The Couch Potato Report – January 14th, 2006
This week The Couch Potato Report features a film that I don’t understand all the fuss over, and some films that I will fuss over.
I admit it.
I admit that from time to time there are movies that come out that are universally praised and loved, yet I can’t understand why.
Even if I have respect for the actors and the filmmakers, I am usually left wondering what all the fuss is about.
The last movie that left me feeling this way was Clint Eastwood’s MYSTIC RIVER, and now you can add THE CONSTANT GARDENER to that list.
I’m sorry, but I just don’t see what all the fuss is about regarding this film based on the best-selling John le Carr√à novel.
I respect the source material and I like the actors in the film, but as I watched THE CONSTANT GARDENER I was constantly waiting for something to happen.
And when something did happen, I just didn’t find it satisfying.
However, many other people who have seen the film did find it satisfying.
And I don’t understand why.
In the film Ralph Fiennes from THE ENGLISH PATIENT plays a stereotypically stiff British diplomat based in Africa who falls in love with the fiery Rachel Weisz from ABOUT A BOY.
He’s happy to turn a blind eye to the truths surrounding them, but she takes on the humanitarian plight of the Africans, sometimes at the expense of his career.
Then she and an African doctor she is rumoured to be having an affair with are murdered and Fiennes gets involved in the investigation.
He discovers corruption and that the Africans are being used by giant pharmaceutical companies as guinea pigs to test new drugs.
Eventually, his own life is in danger, and that all sounds interesting…right?
But man did I find the film boring!
Yes, the acting is excellent, and the film is well made, but I wasn’t involved in the story, and in the end I was left less than interested. Not bored, mind you, but close.
I don’t think THE CONSTANT GARDENER is a bad film, but I didn’t like it, and I am not sure why anyone else would either. I just don’t get it.
Read the book, skip the movie is what I suggest.
Now even though it was suggested to me by several people that I skip the thriller RED EYE, I didn’t, and even though it isn’t a quality film like THE CONSTANT GARDER, RED EYE is what I would describe as a “good rental.”
Rachel McAdams from WEDDING CRASHERS, THE NOTEBOOK and MEAN GIRLS is a woman who is kidnapped by a stranger on an airplane.
She is told that if she doesn’t help with the plot to assassinate the deputy secretary of Homeland Security her father will be killed in his home.
The kidnapper’s name is Jackson Rippner – ha ha ha – get it? Jack Ripper? Oh, that is inventive!
Not much else is as inventive as that in RED EYE, and that is hardly inventive at all, so how did I arrive at the conclusion that this is a “good rental”, you ask.
Well, first off, the lovely and talented Rachel McAdams is on the verge of becoming a major film actress, and she’s Canadian, so to see her in her early work will be interesting in the years to come.
Secondly, Cillian Murphy, the actor who plays Jackson Rippner, is just so creepy. And in this case, creepy is good!
And finally, even though you have to sit through more than an hour to get to it, the final 30 minutes are filled with some real cinematic tension.
No, I don’t think RED EYE should be at the top of anyone’s list as a movie that needs to be seen, but if everything else that you wanted to see is out, and you like thrillers, then RED EYE is a “good rental.”
I was hoping to proclaim the documentary GRIZZLY MAN to be better than just a “good rental”, but I am not even sure that it is that.
GRIZZLY MAN centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell who traveled to Alaska to study and live with the bears.
In October of 2003 Treadwell was killed by a bear, along with his girlfriend.
Filmmaker Werner Herzog was given access to over 100 hours of video shot by Treadwell during the latter portion of the 13 summers he spent in Alaska.
The film shows you the dreamer, the idealist, the failed actor, the recovered alcoholic, and the seemingly ungrounded man that Timothy Treadwell was.
What it doesn’t show you is a much of that footage that was shot with the bears.
Herzog keeps cutting away to people talking about Treadwell and his fate. A fate that one person says is “…what he deserved.”
Had it included more footage of the bears in their natural habitat, and Treadwell with them there with his passion and desire to protect them on full display, GRIZZLY MAN could have been a superb movie.
As it is the film is a mildly entertaining look at a man’s life, as told by others with only sporadic looks at what the man at the centre was trying to do.
I liked GRIZZLY MAN, but I was prepared to love it. The film let me down.
I also feel the film SERENITY let me down, but I may have let it down too.
Serenity is the movie that is based on the failed TV science-fiction show FIREFLY.
Both the TV show and movie are about the crew of a star ship freighter. Captain Reynolds and his motley crew make their living doing odd jobs out on the frontier, some of them not exactly legal.
They bicker and at times almost come to blows, frequently due to the fact that one of the character’s sister is wanted by the government after she was rescued from a top secret laboratory.
Even though I was told that I didn’t need to see the series to enjoy the film, I constantly felt as if I was missing part of the back-story.
That is where I failed SERENITY.
Where it failed me is the fact that it wasn’t as interesting as STAR TREK, STAR WARS, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY or many of the other science fiction films that came before it.
No, you don’t have to be original to be good, but when you can’t be original, it is still important to be good.
I didn’t think SERENITY was good.
People who are fans of the series FIREFLY, and the movie SERENITY, are called Browncoats. For the record, my coat is black and I won’t be changing the colour anytime soon.
I also won’t be changing my allegiance to movies made about KING KONG anytime soon. Ever since I saw the 1976 remake of the film, I have been hooked. I have seen the original 1933 version and the 1976 update several times, and I must admit that I have also seen Peter Jackson’s new version…three times.
It is for people just like me that the new box set containing PETER JACKSON’S KING KONG PRODUCTION DIARIES has been released.
PRODUCTION DIARIES is an impressive 2-DVD set that gives us an inside look at the six-month production process of the newest film with 54 featurettes produced while the movie was still being filmed.
Nothing is off-limits and after you have seen both discs you will feel as if you know what goes on behind the scenes on a major motion picture set.
In addition to the DVDs the box set for KING KONG PETER JACKSON’S PRODUCTION DIARIES also has a 52-page production memoir and some art prints.
I enjoy the character of King Kong, I’ve enjoyed all of the films made about him, and I enjoyed the backstage look I got from PETER JACKSON’S PRODUCTION DIARIES. I also found out something I didn’t know…they are already making sequels!
KING KONG PETER JACKSON’S PRODUCTION DIARIES, SERENITY, GRIZZLY MAN, RED EYE and THE CONSTANT GARDENER are all available on DVD right now.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
Nicolas Cage is an arms dealer in LORD OF WAR who confronts the morality of his work.
Al Pacino, Rene Russo and “The Sexiest Man Alive” Matthew McConaughey topline TWO FOR THE MONEY a film about bookies in the sports-gambling business.
Some of the people who brought you the AMERICAN PIE films present a sequel of sorts called BAND CAMP.
And I will tell you about the SPECIAL EDITIONS of two classic Robin Williams films DEAD POET’S SOCIETY and GOOD MORNING VIETNAM.
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 time on The Couch!
The Couch Potato Report – January 14th, 2006