Thursday, August 9, 2012

Laughs and thrills

“The Campaign” Lampoons Dirty Politics

By Skip Sheffield

If you are as sick as I am about the vicious attacks on both ends of the political spectrum over the coming elections, you may appreciate as I did the crude, over-the-top R-rated satire “The Candidate.”
“The Candidate” does for politics what Austin Powers did for British secret agents: it’s a total spoof of what is worst about both genres. It is no small coincidence that director Jay Roach also directed “Meet the Parents’ and its sequel and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” and its sequel.
Will Ferrell stars as Cam Brady, the smug, firmly-entrenched four-term Congressman from the diddly-squat 14th District of North Carolina. Brady seems to be a shoe-in for a fifth term, but he screws up royally by leaving a salacious voice mail intended for his mistress on the home phone of a family of his pious, ultra-conservative constituents.
Seizing the opportunity, the ultra-rich, manipulative and amoral Motch (rhymes with Koch) brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) feel they can buy themselves a docile Congressman who will enable them to outsource local jobs to China for maximum profit. Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a meek tourism bureau guide, is tapped as the perfect patsy.
The Motch brothers hire the utterly ruthless Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) as Marty’s campaign manager, and the mud fights begin.
The script by Chris Hency and Shawn Harwell has a haphazard quality to it, but it does have some real zingers. It seems that everything political boils down to sex or money or a combination of the two, with both sanctimonious characters wrapping themselves in the cloak of professed religion.
Will Ferrell is a fearless farceur, and his slapstick gaffes are the hallmark of his performance. Galifianakis is more subtle as the fey, slow-to-burn Marty, but given enough humiliation he rises to the occasion and finally begins to fight.
Much of the movie is crass and cruel, making fun of fat people, religious hypocrites and devout people alike, but there are plenty of gross laughs. Sarah Baker should get some kind of reward for swallowing her pride so completely as Marty’s pudgy, gullible wife.
“It’s a mess!” is Marty’s campaign slogan. “The Campaign” is nothing if not messy, but it sure has some laughs.

“Bourne Legacy” Goes On With Mas Macho New Hero

Matt Damon is gone but his spirit lingers on in “The Bourne Legacy.” This is the fourth in a series based on Robert Ludlam’s Jason Bourne novels and the first not to star Damon as the intrepid super-agent. Bourne went MIA after dismembering the black op Operation Blackbriar in the last installment, but he is referred to and we even see a poster-sized picture of him. Returning in reduced roles are David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn and Joan Allen. Tony Gilroy wrote a new story with his brother Dan only just inspired by Ludlam’s characters. He also directs.
Aaron Cross is the new guy, played by Jeremy Renner. The movie opens with Aaron toughening up in Alaska in freezing cold. Like Bourne, Aaron is a special operative with the CIA, but it doesn’t take him long to realize they want him terminated after he narrowly escapes a missile that blows up the cabin he was in.
Then a doctor freaks out at a laboratory in Washington and begins to shoot fellow doctors.
Cowering in fear is Dr. Marta Shearling (Rachel Weisz), a research scientist who has worked on mind-altering virus drugs at the sinister Outcome labs.
Aaron happens to be on one of these drugs, and his supply is running out. Without the drug he will lose his mind, die or both.
In one of many spectacular escapes, Aaron is able to bust Marta out of the lab, and so begins a worldwide chase with CIA assassins in close pursuit. Marta tells Aaron the only was she can make an antidote is to go to the lab in Manila, The Philippines, where it was created.
Jeremy Renner is one fine physical specimen. The stunts he pulls off are amazing yet somehow believable. My favorite is the craziest, most thrilling motorcycle chase I’ve ever seen, filmed in the teeming streets of Manila, with Aaron and Marta astride an off-the-road dirtbike, chased at breakneck speed by a thug on a stolen police bike.
Renner and Weisz are an attractive couple and they have good chemistry. Weisz has a winning combination of brains, beauty and understated sexiness to match Renner’s brawn and bravado.
I have no doubt we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Renner as Aaron Cross. Whether or not he’ll be paired again with Ms. Weisz we don’t know, but it’s a strong bet it will be a good show.

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