Tag Archives: john lithgow

The Campaign – Review

16 Feb

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are a match made in comedy heaven. Add in screenwriters Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell (Entourage and Eastbound and Down) and director Jay Roach (the Austin Powers movies and Borat amongst other things), and anything can be possible. That is exactly the combination for The Campaign, a farcical political comedy that had all of the ingredients to be a damn funny movie, but unfortunately it wastes a lot of its potential and it lands in the region of a forgettable, mediocre film.

The Campaign

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a Democratic congressman from the state of North Carolina who is running for his fifth term completely unopposed. It seems like he has the election in the bag until two corrupt businessmen, the Motch Brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd) enter the picture. They need a sap that they can control to run for congressmen in order for them to profit off of a Chinese company that they want for production in America. They see that sap in Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), who is thrown into the race and immediately bashed by Brady. Brady underestimated Huggins and his campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), and what ensues is a mudslinging political showdown to end them all.

Did you ever have a friend come up to you all excited about a joke they just heard, and when they finally get through saying it, it isn’t even that funny. Still, you give a little chuckle but that’s nowhere near the reaction they actually wanted, so they keep hammering in the punchline again and again until you finally say, “OK I GET IT!” The tagline for this movie is “May the Best Loser Win.” In my opinion, the tagline should just be, “Ok. I get it.” Repeating a not so funny joke over and over again doesn’t make it any funnier. In fact, it just makes the joke worse.

THE CAMPAIGN

 

All of the ingredients for an excellent comedy are here. Well Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis both have shown their talents in many other films and shows, the same can be said for the writers and the directors. Plus, the cast of supporting actors are all really impressive. Well, for starters, the entire supporting cast is completely underused. How can you cast Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow and have them hardly in the movie. The most disappointing thing, though, is how annoying Will Ferrell is. His character is supposed to be a troublesome person, but his accent and the way he played the character was just surprising. Having tackled more difficult roles before, it’s a wonder how he could’ve been as bad in this as he is. Galifianakis carries his role very well and, like always, seems completely in character.

The Campaign did have a few funny scenes, but that doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie. The scene that had everyone talking is when Ferrell’s character punches a baby. That was really funny and pushed the boundaries a bit, and will be the scene that this movie will be remembered for years down the line. But this one scene and a few others don’t excuse the rest of the jokes falling flat. I like the ideas around the jokes and the points that they are trying to make, but the execution is just so poor.

So, as disappointing as it is to say, The Campaign did not hit most of the marks. With such an excellent cast, two talented writers, and a director who’s proved his skill with comedies before, you would think that this would be a surefire success. Unfortunately, The Campaign is a movie that thinks it’s funnier than it actually is and is such a waste of time for everyone involved, especially the viewer.

Advertisements

Planet of the Apes Franchise – Part 2

16 Jun

Now that the original Planet of the Apes series has been covered, we no longer find ourselves in the 1960s nor the 1970s. There were, however, a few television adaptations that branch out of the films. One is simply titled Planet of the Apes from 1974, which tells the story of two astronauts who go through a time vortex and find themselves in the same situation that Heston’s character did in the first movie. The show only lasted half a season. Amongst a slew of comic books and audio stories revolving around the universe of the films, another television show was made, Return to the Planet of the Apes, an animated series that only ran 13 episodes.

Flash forward to 2001. The Planet of the Apes saga was still considered as a cult science fiction touchstone. Of course, when there is something this popular, Hollywood demands a remake. That is just what happened. With Tim Burton in the director’s chair the remake of Planet of the Apes was released.

Planet_of_the_Apes_(2001)_poster

 

Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is an Air Force piolet on the space station Oberon, but spends most of his time training a chimpanzee named Pericles how to operate a space pod should the use for him come up. During a bizarre electrical storm, Pericles goes missing while in a pod trying to investigate for the Oberon. Leo secretly gets in a pod and ejects it, but soon gets warped through time and space, crash landing on the planet Ashlar in 5021. On this planet, humans are subservient to a race of apes. Leo is captured, but soon escapes with fellow human Daena (Estella Warren) and two apes, Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) and General Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). As this band of humans and apes try to find the coordinates of a possible rescue mission for Leo, General Thade (Tim Roth), a power hungry and malicious ape, is leading an army to come and find the them to not only put a stop to their rebellion, but their entire lives.

Right off the bat, this film feels very different from the original Planet of the Apes. First of all, we see Wahlberg’s character working on the space station before he travels through time and space. Another major difference is that the planet he lands on isn’t a futuristic Earth, but an entirely different planet. And the end…well, let’s not really talk about that too much. Let’s just say it’s one of the most preposterous, downright confusing endings I have ever seen. It doesn’t leave you thinking about yourselves or society, it just leaves you thinking about how an ending could be so stupid.

Apes New 3

 

Visually, this movie is a big improvement from the original. The ape costumes look absolutely fantastic. In fact, they were my favorite part of the movie. I couldn’t see Tim Roth anywhere in his Thade make up. In that same respect, the acting is very good as well. Tim Roth leads the way with Helena Bonham Carter close behind. They both give excellent performances. The same can’t be said for the human characters. Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren couldn’t be more dull and Kris Kristofferson’s role is wasted. The sets look okay, but this, like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is a very dark movie, and I had a hard time making things out in the ape city.

Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes isn’t really disappointing, but it could have been a hell of a lot better. I have no doubt that you would find this at the bottom of my Tim Burton list. The story is fine, save for the atrocious ending that makes absolutely zero sense. The make up and effects are really great and, for the most part, the acting is fine. A lot of the themes are watered down making this less of a philosophical journey than an eye popping blockbuster.

Still, we aren’t done with this franchise. In 2011, a movie came out that kicked some life into this franchise and successfully rebooted the story. Not only is it a good film, nor a great one. It’s an excellent film. I’m talking about Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Rise_of_the_Planet_of_the_Apes_Poster

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist testing a new serum on apes in order to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, with the motivation of curing his father, Charles (John Lithgow). After a problem with an ape that was highly experimented on, Will brings home her baby and names his Caesar. Caesar shows phenomenal mental growth and is kept around the house and brought up by Will and his father. By the time Caesar is an adult (now with a motion capture performance by Andy Serkis) he is showing signs of understanding and personal confusion. After a violent outburst he is brought to a primate shelter where he experiences abuse and witnesses the other apes getting abused. This forces Caesar to rise up and take command of the apes and lead them to their freedom, but humanity is not so eager to see this happen.

This movie is a strange hybrid of campy and masterful. The story is obviously pretty over the top. A highly intelligent ape leading a revolution against the humans? Yeah sure. I’ve already mentioned this movie in this review but Rise of the Planet of the Apes is very similar, story wise, to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This time, the story is more intense and so is the actual revolution. The last half hour of this movie is absolutely unbelievable, but the entire film itself is thought provoking and much needed return to thematic form for this series.

rise_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_movie-wide

 

What really made this movie for me is Andy Serkis’ performance. The people who vote on awards or cast the ballots need to begin recognizing motion capture performances as genuine acting. Serkis’ facial expressions, body movement, and voice work really bring Caesar to life in a way that no other Planet of the Apes movie ever could. Even though Caesar mostly just uses his face and body to communicate, he becomes the most loved character in the movie. That’s saying something. The human characters are definitely more interesting this time around, although they still can’t compare to the apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is just what this franchise needed. Not only did it reboot the series, it successfully did so in a rare way. In 2014, the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be released, and hopefully it can maintain the same greatness as this film. The acting, the effects, and the themes are back and better than ever making this one the best the entire franchise has to offer.

It was really great finally getting to see this series in its entirety. Not all of the entries were very good, but they have held a cult status ever since their release. They are an excellent example of dystopian science fiction, and take place in a universe that is intriguing and cautionary. Even though there are still people who haven’t seen the movies, they are still well aware of the Planet of the Apes.