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Quint reviews MAN OF THE YEAR and BABEL!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I have tons of flicks to review, so let's get a move on! I'm starting with BABEL because I watched that tonight and it's fresh on my mind.

BABEL is the new film from director Alejandro Inarritu (21 GRAMS and AMORES PERROS) with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal and a ton of others... some recognizable (Cliffton Collins Jr, for example) and some non-actors with great faces.

A lot of people will love this film. The performances are top notch, the cinematography striking and the issues it deals with (mostly about family relationships of all shapes and sizes) are strong. It is a solidly made film, but for me... it's a little bit too much.

There are 4 different story lines going on during the film. You follow Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, a troubled husband and wife touristing in Morocco, a deaf-mute Japanese teenage girl, a Mexican nanny and her two white little wards and a Moroccan family who just bought a rifle to help defend their goats from jackals. All these stories have something interesting to offer, but really... there's only about 20 minutes of story to each of these segments and the movie runs 2 1/2 hours long. Lots of nothing happens for long stretches and the actual plot that comes in is usually very subtle stuff, not necessarily worth the wait.

Some people will be bored out of their skulls with this film, some will over-appreciate it for being something that doesn't care about being mainstream at all. I fall squarely in-between those two extremes. I liked all the plot threads, but there isn't enough meat to justify a lot of what goes on. Sure, they all connect in some way, but that's only used to great effect once in the film when we have the Moroccan children playing with the newly acquired rifle, testing the limits of the weapon, seeing how far it'll fire. They fire at a bus miles away. That shot kicks off most of the drama and heartbreak in the film, but the way it ties in with the Brad Pitt story line is inventive. Inarritu really amps up the tension and suspense for that particular tie-in.

I wasn't too impressed with the movie, but I respect what it was going for and I expect a lot of people will forgive the snail's pace for what works in the film.

MAN OF THE YEAR

I saw this one Tuesday, so it's still relatively fresh, too. The only thing I knew about this film before seeing it was the basic premise. A Jon Stewart type, popular comedian of a fake news show, runs for President of the United States. I knew Robin Williams looked like he was in his first funny movie in a long time (although I am in the small minority that thinks his Rainbow Randolph in DEATH TO SMOOCHY is fuckin' hilarious). I knew Barry Levinson directed and I think I saw Lewis Black in the TV spot.

So, it came as a surprise to me to see Christopher Walken's name come up in the opening credits. I'll see anything Walken does, so bonus. Add on the criminally underutilized Jeff Goldblum and I was ready to watch this damn movie!

The film is weird. It's a black comedy, but it also wants to be a serious political intrigue film. It also wants to be a DAVE-like romance film. I love it when films change gears and even switch genres, but in this case I just felt like it came off as a bit sloppy.

All the people you want to like are great. Walken is Walken, the King of Cool. Goldblum is only in it for maybe 6 or 7 minutes, but they spread it out over the film, so they managed to make his character (a sleazy right hand man to the CEO of a tech company that pioneered a faulty electronic voting system) feel like more than a cameo. Lewis Black is great, getting some of the most consistent laughs of the film pretty much playing Lewis Black.

Robin Williams' character, Tom Dobbs, is very likable, but his material was hit and miss. There are moments in the film where he's cracking jokes and supposed to be funny... He's certainly making the characters on the screen laugh, but I wasn't laughing. It was all very hollow. If you look at someone like Jon Stewart or watch The Daily Show regularly at all, you'll find his humor isn't only of the crude variety or modern pop variety. The reason people like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart are popular is they can mix their extreme smarts with comedy (often crude), but also with a sort of common sense that really grounds them and keeps them from being the court jester, you know?

Of course, Tom Dobbs is not Stewart or Maher (both name checked repeatedly throughout the film), so it might be unfair to compare his comedy to theirs. Maybe I'm just getting a little tired with Williams' "off the cuff" random energy, his trademark crazy mile a minute stream of dialogue. There's something about it that is missing from his heyday. I notice that when he slips into that mode now his eyes tend to go blank, like he's not really there. Maybe that's just creeping me out a little.

Laura Linney is very good in the film, although her character is frustrating. She has specific knowledge about corruption, she is being chased down because of that knowledge, her life is threatened... and yet it takes her the whole movie to tell the one person she meant to tell her secrets to. Why? Because if she did it any earlier the movie would have been over. They try to give her character motivations... mixed feelings, self-doubt, but it all came off as being too easy.

MAN OF THE YEAR is a bit of a mixed bag. It's a very flawed film, but it is an enjoyable one, with truly likable characters. It's one of those films you'll see and be glad you saw it, but won't have any desire to watch it again. Maybe if it's on HBO in a few years when you're flipping through, you might let it play out for a few minutes before moving on.

Well, there's 2 down. I have to play catch up pretty severely. Got a film festival coming up, another European set visit in the works and I still have reviews of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, PERFUME, THE HOST, HATCHET and UNREST to write up. Still have some interviews and set visits on the backburners. Damn. Better get my lazy butt in gear. 'Til then, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.

-Quint quint@aintitcool.com



Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 13, 2006, 6:53 a.m. CST

    First!

    by JediShaft

    1

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 6:53 a.m. CST

    never be as good as colbert show...

    by midnightclown

    doesn't look like it has any bite.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 7:15 a.m. CST

    MOTY - Good review

    by Almost_Human

    Especially liked the take on Williams and humor. I do agree about Rainbow Randolph, one of his funnier roles in recent years, but he has lost something. I hadn't quantified it until reading the review, but that blank look when he's on now is what bothers me too. You can't phone in funny.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 7:56 a.m. CST

    Jon Stewart isn't funny

    by JohnGalt06

    In fact, "The Colbert Report" is so superior to "The Daily Show" in every way that it's easy to forget Colbert is a spin-off of Daily. Jon Stewart's show is basically 22 minutes of "Bush is dumb". There are no other jokes. The difference between "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" is as wide as the difference between sarcasm and satire. Stephen Colbert is a brilliant satirist, sending up Bill O'Reilly and never breaking character while doing it. Stewart is a preening ass, who spends more time laughing at his own jokes than he does telling them.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:08 a.m. CST

    I agree that Stewart isn't very funny...

    by antoniojvr

    But this movie impressed me in that it really is not a very polital biased film. Both sides are taking shots.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:17 a.m. CST

    the brilliance of the daily show

    by Buzzsawlenny

    is that you don't have to tell jokes. You just sit back and let the current administration tell them for you.Then you can just do color commentary like your on monday night fucking football...

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:26 a.m. CST

    jon stewart is funny

    by dead youngling

    but he keeps losinghis good supporting cast members. haven't seen colbert's show, but like him, too. man of the year will not do well this weekend mesathinks.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:29 a.m. CST

    No Other Jokes?

    by Sean38

    "Jon Stewart's show is basically 22 minutes of "Bush is dumb". There are no other jokes. " Well, at least you've proved that you don't actually watch the show, so we don't need to take your criticism seriously.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:35 a.m. CST

    Too Bad

    by JoeyRusso1290

    Thought this looked funny. Check out our review @ www.moviepulse.net

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:47 a.m. CST

    Rainbow Randolph

    by GlamDaToeHammer

    Totally hilarious. It's too bad many people don't know more about that character.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Another gem from Williams

    by godzillasushi

    He's incredible. ly sucky.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 8:57 a.m. CST

    Sean38

    by godzillasushi

    Not to get off on political battling, but Bush pretty much puts himself on that show everytime he speaks, which isnt ALL THE TIME.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Babel is incredible...

    by BigTuna

    Best film i've seen this year.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 11:19 a.m. CST

    way to spoil a movie Quint

    by white owl

    a sleazy right hand man to the CEO of a tech company that pioneered a faulty electronic voting system -- you just saved me two hours tonight. thanks alot...

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 11:22 a.m. CST

    couldve at least used a spoiler warning on the link

    by white owl

    but whatever

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 12:29 p.m. CST

    Also ruining Babel for anyone who saw the preview.

    by Sir HickoryBeans McCrackin

    Thanks Quint!

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 2:09 p.m. CST

    Is it really possible to "spoil" Man of the Year?

    by Slugworth

    Do you keep your turds in the crisper to prevent them from "going bad"?

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 3:18 p.m. CST

    I'm Rainbow Fucking Randolph!

    by Durendal

    Death to Smoochy was absolutely hilarious in that sick and wrong sort of way. Robin Williams finally picked a role outside his huggable, lovable, and very tiresome characters. He's been doing that a bit more often lately. I hope he can play some more psychos, because he's proven to be pretty damned good at that.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 3:58 p.m. CST

    Man of the Year.. Pass..

    by Ironmuskrat

    It has been a long time since Robin Williams has been funny in anything, he should stick to more serious roles that he seems better suited to now. As for the Daily Show, it still has it moments, but no where near as funny as the Stephen Colbert, Steve Corell days.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Yeah! "bush is dumb" is only the first 5 minutes

    by future help

    idiot.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 5:17 p.m. CST

    Colbert Report is better in every way

    by deadlegend

    Anti-administration jokes and retarded "off-beat", random voices and horrible impersonations is NOT FUNNY. The people who watch the Daily Show are the same people who flock to the theaters to see movies like Barnyard, Open Season, Man of the Year, An Inconvenient Truth and dumbass black comedy movies. I watch the Daily Show just to understand the stark contrast between it and the Colbert Report, which is basically, just as JohnGalt 06 stated, sarcasm and satire. Buzzsawlenny and Sean38, your godless liberalism is mind-numbing and serves as rule-of-thumb as how to spot isolationist sphincters who have a skewed world outlook and think that bashing your own leaders helps anyone including yourselves. War and oil aren't our biggest problems, it's people who believe that human beings have the power to destroy the world when we didn't create it. Environmentalism, global warming and cancer-causing second-hand smoke are the most popular tools of liberals to envoke fear into voters by pretending like they have the answer to problems that don't even exist. The Daily Show sucks.

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 6:43 p.m. CST

    Rainbow Randolph...

    by The Winchester

    Greatest part in that flick: "It's important that you still have you rdignity" (spills coffee)"AHH, my balls!"

  • Oct. 13, 2006, 7:09 p.m. CST

    his name is Alejandro Gonzalez, not Alejandro Inarritu.

    by Trimtab

    In Latin countries we do not use both last names, only the father's. So if your name is Alejandro Gonzalez (father's last name) Inarritu (mother's last name), we simply call that person Alejandro Gonzalez. Only cheap soap operas would use both last names, and nobody would use the second last name by itself while omitting the father;s last name. Dismissed.

  • Oct. 14, 2006, 5:13 a.m. CST

    WHY PUT A GOOD MOVIE IN WITH THAT STINKER?

    by Sepulchrave

    That Williams vehicle looks HORRIBLE. God, am I the onoly one who thuinks that watching Robin Williams is the cinematic equivalent of being lightly sexually molested. He's so creepy, never more so that when he's trying to be cute; those merciless little eyes and that slack retarded beaming smile. Like the Terminator dressed up in the flesh of a mongoloid child. And when he curses, as in Death to smoochy; it's horrible, like an imitation of someone else; the mongo pretending to be Bill Hicks.