A major movie buff, Ed Koch immensely enjoyed writing his “Koch on Film” column for The Villager. Although he stopped writing for the paper in recent years, he continued to send his film reviews to his e-mail list. His columns sometimes featured political commentary and observations on the theaters themselves or the audiences. Below are a couple of his columns from The Villager.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (-)
This is a terrible and loony film. The critics who gave it a good review should take a vacation.
The plot involves Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) and his chocolate factory. Although it is huge in size and production, no employees have been seen entering the building and no visitor has been allowed inside the factory for 15 years. By finding a ticket in a chocolate bar that he purchases, young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is one of five children winning a tour of the factory promised by Willy Wonka. Charlie, the hero of the movie, lives in squalor with his mother (Helena Bonham Carter), father (Noah Taylor), and his four grandparents.
Inside the factory, tiny workers (resembling munchkins) and ferocious squirrels operate the machines. During the tour the children, each accompanied by a parent, suffer unbelievable trauma. This picture is far too scary for children ages nine or younger, and parents should be warned that it is not a likeable version of the 1971 film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder. When the lights went up after the show, I spoke with several people in the audience and ascertained that they shared my opinion. If I had to sum up this film in one word, it would be “evil.”
Freddie Highmore, with his wonderful English accent, is excellent in the role of Charlie. Depp’s bizarre performance is that of a one-trick pony, and it does not contribute positively to his impressive resume to date. I would hope he would like to forget his participation in this film. I know that I would certainly like to forget seeing it.
“Team America” (+)
Not as good as its predecessor, “South Park,” but very good. It’s also totally obscene and is definitely not for children. The movie is often hilarious as it spears the Hollywood radicals, particularly Alec Baldwin, depicted as their leader. The sex scenes between two marionettes are unbelievably graphic and funny. Who knew that pieces of wood could be so lewd?
There is a plot: the good guys against the bad guys. The bad guys are led by the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong II, whose unwitting stooges are Baldwin’s Hollywood crowd, including Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Michael Moore. They get their comeuppance at the end. Interestingly, the reviews were mixed and titled towards the lower end of the star chart, although the New York Post gave it four stars. There is ideology here, but the movie spears everyone. People should enjoy the comedy, whatever their politics.
I enjoyed it much more than I did Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It was also very satisfying to see Moore skewered in this lampoon on the political scene. It is worth seeing, maybe even more so after the election.
– Ed Koch