A State of Perpetual WhateverA few movies are opening today. Fortunately, there are no dogs in any of them … not even “Infamous”, which is largely set in Kansas and should therefore have at least a couple of hounds in the background.


If you live in the Toronto area, you should really try to catch Andrew Bujalski’s “Mutual Appreciation” at the Bloor Cinema over the weekend. It’s slight and lovely, and the DVD will be a while yet, making this extremely limited run — just six screenings over four days, from tonight through Monday — an opportunity not to be missed. I even managed to convince Metro to run the review today, instead of holding it over the weekend … though it meant bumping “The Queen”, apparently. (Still, space is precious, and the people gots to have their extended “Survivor” coverage.)

Also opening today is Barry Levinson’s “Man of the Year“, which is probably the worst film of 2006: If there’s one that sucks harder, I think it might kill me.

Universal is bending over backwards to sell it as a comedy, which is understandable, but the marketing campaign is really one massive bamboozle: Only a sliver of the film deals with Robin Williams’ TV personality running for president. The rest of it is a screed against electronic voting machines, with Laura Linney as a computer programmer who stumbles onto a glitch that results in Williams’ character being fraudulently elected to the Presidency, and getting all parallax-viewed for her trouble, with dark-suited “X-Files” day players attacking her in her home and chasing her through various shopping malls and parking garages.

Linney plays her scenes straight (Why wouldn’t she? She thinks she’s in a thriller!), which gives them a sense of genuine threat and panic that’s utterly absent in the rest of the picture. It’s too bad, because Williams is a lot better in thrillers and dramas these days than he is in comedies — really, doesn’t it bother anyone else that his big laugh in the trailer is a Clinton joke that’s eight years old?

And folks, here’s a tip: If you’re going to drop Jon Stewart’s name in an effort to associate your one-dimensional character with a genuine political force, it’s pretty frickin’ dumb to cast Lewis Black, an actual “Daily Show” personality, as his fictional producer. My first thought was that Black would have been much more effective in Williams’ role; if nothing else, his material would have been a lot sharper.

Also opening today, with the whimper of redundancy, is “Infamous“, the other Truman Capote picture from director Douglas McGrath. Toby Jones is a fine Capote, and I thought Sandra Bullock was rather impressive as Harper Lee — like Williams, she’s much more interesting these days when she’s not playing comedy — but McGrath’s film suffers from a focal issue.

“Infamous” seems much more interested in Tru sharing stories with his New York friends (and then, just as easily, with plain Kansas folk like Alvin Dewey and his wife, whom he charms with tales of Hollywood royalty) than with his fascination for the Clutter case; and then, when Hickock and Smith enter the picture, McGrath tries to switch from a breezy tone to a darker one, and the change-up feels inappropriate: No disrespect to Daniel Craig, who does stellar work as Smith in this section of the film, but McGrath can’t do justice to his performance: I thought of “SCTV” funnyman Bobby Bittman squaring his shoulders and setting up his latest pompous declaration with “As a comic, in all seriousness …”


Also opening this week: “The Queen”, which is very good, and “The Grudge 2” and “The Marine”, which I’ll be catching over the weekend because neither film was screened in time for an opening-day review.

Two major-studio openings in one week that bypassed the press. That might be a first.

Again: Unfortunate. But hey, at least I’m keeping busy.

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