“What should we rent? Well, lets see what Dan says…”

The Couch Potato Report – November 16th, 2005
This week The Couch Potato Report features some good, some bad, and some very funny penguins!
With the holiday season fast approaching the home entertainment industry continues to release strong titles for your gift giving consideration.
The latest animated film the industry is hoping you will pick up is MADAGASCAR.
Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer lend their voices to – respectively – Marty the Zebra, Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, Melman the Giraffe.
They are four friends who all live in the New York City Zoo.
Marty the Zebra decides that he wants to know what is outside of the walls he’s surrounded by and he escapes. The friends realize that they have to rescue him so they escape as well to try and bring him back.
Their escape and eventual capture leads to a public outcry about the state of mind of animals in captivity and the friends find themselves back in the wild.
I know, it all sounds a bit boring, doesn’t it?
I love animated films, but when MADAGASCAR opened in theaters back in May I didn’t go see it because that synopsis, and the film’s trailers, didn’t make the film look remotely entertaining.
Yet when I finally sat down last week and watched the film, I found it very entertaining.
Especially all of the scenes involving the penguins!
This group doesn’t need Sidney Crosby to be it’s savior, they score all on their own!
The plot in MADAGASCAR isn’t superb, the story isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, and the animation isn’t as good as what you’ve seen in THE INCREDIBLES, FINDING NEMO, or even CHICKEN LITTLE, but for some reason MADAGASCAR works.
And those penguins are tremendous!
I also use that word – tremendous – when I talk about the TV show SCRUBS.
SCRUBS is situation comedy that gives us an interns’-eye view of hospital life and the torturous, tragic, and triumphant route to becoming a doctor.
The show has a great cast and is exceptionally written.
SEASON TWO of the show features the continuing development of the characters of JD, Turk, Elliot, Carla, and Dr. Cox and the Janitor!
I already said that I find the show tremendous, but I feel just as comfortable describing it as hilarious, poignant, and just plain entertaining!
There won’t be new episodes of the show airing on TV until January. In the interim SCRUBS – SEASON TWO is a 3-disc box set with all of the 22 hilarious episodes from SCRUBS sensational second season. And it is available right now!
Plus, it is tremendous, hilarious, poignant…did I mention that already?
I did? Well, let me just move on to THE SKELETON KEY then.
This film is a mildly entertaining supernatural thriller that takes place in rainy, mild Louisiana.
Kate Hudson from ALMOST FAMOUS plays a compassionate caregiver who takes a job in the rural plantation home of a woman and her invalid husband.
The place is creepy and in all of the house’s rooms are secrets, especially in the rooms that no one goes in.
I like Kate Hudson, and I usually enjoy supernatural thrillers, but this one just has too many scenes that have nothing going for them other than a stereotypical scary movie music score.
The main spell in the film only effects you if you believe it. I didn’t believe it, so the film didn’t effect me.
If you don’t expect much, maybe you will enjoy THE SKELETON KEY more than I did.
Finally this week, I want to compare a brand new film that has just been released to this week’s “leftover.”
Both HAPPY ENDINGS – the new film – and CRASH * the “leftover” – are ensemble dramas with large casts.
Both tell many stories with one or two things that happen that tie everyone and all their stories together.
But both aren’t successful in keeping you engaged as a viewer.
CRASH does, HAPPY ENDINGS does not.
Let me start with the latter.
HAPPY ENDINGS features three main stories. Lisa Kudrow from FRIENDS is having an affair with a masseuse when a wannabe filmmaker blackmails her to get a movie made.
Her gay stepbrother believes that his boyfriend may be the father of the child of a lesbian couple.
And a homeless, gold-digging karaoke singer tries to make her life better.
Even re-reading those story points, I think it would make a great film. But they don’t.
HAPPY ENDINGS is interesting, but it just isn’t engaging enough to hold your attention. It certainly didn’t hold mine.
The film’s characters are interesting, but their situations are not.
The result can only be described as a disappointment.
Now CRASH on the other hand is engaging from start to finish!
CRASH is an intelligent, completely engaging and moving exploration of the interlocking lives of a dozen Los Angeles residents.
Those residents include a politically nervous white district attorney and his wife who get car-jacked by two black youths; a rich black T.V. director and his wife who get pulled over by a white racist cop; and a black detective who is investigating a white cop who shot a black cop.
Normally I would never focus on a character’s race in a review, but CRASH is a film that demands it.
Canadian writer/director Paul Haggis spins his characters in unpredictable directions, and refuses to let any one of them become a stereotype.
CRASH is a film that will anger you, entertain you, enrage you, and make you smile, but most of all it will make you think.
The cast of CRASH includes many well known actors, including Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Jennifer Esposito, Terrence Howard, and rap star Ludacris, but it is the writing and the film itself that make it worth seeing.
HAPPY ENDINGS is an ensemble picture that doesn’t work at all, CRASH is one that does.
Both films are available now at a store near you. So are MADAGASCAR, SCRUBS – SEASON TWO and THE SKELETON KEY.
Coming up in the next Couch Potato Report
The summer blockbuster WAR OF THE WORLDS is Steven Spielberg’s take on H.G. Wells science fiction classic. Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins star.
Tom Hanks is the star of the animated film version of the classic book THE POLAR EXPRESS. He voices five characters in this heartwarming story about a group of children are taken to the North Pole to meet Santa.
Three television shows from different eras are new releases on DVD. I’ll talk about LEAVE IT TO BEAVER – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, SEINFELD – SEASON 5 and SEASON 6 and A DIFFERENT WORLD – SEASON ONE is our final “leftover.”
I’m Dan Reynish. I’ll have more on those, and some other releases, 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!