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The Couch Potato Report – March 14th, 2009
This week The Couch Potato Report peels an unbelievable true documentary, a great bio-pic, and we will celebrate a 70-year-old wooden boy.
This week’s HOT POTATO is a film that will not only shock and scare you, but if you have kids, it will make you want to give them a hug or speak with them as soon as you possibly can as well.
It is a documentary that was made by a man named Kurt, whose friend, Dr. Andrew Bagby, was murdered in Pennsylvania in 2001.
The murderer, Shirley Jane Turner, fled to Canada, where she gave birth to a baby fathered by the man she had killed.
After the birth of the baby – named Zachary – Dr. Bagby’s American parents moved to St. John’s where they tirelesly pursued legal options in Canada to have Zachary put in their custody while Turner remained free on bail, and after she was put in jail for their son’s murder.
And then, the unthinkable happened.
The original intent of the filmmaker for DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER was to allow the child to meet his father someday, if only on film, and show him the truth about his father, in case Turner managed to remain free and keep custody.
What he ended up with was so much more than that.
As the story of Shirley and Zachary Turner was such a huge story in Canada back in 2002 and 2003, you may know what happened to baby Zachary…and if you have any relatives in Newfoundland you definitely do…but if you don’t remember this story, or the horrific and tragic events that took place, this film will show them to you…along with the people most affected by them.
DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER is a well made documentary, and it tells a tragic story very well. The only issue I have with is, is the fact that it is completely one sided. Shirley Turner is portrayed as a monster, and they never try to show her in any other light.
Now, because of what she did, most of us will consider her a monster, but a documentary made by a more experienced filmmaker would have at least included one scene featuring someone saying something nice about Shirley Turner.
But, since the film is about the murdered Dr. Bagby, made by his friends, originally for his son…I can overlook the one-sided nature of it.
DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, but it is a film I recommend.
That sentence is also true for the next film I have for you, the movie that won Sean Penn his second Oscar last month.
MILK doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending either, but it is another film that I recommend.
MILK is based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. In 1977 he was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he became a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
On the morning of November 27, 1978, he was killed.
MILK starts off with the news footage of the assasination, and then we meet Sean Penn as Harvey Milk as he is sitting in his kitchen dictating his thoughts and stories to a tape deck.
There have been numerous attempts to make a movie about Harvey Milk since the documentary of his life and the aftermath of his assassination, titled The Times of Harvey Milk, won an Oscar in 1984.
The fact that none of those ever came to fruition is good news for film fans as Sean Penn IS Harvey Milk in this movie. His performance was deserving of the OScar her won on February 22nd, and the rest of the cast in director Gus Van Sant’s film – including Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco and Canadian Victor Garber – are all exceptional.
No, MILK doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, but it is a film I recommend. Highly recommend
After a couple of serious films this morning, let me lighten the mood now with the comedy ROLE MODELS.
This film stars Paul Rudd from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and Seann William Scott, Stiffler from the AMERICAN PIE films.
They play two energy drink salesmen who are forced to complete 150 hours of community service as punishment in a Big Brothers and Big Sisters-type organization for their various offenses.
Rudd’s is given the responsibilty of making friends with Christopher Mintz-Plasse, McLovin’ from SUPERBAD, a nerdy teenager obsessed with live action role-playing games.
ROLE MODELS is not the funniest film you will ever see, but I did laugh out loud a few times, and that is why this one is a great rental. It isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy juvenile, sophmoric humour, pick this one up!
Now, on another note, if you would like to see a movie that would love to be a detailed look at a great real-life record label, but instead only gives you a brief look into the labels and it’s stars, then pick up CADILLAC RECORDS.
This film has a great cast, spectacular music, and dozens of great stories, but unfortunately it just isn’t a great movie.
CADILLAC RECORDS does a pretty good job of showing us the music that starting in the early 1940s and was produced until the late 1960s by the Chicago-based Chess Records.
The owner of the label paid his stars with Cadillac cars, instead of money…and we are talking about stars like Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, and Etta James.
BeyoncÈ Knowles plays Etta James, and she and the rest of the cast do a good job bringing these music legends to life, however all of their lives are so tragic and interesting that they all deserve their own films…, and so – just as we are getting into their story – the movie moves on to the next person and their connection with Chess Records.
Now I love music, and I love seeing all movies made about musicians and the record companies they worked for – and with – and so I am glad I saw CADILLAC RECORDS…but I can’t recommend it as once the needle got to the end of the movie’s groove, it wasn’t one that I will ever play again.
The next release on tap this week is also one that I will never play again…I am not even sure how I managed to sit throught it a second time after seeing it in theatres and thinking it was awful.
But I watched AUSTRALIA again this week, and again I did not care for it at all.
Baz Luhrman is the director of this film, the great ROMERO & JULIET remake and the superb film MOULIN ROUGE.
Those movies were done by a man who had a unique vision, and followed it to get his films to the screen.
With AUSTRALIA, it looks like he took all the best parts of GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ and CITY SLICKERS in a blender and used them to try and make an epic ramance that served as a love letter to his homeland.
Sadly, he failed.
Nicole Kidman plays the widow of an English aristocrat in northern Australia who inherits a sprawling cattle ranch.
Hugh Jackman is a cattle drover who decides to help her out in order to make some of his long-term goals come true.
The pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over the hot and unforgiving landscape, and eventually experience the bombing of Darwin by Japanese forces firsthand as World War II begins.
And wouldn’t you know it…even though they don’t get along at first…they fall in love.
Throw in the mix a young Aboriginal boy, a dastardly villain, and when it all adds up, frankly my dear, I didn’t give a darn!
At 2 hours and 45 minutes, AUSTRALIA is about an hour longer than it needs to be, an dthat is because it wants to feature too many characters and tell too many stories, and the end result is something that I thought was simply the best parts of some other films thrown into a blender and re-written to take place in the land down under.
If you are a huge fan of Kidman or Jackman, then you might get something out of this wanna-be-epic, however AUSTRALIA left me cold and bored…twice…but never again!
Finally this week is a movie that has never bored me, has always entertained me, and I suspect it always will.
That movie is Walt Disney’s animated classic PINOCCHIO.
The BLU-RAY BEACON this week shines on the 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition of the film that showed us all can happen, when you wish upon a star.
This new release of PINOCCHIO looks fantastic and crisp, sounds better than ever, and features some great new Special Features and behind the scenes stories, incluidng this one about the creation of Jiminy Cricket from legendary animator Ward Kimball.
PINOCCHIO was released in theatres on February 7th, 1940, and the spectacular 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition of the film is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.
AUSTRALIA, CADILLAC RECORDS, ROLE MODELS, and MILK are all also available now on Blu-ray and DVD.
And the unbelievable DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER is available now, only on DVD.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
HEAVEN ON EARTH is a Canadian film directed and written by Deepa Mehta about a young Indian Punjabi woman who finds herself in an abusive arranged marriage with an Indo-Canadian man.
And LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a Swedish film about an overlooked and bullied boy who finds love and revenge through a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.
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!