Joe's Movie Reviews

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blogs To Check Out

While you're eagerly, breathlessly waiting for my next batch of movie reviews (you ARE eagerly, breathlessly waiting, aren't you? Oh, well, I guess I'm not surprised), here are a few other blogs well worth spending some time reading.
This is the blog of Janet Holmes, award-winning poet and former co-worker of mine at Merrill Corporation in St. Paul. Janet will enlighten you not only about the world of poetry (which you do like, though you may not know it yet) as well as a lot of other things going on in the world, and the latest works of both herself and her multi-talented writer husband, Al Greenberg. Always something interesting going on here.
The blog of Sunsara Taylor, one of the major forces behind the organization "The World Can't Wait/Drive Out The Bush Regime" (whose web site can be found at Anyone who has the mistaken notion that "the Younger Generation" doesn't care about what's happening to their world will have their eyes opened in a big way at these locations, and maybe even be moved enough to do something themselves. Check it out. She makes a lot of sense.

Meanwhile, reviews of films at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival will be coming very shortly, and thanks to my "Underwriter" for supplying the funds to make those reviews possible.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

American Dreamz

A nation so obsessed with a TV "Reality" show singing contest that they vote for its contestants in greater numbers than for their own government. A president too dim-witted to know what's going on around him, and a vice-president determined to keep him that way. A terrorist plot to "punish" the U.S. for its policies in the Middle East. In the right hands, this could be the stuff of classic satire, almost for political satire in 2006 what "Dr. Strangelove" was for 1964. In fact, it's difficult to see how they could go wrong, isn't it? But remember... all things are possible.

First, what went right. There could not possibly be a better choice to play the Simon Cowell surrogate than Hugh Grant, who seems to have been rehearsing for the role for years. Nobody else could pull off lines like "You were like a musical Ebola virus" or "you made me want to projectile vomit" and make you laugh at the character rather than want to kick his teeth in... or at least laugh at him BEFORE you kick his teeth in. Willem Dafoe, who VERY rarely gets to do comedy, but is wonderful at it, is possibly the best thing about the film as the Dick Cheney character, scarily close to the real thing. There are some amusing one-liners scattered throughout. Now, let's get on with the rest of it...

What went wrong? There's a VERY, VERY ill-advised attempt to make Grant's character sympathetic and add a little pathos to the film that leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and comes across as totally phony. Dennis Quaid is a terrific actor, but he's wasted in the underwritten role of a Bush-like president who is persuaded to boost his approval rating by appearing as a guest judge on the "American Dreamz" season finale... and worse (apologies if any Bush supporters are reading this... but how likely is that?), the character is depicted as being just as dim as George W. is often portrayed, but still concerned with the well-being of the country and genuinely wanting to do good for the people. Sorry, I just don't buy it. This is way too nice a guy. Besides Quaid, too many other good actors are also wasted, including Mandy Moore (she was great in "Saved", a much more biting satire than this one) as the show's leading contestant, Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden as the Laura Bush clone, and Jennifer Coolodge (veteran of Christopher Guest films) as Moore's trailer-trash mom. And while I did appreciate that there was a certain amount of effort made to show that not all people from the Middle East are terrorists determined to destroy America, there was still just a bit too much of a perpetuation of those same old stereotypes to allow the scenes that contradicted them to really be effective. And did I already mention the ill-advised turn towards pathos? Well, it bears repeating.

When a movie has such easy targets as this one it's difficult to see how it could miss so many of them by such a wide margin. I really wanted to like this movie and have a couple of hours of laughs. I wound up having maybe 30 minutes of laughs and liking bits and pieces of the film. After doing such a good job with Hugh Grant on "About A Boy", I was expecting bigger and better things from the Weitz Brothers. Maybe the problem was that they've done character-based comedy... and done it quite well... in the past, but have never really done satire before, and still haven't learned the ropes. I honestly have no problem with light, sweet-natured humor. But for satire to work, it has to have sharp teeth. It has to BITE. And too much of "American Dreamz" is just plain toothless.

I'm Back...

I'm Back...

This is a notice to the friendly person who is so diligent and dedicated to the task of going through not only all of my blog entries but those of seemingly every other blogger who works through, sending those little Spam messages disguised as "Comments" ("I see a lot of awful blogs, but yours is great. Check out mine on how to make a billion dollars answering surveys from your own home" or whatever) under a variety of different names. I realize how difficult it must have been for you these past few months with no new entries here and no way for you to inform me of all the great opportunities coming my way that I have undoubtedly missed out on. Well, you will be pleased to know that while I won't be able to keep this thing up as regularly as I once did, I do plan on returning to the fold and approximately five to six hours from now will be postingmy first actual new review (barring December's Top Ten lists) since last September. You probably have tons of those helpful little messages accumulated, desperately hoping I would return so I could once again be the beneficiary of all the help they provide. Thank you so much. Believe me, you have no idea how exciting this will be for me, too.

I really do mean that. YOU HAVE NO IDEA.