Swing Vote: Political Nuttiness Gone Sour

I don't understand why the forces behind Swing Vote chose to saddle their film with a "hero" like Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) and cast off any hope of becoming a clever political satire. Rather than dish out some much-deserved digs at the U.S. political campaign machine, director Joshua Michael Stern instead felt content to focus on the "redemption" of swing voter Bud, a wholly undeserving character.

When the two major presidential candidates discover that Bud possesses the deciding vote between each of them, they flub their brains trying to win over the unemployed, barely educated, NASCAR-loving alcoholic. Kelsey Grammar as the incumbent President tries to distill the election process into a complicated football analogy of which he is the star player. Democratic candidate Don Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper) knocks himself on his backside shooting a hunting rifle to prove he's a Regular Joe. But the candidates' efforts -- and Swing Vote's attempts at satire -- are in vain because Bud is too dumb, drunk, and willfully ignorant to function, let alone choose the next leader of the free world.

Swing Vote is at its sharpest when Bud's unlikely authority is used to wipe away the endless political posturing and "justificating" to reveal the blatant pandering underneath. The candidates flip flop on the gravest issues like immigration and abortion, each invoking the time-honored political cry that he "can't do any good if he doesn't win." The candidates' over-the-top commercials reveal the shallowness of that argument.

After these shots over the bow, mysteriously, sadly, we are stuck again with Bud's story of redemption. Except so much is made of Bud's ignorance, disdain for education, and lackluster parenting skills -- all of which are clothed in the sheer guise of humorous quirks -- that it would feel out of character if Bud showed the initiative to begin flossing.

I was mildly entertained when I first saw Swing Vote. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report proved that contemporary politics are ripe for the poking, and Swing Vote does make an obligatory poke or two. But Bud Johnson gets the lion's share of attention, and his lone saving grace, his love for his young daughter, is rarely sufficient to wake him out of a drunken stupor. Swing Vote might raise a chuckle at the U.S. political machine, but the thought of a Bud Johnson directing America's future is almost too frightening to consider.


2008 Summer Movie Extravaganza Part III

Part III of the Extravaganza continues. Read up on Part I and II to catch up, slowpoke.


The Good: The tale of a lonely robot's galaxy-wide quest for his true love (and incidentally, humanity's lone chance at survival) upholds Pixar's well-deserved reputation for jaw-dropping visuals and touching revelations.

The Bad:
Youngsters won't notice the irony of a Disney film's anti-consumerism message, but it may irk adults... until they find out that WALL-E has been in development since Pixar was independent.

The Delicious:
How WALL-E's cockroach companion never lets a pounding keep him down.


The Good:
James McAvoy makes a convincing yuppie-turned-assassin and mows down enemies while looking almost as good as Angelina Jolie.

The Bad: All the kids who'll now think their panic attacks means they can jump fifty yards across rooftops.

The Delicious:
When McAvoy reaps bloody vengeance on a building filled with master assassins.


The Good:
Hancock's decision to hire a PR guy to change his image as a drunken, belligerent superhero is the kind of intelligent almost-breaking-the-fourth-wall-but-not-quite plot device that make film and comic geeks smile.

The Bad:
Charlize Theron's entire story arc belonged in a different, more serious movie.

The Delicious:
After Hancock stops a speeding train from killing a bystander, the surrounding mob criticizes his technique.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

The Good:
Wisecracks. Check. Creepy villains. Check. Visuals straight out of a Guillermo Del Toro's movie. Check.

The Bad:
I love Selma Blair, but she was wrong for Liz Sherman in the first Hellboy film and nothing's changed for the second.

The Delicious:
That Prince Nuada sure knows how to fight.

The Dark Knight

The Good:
Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker has the fascinating, disturbing quality of picking a hideous scab -- you can't look away.

The Bad:
Some of the schemes are needlessly complicated. You'll ask yourself afterwards, "why didn't they just __?

The Delicious:
The Joker's "experiments" are common comic book fodder, but for once they look and feel realistic and tense as hell.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

The Good:
The concept of traveling deep inside the Earth is as cool now as it was back in 1959 when the original film came out.

The Bad:
Besides a floating rock sequence there aren't too many genuinely exciting moments.

The Delicious:
It takes balls to disregard physics and the laws of nature so completely.

You want to know who else has balls? The other Large Association of Movie Blogs members. They've got the balls to stuff your face with huge, ripe movie nuggets.


2008 Summer Movie Extravaganza Part II

Last week I laid out the Good, the Bad, and the Delicious for summer movies from May. Now I turn my critical squint on some more summer films of June.

Kung Fu Panda

The Good: This lighthearted tale of a young panda (voiced by Jack Black) who must slip his bulk into the role of defender against a twisted tiger warrior lays out some meaty martial arts sequences.

The Bad: Virtually no double entendres for the adults.

The Delicious: The opening scene features an edgy style of animation that hopefully pops up in other productions.


The Good: Fascinating look into Mongolian way of life as seen through the eyes of young Temudjin, who would become known as Gengis Khan.

The Bad: Stark, beautiful landscapes impart the scenes with epic grandeur but the film's events are surprisingly limited in scope. Of course, expected future installments should fix that.

The Delicious: Rubbing your hands whenever somebody messes with the young Khan and thinking, "Oh, he is going to regret THAT."

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

The Good:
Exudes the happily dumb energy that's been missing from Adam Sandler's previous projects. Contributions from Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow probably deserve the credit.

The Bad: For a film that has a running gag about the lead character's bushel of pubic hair, Zohan is more good-natured than funny.

The Delicious: Watching Nick Swardson come to terms with Zohan "shtupping" his mom. And yes, I had to look that one up.

The Incredible Hulk

The Good: This lighter take on the Green One (compared to Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk) makes its brutal fights more realistic while limiting the emotional baggage to Iron Man's level.

The Bad: Tim Roth's pudgy appearance prior to his transformation from an over-the-hill soldier to genetically-modified killing machine is absurd for an elite commando.

The Delicious:
The Hulk's appearance makes Bruce Banner an outcast in society, but, more importantly, the Hulk stops him from freaking on Liv Tyler.

Get Smart

The Good: Steve Carrell's Maxwell Smart is smarter than the Max of old, but sports a timeless klutziness that would make Don Adams proud.

The Bad: In between hilarious scenes like the airplane jump and the ballroom dance are lengthy periods with few gags worthy of a chuckle.

The Delicious: Watching Max talk down an enemy agent with empathy and a shared love of Ryan Seacrest radio.

Check back for the third and final part in my 2008 Summer Movie Extravaganza and head over to the Large Association of Move Blogs to check out more movie madness.


2008 Summer Movie Extravaganza

Ever see that martial arts anime Dragonball where the characters charge up their powers all the time and every fourth episode is reserved for, you know, actually fighting? That's how my summer's been so far. Watching movies, charging up. Watching more movies, charging up some more. But now it's time to fight, and by fight I mean lay out the Good, the Bad, and the Delicious for 2008's summer movies.

(And in case you hadn't heard, they're also making Dragonball into a movie. Go figure.)

Fist up, the May movies:

The Good: Robert Downey Jr. was born to play the wisecracking, billionaire playboy genius who fights crime in a mechanized suit of armor.

The Bad: My inner pyro would've enjoyed a few more explosions.

The Delicious:
The way Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepperidge Potts helps Downey Jr. fix up his suit's power source by digging her hand through his mucus-y chest cavity.

Speed Racer

The Good: Of the film's three races, the second, which is the most entertaining, feels like a cross between the Twisted Metal video game franchise and the Cruisin' World arcade game. All three races are possible epileptic attacks in waiting, but the other two races are too confusing to be half as entertaining.

The Bad: The tired plot. It made me nap until my next seizure.

The Delicious: Roger Allam as the oily Mr. Royalton.

What Happens in Vegas

The Good: Virtually painless romantic comedy with likable leads and cute story.

The Bad:
Virtually painless romantic comedy that's as riveting as those What Happens in Vegas ads.

The Delicious: The hilarious banter of sidekicks Lake Bell and Rob Corddry.


The Good: Director David Mamet's latest film follows his tried and true "everything falls apart around an innocent dude" theme but this time the innocent dude is a badass martial arts instructor.

The Bad:
Not much actual martial arts.

The Delicious:
The denouement doesn't make much sense, but righteous ass kicking can be very satisfying to watch.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Good: Graphic fairy tale battles make the adventures of adolescent Brits much darker and much more palatable for adults.

The Bad: Ben Barnes is British, so I can understand the need to change Prince Caspian's accent. But why did he have to choose one that sounds like he's talking with underwear stuffed in his mouth -- and dirty underwear at that?

The Delicious:
Judging the sexual tension between Prince Caspian and High King Peter.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Good: Harrison Ford still has the physique and the charm to pull off a fedora.

The Bad: Unfortunately, everything else is a drop off from previous films as the Russkies stand in for the Nazis and a hokey crystal skull replaces the holy grail.

The Delicious: Shia LeBeouf's greaser character is too lightweight to carry on the Indy torch, as Spielberg has hinted is possible, but Shia's charismatic enough to put his own spin on the franchise.

Next up are the June and July summer movie breakdowns. Visit the Large Association of Movie Blogs for more movie potpourri but without the woodsy aromas.


A Quick Laugh

The last several weeks have seen me devour movies, both new and old, the same way Homer Simpson eats donuts. I think my brain is about as full as Homer's gut too.

I'll be writing plenty of thoughts and reviews, but I felt like priming the pump with a skit by the comedy troupe Human Giant that tore me up.


Great Moments in Indiana Jones History

Hana, Maui, which is where I spent most of this past week, boasts an other-worldly bamboo forest, breathtaking nude beaches, and internet access as reliable as a dead cat. At least that's my excuse for skimping on Indiana Jones posts when the Fedora-ed One is kind of a big deal around here and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull debuted in theaters last Thursday.

It should come as no surprise that a town without wireless signals or sports bars (no NBA Western Conference Finals!) also didn't have a theater. So consider me doubly guilty for not having even seen the latest Indy film. I'll be correcting that unfortunate oversight in a matter of hours, but before I go, I'd like to share a few sparkling moments from the previous Indiana Jones films with you all.

The Showdown - According to rumor, which I believe in this case, Harrison Ford wasn't feeling up to filming a lengthy fight with the swordsman in Raiders of the Ark. Rather than attempting the demanding stunt sequences, he instead suggested shooting this alternate version (pun intended).

The Hitler Autograph - Previously in this scene, Indy confronted Dr. Elsa Schneider for the Grail Diary in The Last Crusade and their dark exchange of threats lays a beautiful setting for this unexpected turn of events.

The Truck Chase - Spielberg outdid himself in choreographing a chase scene from Raiders that blended thrilling action with equal parts humor and violence. Only in an Indiana Jones movie can a guy get squashed by the protagonist and the audience chuckles at his death. His being a Nazi probably helps too.

Head for the Fireplace! - It's obvious that my favorite scenes brim with humor and this brief clip from The Last Crusade is no exception. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the entire scene but even these few seconds detail the natural chemistry between Harrison Ford and "dear old dad" Sean Connery.

I could go on and on but I'd like to hear which are your favorite scenes from the Indiana Jones series?

And for more great moments in cinema history, check out the movie blogs over at The Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB) for more humor and violence.


Plot Farming

Don't forget to partake in the absurdly refreshing pastime that is poll-voting over at the Large Association of Movie Blogs. Piper, of Lazy Eye Theater fame, recently hosted another installment in the Plot Farm contest where wannabe plot-ists, such as myself, wrote up a dazzling new storyline using a series of random words and phrases. My entry focuses on a lost monkey spreading a highly arousing perfume across the nation -- think Outbreak but with an epidemic of dry humping.

Do not fight the horny monkey; just obey its wishes and vote for the best plot -- mine!