Movie Review: “Our Brand is Crisis”

Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thorton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan
David Gordon Green

With the 2016 U.S. presidential election already garnering plenty of media attention, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a film like “Our Brand is Crisis” to remind everyone that politics is just a big sham. Loosely based on Rachel Boynton’s 2005 documentary of the same name (which detailed the marketing tactics employed by a team of American consultants led by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election), the movie delivers a watered-down version of those events that audaciously tries to get the audience to identify with its morally corrupt protagonist. The fact that she’s portrayed by America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, is a genius piece of casting, because the actress could play Hitler’s mother and still come across somewhat likable, but it doesn’t mask the film’s tonal inconsistencies and lack of direction.

Bullock stars as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a disgraced campaign strategist who’s been out of the political game for six years after a string of losses credited to her self-destructive behavior. But when Bolivian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) hires an elite American management team to run his campaign, only to find themselves 28 points behind in the polls with 90 days to go, Jane is approached in a last-ditch attempt to turn the ship around. It’s apparent to Jane within minutes of meeting Castillo that he’s a lost cause, but despite the seemingly impossible odds of closing the gap on populist candidate Victor Rivera (Louis Arcella), she agrees to take the job after discovering that the competition has hired its own American strategist, longtime rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who’s beaten her in every previous contest. For Jane, this is personal, and though Castillo’s Bolivian consultants strongly advise against running a negative campaign – they just don’t do that in their country – she convinces him that playing dirty is his only chance of winning.

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A chat with the cast and crew of “Good Vibes”

Believe it or not, a decade or two back, MTV was pretty heavily invested in animation. There was the quasi-anime weirdness of “Æon Flux,” the high school snark-a-thon “Daria,” and, of course, Mike Judge’s epochal 1990s ode to bone-deep stupidity, “Beavis and Butt-head.” As of October 27, 2011, MTV is jumping back into the cartoon business with Judge’s retooled series about the pea-brained adolescent channel surfers. That’s not all. It will be followed by a show about a pair of actual teenage surfers, “Good Vibes,” that producers are touting as “‘Superbad‘ at the beach.”

Spearheaded by arthouse wunderkind turned doper comedy director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness“), this flash-animated production brings a bit more sexuality to cartoons than we’re used to. Viewers can bet on plenty of boob, butt, and even penis-related humor as well as some pot jokes. Animation-wise, it somewhat resembles “Family Guy” while the content is more story-oriented and good natured. Clearly, “The Simpsons” is an influence.

“Good Vibes” stars the voices of Adam Brody (of “The O.C.”) and Josh Gad (currently tearing up Broadway in “The Book of Mormon”) as Woodie and Mondo, respectively, a Mutt and Jeff pair of teen surfer buddies learning wacky lessons in life and love on the beaches of the very fictional California town of Playa del Toro. The show also features the talents of “Arrested Development” scene-stealer Tony Hale as Wadska, a McLovin-like uber-nerd, as well as second generation character actor Jake Busey as Turk, a loutish bully of a surfer dude. Also contributing is versatile “Firefly” favorite and comic actor Alan Tudyk, who voices a number of characters, including Lonnie, an aging surf bum who dispenses pot-infused wisdom to his young admirers. The show also features veteran actress Debi Mazar, up-and-comer Olivia Thirlby and David Gordon Green cohort Danny McBride.

At this year’s Comic-Con, Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to get together with cast members Brody, Busey, Hale and Tudyk. Also present were executive producer Green and staff writer Christian Lander, an Internet star for his now-dormant blog, Stuff White People Like. As with the show they were promoting, the sheer mass of talent on hand made for a reasonably entertaining time.

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