At the Movies: Finally a viable president

Head of State
by Lauren Spitzer
3.5 Hatchets

In the game of dirty politics, a black man can make history and become president of the United States. Or so he is led to believe.

In Head of State, D.C. councilman Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock, Down to Earth) is sought as the perfect presidential candidate. He’s perfect, at least to replace the party’s original candidate, whose untimely death put him out of the running. As director, co-producer, co-writer and star of Head of State, Rock fits himself nicely into this toned-down, yet irreverent role.

With help from his campaign manager (Dylan Baker) and adviser (Lynn Whitfield), Gilliam decides that he wants to get in the election and beat Vice President Brian Lewis (Nick Searcy) a, “war hero and Sharon Stone’s cousin.”

While the opening is a bit slow, the movie gains speed as the race continues and Gilliam finds his perfect running mate, his brother Mitch (Bernie Mac, “The Bernie Mac Show”). Mitch, an over-the-top bail bondsman with a lack of any political knowledge, is the ultimate addition to Gilliam’s campaign and the film as a whole.

Head of State produces some good laughs, even though it often resorts to generic one-liners and having conservative white people dance the electric slide. That campaign party was “off the hizzle, fijizzle.”

Chris Rock’s directorial debut is most enjoyable during the moments when Rock and Mac team up as the perfect combination of brothers and running mates.

My opinion: vote Rock/Mac in 2004. I mean, who else is there?

Spun
by Jeff Frost
4 Hatchets

Remember all the great anti-drug episodes in television history? Like on Punky Brewster when the cool girls brought coke into her tree-house. Or the episode of “The Cosby Show” when Theo held “junk” for a friend. Given the current state of the nation’s youth, they didn’t do a very good job. Spun is a nauseatingly filthy tale of six methamphetamine addicts in California. Ross (Jason Schwartzman, Rushmore) seems to be the only one who realizes that his life is falling apart because of speed. He watches his pathetic pals burn themselves out one line at a time.

Soon Ross strikes up a close relationship with stripper Nikki (Brittany Murphy, 8 Mile), who’s boyfriend, The Cook (Mickey Rourke, Get Carter) is a major meth supplier.

Spun’s greatest attribute is its gritty authenticity. Originally planned as a documentary, the film is loosely based on actual events witnessed by writer Will De Los Santos in 1995.

Though its aim is comedy, its characters transcend the genre’s morally thin standard of depth. The film works because of the well-acted and well-written characters.

However, the film often launches into bizarre realms not seen in many other films. There are many extremely graphic sexual situations, as well as several twisted animated segments. The lack of direction or narrative in these ultimately hurts the film.

Overall, the film, like the drug, is a series of wild highs and destructive lows.

Bend it like Beckham
by Chris Ingui
3 Hatchets

Impressive at first,though sometimes drowned in sentimentality towards its close, Gurinda Chadas’ Bend it Like Beckham (UK) is a classic struggle for self actualization amid oppressive cultural traditions.

In the film’s first sequence, the viewer witnesses a fantasy perpetrated by the main protagonist Jess (Paraminder Nagra). Right from the start, the message of the film is straight forward: it’s going to be a struggle for Jess to live out her lifelong dream of becoming a professional soccer player.

That ever-so-precious dry British wit is scattered throughout the film, hinting at the absurdity of clinging too tightly to overbearing traditions.

Through and through, the film drives hard at Jess’s wish of realizing her own dreams, without destroying the bond she shares with her family. Though a respectable message, it becomes a bit flowery in its hope to appease all crowds with a nice neat finale.

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