“It’s a day late, but not a dollar short! Now I want to see ‘Sideways.’ Can we go get it, and some wine?”

The Couch Potato Report – April 6th, 2005
This week The Couch Potato Report features one movie that is actually better than I say it is and one that is even worse than I say it is.
The film SIDEWAYS was nominated for five Academy Awards – including Best Picture – and it won for Best Original Screenplay.
It actually earned Best Picture honors from movie critics in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, London, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington and Boston.
Plus, it was named to the top 10 lists of more than 350 critics lists including the American Film Institute, The National Board of Review, and Rolling Stone and Newsweek magazines, amongst others.
So if a film is proclaimed to be that good by that many people and groups, then it has to be good, right?
Well no, not always.
But in this case, SIDEWAYS is that good.
SIDEWAYS deserves all of the attention it received earlier this year during the movie Awards season, and it deserves your time now that it is available on video and DVD.
This is a superb film.
Paul Giamatti is Miles, a struggling novelist and wine connoisseur who takes his best friend on a wine-tasting tour of California vineyards for a kind of extended bachelor party.
Miles just wants to golf, taste wine and hang out with his friend. But his friend would rather sow some proverbial wild oats before walking down the aisle.
The friend is the comedic side of the film while Giamatti’s Miles is the movie’s heart.
Miles starts to spend time with a recently divorced waitress and every single one of their moments together are spectacular!
The scenes are well written and well acted and even though it is a movie, it seems as if they are two real people talking to each other.
Virginia Madsen plays the waitress and she is wonderful!
I still think she deserved to win the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
SIDEWAYS explores life’s failures, struggles, and the lowered expectations of mid-life. But more importantly, it is a movie full of real people, living real lives.
So add me to the list those who recommend SIDEWAYS. It is a superb movie.
Prior to the release of his latest film SPANGLISH last December, the career of write director James L. Brooks was also superb.
Prior to last December, her had yet to make a misstep.
Brooks had worked on the classic television shows MY THREE SONS, THAT GIRL and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, before creating THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, TAXI and developing THE SIMPSONS.
Like I said, prior to the release of SPANGLISH last December, his career was superb and he had yet to suffer a misstep.
Then came SPANGLISH.
In the movie the very beautiful Paz Vega plays a Mexican woman who moves to Los Angeles to become the housekeeper for the wealthy, and troubled, Clasky family.
Adam Sandler and TÈa Leoni are the head of the family, and they have too many problems to list.
But their main problem is the fact that he is a loving and supportive parent to their two kids, and she is…well, not so much.
Oh, and the housekeeper doesn’t speak English, but her daughter does. Of course, the daughter doesn’t always translate everything word for word.
Now all of that sounds pretty promising, doesn’t it? I’ll sure thought it did and with James L. Brooks behind it, I watched it thinking it would be a film that was a witty and perceptive collision of cultures and values.
Instead, it is just long, uninteresting and a huge misstep for James L. Brooks.
Admittedly, Paz Vega is beautiful to look at, plus Brooks did get a great performance out of Sandler and kept him away from his trademark work in HAPPY GILMORE and THE WEDDING SINGER.
And yes, T√àa Leoni is as reliable as ever, Cloris Leachman is hilarious as Leoni’s mother and Sarah Steele is a stand out as Bernice, Sandler and Leoni’s daughter.
But those good things don’t add up to anything special and SPANGLISH is a movie that isn’t worth the time you will invest in it.
It isn’t horrible, but it certainly isn’t good either.
But, on the other hand, SIDEWAYS is good. In fact it is superb!!
So now we have the superb SIDEWAYS, the mediocre SPANGLISH and now we add the very bad ELEKTRA to the mix.
After the modest success of the comic book movie DAREDEVIL in 2003 a decision was made to spin off the very interesting supporting character ELEKTRA into her own film.
Great idea, bad film.
Jennifer Garner from TV’s ALIAS reprises her role as Elektra, and in the film she is a hired assassin.
Admittedly, Elektra is just a variation on the character that Garner plays every week on TV, but the difference is the TV show is well written, well acted and full of action.
ELEKTRA is none of those things.
Yes, sure, Jennifer Garner looks great, and if that is reason enough for you to sit through this bad movie, then enjoy.
Personally, while I enjoyed looking at Jennifer Garner, I hated watching the movie she was in.
ELEKTRA is a waste of your time, but along with SPANGLISH and SIDEWAYS, it is also available in stores now.
OCEAN’S TWLEVE is the less than enjoyable sequel to the all-star remake of OCEAN’S ELEVEN. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts are all back on screen, but even with their star power this film is hard to watch.
HOTEL RWANDA is hard to watch as well, but for different reasons. Don Cheadle plays a hotel owner who offers shelter for refugees in Rwanda during the genocide of the mid-1990’s.
In THE WOODSMAN Kevin Bacon gives a great performance as a flawed man who is attempting to rejoin society. Due to its subject matter, it too is a very difficult film to watch, but the acting is superb.
I’m Dan Reynish and I will have more on THE WOODSMAN, HOTEL RWANDA and OCEAN’S TWLEVE in seven days.
For now, that’s this week’s COUCH POTATO REPORT.
Enjoy the movies and I’ll see you back here next week on The Couch!