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.



Review: The Ides Of March by Jamie

I fucking love American politics, especially during election season. They’re so much more ridiculous than the humdrum British politics I have to deal with. They’re basically just a massive spectacle, every candidate bending over backwards in order to please as many people with as many different views and opinions as they possibly can. You want to appease the anti-immigration crowd whilst also trying to attract a portion of the Latino vote. And there’s also the uncompromising religiosity (Christian religiosity, of course) that, if you don’t actually believe it, at least have to pay lip service to. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”, indeed.

So I was quite looking forward to watching ‘The Ides of March’, the George Clooney directed film about Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney), his campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and deputy campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as they attempt to defeat Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) and his campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) in the Democrat primaries and win Morris the Democrat nomination for president.

As you can imagine in a taut, political drama things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Morris is unapologetically liberal, leaving him slightly unpopular with moderates and deeply unpopular with the more conservative contingent in Ohio, a problem because Ohio has an open primary meaning that registered Republicans are allowed to vote in the Democrat election. Both sides are also hoping to gain the endorsement of Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) who, with his 356 delegates, would be able to secure the nomination for either man. The only problem with this is that Morris deeply dislikes Thompson and refuses to capitulate to his demands in return for the endorsement.

That’s about all I can say about the plot without giving too much away. Suffice to say it is a well acted, well scripted and well paced political drama with the number of twists that you’d expect to see in the week of any average political campaign (See the current Republican primaries for examples). Does it, however, really say anything new about the political process? Honestly, it really doesn’t. Yes, it’s an entertaining film but the commentary it has with regards to the world of politics, it’s ability to corrupt and jade anyone who involves themselves in it for any particular length of time, is something we have pretty much all been aware of since the Watergate scandal if not longer.

Of course, this isn’t the fault of the film. Politics and power corrupts. What more can you really say about that world at this point? Does that mean that we should stop making political dramas at all? Well no. Just because it has nothing new to say doesn’t mean that The Ides of March isn’t a good film. I suppose if there is anything new that it brings to the table it’s that it makes the political process far more personal than I remember seeing before. So there’s that. Anyway, I highly recommend this film, especially if you love the tipsy-topsy world of American politics as much as I do. Four pints out of five. Laterz.




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