The Couch Potato Report

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The Couch Potato Report – January 26th, 2008
This week The Couch Potato Report peels three TV shows on DVD and two very entertaining movies.
Even though Canadian television networks continue to produce shows, including CBC, who have given us some great new programs, including two new shows I really like – SOPHIE and JPOD – when people speak of television these days, they are usually referencing the 11-week-old strike by screenwriters against the major studios.
So, if you are missing your regular nightly or weekly television fix due to the strike, I have three TV shows that are now on DVD that I think you should use to entertain you.
And I’ll start with this week’s Hot Potato, SEASON TWO of the based in Vancouver series ROBSON ARMS
ROBSON ARMS is a Canadian anthology television series that takes place in and around the Robson Arms apartment building in Vancouver and each episode of the show focuses on a different tenant of the building, although we also see the other people who live in the building in the halls, or in the store that is located in the lobby.
The show also has lots of Canadian music and references and it features a large ensemble cast of well known Canadian actors that rotates from week to week as well, but when SEASON ONE was released on DVD last May, I didn’t recommend it, in fact, I said:
“Unfortunately, while ROBSON ARMS is engaging at times, most of the episodes just aren’t that interesting, in fact…some of the characters are exceptionally unlikeable, and…in the end, I just didn’t find the show really isn’t all that entertaining.”
Happily, they got rid of most of the unlikeable characters, and added a few people you could actually care about, and while I didn’t completely love SEASON TWO of the show, I really did enjoy watching it, and catching up with the folks who live in the building.
I especially enjoyed the scenes with Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen who joins the ensemple for a couple of episodes.
SEASON TWO of ROBSON ARMS is not going to make you forget the shows you love that you aren’t getting to see right now, but it might just entertain you enough during the void that you don’t have to start reading books, or anything like that.
Another show that is now out on DVD that will definately entertain you – both now, and when the writers end their strike – is the CBC co-production TORCHWOOD – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON about a covert agency called the Torchwood Institute which investigates extraterrestrial incidents.
TORCHWOOD is a great BBC Science Fiction Series from the makers of DOCTOR WHO, also a CBC co-production, and it features great writing and a great cast, lead by John Barrowman as the always engaging Captain Jack Harkness…a man who can not die.
Some have referred to TORCHWOOD as a grown-up DOCTOR WHO, others have called it a British X-FILES, and as much as I enjoy the show, and I do truly enjoy this show, I don’t subscribe to either of those descriptions as TORCHWOOD just isn’t as consistantly good as DOCTOR WHO or THE X-FILES.
There are too many extra plot points full of character development for Captain Jack’s supporting players, and none of them are as interesting as the Captain, so when the show isn’t about him, or the interesting aliens and villains the team meets each week, it tends to drag and thus, get a bit boring.
However, I am pleased to report that those boring scenes don’t usually go on for very long, and then the show returns to it’s engaging storylines and fast pace.
Now, you don’t have to know that TORCHWOOD is an anagram of DOCTOR WHO to enjoy this show…but I think it helps.
However, if you enjoy science fiction shows, then I think you will enjoy TORCHWOOD.
So there are two mostly positive reviews this week, and get ready for a third, as I also high recommend our next release.
Yes, it is the 11-DVD Box Set WONDER WOMAN – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, featuring every episode from the television show’s three year run.
Yes, if you need something to entertain you over the next few months, until summer arrives and we can go outside again, why not jump back to the 1970’s television series based on the classic comic book, and starring the still gorgeous to this day – Lynda Carter – who is featured in some retrospective looks back and commentaries in this box set.
And yes, she does discuss the unforgettable Wonder Woman costume.
No, WONDER WOMAN – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION isn’t television’s finest hour, but the show remains fun to this day, and it always has a postive attitude.
And did I mention the beautiful Lynda Carter?…I did…okay…just checking.
From the enjoyable cheese that is WONDER WOMAN, our next release is a little more serious fare, and THE HUNTING PARTY is also one of the most surprisingly entertaining films of last year.
THE HUNTING PARTY is the latest film from Richard Shepard, the writer and director who gave us the great film THE MATADOR in 2005.
This picture features Richard Gere as a discraced television reporter who goes on a quest with a young journalist and a cameraman to find “The Fox”, the number one war criminal from the Bosnian conflict.
The trio find themselves in serious jeopardy when they are mistaken as a CIA hit squad and their target decides to come after them.
THE HUNTING PARTY is based on an article that originally appeared in Esquire magazine, and I really enjoyed it. For me, the film had just enough fact and fiction to entertain me, and to make me think.
If you like to see mature people in mature films, then do not miss THE HUNTING PARTY.
As I said, it is one of the most surprisingly entertaining films of last year.
Finally this week is 3:10 TO YUMA, a very interesting remake of the 1957 western classic starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.
In this version Bale from BATMAN BEGINS plays a small-time rancher who is desperate for money after the bank threatens to foreclose.
So he agrees to help deliver a captured outlaw – played by Oscar winner Russell Crowe – across the plains and to the train station so Crowe can take that 3:10 train to Yuma and be tried in a court of law for his crimes.
While 3:10 TO YUMA is a tried an dtrue western, the story element that really connected with me is the battle of wills that ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.
3:10 TO YUMA is not an exceptional film, and it doesn’t exactly reinvent the Western genre, but it is still very, very good, and if you would like to see it for yourself, it is available now on DVD, along side THE HUNTING PARTY, WONDER WOMAN – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, TORCHWOOD – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, and SEASON TWO of the television series ROBSON ARMS.
Oh, and don’t miss Season Two of Torchwood, coming soon to CBC Television!!
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL is the Canadian feature film adapted from RomÈo Dallaire’s autobiographical book “Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda” starring Roy Dupuis as RomÈo Dallaire.
THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ is a 1974 Canadian comedy-drama film based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Mordecai Richler, and it is now available in a new Director’s Cut.
And if after this week’s recommendations, you still don’t have enough to get you through the ongoing writer’s strike, I will also tell you about THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON of Larry David’s classic show CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and VOLUME FIVE of the BBC Series MI:5.
And then there is A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS – THE KING OF KONG, a great documentary about the world’s two best players – of Donkey Kong!
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!