Monday, November 21, 2016

Man of the Year (2006) Review:

Politics is a subject that really gets people fired up. Whether they are wrong in someone else's opinion or not, is an age-old question as to whom is on the more "moral" side. Of recent decades, the most intensely debated over and highest blood-boiling election for America was during this year. No matter who was destined to win, approximately one half of the nation was not going to be happy about it. And by this, didn't mean sitting back, arms crossed and pouting. This was anger, frustration and harsh controversy. A topic fueled so much outside media sources that it drove people nuts. The sheer number of ads that were being played a day were ridiculous. Perhaps far more than any other election that came before it. Yet like every election season, Republicans duked it out with Democrats; sending zingers at each other left and right, trying to persuade their current voters why they were wrong to vote the other side. But what probably nobody saw coming was the next president of the United States having a celebrity background (for a second time).

THIS is who should have ran for President
This was exactly the punch line for this movie a mere decade prior to this strange moment in history. With Barry Levinson attached as writer/director, the story is about celebrity comedian Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) who decides to run for the next president of the free world. Behind the scenes a subplot about a new electronic voting system called Delacroy is preparing to be used for this election too. However an employee by the name of Eleanor Green (Laura Linney) finds a glitch in the programming and tries to warn the head of Delacroy named Stewart (Jeff Goldblum). Fearing she may go public with the info, Stewart has her fired. This is what ends up leading to Dobbs' winning the election. From there after the story focuses on Dobbs trying to pull the information from Green. All the while, Dobbs' manager Jack Menken (Christopher Walken) tries to convince him otherwise. As a political comedy, Levinson could have struck gold if he played his cards more directly. Including the sub thread about Delacroy's glitch was such a misfire.

Of course this was released back in 2006 but the concept was the same on a political level. Voters want change and they want to hear it from an energetic, likable and honest individual. It may have seemed absurd then but compare it to now? By no means am I saying Donald Trump is any of those three but many people heard the man because of his outspoken nature. The only reason why this is being brought up is because it is a very odd parallel. The coincidence is just too well put together. There are just too many similarities. But this is exactly what is demonstrated with Robin Williams' character. Dobbs' is the funnyman; he tells things like they are and isn't afraid to be politically incorrect. It is quite possible perhaps more people would have been interested to see what the outcome would have been if the results for Dobbs winning the election wasn't because of a glitch. I in fact would be in extreme favor of Williams if he had run for president. It's really hard not to believe who wouldn't at this point.

Yet Levinson's script says otherwise when half way through the setup, the focus shifts to Laura Linney's role. When that happens, the story becomes generic and overly reliant on the danger Eleanor Green constantly puts herself into. This is why the movie also suffers from erratic tone fluctuations. When Robin Williams is on screen, he's fun to watch and see him make wisecrack after wisecrack to whomever he's speaking too. This is another thing people might actually enjoy if a politician did this in real life. Would it work? That's debatable (no pun intended) but it would surely grab viewers in for a watch. People want media, which would be a great political campaign. Getting back to the movie, when jumping over to Laura Linney, it's the scared woman being sought after her corrupt boss. Just make the movie about Tom Dobbs as president; forget the whole election conspiracy junk. All the more interesting is that the cast also includes other real life celebrities like Chris Matthews, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

"I, not....uh....apart of for long"
Even Christopher Walken as Tom Dobbs' manager is more comedic than Laura Linney's character. Her part is just a waste of a story. For Dick Pope's cinematography, all shots were well executed with no apparent issues. Pope has gone on to work for a number of entertaining films like Bernie (2011) and Legend (2015). Also early on in his career he did work on the iffy movie called The Air Up There (1994), which could have been better. Most shots were stable and keep focus on the matter at hand. The film score was nice to hear although it has never seen a public release. Graeme Revell, who normally produces action related music, made the composition to this movie. Unfortunately due to the uneven tone, the music changes frequently as well. There are cues that sound like they belong to a comedy and there are others that sound like they belong to a horror score. It works for both ends but it just doesn't fit in its entirety. This is also perhaps as to why the score wasn't released. It's a confusing cluster of themes. Though it's different for Revell.

The release of this movie with such a premise feels like it knew itself before its time. The idea of a comedian like Robin Williams running for president is an excellent idea. Somehow though, director Barry Levinson got caught up on adding in a melodramatic subplot dealing with election glitches, which completely takes away half of the comedy.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Transporter 3 (2008) Review:

There's just something about trilogies that are difficult to pull off. When it comes to making a story extend past its initial rooting, writers need to think outside the box and contemplate what new directions can the characters be taken. For Jason Statham's Transporter series, which started in 2002, there seems to be a lack of interest with the sequels that came after. Although Transporter 2 (2005) was arguably on par with its original, it was The Transporter (2002) that helped excel Statham's name to the level he is at today. Surprisingly with this understanding, one would expect to treat the franchise the same way. Never forget your beginnings. Yes there are cases like Sylvester Stallone's Rocky (1976) films where they took a dive but that spanned many more decades. This series has made three films in under a decade. Times don't change that drastically in order to change the vision of the film. This may be why this sequel is just dull but it’s difficult to say. There are things that fit and others that are just mehhh.

Statham was dabbing before it was popular I guess.....
Written once more by the regular duo who penned the last two films were Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. The story this time follows Frank Martin (Jason Statham) being brought back in to deliver a package because the driver he had take his place, didn't do perform to the standards he expected. The package of concern this time is Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) the daughter of a Ukranian government official known as Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbé). Hiring Martin to deliver Valentina is a man named Johnson (Robert Knepper). All the while Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand) gives advice to Martin along his journey. Is this particular premise any different from the last two entries? No. It practically has the same setup. The only noticeable difference is the running time is longer because like many trilogies, producers want to get bigger and better. Unfortunately by that, many misunderstand that as the production’s look over quality. This is kind of what happens here. The overall story and execution is just "been there, done that".

Directed by Olivier Megaton, the same guy who would later head Colombiana (2011), Taken 2 (2012) and Taken 3 (2014), the run through of predictable scenes are as easy to guess as they come. One of the reasons why the running time is longer than the last two is because of a subplot dealing with toxic waste being dumped once a special document is signed. This really doesn't make a lot of sense however because the people looking to dump the toxic waste are not on the same team as Johnson. Johnson's motivations are explained later on but are quite vague leaving a lot of ground left uncovered. Of the characters themselves, Jason Statham of course is the best part. He still has a number of good lines but his lack of creativity is a bit obvious. François Berléand as Inspector Tarconi isn't involved as much as before but he too has the expected humor that he normally brings to the role. Even Robert Knepper as generic as his casting is, he at least presents himself as someone not to be challenged. Although making him fight Statham seems unfair.

Jeroen Krabbé as the Ukranian official was a surprise to see although his participation was more a plot device than anything that improved the story. The reason why it might throw some people off is that the man has been in plenty of films but most would probably best remember him from Dolph Lundgren's The Punisher (1989) as Gianni Franco. That's two decades from the last big well-known production. However, of all these actors the one that is the least interesting and entertaining to watch was Natalya Rudakova. Being that this was her theatrical debut, it is understandable that her acting may not be as good as the others but that's not even the problem. Rudakova's character is written so blandly that it becomes too difficult to feel anything for her character. And like most females in action movies, she becomes enticed by Frank Martin. Just another cliche that makes her even more boring. For action, there are a number of entertaining scenes but most of them felt clean compared to the grittiness of the original.

Natalya Rudakova
There is one sequence that's out of place and that being car chase. It goes on way too long and looks too much like something from The Fast and the Furious (2001) franchise. The hand-to-hand combat action is great though. For camerawork, Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci's cinematography is alright. There's nothing that's too jarring or shaky to get frustrated with. However it is difficult to determine his credibility based on past experience because most of his filmography are in foreign films. Lastly for music, the film score composed by Alexandre Azaria is sadly forgettable in several ways. Even though Azaria produced the music to Transporter 2 (2002), there has been no improvement between the two entries. The tracks themselves do fit with the scene at hand but there's nothing about it that stands out with any unique cues. The sound itself is mainly orchestra with occasional electronic synths but again there's nothing to recall. It is all very stock sounding when it comes to creativity. Not much else to say.

Most third films to a series are the biggest and over the top and carry very little of what made its original so fresh. This sequel is no different. It's okay to pass the time with but it enhances nothing about Frank Martin and his profession nor does it develop him in any new way. It's all more of the same and that's fine for viewers that like that. Overall it's not good but not bad either.

Points Earned --> 5:10