Our Brand Is Crisis
Warner Brothers Pictures
Rated R for profanity and sexual references
American Media Consultants Manipulate Bolivian Political Campaign In Dirty Tricks Dramedy
In 2002, Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada, a candidate for the presidency of Bolivia, found himself floundering in the polls with just a few months to go to election day. Since the desperate multimillionaire had been raised in the United States, he was well aware of how a political consulting firm was capable of influencing the outcome of an election.
So, he retained the services of James Carville, who had successfully orchestrated Bill Clinton’s presidential bid in 1992. And soon, the flamboyant spin doctor descended upon Bolivia with a team of seasoned, media-savvy strategists.
Still, repositioning Goni would be no mean feat, given the fact that he was an unpopular ex-president who’d already been exposed as a pro-American, pro-globalization puppet controlled by powerful corporate interests. Carville and company’s only hope rested in employing smear tactics against the two favorites in the race, one, a socialist, the other, a centrist.
Ultimately, the carpetbaggers did prevail, and that incredible feat was chronicled by Our Brand Is Crisis (2005), a dispiriting documentary illustrating just how easy it is for money to corrupt the democratic process with the help of operatives parachuted in from Madison Avenue. The picture also questioned the wisdom of fixing foreign elections in this fashion, since very bloody, civil unrest subsequently arose in Bolivia, anyway, which forced Goni to flee the country for asylum in the U.S. a year into his administration.
Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), Our Brand Is Crisis 2.0 serves up a relatively-sanitized version of the aforementioned events. Names have been changed and characters have been conflated and added to make the Yankee intervention appear almost benign.
Here, courtesy of revisionist history, the socialist (Louis Arcella) and capitalist (Joaquim de Almeida) candidates both rely on assistance from American PR firms led by Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), respectively. The entertaining adventure pits a flirtatious and crafty mercenary versus an idealistic, ex-alcoholic in search of redemption in an escalating battle of wits marked by deception and dirty tricks.
Instead of making a pure political thriller, director Green has opted to undercut the tension with moments of levity and sexual innuendo. The upshot is that the movie works very well as formulaic Hollywood fare, so long as you don’t enter the theater anticipating an experience as sophisticated as the thought-provoking documentary which inspired it.
A lighthearted primer in how to mount a smear campaign and thereby manipulate a banana republic to vote against its own self-interest.
Very Good (3 stars)
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 108 minutes
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, drug use, gruesome violence, brutal rape and graphic nudity.
Rape Victim Resorts To Unorthodox Therapy In Grisly Revenge Drama
Julia Shames (Ashley C. Williams) was already damaged goods before she decided to go out with Piers (Ryan Cooper), a handsome med student with a hidden agenda. Despite having been in analysis for years, the troubled survivor of serial sexual abuse had scars on her arms from repeatedly trying to commit suicide with razor blades.
But bad turned to worse during Julia’s date with Piers, when he and several pals proceeded to gang-rape her after spiking her drink with the knock-out drug, Rohypnol. And when the sadistic creeps were through getting their kicks, they left her lying along the banks of a moonlit river, fully expecting her badly-beaten corpse to be carried out to sea with the next high tide.
However, Julia managed to drag herself to safety, though she was too ashamed to report the incident to the police. Instead, she blamed herself for the attack, and dealt with the violation by slitting her wrists again and by soaking her woes at a women-only bar located in her neighborhood in lower Manhattan.
There, she finds a sympathetic shoulder to lean on and loins to lock with in Sadie (Tahyna Tozzi). The supportive spirit/lipstick lesbian eventually introduces Julia to Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy), a shrink who employs an unorthodox approach to healing women like Julia.
His bizarre therapy involves having his patients take out their frustration on rapists, whether by murder or by slicing off their private parts. Since Julia’s at the end of her rope, she agrees to give it a try, although she’s not supposed to target any of the guys that assaulted her. Of course, she forgets about that rule as soon as she passes one of her attackers on the street, and she morphs into a bloodthirsty vigilante bent on revenge.
Written and directed by Matthew A. Brown, Julia is a grisly affair which can’t decide whether it wants to be a horror flick or a tale of female empowerment. Either way, the combination proves gratifying enough, provided you don’t mind watching a heroine playing judge, jury and knife-wielding neuterer.
A squirm in your seat saga serving up castration as a eunuch experience!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening October 30, 2015
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (R for violence, gore, sexuality, graphic nudity and pervasive profanity) Horror comedy revolving around a trio of BFF boy scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan) who join forces to save their hometown during an invasion by a horde of zombies. Cast includes David Koechner, Cloris Leachman and Patrick Schwarzenegger.
The Armor Of Light (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Pro-life documentary about an anti-abortion Evangelical minister who comes to question the wisdom of his pro-gun stance in the face of the proliferation of Stand Your Ground laws. Featuring commentary by Lucy McBath, the mother of an unarmed black teen shot to death at a gas station for refusing to turn down the volume on his car radio.
Bare (Unrated) Out-of-the-closet drama, set in Nevada, about a young woman (Dianna Agron) who leaves her boyfriend (Chris Zylka) for a drifter (Paz de la Huerta), drugs and a new line of work as a stripper. With Louisa Krause, Mary Price Moore and Travis Hammer.
Burnt (Unrated) Culinary dramedy about a disgraced Parisian chef’s (Bradley Cooper) attempt to restore his reputation in London with the help of an attractive assistant-turned-love interest (Sienna Miller). With Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson and Alicia Vikander.
Carter High (PG-13 for profanity, suggestive material and mature themes) Fact-based sports saga, set in Dallas in 1988, recounting the rise and fall of a high school football team which won the Texas state championship only to have nine players subsequently commit a string of armed robberies. Co-starring Vivica A. Fox, Charles S. Dutton, Reginald C. Hayes and Marcus M. Mauldin.
Love (Unrated) Romance drama revolving around an American film student (Karl Glusman), living in Paris with an unstable girlfriend (Aomi Muyock), who comes to regret inviting their attractive neighbor (Klara Kristin) to share a menage a trois. With Ugo Fox, Juan Saavedra and Aaron Pages. (In English and French with subtitles)
Making Rounds (Unrated) Healthcare documentary chronicling the old-school bedside manner of a couple of hands-on doctors making life and death decisions for cardiac patients in the critical care unit of NYC’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
Marshland (Unrated) Crime thriller, set in Spain in 1980, revolving around a couple of big city detectives (Javier Gutierrez and Raul Arevalo) sent from Madrid to a tiny town in the country to catch the serial killer responsible for a string of grisly murders of young women. Cast includes Maria Varod, Perico Cervantes and Jesus Ortiz. (In Spanish with subtitles)
The Wonders (Unrated) Coming-of-age dramedy, set in Tuscany, about a troubled teenager (Luis Huilca) whose arrival disrupts the idyllic home life of the beekeepers who take him in just as a camera crew arrives to film them for a reality TV-show. With Monica Bellucci, Alba Rohrwacher, Maria Alexandra Lungu and Sam Louwyck. (In Italian, French and German with subtitles)