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Game Change

RECENTLY the winner of a handful of Golden Globe Awards, this made-for-HBO movie offers up a recreation of how Alaska governor Sarah Palin was drafted to run as John McCain's vice-presidential candidate against Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Palin herself, in her capacity as commentator for Fox News, has suggested the movie is an example of how the "lamestream media" is against her.

It is certainly a warts-and-all portrayal by actress Julianne Moore. But the movie is not without sympathy for Palin, who won the nomination for no better reason than she was a "woman with a gun" who could deliver votes from the Republican base. It is only after she gets the nod that McCain's advisers (including Woody Harrellson) realize Palin is way out of her depth.

Ultimately, the movie is not so much an indictment of Palin as it is an indictment of a cynical political process that favours optics over substance. When it's not funny, it's actually pretty scary. Come to think of it, Pretty Scary would have been an entirely appropriate title.

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The Goode Family: The Complete Series

JUST because there were only 13 episodes in "the complete series" of the Mike Judge-produced The Goode Family does not mean the show is without merit. It's actually a very funny burlesque of a contemporary do-gooder family attempting to go through life leaving no carbon footprint.

The animated series was created by Judge and two King of the Hill producers but the characters are far more comically specific than Hank Hill and his family. And there are only so many jokes you can do about eco-awareness and cultural sensitivity without getting a tad redundant.

That said, this two-disc collection has more than its share of laughs, right from its first gag, the bumper sticker of the Goode family hybrid: "Support Our Troops... and Their Opponents." The funniest bits come courtesy of the family dog Che, presumed vegan by the Goodes, but in fact a relentless serial killer of small animals in the neighbourhood.

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The Possession

DIRECTOR Ole Bornedol (Nightwatch) understands the horror movie dynamic of taking everyday fears and anxieties and amplifying them with a paranormal push. Hence, in the foreground of this chiller, a young tween girl named Emily (Natasha Calis) is possessed by a demon she herself unlocks from a so-called "dybbuk box" innocently acquired at a yard sale.

In the background, Emily and her sister were destined to be shaken eventually, due to the divorce of their basketball coach dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick).

Optional title: Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Demon.

Given weekend custody, Clyde probably buys the box to distract Emily, but the gesture ends up backfiring big time. The girl commences sitting alone in her room, violently acting out (savagely sticking a dinner fork in dad's hand at one point), and slowly losing herself to the whispering entity in the oblong box. When Clyde investigates the history of the container, he comes to the conclusion Emily has fallen victim to demonic entity of ancient Jewish origin.

In The Exorcist, the acknowledged king of all demonic possession movies, the story of the troubled priest Father Karras ran parallel to the story of the possessed little girl. Not here. A helpful rabbi (Hasidic rapper Matisyahu) only appears in the third act when the desperate Clyde turns to the Hasidic community for help in exorcising the demon. This has the effect of presenting Orthodox Jewry as an entity as mystical and weird as the demon itself, even if they do rise to the occasion in trying to defeat the entity.

At least the movie offers a few bits of chilling novelty in the possession sub-genre, including a creepy suggestion of what a demon would look like as seen through an EEG scanner. Elsewhere, the supernatural whatzit seems to move around a human body by pushing a victim's eyeballs around every which way.

As The Possession's dybbuk box is mostly filled with genre clichés, the only rolling eyes you'll encounter are your own.

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randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2013 C12

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