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Swing Vote

Movie D+
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 3 (out of 10)

Kevin Costner is in aw-shucks mode for this insipid tale about a presidential election coming down to one vote. Surely inspired by the 2000 presidential election, the film is set in a New Mexico town called Texico, where Bud (Costner) becomes the focus of world attention.

Bud's vote didn't initially get counted, because the machine failed with his ballot in it, so now he's courted by the president (Kelsey Grammer) and his opponent (Dennis Hopper) in desperate bids to garner Bud's support. This means we get to endure silly political ads in which a Republican candidate becomes pro-choice, and a Democrat goes anti-abortion. Ha, ha, ha ...

Among the horrors is the sight/sound of Kevin Costner singing with his crappy band, Modern West. Costner has a singing voice that sounds like he's got a head cold, and the fact that he co-financed the film is a good indicator why director Joshua Michael Stern would allow such garbage to muddy his film. The only thing worse than Costner singing is Billy Bob Thornton singing. Face it, guys: Unless you are Kevin Bacon, you can't sing in a rock band and act in this world. It's just not allowed.

One of the problems here is that Stern is very indecisive in what he's looking to accomplish--and not just on the political front. Paula Patton plays a small-time reporter willing to do anything to make it to the big city. Yet Stern cops out with the character, allowing a half-assed redemption scene after she's tricked Bud's daughter (Madeline Carroll) into a secretly taped, incriminating interview. The film seems absolutely frightened of committing to ideas.

If Swing Vote does have a saving grace, it is Carroll, who appears to have big-time acting chops. Let's hope she gets to show them in projects worthy of her talents.

Special Features: A self-important commentary in which director Stern and his co-writer don't seem to be aware that they've made a piece of shit.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Anchor Bay
Movie C-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 4 (out of 10)

Twenty years ago, this Hellraiser sequel wasn't too bad for a Saturday-night rental. It contained stomach-turning special effects--state of the art at the time--and Pinhead was kind of cool.

However, the film hasn't stood the test of time. It tried to do too much on a medium-size budget, and its use of matte paintings and flashbacks to the first film get out of hand. The ending is preposterous, and there is more than one moment in which you can see a cable or a wire propping up a special effect.

Still, the makeup in this movie is pretty damn good. Skinless bodies walk about while having conversations, with their spine bones sticking out of the muscles in their backs. The details in the facial muscles are impressive, and some of the stuff with the creatures from hell remains nightmarish.

There's a peak at Pinhead, the guy with all the nails in his face before he gets transformed. We get to see actor Doug Bradley as himself; he's creepy both with the makeup and without.

Looking back, the original film is the only good entry in the whole series.

Special Features: Commentary, lots of interviews and documentaries ... the sorts of things you would dig if you liked the movie at all. If you don't--and you probably don't--then these features are worthless.

Hancock: Unrated Special Edition (Blu-Ray)

Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

The folks in charge of the promotional campaign for this DVD should all be fired. One of the great treasures of this movie is the big surprise--which is more or less revealed in the TV commercials and on the DVD cover. Why in the hell would they risk giving the secret away? The film did decent box-office business, and is destined for good home sales.

My best advice: Have somebody you know who has already seen the movie go out and buy or rent it for you. Then, slip this person a buck or two to come over and put the DVD in your player without you seeing the cover. Avoid the cover at all costs! Don't even look at the tiny image that runs with this review! Stop it!

Of the two Will Smith films in 2008 (the other being Seven Pounds), this was the better one by far. Smith plays a man with superpowers who is unsure of his own identity and is sporting a truly bad attitude. After saving the life of a marketing expert (Jason Bateman), the expert chooses to repay Hancock by helping him out with his bad image. This means no more booze, no more wrecking things unnecessarily, and no more sloppy landings that result in streets getting torn up.

It's a fun film. Don't let the lousy marketing campaign ruin it for you.

Special Features: A bunch of featurettes, and some footage not seen in theaters.

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