A Tale of Two Kitties' contains some more laughs than the first film, but should be seen as another failure. I am not sure whether a good film about this character can be made, but better than this seems quite possible.
Interesting but failed experiment
'Destricted' is best described as seven short art-house porn films. None of them really succeeds as an interesting mix between art and porn, although 'Impaled' by director Larry Clark and 'Balkan Erotic Epic' by director Marina Abramovic have some interesting elements. The first shows a casting for a porn film, but not with the insecure women often displayed, but with insecure young men. The second shows myths from the Balkan around the sexual organs which makes a rather funny erotic little film.
'House Call' (from Richard Prince) is a vintage sex scene and comes, together with 'Impaled', closest to pornography. Maybe 'Sync' (Marco Brambilla) as well, but it only exists out of very, very fast cuts from different porn films and plays for about two minutes. 'Hoist' (Matthew Barney) is too much art, which becomes rather ridiculous with the sex, and 'Death Valley' opens with a beautiful shot only to continue with an 8-minute masturbation scene. I guess it does catch the essence of contemporary porn.
I have not mentioned Gaspar Noé's 'We F*ck Alone' where he seems to have made a stylistic sequel to his controversial 'Irréversible'. His use of the strobe makes this one quite hard to watch. The film itself, including a doll as a main character, becomes unintentionally funny. His film feels as a failed experiment, basically like 'Destricted' as a whole. The premise and some elements have their interesting things, but I can not think of a real audience for it.
The Boat (1921)
Nice, but does not belong to Keaton's greatest
'The Boat' shows Buster Keaton as a boat builder, taking his wife and two children to the launch of his boat. As the four hit the ocean they learn there are quite some surprises to this boat. That things will not happen as planned is an understatement. Although there are quite some nice gags in this short film, it is only mildly funny.
The first half is so much more entertaining than the second, which seems a little boring. It uses more of the same gags and the new ones play too long. Keaton is able to show his physical a couple of time, using the entire boat as a prop, making this short a nice part in his oeuvre. On the other hand, he could have done without 'The Boat'.