The Couch Potato Report – February 23rd, 2008
This week The Couch Potato Report peels three high profile Oscar nominees, and four other films.
Yes, I have seven releases to tell you about on this very busy week, so let me get right to it, starting with this week’s HOT POTATO, the latest release from Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis, the crime drama mystery thriller IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH.
In this film Tommy Lee Jones is a war veteran, searching for his son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing.
Charlize Theron plays a sympathetic police detective who helps him in the search.
For his work, Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor Category, and he deserves it as this is one of those roles where you can’t imagine anyone else playing it.
Inspired by actual events, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH is very slow and very dramatic, but it is also very effective.
If you enjoyed Paul Haggis’ writing on MILLION DOLLAR BABY, or his direction on CRASH…both films winner of the Best Picture Oscar…then I think you will find merit in this film as well.
Now, if you are a fan of THE GODFATHER and SCARFACE I think you will find more than merit in our next release this week – Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe star in AMERICAN GANGSTER…a film that is nominated twice for tomorrow night’s Academy Awards – in the Best Achievement in Art Direction and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role categories.
The legendary Ruby Dee will probably win the SupportinG Actress Oscar, but her role in this film is so small, that I am going to focus on Washington and Crowe instead.
Oscar winner Denzel portrays Frank Lucas, a real-life heroin kingpin from Harlem who smuggled heroin into the US on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War.
Oscar winner Crowe is Richie Roberts, a detective attempting to bring down Lucas’ drug empire.
The DVD for AMERICAN GANGSTER features the original theatrical version of the film, and an unrated extended version of it that runs almost three hours.
Both versions are exceptionally well written, acted and directed, and while I did like the film a lot, due to the fact that there are too many extra characters and side stories in it that take away from Washington and Crowe’s time on screen, AMERICAN GANGSTER falls more than a bit short of being the best mobster or crime film I have ever seen.
Still, it is very good…and very worthy of your time.
MICHAEL CLAYTON is also a film worthy of your time.
It is also very worthy of it’s Seven Academy Award Nominations, including: Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, Best Supporting Actor: Tom Wilkinson, and Best Actor: George Clooney.
Clooney plays an attorney and former gambling addict employed by a prestigious law firm in New York City as a “fixer”, someone who rectifies difficult situations, often through unconventional or expedient methods.
This film shows us how Clayton tries to deal with a colleague’s apparent mental breakdown and the corruption that exists with a major client of his law firm.
MICHAEL CLAYTON is an exceptional Oscar film, and a tremendous movie. In a year where there weren’t films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THERE WILL BE BLOOD and JUNO, it would actually have a shot at winning Best Picture.
This year, it might not win an Oscar…but if you are looking for a great crime thriller to watch, you will be the winner if you pick up this DVD.
So pick it up…and don’t worry…you won’t have to stand up in front of millions of people and say thank you.
Up next this week are four more films…films that aren’t all bad, but they won’t appeal to everyone, so I am just going to make sure you know that they are out there, in case they might appeal to you.
Up first is KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON.
Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of the band Nirvana and considered by many to be the musical voice of his generation after the release of his band’s album NEVERMIND in 1991.
He committed suicide in April of 1994.
ABOUT A SON is a documentary about Cobain that debuted at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.
It features insightful audio of interviews between Cobain and journalist Michael Azerrad done for the book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana.
Those interviews are seen over footage of the actual locations in Seattle and Washington state that Cobain is talking about, and we never see him.
Now, I remain a huge fan of Kurt Cobain, his music, words, and his band, so for me the fact that we don’t see Cobain, or hear his music, allowed ABOUT A SON to avoid being eerie.
Instead, it is an insightful look into a man who I, and many of my generation, wish was still around…communicating with us using new words and not just through ones that were recorded over 17 years ago.
All fans of the man must see KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON…but only fans of Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhall, Meryl Streep or Peter Saarsgaard should see RENDITION.
There has been a lot of talk over the past year about the fact that moviegoers are rejection films featuring stories about the war due to the fact that we see it on TV every night.
I say that is simply not true…people are avoiding these films because most of them just aren’t very good…and RENDITION is a prime example!!
RENDITION is a very bad movie about a suspected terrorist who is taken away by the authorities.
His pregnant wife then travels to Washington to try and learn the reason for his disappearance.
And there are also several secondary and tertiary stories, but none of them are very engaging.
RENDITION wants to be a dramatic film with a powerful emotional core…but it just isn’t.
Skip it, ignore it, do not waste your time on it!!
That also needs to be said for Ang Lee’s latest LUST, CAUTION.
Now, I am a huge fan of Ang Lee’s films…from THE WEDDING BANQUET and EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN to SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, THE ICE STORM, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN…Lee is a filmmaker who always provides us with something new and engaging to watch.
Well, usually he always does….I admit that LUST, CAUTION help my interest for over two-and-a-half hours due to the fact that I am an Ang Lee fan…but what a boring movie!!
LUST, CAUTION is set in 1942 in the city Shanghai, which is under Japanese occupation.
A group of young, patriotic Chinese students are plotting to kill a member of the Japanese government using a young woman as a lure.
Unfortunately, even though it is a beautiful film, LUST CAUTION is ultimately just too long and too slow to be worthy of your time.
Yes, as an Ang Lee fan, I am glad I saw it….but I wouldn’t recommend it, even to other fans of Ang Lee!!
However, I will recommend the Canadian film SURVIVING MY MOTHER, to both fans of the actress Caroline Dhavernas, and to those who don’t even know who she is.
If you don’t, she is the actress who starred in the short lived, but much loved, series WONDERFALLS.
SURVIVING MY MOTHER is about a woman who is taking care of her dying mother.
While on her death bed she tells her daughter how much she regrets the fact that they weren’t closer.
Subsequently, the woman decides to pursue a closer relationship with her own daughter.
Caroline Dhavernas is the youngest daughter, a woman who has secrets of her own.
Even though it did receive a Genie nomination, SURVIVING MY MOTHER is one of those small Canadian films that you would probably never hear about, unless someone told you about it.
Well, please allow me to be that someone!
SURVIVING MY MOTHER isn’t a spectacular film, but it is a unique and interesting film that has some great scenes and actors.
I really enjoyed it, and if you see it on the shelf as you are looking for something to rent…give it a chance!
The quirky and interesting Canadian film SURVIVING MY MOTHER, the very boring LUST, CAUTION and RENDITION, the insightful documentary KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON, and the entertaining MICHAEL CLAYTON, AMERICAN GANGSTER and IN THE VALLEY OF ELLAH are all available now on DVD.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
KENNY VS. SPENNY – SEASON THREE allows the guys to battle each other once again.
THE ARISTOCATS – SPECIAL EDITION and 101 DALMATIONS – 2 DISC PLATINUM EDITION and the three DVD SPECIAL EDITION Box Set for EL CID allow us to see these classic films restored and look great!
And then there is the hilarious comedy DEATH AT A FUNERAL and SEASON ONE of the unforgettable cartoon series THE SMURFS
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 – February 23rd, 2008