James Spies

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The Contender Review


Bad
A day after The West Wing ruled the Emmy Awards, Rod Lurie's White House drama The Contender screened at the Boston Film Festival. With that kind of timing, comparisons are unavoidable. So with The Contender boasting an intriguing storyline (woman nominated for the Vice Presidency) and a top-line cast, how is it that I was pining for Martin Sheen by movie's end? I blame Lurie, for what I believe to be a true dud of the fall season.

Lurie is an L.A. film critic-turned-filmmaker who made his debut with last year's virtually unseen Deterrence, with Kevin Pollak as the President. Lurie's back to politics again, and this time it's Jeff Bridges as Commander-In-Chief, and he'd like to appoint Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen, in a role written especially for her) to the VP vacancy. Not so easy. The Senator has enemies, like Gary Oldman's Congressman Sheldon Runyon. His team digs up dirty pictures from Hanson's youth, and all hell breaks loose for the Senator.

Continue reading: The Contender Review

Deterrence Review


Excellent
It would be easy -- almost mandatory -- to dismiss Deterrence as a ridiculous piece of late night paranoia (Plot: The president (played by Kevin Pollak!?) is stuck in a Colorado diner during a blizzard, where he finds himself entering a nuclear war with Iraq over a new invasion into Kuwait, by Saddam Hussein's son!). Well, it's a ballsy plot, to say the least. And in fact, it's quite gripping, and I'd be hard-pressed to script a better film given the basic scenario described above. Sure, former film critic Rod Lurie (The Contender) hamstrings himself with a low budget, a single location (a la Albino Alligator), and a crummy film editing job, but considering the obstacles, Deterrence is quite a ride.
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