Published on April 21st, 2010 | by Niall3
Couch Potato – DVDs Out This Week
Rightio! Couch Potato is back like the proverbial bad penny (I know you’ve missed it), and is just as jam-packed full of shiny disc wonder as it’s always been. This glorious sunny weather just can’t last and when it inevitably ends it’s nice to know that there’s something good on TV that you can tune into, without resorting to Fair City.
First out this week is The Men Who Stare at Goats. Based on the best-selling Jon Ronson book of the same name it’s a comedy adventure starring George Clooney as a bat-shit-crazy special forces operator who is part of a secret US Army troupe dedicated to exploration of New Age concepts and potential military applications of the paranormal. Ewan McGregor plays a reporter who stumbles upon this story of a lifetime whilst stationed in Kuwait as part of the press corps during Operation Desert Storm. Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey add to the star-power for long-time Clooney cohort Grant Heslov’s directorial debut. Manic energy abounds, and the movie has some strange and frankly quite funny moments, but ultimately it fails to come together in a cohesive package. Entertaining but not quite as good as Three Kings in the funny Iraqi war movie sub-genre. I might be wrong though as Lottie loved it when she saw it, so maybe there’s something I missed. Still, out of his mind Jeff Bridges is always fun to watch, and the Dude abides in true superstar style. The movie is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, and on the Buy/Rent/Ignore scale it’s firmly in the middle.
The second movie of the week is Nine, Rob Marshall’s musical extravaganza which features more stars than the night sky.The movie is based on, now follow this carefully, Arthur Kopit’s book for the 1982 musical of the same name, which was itself suggested by Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film 8½. Got that? Good! SO basically it tells the story of film director Guido Contini who is suffering a mid-life crisis, trying to write a script for his new movie, and juggling a series of women that includes his wife, his mistress, his muse, his confidante, an American journalist, a prostitute from his youth and the ghost of his dead mother. No wonder he’s going mad. With a cast that’s made up of Academy Award winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz and Sophia Loren, Academy Award nominee Kate Hudson, and Grammy Award winner Fergie, and the creative force behind Chicago directing this should be a triumph. Instead it’s…well not quite an utter disappointment…but definitely not the movie that it looks on paper. The music is great, the theatrics are great, hell even the acting is top-notch…it’s just that it doesn’t quite mesh. Fans of musical theatre will still get a kick out of it, but the rest of us will just be left wondering what might have been. The movie is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, I’d say buy if you’ve the spare cash otherwise head to Xtravision.
Movie three is The Box, the latest effort from Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly. This is a movie built around a fantastic premise…What if someone gave you a box containing a button that, if pushed, would bring you a million dollars…but simultaneously take the life of someone you don’t know? Would you do it? And what would be the consequences? Unfortunately the movie is sadly all premise and not much actual promise. Cameron Diaz is fine as Norma Lewis, a teacher at a private high school, who along with her husband Arthur (James Marsden) are given this choice over the life or death of another. Marsden too equates himself well but the fault lies with Kelly. After taking a critical pasting with Southland Tales you’d have thought that he’d align himself closer stylistically to Donnie Darko, but his imagination again gets away from him leaving a muddled and confusing centre which lacks the necessary tension that the story merits. The potential is there, and Kelly fans will probably still love it but I’m just not onboard. The movie is out now on Blu-ray and DVD and again I recommend renting over buying.
The first high-definition re-release of the week is actually one of my brother’s favourites The Last Emperor, a biopic of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, and based on his autobiography. The film follows the life of the Emperor from his ascent to the throne as a small child to his later imprisonment and political “rehabilition” by the Chinese Communist regime. An epic and extraordinary movie that deservedly picked up the Best Picture Oscar in 1987 this is top drawer movie-making and in John Lone (as the adult Puyi) has an acting tour-de-force unseen in years. The HD transfer really helps the stunning scenery scenes and adds a new dimension to what was already a beautiful movie. Recommended for anyone who loves a good story and owns a Blu-ray player.
HD movie two is Poseidon, the 2006 remake of The Poseidon Adventure, starring Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, and Richard Dreyfuss. The film follows the escape attempts of a group of cruise ship passengers after a giant waves capsizes the ship and water begins to pour in. This movie is nowhere near as good as the original and suffers from a kind-of death-by-numbers plot-line whose only purpose seems to be keeping the audience guessing who’ll die next. The people on the ship are all broadly-drawn caricatures and it’s very difficult to invest any emotion in them and their plight. Visually it looks amazing, the CGI sinking of the ship is top-notch, and the transfer to HD only heightens this. Unfortunately that story and the lack of direction/vision from director Wolfgang Petersen (see Das Boot for reference) make this impossible to recommend to anyone.
Blu-ray re-release three is Inland Empire, another in along line of off-kilter psychological thrillers from Twin Peaks creator David Lynch. The movie focuses on movie-star Nikki Grace, who lands a lead role in a new movie that is based on an old Polish film that was abandoned after the murders of its two leading stars. Nikki soon begins to think that the film is cursed and her imagination starts to run out of control… It’s always practically impossible to describe a David Lynch movie but suffice to say that this is weird, but utterly wonderful. Similar to Mulholland Drive you cannot believe any of what your seeing as Lynch loves to messs with the audience as much as with his stars. It’s easily Laura Dern’s best role ever and a definite must-see for thriller fans and a must-buy of Lynch aficionados.
TV DVD release of the week goes to The Thick of It, a British comedy series that satirises the inner workings of modern British government. Featuring some of the sharpest and most insightful writing on TV this is a must watch. Last year’s brilliant movie In The Loop (my number 21 movie of the year) is a spin-off and a great entry point to see if the humour suits your style.
Also out on DVD is Gilmore Girls: Season 6. I can’t say that I know much about this series but I imagine fans of the show will be clamouring to get their hands on this.