Cinepub


Murder Week: Salvation Boulevard (2011) by Jamie

Quite by accident, I ended up watching a number of films that all seemed to revolve around the worst crime a human being can commit that doesn’t involve touching children in inappropriate ways. So I’ve decided that, hell, I might as well review ’em and make a theme week out of it. So yeah, murder. It’s something that humans are pretty good at. There are those out there that would say that humans are especially evil being the only species that kill their own kind. To that I’d say that Black Widow Spiders and Praying Mantises would have a number of arms to raise in objection to that. Hell, we’re not even the only species to go to war.

Still, there’s something which fascinates us about this darker side of human nature. The fascination with death is probably only second in the human psyche to our fascination with sex. It probably comes with being, as far as we know, the only species that is fully aware of our mortality. It’s why we created myths to ease the fear of death. The fact that we could comprehend that we were alive made it hard to accept that one day everything we were would come to an end, hence we came up with the idea of the afterlife. This idea was then taken by the ruling classes of several different societies and cultures in order to keep the peasants in line. Just work hard and do as you’re told in this life, and you’ll get rewarded in the next. Its Marx’s opiate of the masses, if you will. And so it is that we come to today’s film, Salivation Boulevard, a comedy-thriller-religious satire from 2011. Yeah, that’s right. All that build up was for the review of a little known comedy film. I’ll admit, the opening got away from me a bit there.

The most notable thing about this film is probably the cast. Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marissa Tomei, Ed Harris, Jim Gaffigan, Ciarán Hinds. Hell, that’s a fairly impressive list of pretty solid people. So how was it that this thing slipped through the cracks and ended up with a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?

Well, to be fair, it’s just not that great of a film. To be fair I don’t think it’s really 21% bad but it could have done so much more with the premise. The basic set-up is that Pierce Brosnan plays Pastor Dan Day, the head of a Mega Church in a small town in Western America. He’s beloved by the community, in particular former Deadhead turned Christian Carl Vandermeer (Kinnear) and his wife Gwen (Connelly). The Mega Church that every obedient follower of the Lord could want, including a daycare centre with colouring books featuring Pastor Dan’s smiling face. Yes, the people of the town pretty much worship Dan as much as they do a 2000 year old Jewish Carpenter Zombie and the film isn’t particularly subtle about it, at least at first.

After Dan engages in a spirited debate with atheist Dr Paul Blaylock (Harris), he and Carl head back to the professor’s office for a night cap. One thing leads to another and the Pastor accidentally shoots Blaylock in the head. Fearing that the shooting will put his plans for a new Christian community that he plans to build in jeopardy, he tries to pass off the shooting as an attempted suicide whilst also trying to silence Carl. “Hilarity” ensues and all manner of madcap mix-ups and misunderstandings occur.

The main problem with the film is that it never quite balances its genres. It feels like it could have been a decent enough comedy about a man wrongly accused of a crime or a decent religious satire but in trying to combine the two, the final product is a bit of an unsatisfying mess. It’s the religious satire aspect, in particular, that really seems to suffer. It just never seems to go beyond the fairly obvious. Also I was a little disappointed that Pastor Dan actually seems to believe in the product he’s selling. Yes, he’s using that belief to gain and profit for himself but it’s pretty clear that he’s a believer himself and he suffers a great deal of guilt over what he’s done. Not enough to come clean but still, it tortures his religious soul. Personally, I feel it would have been better from a satirical viewpoint to have Dan simply pay lip service to Christianity in order to get what he wants. Sure, that might have been obvious too but it could have been a little more biting.

Perhaps the oddest thing in the whole film is Pierce Brosnan’s accent. It starts of as one thing and ends up something like an Australian accent and I honestly have no idea why. Honestly, it’s just bizarre. Why not just have him using his normal, British accent if he’s not going to play an American anyway? It’s possible it’s inspired by Australian Ken Hamm, director of the Creation Museum and a man whose choice of facial hair leaves him looking far more like a product of an evolutionary process he insists didn’t happen.

This man certainly didn’t evolve from apes…

So yeah, I kinda had high hopes for this film. The subject matter put it firmly in my wheel house and I thought that maybe it might be a nice little treasure that I could appreciate even if the critics didn’t but sadly I was disappointed. There were a few moments where I did laugh out loud and Kinnear puts in a great, believable performance as poor put-upon Carl but as a whole the movie just leaves you wishing it had been so much more. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



2011 in Film: Number 3 : The Dilemma by Jamie

Oh, Kevin James. Kevin James, Kevin James, Kevin James. Those two words strike fear into my heart. I have never seen a film that starred Kevin James that was in anyway worth watching. It’s not fair to say I hate the man, though he certainly doesn’t make it any easier on himself by releasing shit like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Zookeeper.

So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I watched The Dilemma, a film starring James, Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder. It’s a relatively good cast, aside from James, to be fair though Vince Vaughan certainly has his off days. The basic premise of the story is that Nick (James) and Ronny (Vaughan) are two best friends and partners in an automobile engineering company. They’ve developed a new type of electrical engine which makes the noise of the muscle car engines of the past. They need to get all of the kinks out before a big meeting with Dodge that could make or break their company.

At the same time, Ronny is planning on proposing to his girlfriend Beth(Connelly) and whilst checking out the botanical gardens that he thinks will be the perfect place in which to do that, he spies Nick’s wife Geneva (Ryder) making out with a different man, Skip (Channing Tatum). This understandably shocks the fuck out of Ronny and he finds himself in the titular dilemma. Should he tell his best friend? Confront his cheating spouse? Would telling him bring more stress to a friendship that is already strained by the importance of the deal with Dodge? Yes, it certainly is a dilemma indeed.

Anyway, the rest of the film is filled with the kind of wacky misadventures that you’d probably expect from this kind of film, many of them ending with Ronny getting injured in some manner. I suppose the moral is if you don’t do the right thing then really you’re only hurting yourself. His sneaking around trying to catch Geneva out also has the unintended consequence of making all of his friends and family think that he has fallen back into an old gambling addiction that he apparently had. Still, this is a pretty formulaic film and I’m sure you can guess how the whole thing ends.

Along with all of these shenanigans, the movie seems to throw in dramatic and emotional scenes, creating tonal shifts that could cause whiplash. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about movies in January it’s that they are generally released at this time because the studios don’t seem to have much faith in them and it seems to me as though the number one reason that they lack that faith is because the movies don’t seem to know what they want to be. I guarantee you that if this had just been a straight up comedy featuring James and Vaughan, it would have received a later release date. I’m not saying it would have been any good, it just would have been released later.

Perhaps the part of this movie that I enjoyed most was Channing Tatum. He is actually a genuinely funny guy and his few scenes in this film actually made me laugh more often than not. Good for him. He’s made me really kinda wanna go and see 21 Jump Street. Other than him though, the film, whilst not particularly terrible, isn’t in anyway recommendable either. On the whole, it was a little better than I thought it would be but not by a lot. There are major problems with the plot such as it being too formulaic, too predictable and it also doesn’t really address the fact that Beth’s infidelity isn’t her fault alone with Nick clearly having some part in the break down of the relationship. Maybe if you catch it on TV it might be worth a watch but that’s the only time I’d bother. Two pints out of five. Laterz.




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