The Couch Potato Chronicles
By Jim Murray
KNOW YOUR SPUDS
TWO XL SPUDS Absolute Must See
TWO SPUDS Definitely Worth Checking Out
1.5 SPUD Worth Checking Out, But Don’t Expect A Ton
ONE SPUD Not Worth It, Except For The Hardcore Fan
NO SPUD 4U Just Plain Sucks
HERE COMES SUMMER…EVERYBODY’S GONE.
When you work in the service industry like I do, there’s a certain amount of ebb and flow that goes on. Right now, I’m in an ebb. Well sort of. I have a whole bunch of projects going on, but for one reason or another, they are all in stasis. This is mostly due to the long weekend and the fact that people coming back from a long weekend usually need the whole of the following short week to get caught up. One of the clients I was supposed to meet with is swamped. Another is running workshops. Another is renovating her office. Another two or three are on holiday, or will be soon. And so it goes. This is where you get to understand where the expression, “Go with the flow” came from. I have a ton of stuff going on. But very little to actually do. I guess “Go with the ebb”, would be more like it. Anyway, the Wife is on an enforced vacation day, as I suppose I am too. I think I’ll go sit in the sun for a while and work on my tan.
TOWER OF THE FIRST BORN (NO SPUD 4U)
This isn’t so much a review as it is a warning. Avoid this movie like the plague, unless of course you are a film student and you want to see a movie that’s screwed up in every conceivable way a movie can be screwed up in, just to you don’t make the same mistakes as you go forward. This movie has a cool looking Lawrence of Arabia type cover treatment and that’s what really sucks you in. But it’s absolute crap all the way through. Well at least for the first fifteen or 20 minutes, when even chuckling at how bad it is starts to get old. Consider yourself warned. Bad acting. Bad directing. Bad editing. Dumbass story etc, etc.
Whoever put money into this clunker must really be thrilled about it.
THE HOUR ON CBC (2 SPUDS)
When I heard that George Stroumboulpoulos, (the longest name is show business), was leaving MuchMusic to go to the CBC, I’m like what’s up with that? What are they gonna do with this guy? He’s actually an intelligent humanoid. And a shitkicker to boot. We’ll I don’t hand out too many Kudos to the CBC like ever. But I have to hand it to them this time. They gave George P his own show, called The Hour, and instead of busting their asses to make it look hip and fail miserably at it, they actually made it look, feel and sound hip and succeeded at it.
If you watch this show regularly, you’ll know that it skates by, nightly in a blaze of counter culture and pop culture glory. It’s become the place to be interviewed in Canada, and though I’m not sure what the ratings are like, I am sure that I don’t really care. I like it and that’s all that matters. And best of all it comes on every night at 11:00 (8:00 on CBC Newsworld), so you have a real alternative to the sad, sick fearmongering news of the world.
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2 SPUDS)
The Die Hard movie series starring Bruce Willis is right up at the top of the action adventure movie franchise heap. A lot of this, of course, has to do with the great talent and magnetism of Bruce Willis, who has kicked and been badly kicked back through 4 of these gruelling stunt-o-rama epics. It’s been twelve years and a lot of miles for Bruce, since the last Die Hard installment. But, in spite of his advanced age, Bruce really doesn’t skip a beat here, getting right back into the thick of things, busting his hump to save America from a home grown terrorist attack, orchestrated by youthful bad guy (they’re all the rage), Tim Olyphant ( from Deadwood).
This Die Hard is a bit more of a buddy pic, where Bruce is teamed with a young computer hacker who he is bringing to Washington for questioning by the FBI when all hell breaks loose and doesn’t stop breaking loose for a full two hours. The hacker is player by Justin Long, who I first saw on Ed, playing a strange high school kid. This flick is really going to put him on the map big time, because he plays his part to perfection, with just enough heroics to make him believable and not a lot of whining that would make him irritating. This is rollicking entertainment with guns and helicopters and a Harrier Jet and some of the most amazing stunt work I have ever seen.
This movie is made by people who know what the hell they are doing. The action scenes, (just about the whole movie) are superbly choreographed and even though hardly anything is believable, I just didn’t care. This is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in many moons. Yeah, they’re working with an iconic character. But Bruce is a different kind of cat. He’s a lot more bendable and breakable, and that’s what makes it so much fun. Bruce can be entertaining as hell without saying a damn thing, or having to strike a single pose.
Everybody’s looking for a little escape. Live Free Or Die hard is all that and a big giant bag of spicy Tostitos. Just go see it.
BREACH (2 SPUDS)
This is the story of FBI computer guru Robert Hanssen, who for about 6 or 7 years was using his position to sell juicy secrets to the Soviet Union. Chris Cooper, who is one of the best leading character guys in the business, plays Hanssen, who is a very tightly wound Roman Catholic, porno freak who, it would appear, is doing this spying because he basically hates the US government because they are so slow to adapt to technology changes…oh yeah and the money, which he stashes away in the floorboard of his house. Ryan Phillipe, plays the young agent trainee who is assigned as Chris’ assistant and is supposed to spy on him. And Laura Linney plays his handler.
This is a sparse David Mamet like production. But Chris Cooper owns this movie lock, stock and barrel. You kind of keep waiting for him to explode at any moment from the accumulated guilt of his own hypocracy. It takes a really good actor to play a character this complex.
In addition to being a story about catching a spy, it’s also a story about the whole spy culture in America and the toll it takes on the people involved in it. I have always kind of liked spy stories. The spies always struck me as cool and confident. But nobody is either of those things in this movie. You can really feel the effect that all the cloak and dagger stuff has on the characters, and that adds a fascinating subtext to the flow of the movie.
Breach, in this Spud’s opinion, is a very good film. It’s pretty dark and kind of weird in certain ways. It feels a little claustrophobic, which is actually a good metaphor for the film. Breach was directed by Billy Ray and is only the second film he has directed. The first was called Shattered Glass, which is in a similar vein about a young journalist for the New Republic, who wrote fake stories to further his career, which, come to think of if also felt a little claustrophobic.
Movies like Breach only hang around the theatres for a week or two and nobody really sees them until they hit video. It’s a marginal 2 Spudder, but worth looking at, especially if you’re interested in counting warts on the American image.
CATCH AND RELEASE (1 SPUD)
This is one of those movies about how everybody handles their grief when a friend dies.
Jennifer Garner (Skeletor, as she is known around here), plays the fiancée. Tim Olyphant, who seems to be everywhere these days plays the film director friend. Kevin Smith plays the goofy marketing guy friend, Sam Jaeger plays the dead guy’s business partner and Juliette Lewis plays the one night stand massage therapist with the dead guy’s kid. In other words
the dead guy was a two timing schmuck.
There are a lot of movies made in Hollywood about how friends deal with grief at the loss of a loved one. The only good one I ever saw was The Big Chill. The rest, this one included, seem to be trying way too hard to depict the grief in interesting ways, when grief is seldom interesting. In fact it is by its nature a very quet thing. This well written attempt to dimensionalize it in a lighthearted way only makes me feel that Hollywood is still out of touch with the real world and probably always will be.
This movie is cute and cuddly and strictly a vehicle for both Jennifer Garner and Tim Olyphant, who appears to be being groomed to be the next Harrison Ford, and Kevin Smith, who is always fun to watch. But the One Spud Rating derived directly from the fact that this movie is no better or no worse that every other movie of the same type, (except The Big Chill). But also no different. Been there. Seen that…pretty much once a year.
THE MAN (2 SPUDS)
How quickly we delve into The big racks in the summer…the 3-for-$7.00-keep-them-forever-we-don’t-care rack. Now usually I refer to this as the bottom of the proverbial barrel. But that’s not always true. The Man is a good case in point. This is a comedy, and a pretty decent one at that, starring Eugene Levy and Samuel L. Jackson as dysfunctional buddies in a street level crime caper. It seems that someone has boosted some guns from a police locker and Sam’s partner was the Inside Guy on the job. So Sam is out to avenge/re-balance the universe, hardass ATF agent style. Eugene plays a sclub dental equipment salesman from Madison Wisconsin who happens to get caught up in the middle of it all.
The thing that makes any comedy like this work is the chemistry between the two leads. And these guys actually have quite a bit. Now granted, they are both decent actors, and the script they have to work with is OK, meaning not a lot of holes and logic gaps that would get you upset.
This movie just kind of rattles along pleasantly and when you are done, you turn to the Wife and say “That was cute.” And she grunts back an acknowledgement and you decide to give this movie a mild 2 spuds. Because, hey it’s light, it’s fun, it’s funky and it’s entertaining.
SPUDITORIAL GLOBAL WARMING CORPROATE GREED
AND OTHER STUFF THAT PISSES ME OFF
Here we go again. More global warming. Another 3o+ degree day with two or three more on the way. The U.S always blames us for the cold and snow we send south, but we never seem to blame them for all the damn heat they send north. I’m not a big fan of the heat. Especially when it’s accompanied by 90% humidity. Somehow, its like the consistency of your blood turns to jello and you lose your will to do anything, except maybe sit in front of a fan and watch TV. Unfortunately these heat/humidity waves are poorly timed, as we are in the doldrums months when the networks are convinced that everyone is on vacation and so there will be nobody to watch a new show even if they put it on. Obviously these assholes are completely out of touch with the reality that when most people go on vacation they boogie their brains out all day keeping their kids happy and all they want to do after dinner is crash out in front of their Motel 6 TV. Duh. And what about the people who don’t take vacations in the summer? (Like yours spudly). Don’t they count? Are we second class citizens, cowering in our basement rec rooms taking refuge from the heat and just looking for a little itty bit of non-rerun summer entertainment from the big bad networks?
The car companies have caught on to the fact that nobody gives a shit about new car launches, so they just launch their cars whenever they are ready to. I don’t know why it has to be any different for the networks. People who watch TV watch TV. They do it all year round. They don’t break for holidays, in fact you could argue that they probably watch more TV. I guess a lot of this is too common-sensical to ever fly in a network programming meeting. Isn’t it time these people got their head out of their behinds and started thinking about their product as a year-round consumable. No I guess it isn’t because there’s one thing that hardly ever gets factored into the argument and that, of course, is good old corporate greed. Owning a TV network is a license to print money. But it’s also a complex process and there are lots of opportunities for networks to bitch and moan about how little money they are making, and since we have no way of verifying any of that, we just kind of shrug and keep flipping around hoping for the best. But the fact is, my little droogs, that television makes a hell of a lot more money than the people who run it will ever let you know. A network will pay the NFL half a billion dollars to broadcast 16 regular season games. If you think they’re throwing around that kind of money for the love of the game, you’re sadly mistaken. They’re throwing that kind of money around because they know they cam make more than a billion in profit on the games, when they have finishing counting every advertising and sponsorship bean associated with those broadcasts. Same for Major League Baseball, the NBA, The PGA tour, The World Cup of Soccer, etc etc. Then they bitch and moan about having to put out 30 million or so for thirteen episodes of a good dramatic series, for all those people not so sports inclined. This is the worst kind of greed there is because you can’t really see it all that readily, so it’s easy for these clowns to hide behind it and easy for their spin doctors to make you feel sorry about it. Because, at the end of the day they know that people will believe about 90% of everything they see on TV. But the people they are hoodwinking are mostly these are the same people who think that WWF wrestling is real. Why? Because it’s on TV. Ironic isn’t it?
Well I’m glad I got that off my chest. See you next time.