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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:


Cruel Intentions

Last Week: Cruel Intentions:

I'm officially two weeks behind the summer onslaught now. We intended to get out and see Shreck this weekend, and A Knight's Tale is still out there on the agenda somewhere. Unfortunately a sick baby sort of complicated our weekend plans. He is fine now, but combined with a freak snowstorm that blew in Sunday afternoon, there just wasn't much motivation to plan an expedition to the cinema...That is right, snowstorm. Sunday started off sunny and warm, then all the sudden, it snowed a good two inches. Springtime in Colorado is rewarding and lovely.

So its a couple of video rental for this week, not wanting to deprive the Kexkateers two weeks running. I backtracked a bit and brought home Cruel Intentions, a film about two really detestable rich brats with a tragic ending: One of them gets killed. Understand that the ending isn't really tragic because one gets killed. Its tragic because both of them didn't. I sort of think it helps the entertainment level of a movie if there is at least one character involved with which the audience can develop a sense of involvement and empathy.

But the two lead characters in this film, as portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe were so completely detestable that we were almost hoping this was a film about school shootings, with the two of them as the principle victims. This might be a good place to note that this was supposed to be one of those films about 17 year-old prep school students, as portrayed by actors in their early 20's who aren't very convincing as teenagers anymore. Then again, you'd probably get arrested if you actually used 17 year-old actors in a movie like this.

Actually, that has kind of a nice ring to it by my thinking. Director Roger Krumble's previous film credits included the notation that he contributed to the writing of several films. Essentially that doesn't qualify anyone to either write or direct one, and he is the director and principle screenwriter of record on this effort. Everyone has to begin somewhere, but sometimes a first effort deserves to the the last. In any event, about all you have to do to get a writing credit under the screewriters guild guidelines is to pencil the name of the actor onto the cover of the script he/she will be using. I sort of think that is exactly the extent of Krumble's previous film experience.

This movie is essentially a screen adaptation/remake of the 18th century novel and 1980's movie Dangerous Liasons. Ryan Phillipe is the spoiled teen playboy who essentially attempts to seduce every female that meets his fancy. Apparently if you are a rich prep school playboy, you can lay pretty much any female on the planet. His step sister, played by Gellar, is pissed off at some guy who threw her over for another girl during the summer. Gellar wants to use Phillipe to seduce the other girl, in order to ruin her reputation.

Meanwhile, Phillipe is hatching a rather nasty plot of his own. He has recently read and article in Seventeen Magazine about a girl from Kansas who will be enrolling in their school for the fall term. She is espousing the virtues of virginity, and that is a temptation and challenge Phillipe is incapable of resisting. The plot turn that evolves next is guaranteed to send viewers with even reasonably strong constitutions running for the lavatory saddled with overpowering dry heaves.

Gellar makes a ghoulish little bet with Phillipe: If he succeeds in seducing the virgin, Gellar will sleep with Phillipe: Yes folks, they are brother and sister, although steps to be sure. At this point we become infinitely relieved that The Brady Bunch was set in middle class suburban Los Angeles, rather than affluent upper class Manhatten. If Phillipe fails in his effort, he is required to give his classic Jaguar to Gellar. We aren't quite certain why she doesn't already have one of her own...maybe she lost it in a previous wager.

Ultimately Phillipe does seduce the virgin, but he has fallen hopelessly in love with her and is ready to change his evil ways and settle suspects at least until the next edition of Seventeen hits the news stand with a virgin advertising for defloweration on the eastern seaboard. We are thankful that he does fall in love with her, mostly to avoid the scene of him in bed with Gellar. That would have been too much to stomach.

But the story comes to a tragic conclusion when Phillipe is run over by a car as he tries to chase down his new love. At the funeral, the girl whose reputation Gellar tried to smear by having Phillipe sleep with her passes out copies of Phillipe's personal journal, which detail pretty much what a bitch Gellar is. The end.

There really wasn't much to like about this film. It wasn't credible, it wasn't particularly funny, there were no likable characters, and we've seen the worn out story often enough before. Krumble's direction is plodding, and the plot is tedious and predictable. I guess about the only thing this film can really offer for the masses is the faint hope of watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer screw her brother, but that isn't the kind of thing that gets Kex into the theater.


Come back Spiderman! All is forgiven. It really all comes down to this: George Lucas has figured out that if you feed the gullible public crap and tell them it tastes like icecream enough times, sooner or later they will start to believe it. There were people who have actually been standing in line to see this film for most of 5 and a half months. I stood in line for exactly 36 minutes, and it pissed me off to no end that I was that gullible.

The first 3 Star Wars films, which were made in an era before digital filmmaking and computer animation weren't great, in my estimation, but they were at least marginally watchable and even entertaining at times. Then a couple of decades passed during which George Lucas forgot absolutely everything he ever knew about making movies, and the result have been two positively awful prequels to the classic trilogy.

AT least in "Episode One," Lucas had a scapegoat of sorts for the unabashed pile of cinematic garbage he crammed down the gullets of his uncompromising faithful. Yes, Jar Jar Binks was terrible, even a little offensive. But lets try pounding out a little honesty here, painful as it may be to the truly devoted fans of this series: The movie would have stunk even without Jar Jar.

This time, George and company don't have old J.J.B. to kick around. Yes, he was still in the movie, but only for a few brief moments. No, this time the shameful burdens are going to have to be born by flesh and blood. Hayden Christensen, who portrayed the emerging-from-adolescence Anakin Skywalker doesn't possess the professional range to convey pain if someone had rammed a redhot fireplace poker up his ass every time he appeared on camera. And Natalie Portman, who portrayed Senator Amidala played her scenes like she was reading the lines off a cue card for the first time, and didn't have clue one what she was reading or why.

Samuel Jackson has more than enough acting ability to have lent a dose of vitally needed credibility to the proceedings, unfortunately he wandered through the film with the look of a man hoping that somehow his career would survive this 8.6 Richter Scale disaster of a film. Ewan McGregor portrayed Obi Wan Kenobi, but no one really believed this lout would ever grow up to be Sir Alec Guiness.

Salvation of this entire effort neatly fell at the feet of one capable individual, Christopher Lee in the role of Count Dooku. Alas, no matter how capable of an actor you may be, no matter how vicious of a heavy you can portray, no matter how steely you can flash your eyes and threaten the heros, no actor that has ever walked the planet can salvage a film saddled with a character name that sounds like something you might step in strolling across a Planet Naboo dog run. Of course, Lucas simply couldn't resist the opportunity to not only bind Christopher Lee's hands in those unbreakable thespian chains. No, he had to go one step further and kick a highly respected actor right in the cinematic nards. Lets face it: This is a man who has had countless memorable silver screen roles, and magnificent Shakespearean portrayals onstage. Acting out a light sabre battle against Fozzy Bear just can't be one of his memorable career highlights.

But the humans certainly weren't the only critical problem with this film. In some ways, it was still a silly episode of The Muppet Show from hell. Every time Yoda lets loose with one of his annoying broken sentences, I actually fantasize that he will one day end up adorning the interior of a lime green lava lamp. I also despise that annoying flying merchant who once more or less owned Anakin. Can't someone find a big ass can of Raid before Episode 3?

The most entertaining moments in this film come during the last 30 minutes or so, assuming that you can stay awake and enjoy them. I'm not referring to the fight scenes involving the Jedi against the robot army. Instead, my movie going companion and I were taking great joy in putting down quick wagers on which side of Anakin's head his apprentice Jedi hair lock would appear on the next time he was on camera. A great deal of cash passed back and forth. I swear, that hair lock changed sides more often than a playing piece in a hotly contested game of Reversi.

I think its time to admit that this entire enterprise was an enormous cinematic faux pas in the first place. Its a little hard to really generate a great deal of tension or suspense in a film when we already know that no matter how tight of a spot Obi Wan gets into, he is eventually going to get out of it and live on another half century. Its also hard to pull for Anakin, knowing not only that he will make it out of any adversarial situations, but live on to become a nasty villan who will eventually be responsible for providing his own son with a new nickname; Lefty.

Yes, the whole group is going to survive, and we know what happens to everyone. Anakin is going to marry Amidala, and they are going to have two kids. The brother and sister and going to fall in love with each other and the son is eventually going to kill dear old dad. Hell, why don't we all save ourselves 8 bucks a piece and just sit home and watch Springer. Same stuff....

Last Week: Daddy Daycare:

The single most appropos and descriptive line uttered in this entire movie was delivered by Angelica Huston. She portrayed a Cruella DeVille heavy who ran the daycare center that provided the competition to Eddie Murphy's start up, Daddy Daycare. Huston played her role with all the enthusiasm of a cat about to take a bath. But this film failed on so many levels that the superficiality of her performance was scarcely notable.

About midway through the film, when her business begins to be seriously threatened by the new competition, she remarks, "First it was amusing, then it was annoying, then it really pissed me off." Curiously, I was having about the same reaction to the movie at that point. One might almost be tempted to rate this as the worst movie Eddie Murphy has ever made, although that would be unfair. The world still hasn't forgotten Pluto Nash, nor is it likely to for a very long time.

If there has ever been an actor in the history of filmdom that has had a more difficult time winning any sort of approval from critics than Murphy, the guess is the name is long forgotten. Critics hated Murphy's early efforts because they were too annoying and edgy. Now they hate him because he has lost the edge he had in his early films. Hey, maybe its just time to be fair and take away the man's pass. Almost every movie he has ever made has sucked, and its precisely because the man can't act.

Maybe he should have stuck with standup, although I never cared for most of his material in that venue either. But fair is fair. Murphy doesn't have the talent to salvage most of the pathetic scripts he has been saddled with during the course of his career. A good comedic actor couldn't have faired much better.

In Daddy Daycare, Murphy portrays some sort of advertising executive who is charged with the impossible mission of promoting vegetable flavored cereal to children. I guess Hollywood takes a pretty dim view of corporate America these days, and lord knows they deserve a good and thorough pummeling. But I don't think anyone out there is really stupid enough to try to sell veggy cereal. The film has at least enough touch with reality to recognize how miserably the idea would fail, and Murphy gets laid off as a consequence.

So Murphy gets the idea of forming a day care operation with his two friends, (Jeff Garlin and Steve Zahn), also laid off by the firm. The remainder of the film deteriorates into a series of gags involving the children. We see them tearing up the house, having potty accidents, physically abusing the grown ups and generally raising havoc. In short, we see every a rehash of every third rate sitcom plot about some character having to spend an evening baby sitting a bratty kid. Only Murphy and company cater to 14.

Within the context of the movie itself, there wasn't a single unpredictable situation or line for that matter. The bright spot of the evening was the short subject that preceeded the movie. It was a cute little ditty about a group of tadpoles turning into frogs. Alas, it lasted only a couple of minutes, leaving us to endure nearly an hour and a half of bad Eddie Murphy movie.

But the pain and annoyance didn't even conclude as the final credits started to role. No, this was one of those dreadful movies that was so caught up in its own sense of self-worth that the director decided to leave us with a series of outtakes. For the most part, they accomplished the nearly impossible by being even less amusing and or entertaining than the movie itself. I guess the point of the whole exercise might have been to demonstrate that somewhere on the cutting room floor, there lay a movie even more dreadful than the one we sat through.

I guess if you have ever had some sort of weird desire to see Eddie Murphy dressed up as a giant stick of brocolli, you might find this film mildly amusing. Personally, I'm not a big fan of brocolli, and not a big Murphy fan either. So the whole thing was a bit difficult to digest, pun fully intended. I don't think too many adults are going to find much to be entertained by here. As for the kids, well, I figure they'll like it about as much as, oh, eating brocolli.

I don't think this film will steal any thunder away from the X-Men this weekend. It'll have a decent enough opening simply because it was advertised to death for the past several weeks in the coming attractions. But I predict a quick exit to the second run theaters with a host of the summer's blockbusters now lining up for release, and Murphy can move right along to whatever crappy project he has in store next.

Last Week: The Day After Tomorrow:

I guess this isn't too bad for light comedy. As science, it could cause more damage than an army of Dick Cheney clones in Alaska with no-bid drilling contracts in hand. For those uninitated, this film is a retro Irwin Allen wannabe about the sudden, horrifying climactic changes brought on by global warming.

According to the end credits, this film is "suggested by" a book penned a few years ago by Art Bell and Whit Streiber. I figure most of you out there probably know who those gentlemen are, but for those of you who may not, a brief introduction is certainly in order. It goes a long way toward establishing the erstwhile "credibility" of the film.

For many years, Art Bell has been the off and on host of a popular late night radio show in which the primary subjects of conversation include Martians, telepathy and anything paranormal. Bell has retired and come back half a dozen times, for various reasons.

Streiber is a professional fiction writer who used to make a modest living writing fanciful yarns about werewolves and vampires. Then he suddenly discovered that there was a large gullible audience out there willing to buy books about how he has been systematically kidnapped by aliens throughout his life. A motion picture was made out of one of his abduction books back in the early 90's. It starred Christopher Walken as Whit, which says a lot about how seriously the producers took the subject matter.

Neither Bell or Streiber know crap about climatology or science in general, and if they actually consulted any meteorologists, planetary astronomers or climatologists in the writing of the book, they didn't pay a damned bit of attention to anything they were told. Subsequently, the book, and plot of this film suffer the burden of carrying an implausible series of events that could have been signficantly more credible if they had been dreamed up by a team of half way bright 3rd graders.

In Day After Tomorrow, Dennis Quaid stars as climatologist Jack Hall. That is what you get for casting when you spend $100 million on special effects, and only have $1.60 left over to buy the rights to Bell and Streiber's book, as well as hiring a cast. Hall is noting significant problems due to global warming in Antarctica, but is having problems convincing world leaders. Naturally, his strongest political opponent is the American Vice-President (Kenneth Walsh), who is a nasty, pro-business, anti-environment incredulous dick (Cheney).

Soon after Hall tries to convince an international panel that problems may be brewing, the weather starts getting unusually crappy all over the planet. L.A. is devastated by a series of huge, violent tornados; by my thinking a suitably biblical ending to the place. But the tornados are wildly unrealistic, because they draw a bullseye on most of the major landmarks around L.A., instead of all of the trailerparks in southern California. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the northern hemisphere starts getting buried under snow in a huge blizzard.

Matters are complicated in what passes for emotional ties in this film, because Hall's son Sam (Jake Gyllenhall) is trapped in New York City, where he has gone to compete in some sort of brain decathalon. He is a smart kid, but he mostly joined the team to get into an attractive young female geek's (Emma Rosum) pants. Of course that isn't going to happen, because high school geeks never get laid.

What Sam makes up for in sexual appeal is more than made up for in his apparent ability to control the elements. During a scene in which his girlfriend is trying to do some French translation for the police, Sam sees that she is imperiled by a huge wall of water that is roaring down the streets of New York City at about a block a second. But somehow, he is able to whisk her to safety by not only moving faster than the onrushing wall of water, but also moving it back a couple of blocks in the bargain. It was a pretty impressive show of skill.

There were some pretty hilarious moments in this film, some of them not entirely intentional. I loved the scene in which American citizens suddenly find themselves storming the Mexican border, in a reverse of normal fortunes. I think the producers intended that to be ironic. It was mostly just wryly funny. The resemblence of the VP both physically and attitude wise was certainly not coincidental, nor probably was the addition of a younger but utterly clueless President.

In the end, the VP ends up being top guy when the real Prez dies in the storm. He ultimatley realizes what a dick (Cheney)he has been, and vows that in the future, humanity will be more careful about our stewardship of the planet. That stands in contrast with the real guy, who would be out scouting sites to drill for more oil and hand over no-bid contracts to Haliburton.

I have kind of mixed emotions about this film. If it can do some good toward raising public awareness of the real global warming problems, great. Unfortunately, last time anybody tried to sway public opinion through scare tactics we bought our way into a really assinine war, and I'm afraid that the backlash may end up doing more harm than good to public awareness and opinion. Time will tell, but I'm not sure we have a hell of a lot of time to waste.

Last Week: Howl's Moving Castle:

Watching this movie is a lot like staring at one of those paintings with the dog's playing poker for two hours. Its okay for about the first five minutes. In fact, its still kind of creative and amusing for about ten minutes. Then it starts to get a little old.

Actually worse than that. After about 15 minutes that painting starts to look really stale, and you begin to wonder who actually spent time painting the piece of crap. Then after about an hour you start thinking about how much better it would look making pretty colors as the chemicals break down in a nice roaring fire. Finally, after two hours, you start thinking about doing real harm to the bozo that painted it in the first place.

I know I'm going to get a lot of email this week because there is a pocket of people out there, who think anime is the alpha and omega of modern cinema art...maybe all modern art. A lot of them seem to read this page too, and whenever I review an anime movie, which I haven't done for awhile, I always get a bunch of email telling me how intricate it is, and all about the story lines and on and on and on. Conclusion: Watching too much anime turns your brains to jello.

Howl's Moving Castle is directed by the recognized king of Japanese Anime, Hayao Miyazaki. Evidently the movie contained a few inside jokes that I wasn't aware of, because there were a few incidents of hysterical laughter at throw away lines that didn't seem to be appropo of much of anything in this film.

I'm familiar with two of Miyazaki's more renowned films, Spirted Away, (reviewed at this site) and Princess Mononoke, a film which drew rave reviews but which I personally found almost as tedious as this one. So whatever inside jokes flew by in the context of this film must be buried more deeply in the bowels of Miyazaki's filmography. At this point I can only ask, even beg the Kexkateers not to enlighten me on the point. I wish to remain blissfully ignorant of whatever it was I missed.

Right off the top, I offer no argument that many of the scenes in this movie were quite beautiful, following the standard for the artform. I'm just curious as to why the artists who create anime are only capable of drawing about 5 characters, all of which appear in every single movie. They seem to be locked into a small cache of characterizations which makes Mel Brooks' usual gang look like a model of stunning diversity. And if you are going to make a movie about a homely female lead character, doesn't artistic integrity require that you draw her in a fashion less likely to give teenage boys wet dreams?

The plot of this film is nearly impossible to summarize, because its a mess. I don't want to hear about its intricacy. Its a jumble of ideas tossed together almost randomly disquising itself as profound vision. The only revelation I drew from the mishmash was that it gave mea a headache. Basically its the story of a young girl named Sophie, who is supposedly a plain bookworm working in a hatshop. While walking through town to visit her sister one day, she is saved from harrassment by two soldiers by a powerful wizard name Howl.

Howl is strikingly handsome, and lives in this big walking castle that is a jumble of smokestacks and cottages and other assorted buildings. It looked like something straight out of Monty Python hell. Meanwhile, a jealous witch (the wicked witch of the waste, believe it or not) casts a spell on Sophie that turns her into a 90 year old woman. Thus she wanders off into the waste, inhabited by wizards and witches, to try to get the spell broken. With the aid of a scarecrow, she ends up living in Howl's castle.

I know. What with scarecrow's and wicked witch of the waste, it all starts to sound like Dianne Wynne Jones' novel, from which the story was adapted, was penned on a bad drug trip while watching The Wizard of Oz. Maybe she was even listening to the sound track of Dark Side of the Moon, while watching it stoned...who knows?

Anyway, in the midst of all the other interactions in this movie, there is some mysterious war going on. It was never made clear who was fighting who or why. All we know is that Howl is somehow involved in trying to protect people from getting bombed, and as a nasty side effect, its causing him to turn into a monster. Its kind of like those TV ads for various medicines that start out sounding like miracle drugs, but by the time they finish summarizing the potential side effect in the end, you begin to think that having the original condition isn't really so bad afterall.

I should probably also note the some of the dialog in this film was downright hysterical, for precisely the wrong reasons. The characters spent less time talking to each other than explaining at length what they were doing. "I'm going to go make some breakfast now." "I'm going to go clean the bathroom." "I'm going to go beat my head against the wall until I achieve blissful unconsciousness." You get the idea.

People who like anime will probably enjoy this film. And just to try to head off some of the email that is coming, let me note that I'm well aware that anime is still hand drawn as opposed to most of the computer generated stuff Hollywood is cranking out these days. I don't care. In the end it doesn't matter a flip to me whether Sophie is drawn by a human being or HAL 9000. I just want to watch her progress through a plotline that makes sense, and doesn't require me to pop a couple of Excedrin when the closing credits role. In fact, this movie created enormous temptation just to pour down the whole bottle.

Previously: Monster House:

I think that the people who greenlight movie scripts in Hollywood need to adopt a hard and fast rule. From now on, no script for an animated should get the go ahead unless it would be at least as good as a live action movie.

A lot of animated films are getting made these days: Witness the fact that this is the first of 3 consecutive big budget animated projects that are likely to get reviewed on this page, and there are still another half a dozen major animated films set for release this year. The state of the art is impressive, no doubt about it. That said, we point out that a claymation project wiped all of the computer generated offerings last year in the Oscar race, and claymation blows.

Its further worth noting that any half way well promoted animated flick is going to get a good box-office take. There is an automatic assumption that animated film=family fair. Movie audiences in the U.S.A. have been conditioned to that idea. Add to that the fact that animated movies are no longer all that expensive compared to live action films, and merchandising ties make them especially lucrative.

So the people who make animated films have suddenly found themselves on the top of the industry heap, to the point where it is now assumed that you can take any piece of poo story, animate it, and sell it to a vast audience. Fortunately there is a growing force of competition that will, with any luck, starting weeding some of the crap out of the patch.

Monster House had all the appeal of spending an afternoon with a particularly annoying real estate salesman looking at dumpy houses in a bad neighborhood. You reach a point about a half hour into this film where you realize that everything you have seen is crap, and the rest of the experience isn't going to get much better. Suddenly, spending a night at home seems like a pretty good idea.

DJ (Mitchell Musso) lives across the street from a cranky old recluse named Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). Nebbercracker's house is scary looking and run down, but DJ and his family live in some sort of weird community where the collective citizenry hasn't banned together and either forced Nebbercracker to fix the place up, or marched him out of town at the end of several pitchforks and torched the place.

On the day before Halloween, DJ's friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) loses his new basketball in Nebbercracker's yard, and beg's DJ to get it for him. But DJ gets caught in the process, and an ugly confrontation with Nebbercracker ensues. But the old man appears to drop dead from a heart attack, and is hauled away in an ambulance. At this point I expected DJ to be marched triumphantly through town in an impromptu victory parade by the townsfolk, but nobody seemed to care much.

But all of the sudden, the now empty house takes on a life of its own, and threatens DJ while gobbling up any neighbors that happen to stroll by. Again, the suspicion arises that as much as everyone seemed to dislike Nebbercracker, the place would have been firebombed 10 minutes after word got around that he was out of the house. Instead, DJ suffers the misery of being stalked by the "monster house."

Now, its one thing to see Godzilla stomping his way through Tokyo. Steven Spielberg once managed to get half of America afraid to set foot even in their bathtubs for fear of sharks, and Stephen King even made a big, lovable St. Bernard a scary menace. But a house just isn't a scary thing. "Monster House, meet Mr. Bulldozer." End of story. "Monster House, meet the termite family." End of story. Monster House, permit me to introduce you to my friends, book of matches and gas can." End of story.

You see what I'm getting at here? If you are battling an enemy with glaring weaknesses, and you don't exploit them, you are an idiot. Lex Luther was supposed to be an evil genious, but he obviously wasn't. Evil he may have been but if you were Lex Luther, wouldn't you wear kryptonite boxers? Of course you would. Common sense folks.

Last week I had to sit through a movie about a house guest from hell. This week, it was just the house. Either way, its been two weeks in movie review hell.

Last Week: Charlie Wilson's War:

As most of you have noticed of late, the frequency of new review postings has dropped of late. Three factors have contributed:

1. I've been extremely busy the past few months, especially with the holiday season currently upon us.

2. I'm a bit tired. After doing this almost weekly for nine years, maintaining a fresh perspective is increasingly difficult.

3. Hollywood is producing an unbelievable parade of crap of late, and with the writers strike, things are apt to get worse over the next few months.

Worry not. The reviews will continue, but the weekly schedule is unlikely in the forseeable future. There may be periods with weekly reviews, broken up by breaks of a week or two or three. Keep checking back. Eventually, I'll probably return to a regular schedule.

For years, the conservatives have basked in an astonishing bit of revisionist history by claiming that Ronald Reagan almost single handedly ended the Cold War and brought down the Soviet Union. He had about as much to do with those events as Dan Quayle had with the development of quantum physics. In fact, it's far more accurate to say that Al Gore really invented the internet.

The U.S.S.R. fell apart because it supported a failed economic system propped up by a government that was a bureaucratic nightmare. It was once said of the dinosaurs that it was not so much of a wonder that they went extinct, but rather that they managed to last so long. The same could be said of the U.S.S.R.

If any American can be credited with even a minor role in the fall of the U.S.S.R., former Texas Representative Charlie Wilson is a good candidate. His legislative career was largely unremarkable, although he did manage to get Congress to fund a massive covert operation that promoted funding to Afghanistan's Mujahideen in their battle against Soviet incursion.

This movie is getting a lot of Oscar buzz, which probably speaks to the dreary slate of contenders in 2007 much more than it does to the quality of this film. Tom Hanks turns in his usual solid performance as Congressman Wilson. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is dubiously cast as an over-zealous CIA operative. Still, he manages to finally prove that he can turn in a credible performance as a character who isn't named Truman Capote.

The worst piece of casting in this film was Julia Roberts as a wealthy, politically involved socialite. Roberts appeared completely lost in the role, and we doubted her character could find Afghanistan on a map, let alone know or care what was going on there. Of course, that would have put her in the same league as then President Reagan, who not only didn't end the Cold War, but was too senile to even find his home state of California on the map by the time he became President.

We all know how the situation ended. The Soviets suffered a humiliating defeat and ran home with their tail between their legs. The U.S. failed to follow up with aid to the victorious Afghans, and after years of civil war, the Taliban picked up with pieces. We passed on the opportunity to help create a friendly pseudo-democracy in the area, and ended up with a nightmare that eventually came back to bite us in the ass. Let's just call that typical U.S. foriegn policy in action.

Charlie Wilson's War lacks depth, but it is entertaining enough to be worth a look. It'll get a lot of attention here in awards season, which only reminds us again how utterly pathetic the offerings have been in 2007. Had this been a baseball season we could always say, "Wait until next year!" Unfortunately, the team has been gutted and next year will probably make this one look good by comparison.

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