“So, should we check out ‘Cinderella Man’?”

The Couch Potato Report – December 6th, 2005
This week The Couch Potato Report features a Cinderella man, and a man who is no longer with us.
It is rare when a film that is as good as CINDERELLA MAN fails to find an audience.
And make no mistake, CINDERELLA MAN is good, and it did fail to find its audience when it was released in theatres in June.
Now that it is available on video and DVD I hope the film finds it’s audience, because it is a film that is worth seeing.
In CINDERELLA MAN Russell Crowe from GLADIATOR plays James J. Braddock, a real person who lived and was a boxer in the early 1930’s and during The Great Depression.
As the depression takes away his money, and injuries take away his career, almost everyone in his inner circle turns their back on Braddock. Eventually his injuries end his boxing career and he struggles to support his family.
Renee Zellweger from COLD MOUNTAIN plays Braddock’s loving and supportive wife.
Unable to fight, Braddock looks for any kind of work he can get, but he also believes that he will box again.
Through a twist of fate, the day does arrive, and he gets a second chance at success.
CINDERELLA MAN is a complex film with great acting from Crowe, Zellweger and Paul Giamatti from SIDEWAYS. The movie also benefits from the experienced direction of Ron Howard.
Be warned though, if you are looking for the type of sentimental melodrama that Howard brought to A BEAUTIFUL MIND, THE MISSING, and some of his other films, you won’t find that here.
The desperate struggle of the Depression is on plain view, and the boxing scenes are very realistic and at times they are very violent.
No, CINDERELLA MAN didn’t find its audience in theatres, but I hope that people who enjoy well made, quality movies will ensure it finds success on video and DVD, because this is a film that should be seen.
As a side note, CINDERELLA MAN was filmed in Toronto, partially at Maple Leaf Gardens. The theatre where I first saw it in was on the site of where the Montreal Forum used to stand. Thus, for me, in addition to enjoying this boxing film, I was enjoying memories of hockey’s greatest rivals as well.
But I digress, and we move on now to a film that has been available on video for years but is now – finally – debuting on DVD.
That film is 1988’s IMAGINE: JOHN LENNON.
With the world pausing to remember that it has been 25 years since we lost the man, the time is right for this film to be released again.
The film is part documentary, part biography, and all Lennon and it was put together using nearly 240 hours of film and videotape that Lennon took during his life.
Director Andrew Solt took that material and created a fascinating story of one of the most complex and fascinating people in music history.
If you are fan of John Lennon, or The Beatles, this movie is a must have.
And if you are curious about why people are making such a big deal about this guy twenty-five years after he died, then IMAGINE: JOHN LENNON is a great place to start.
I have worn out my video copy, so I am pleased to now own IMAGINE: JOHN LENNON on DVD.
For the record, I will never own the movie versions of FANTASTIC FOUR or THE DUKES OF HAZZARD on DVD, or video for that matter.
That isn’t because the films are horrible, but just because I will never need to see them a second time. Yes, each one does have parts that are worth seeing, just not a second time.
As far as FANTASTIC FOUR is concerned, that is too bad as I remain a huge fan of the comic book to this day. But films based on comic books have to be judged by their source material and this film doesn’t hold up.
The source material in the film sees Reed Richards, Victor Von Doom, Ben Grimm, and Sue and Johnny Storm travel into outer-space in order to do research into human DNA.
Things don’t go as planned, and the result is superhuman powers. Four of the five use their powers for good, Victor Von Doom does not.
To its credit, FANTASTIC FOUR is a light-hearted and funny adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but that also works against it. If the people making the film took it more seriously then a better movie could have been the result.
Since they don’t, the character development is only mildly interesting, and there isn’t much action in the movie until towards the end.
FANTASTIC FOUR isn’t horrible, but it could have been great.
Great like the X-MEN films and THE INCREDIBLES.
The film version of the 1970s and 80s TV show THE DUKES OF HAZZARD isn’t horrible either, and it also doesn’t take itself too seriously either, but unlike FANTASTIC FOUR, THE DUKES OF HAZZARD is just stupid – and not always in a good way.
The plot of the film, as it is, centers around Cousins Bo and Luke Duke, their sexy cousin Daisy, and their Uncle Jesse’s attempts to save the family farm from destruction by the town’s corrupt and evil commissioner Boss Hogg.
In order to save the farm the cousins must elude the authorities over and over again in their car “The General Lee.”
But as I said, the film is just stupid, and so are many of the characters in it. On occasions when that stupidity involves Deputy Enos, or pop star Jessica Simpson as Daisy, the film is mildly entertaining.
All other times, it isn’t.
No, the film version of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD isn’t horrible, but it is definitely the last, and least of this week’s new releases.
And it is now available at a store near you along with FANTASTIC FOUR, IMAGINE: JOHN LENNON, and the overlooked in theatres CINDERELLA MAN.
Coming up in the next Couch Potato Report
Steve Carell from THE DAILY SHOW is THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanson star as clones in THE ISLAND, and there will be new box sets available for MIAMI VICE: SEASON TWO and THE SIMPSONS: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON.
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!