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'Wild Hogs,' 'Zodiac,' Oscars and More
by Scott Holleran
March 2, 2007
|Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and John Travolta in Wild Hogs|
Burbank, California—This week's serial murders thriller Zodiac and Buena Vista's family comedy Wild Hogs may hold opposite views of men but both induce sleep.
The tag team comedy Wild Hogs, which broadly taps the idea that being one's best means acting on one's values, is pure piffle. Jokes range from sight gags to lowbrow stuff about body fluids, male anatomy and pop-up pornography. None of it saves Wild Hogs from making pigs of John Travolta, awfully shrill here, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and William H. Macy, the funniest of the bunch.
Four friends hitting the road to work the kinks out of middle age sounded like fun and Mr. Macy gets his kicks as the foursome go up against a biker gang to save a sweet, small town, but this is another asinine live action feature—Jackass meets To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar—that wastes everyone's talent.
Zodiac is better, with a good, 20-minute stretch of this long psychodrama working as a Hardy Boys in the Bay Area mystery. But that's it; fine attention to Seventies detail—down to the familiar Eyewitness News theme—serves a picked-over plot about the title's real-life serial killer. He eludes everyone in law enforcement and journalism for several generations. Sounds like it might be gripping, right? In the end, it isn't.
Zodiac blinks off and on, teasing with suspenseful but irrelevant crime scenes and clues that lead nowhere and summing up to the point that man is helpless and anyone might be a psycho killer. With Jake Gyllenhaal as a newspaper cartoonist who becomes obsessed with the case, Mark Ruffalo as a Columbo-type cop and Robert Downey, Jr. as a Hunter S. Thompson-ish journalist, Zodiac emphasizes the slow process of criminal investigation over cracking the case, trying to wring climax out of anti-climax.
|Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac|
When someone walks in and says, "finish this," you want to scream, "Yes! Please!" This frustrating picture drags on with a title reading 1983 while a calendar in the scene says 1980, people saying "do the math" before people used that phrase and a ponderous mass murder mystery that crawls toward one dead end after another.
Regarding the Oscar telecast: the empty opening feature, like the show, was a dumbing down of the Academy Awards; Hollywood as a leading cultural indicator of America's spreading multiculturalism and environmentalism was in plain evidence—another winner claimed the statue for the sake of his race—and entertainment segments were gimmicky.
|Ellen DeGeneres at the 79th Annual Academy Awards|
Photo Credit: Michael Yada © A.M.P.A.S.
In other words, it was a typical Oscar evening, and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, who should have dressed for the ceremony, was a decent hostess, despite some flat and crude material. Michael Mann's montage on America was as incoherent as Miami Vice while Nancy Meyers fared better in her tribute to writers. Among the flops: the shadow-puppet somersaults, inside jokes and Cameron Diaz looking like she was trapped in a napkin. Bright spots included glamorous Jennifer Lopez and Cate Blanchett and German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's exuberant award acceptance for his anti-communist The Lives of Others, a piece of powerful cinema that achieves real artistry.
A venerable movie studio founded by screen legends in the early 20th century may be revived by one of today's movie stars. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tom Cruise, partnered with his producer, Paula Wagner, is close to reconfiguring United Artists (UA), which made such thought-provoking pictures as West Side Story, Elmer Gantry and Judgment at Nuremberg.
The report claims that the presently inactive UA, partly owned by MGM, Mr. Cruise and Wagner, will be financed by an investment group led by Merrill Lynch and will commence its first production with a movie titled Lions for Lambs, directed by Robert Redford (Quiz Show, Ordinary People), starring Meryl Streep and Mr. Cruise. Led by the formidable Mr. Redford—who excels on either side of the camera—this could be a badly needed boost for quality studio pictures.
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