The Couch Potato Report

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The Couch Potato Report – April 25th, 2009
This week The Couch Potato Report peels some stories from Toronto, a story about a wrestler, and the last picture show.
Over the years there have been many films made using some of the world’s greatest cities as actual characters.
Eighteen of Paris’ twenty subdivisions were featured in PARIS JE T’AIME, New York was the main character in most of Woody Allen’s films, most notably MANHATTAN, London was a major part of the 1966 film BLOW-UP and The Beatles’ A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, LA DOLCE VITA showed us Rome, and Steve Martin’s spectacular 1991 comedy L.A. STORY co-starred Los Angeles.
And now the great Canadian city of Toronto has a film that allows it to be a character…and while it this film isn’t as good as any of those other releases, it is still great to see a movie like this about one of our nation’s cities.
The film is called TORONTO STORIES.
The film begins at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as a young immigrant boy arrives in the city, alone.
Before anyone can figure out who he is and where he is from, he disappears from their custody and manages to find his way downtown.
The rest of TORONTO STORIES is about the places that the kid ends up, and the film features four stories that only have the missing boy in common.
The stories feature two misfit kids trying to find an monster, a budding romance, an escaped con trying to reconnect with his girlfriend, and the final and best of the stories features Gil Bellow from ALLY MCBEAL and PASSCHENDAELE as a homeless man who sees the missing boy and tries to help him.
There are some great moments in TORONTO STORIES, some I really liked, and some stuff I considered to be absolutely awful, but the main complaint I have about is the fact that this movie could have taken place anywhere.
For me, a former decade long resident of the city, they just didn’t capture Toronto, and shots of a streetcar, a few unique Toronto apartment buildings and house, and the CN Tower just don’t cut it.
There is nothing disctinctly Torontonian about the film, other than the fact that it takes place there, but I still think that TORONTO STORIES has enough to recommend.
This is not a strong recommendation mind you, but the stories are short enough that they are over before you’ll lose interest.
Just don’t expect a travelogue of Toronto.
From a film that tells some stories from Toronto, let me now tell you a story about THE WRESTLER.
With the fact that his performance won him a Golden Globe and Independant Spirit Award, and garnered him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, I am sure that you have heard by now how Mickey Rourke’s performance in this film is quite similar to his real life…a man who had everything and was at the top of his chosen profession who loses it all because of some bad decisions, and is now trying to repair some broken personal and professional fences…so I won’t cover all of those bases again, but I will repeat something that I have been saying since this film first came out – I love it! This is a spectacular piece of work!
THE WRESTLER features characters I liked and rooted for, and the performances by Rourke, Marisa Tomei from BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD and MY COUSIN VINNY and Evan Rachel Wood from ACROSS THE UNIVERSE are all top notch!
THE WRESTLER is a great film, and so is Ron Howard’s latest FROST/NIXON.
This movie is a very entertaining, and very dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews that took place between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.
Michael Sheen gives a great performance as David Frost and Frank Langella received an Oscar nomination for his work as Richard Nixon.
In all, FROST/NIXON received five Academy Award nominations, and I think it is a spectacular film.
Richard Nixon is a notorious person, and I am sure FROST/NIXON won’t be the last movie made about his life.
Christopher Wallace is also a person of some notoriety, especially if you like rap music.
Christopher George Latore Wallace gained popularity as Biggie Smalls – named after a fictional gangster in the 1975 film Let’s Do It Again – was also known as Big Poppa, but his primary stage name was The Notorious B.I.G.
He was a guy from Brooklyn with a loose, easy way of rapping, and his dark semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities were some of the best the music world has ever seen…in fact, MTV ranked him at #3 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time.
Then, on March 9, 1997, Biggie was killed by an unknown assailant in a still unsolved drive-by shooting in Los Angeles that many believe to this day was a result of the East Coast – West Coast Hip Hop Music Feud that was going on at the time.
NOTORIOUS is a film about how Christopher Wallace became The Notorious B.I.G.
NOTORIOUS was produced by Biggie’s Mother, so at times it does paint this one-time drug dealer in too positive a light, but this film still worked for me, and I liked it.
However, unless you already know who Biggie, Lil Kim, Puff Daddy, Tupac, Faith Evans and Suge Knight are, you should stay away from it. It really is a film for people who already know who they are.
Just like CAPRICA is for people who already know, and love the re-boot of the television series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.
CAPRICA is a spin-off of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and it is set 58 years before the events of that show.
This film, which is actually the pilot for a new televison series that will debut in 2010, is much more dramatic than GALACTICA and doesn’t have much action, instead it focusses on two families – the Graystones and the Adamas – and some of the other people who live on a peaceful planet known as Caprica.
I found the made-in-Vancouver CAPRICA interesting at times, but it ceratinly wasn’t as engaging as BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and so it wasn’t something that everyone needs to see.
However, if you already miss the now concluded BATTLESTAR GALACTICA…this might fill the void for you
Our final releases this week are some classic from the 1970s, and I enjoyed spending time with them again this week!
Especially director Peter Bogdanavich’s Oscar winning 1971 release THE LAST PICTURE SHOW.
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW stars Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn and Randy Quaid and it remains a classic movie about what it is like to grow up in a very small town.
This newest version of it on DVD arrives as a two-disc set that also features Bogdanavich’s 1976 release NICKELODEON.
That film is his tribute to the very early days of the motion picture industry.
NICKELODEON features a cast that includes Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds, Tatum O’Neal, Stella Stevens and John Ritter, but it tries way too hard to make you like it, and never really succeeds. It isn’t an awful movie, but the director mentions on the commentary track that it was a troubled picture and the plain fact is that it pales in comparison to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, a film that still succeeds on almost every level even all these years since it’s release.
And finally, can you believe it has been 35 years since the show RHODA debuted?
Rhoda Morgenstern was Mary Tyler Moore’s neighbour in Minneapolis until she moved back to New York City on her own show, and yes, it was on September 9th, 1974 that it first aired.
And during that first season, Mary was even a guest star from time to time.
And now SEASON ONE of RHODA is available in a new 4-Disc 35th Anniversary Set, co-starring Julie Kavner from THE SIMPSONS as Rhoda’s sister Brenda.
It was funny in 1974, and it is funny now, and SEASON ONE of the great show RHODA is now available on DVD…along with Peter Bogdonavich’s classic film THE LAST PICTURE SHOW – in a two-disc set with NICKELODEON, the okay but not great BATTLESTAR GALACTICA prequel CAPRICA and the less-than-successful TORONTO STORIES, which could have used more Toronto.
The great for fans of rap music film NOTORIOUS, the Academy Award nominated FROST/NIXON and the great movie THE WRESTLER are available on DVD and in high definition on Blu-ray.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
The Canadian film HONEY, I’M IN LOVE asks if you can you really forget the past and start anew after 40.
Michael J. Fox is back in SEASON TWO of SPIN CITY.
And The lovely Anne Hathaway stars alongside the lovely Kate Hudson in the ugly film BRIDE WARS
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!