The Couch Potato Report – June 22nd, 2013
A great movie about a great Canadian is inside this week’s Couch Potato Report along with an awful movie with a great cast.
This week we begin with the made-in-Winnipeg biography JACK, about the late NDP Leader Jack Layton.
When he died of cancer in August of 2011 Jack Layton was the Leader of the Official Opposition. Most people know the end of his story, and the fact that he lead his New Democratic Party to a historic victory in the Spring 2011 election.
This biopic wants you to know the man’s whole story, who he was and why, and it succeeds admirably.
I knew that Jack Layton grew up in a political family, and that he was a city councillor in Toronto for 17 years and spent a year as head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I also knew that he spoke several languages, loved his wife Olivia Chow dearly, and was always full of energy.
But I had no idea that Jack Layton played the guitar and used to sing to his family, friends, staff, reporters, basically anyone who would listen.
I had no idea, and that is why the film succeeds, because it told me things I didn’t already know. That is something all good biopics should do.
JACK also succeeds because the story of the man at its core is so strong and none of the performances get in the way of that story. No one is flashy or over acting, they are just inhabiting their roles, playing real people. As a result, at only 90 minutes, JACK could have been twice. There is just so much more about Jack Layton that is worth sharing, and – I’m sure – so much more that we don’t know.
From one film that works, we move now to two that do not. Absolutely do not!!
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is the first one, and this fantasy adventure film based on the fairy tales “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Jack and the Beanstalk’ is from Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-MEN films.
A young man named Jack takes some magic beans, they grow into a giant beanstalk, and he climbs it – with the King’s knights – to save the Princess he has fallen in love with from some giants…and you won’t care.
The giants are all done by CGI, bad CGI they all look fake, plus this film is boring. We’ve all read the books, and so we know how it all turns out, and the filmmakers don’t give us anything new to hold our interest.
I know that JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is meant for a younger audience…but do them a favour, get them the books. This movie is a waste of their time.
You also need to skip MOVIE 43…and that is the title of it, MOVIE 43. You need to skip this one even though it has a cast that includes Academy Award winners Kate Winslet and Halle Berry, plus Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere, Naomi Watts, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, Emma Stone, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seann William Scott, Gerard Butler, Elizabeth Banks, and many other popular stars.
This movie is like a car accident…you don’t want to look, but you can’t help yourself…you have to.
But you need to not look at this cinematic car accident. MOVIE 43 is horrible, absolutely horrible!!
MOVIE 43 has a series of short films featuring different stars, and none of it is funny, even remotely. I didn’t laugh once…in fact, I kept wondering how the people in the film agreed to do it. How did they get all of those stars to do this movie?!?
Skip MOVIE 43…at all costs. Even if you think it looks funny…it is not. Look away…walk away…there is nothing to see here!!
At this point, I would like to offer up a quartet – a drama, a documentary, and two would-be comedies.
And the quartet begins with QUARTET…a nice little film for an older crowd starring the great character actors Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon.
Their characters all reside at a home for retired musicians, and their world is shaken up when one of them refuses to be part of the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday.
Legendary actor Dustin Hoffman is the director here, and he does a great job with the story, the music and his great cast and the result is a film I can easily recommend to an older crowd. The closer you are to retirement age – or beyond – the more you will enjoy the film.
Personally, as someone in his mid-forties, I liked it…but it was a bit slow for me at times.
Let me talk about the documentary KIVALINA V. EXXON now.
Kivalina, an ancient Inuit village on a tiny island off the northwest coast of Alaska.
The winter sea ice that once protected the 400 residents is receding at an unprecedented rate, exposing the village to the powerful fall and winter storms and putting the village’s buildings and infrastructure in “…imminent danger of falling into the sea.”
Traditional hunting practices have also become less productive and increasingly more dangerous. With time running out for their village, and convinced that the erosion was due to man-made global warming, the residents sought legal advice and a suit was filed on their behalf by two of the top litigators in the United States.
Their lawsuit is against two dozen of the world’s most powerful oil, coal and power companies and they the plaintiffs are asking the court to make Exxon and the companies pay all the costs of moving the village to safe and protected ground.
KIVALINA V. EXXON is an interesting and unfortunate film. The people in the small town deserve a better ending than they are likely to get…and with the case still pending, this film has no answers.
But it does have enough to keep you interested. This is a documentary that I can highly recommend.
In my cinematic world, there is nothing sadder than a comedy that is not funny. Unfortunately I have two of them to tell you about right now…and that makes me sad.
21 & OVER is a “comedy” about a promising medical student and his friends partying the night of his 21st birthday…which is also the night before his big medical school interview.
Yes, this is one of those movies where people make the decision to do something they know they shouldn’t do, and everything ends up happy at the end…even when you think it won’t.
But you won’t be happy along the way if you watch 21 & OVER – and I highly recommend that you don’t – as it is not funny. People named Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughan, Bill and Ted and Harold and Kumar have done this before and done it better.
This one is as predictable as a movie gets, and it isn’t worthy of your time. It is just an unfunny film.
BACHELORETTE is also unfunny, painfully unfunny.
BACHELORETTE stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Rebel Wilson and Adam Scott and it is about three selfish, self-centred and irresponsible women in their late twenties who reunite with their high school friend for one last night of fun before she gets married.
And hilarious hijinks are supposed to ensure and the trip are put in ridiculous situation after ridiculous situation after ridiculous situation, each one less possible than the last, and each one making you dislike these characters more and more.
I wrote notes as I watch movies for The Couch Potato Report, usually the more I like a film the more I write. For this one I didn’t write very much. I just wrote unfunny, uninteresting and predictable.
Skip BACHELORETTE!! Even if you think you’ll like it…I highly doubt that you will.
It is just another unfunny comedy…and that just makes me sad.
The final title I have for you this week will turn fifty years old on July 4th, and it continues to be one of the best action films ever made.
Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence and James Coburn all star in THE GREAT ESCAPE.
Based on a true story from World War II, THE GREAT ESCAPE is the story of the attempted escape of 250 Allied soldiers from a prison camp.
How they dig a tunnel, how they get rid of the dirt from said tunnel, and how they plan to just walk away is all exceptionally well done, and very interesting.
The only problem I have with the new blu-ray for THE GREAT ESCAPE is that the studio didn’t work harder to clean it up. We’ve seen some recent re-releases of fifty year old films look amazing in HD. This one does not, the picture here doesn’t look great and the sound isn’t impressive either.
But the film itself is still amazing…after all it isn’t THE MEDIOCRE ESCAPE, it is THE GREAT ESCAPE…and so there is enough for me to recommend you make the upgrade to HD.
And man, this is a great movie!!
The action classic THE GREAT ESCAPE; the useless non-comedy BACHELORETTE; the predictable non-comedy 21 AND OVER; the great documentary KIVALINA V. EXXON; the okay for an older crowd drama QUARTET; the all-star flop MOVIE 43; the boring and uninteresting big screen version of JACK THE GIANT SLAYER; and the great bio-pic JACK – THE JACK LAYTON STORY are all available now, either on disc or on demand.
Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report
BRUCE COCKBURN: PACING THE CAGE is a documentary that features the Canadian icon, singer, songwriter and activist reflecting on his life and his career; the spectacular BBC documentary series THE BLUE PLANET debuts on blu-ray; and THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE stars Jim Carrey, Steve Carell and the late, great James Gandolfini in one of his final screen roles.
May he rest in peace.
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 again next time on The Couch!