by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
In 1970, forming (arguably) the first supergroup of British comedy, Beyond the Fringe’s Peter Cook and Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman concocted an intensely dark political satire — one that has become more relevant than ever, mind you — that has been unfairly buried by time. Only recently was it unearthed for the Warner Archive Collection. The aforementioned Cook is the titular Michael Rimmer, a quietly smirking, wholly manipulative political puppet-master who manages to work his way up from vaulted pollster to Prime Minister to British dictator. His rise and rise is fueled by an unstoppably Luciferian ambition that is never doubted or challenged due to his cool aloofness. No one knows who he is, no one knows how he got there, but no one questions it either. They just do his bidding and carry on. Boy, this all sure sounds familiar — and once you realize that and get past the laughs, only then you can focus on the fear.
I have come to the realization that, as a child, I was an idiot. I look back at cartoons I cherished then and the simplistic moronic-ness of them saddens me. I should have been out reading the classics, listening to treasures or watching things of value. Instead, I plopped down in front of the TV and enthrallingly watched Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos every afternoon, in between the equally violent animated fare of Rambo: The Force of Freedom and G.I. Joe. Even worse, Norris lasted only lasted five episodes, so I watched those five over and over again. The Caucasian karate master leads a team of martial arts mercenaries, including a sumo and a samurai who speak in offensive broken English, across the globe, trying to bring the evil Klaw and Super Ninja to justice. In the first episode, Norris and crew enlist the help of super-intelligent dolphins … you know, now that I write that out, it’s actually pretty cool. Forget what I said — I was an awesome kid! More cartoon violence, please!
I bet Kevin Spacey is an asshole in real life. He has to be. From Swimming with the Sharks to his latest project, Casino Jack, he excels at being the bigwig you love hate, the jerky boss in dire need of an immediate comeuppance. Here, he’s Jack Abramoff, the Washington power player who bit off more than he could chew, proudly reaching new depths of fraud and corruption, all the while greasing palms of politicians, keeping in shape, running a restaurant and being a devout Jew. And while I’m sure certain aspects of Abramoff’s personality were amped up to give the flick a bit more of a comic tone, director George Hickenlooper (late brother to Colorado governor John) keeps things slick and moving along, only getting heavy-handed towards the end, when he gives Republicans both barrels in an ill-advised coda. It manages to work however, because, like I said, Spacey delivers the smugness to perfection, creating an evil genius that even his Lex Luthor couldn’t match.