The Couch Potato Report – August 15th, 2009
This week The Couch Potato Report goes back to school, back to the eighties, and we’ll take an animated waltzÖwith Bashir.
Back in February, at this year’s Academy Awards, just about everyone expected to hear one – and only one film’s title when the announcment was made in the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category.
Yes, everyone – and I mean EVERYONE was expecting to hear Liam Neeson say WALTZ WITH BASHIR.
When BASHIR didn’t win, just about everyone backstage in the conference room I was in gasped, and stopped what they were doing…it came as that much of a shock.
At the time, very few people – including many in that room – had even heard of either film…but luckily they have now!
DEPARTURES is slated to come out on DVD and Blu-ray in December, but WALTZ WITH BASHIR is available right now!!
WALTZ WITH BASHIR is an Israeli animated documentary film written and directed by Ari Folman. It shows him asking friends, family and fellow soldiers stories about the 1982 Lebanon War.
A war he fought in, but doesn’t remember.
Every scene in WALTZ WITH BASHIR is interesting, the section where the title of the film is explained is beautiful, and the ending will haunt you.
Yes, it is an animated film, but it features some very graphic, violent images, so it is not for children or the feint of heart.
It may not have won the Oscar, but this is still a spectacular film!
As it turns out, one of the other nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category from this year’s Oscars has also come out this week.
Due to the strength of the other films in the category, THE CLASS was a long shot to win, but that was also true at the Cannes Film Festival…and it won the top prize there – The Palme d’Or.
THE CLASS uses actors who are not professionals and a script that is partially improvised to show us what happens in a real classroom over the course of a school year.
The teacher, is not one of those Hollywood teachers who inspires his students to greatness, like in DEAD POET’S SOCIETY or DANGEROUS MINDS, instead he’s a hard-working guy who talks to the multicultural kids in his class, but who often feels frustrated when his lessons are met with sarcasm, laziness, and a lack of respect.
THE CLASS constantly made me question who was wrong in several different situations. Was it the teacher, the students or the system? I think you’ll wonder the same things, and want to talk about them afterward. This is an exceptional film that I highly recommend, even to teachers, although the subject matter may hit waaaay to close to home.
Let’s stay is school now, shall we?
I have two other school oriented films for you this week, but neither of them can hold a candle to THE CLASS. These films don’t seem to strive to be anything other than mildly entertaining.
It’s ladies first, so here’s a clip from the latest film in the ST. TRINIAN’S series.
ST. TRINIAN’S is the sixth in a long-running series of films based on the works of cartoonist Ronald Searle. The first four films form a series, starting with The Belles of St Trinian’s in 1954, with sequels in 1957, 1960, 1966. The Wildcats of St Trinian’s came out in 1980, and now there is this newest one.
It is about a school for “young ladies” who are anything but. They must all come together to save the school from bankruptcy.
Plain and smply, ST. TRINIAN’S is nothing special. Some teenage girls and anyone who enjoyed Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields in last year’s James Bond film QUANTUM OF SOLACE might enjoy parts of this film…but to me it is trying to hard to be hip, cool and funny, but ultimately it fails on all three counts.
17 AGAIN doesn’t quite fail…but it almost does.
This movie stars Zac Efron from the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL films and Canadian “Friend” Matthew Perry, and it is the latest cinematic version of the body reversal story that was done, and done better, in films like FREAKY FRIDAY, BIG and 13 GOING ON 30.
Perry is a guy who wishes he could go back to high school and change his life. He wakes up one day and is seventeen again – and Zac Efron – and he gets the chance to rewrite his life.
17 AGAIN is not awful, I’ll admit that it is better than I thought it would be and Efron and Perry are both very good in their roles, but the film never tries hard enough to rise above this story we have seen done so many times.
I’ll give it a passing grade, but only because I am grading on the curve, and THE CLASS and WALTZ WITH BASHIR’s marks are so high.
From school we now take flight.
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS is the great television series that stars Jemaine Clement and Jemaine and Bret McKenzie as Bret.
They play two musicians from New Zealand trying to make it in New York City.
The show uses humour, and music to tell their story.
I still recommend SEASON ONE of FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS to people as it is superb viewing!
THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON has now come out in a 2-DVD Set, but – sadly, very sadly, it starts off very slowly, and at times isn’t very good at all.
But, luckily, it rebounds and by the last few episodes it is once again one of the funniest. laugh out loud shows I have ever seen.
Over the course of his life, Richard Pryor made me, and millions of others, laugh out loud many times through his stand up routines, movies and television appearances.
He is one of the greatest comedians of all time, and if you have ever wanted to see some of his stand up from when he was first starting out, then you must see RICHARD PRYOR – LIVE AND SMOKIN’.
RICHARD PRYOR – LIVE AND SMOKIN’ was filmed in 1971 but not released until 1985 and it was the first stand-up act that Pryor did before he hit the mainstream.
The program is only is only 46 minutes long, and if you are a fan, it is a must see!!
Finally this week, THE BLU-RAY BEACON shines on four films from the 1980s that are all considered classics of the decade.
The first one remains one of my favourite films of all time! This is ST. ELMO’S FIRE!
ST. ELMO’S looks great in High Definition, and it features director Joel Schumacher looking back on the film about a group of friends who have just graduated from university and are struggling with becomming adults.
The cast includes Brat Packers Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, along with Andie MacDowell and that classic song!!
A year after ST. ELMO’S FIRE, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore were together on screen again in the comedy ABOUT LAST NIGHT.
This film is about a man and a woman who meet and try to make their relationship work, it’s about friends, it’s about dreams…it’s about last night, and the Blu-ray features director Edward Zwick and Rob Lowe in a unique conversation as they look back, twenty-three years later.
Both ST. ELMO’S FIRE and ABOUT LAST NIGHT feature some great Special Features, some that are exclusive to Blu-ray, but unfortunately that is not true with this next film.
John Carpenter’s 1984, Academy Award nominated film STARMAN doesn’t have any bonus materials.
No commentary, no retrospective with stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, not even a trailer.
Luckily the film is strong enough to stand on it’s own…but still.
I have always thought of STARMAN as E.T. – THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL for adults, as Bridges plays an alien who takes the form of a young widow’s husband and asks her to drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona.
And just as in E.T., the government tries to stop them.
I do still love STARMAN, but I would have liked to have some extras, even the Blu-Ray for the 1983 film BLUE THUNDER has some extras, most notably a documentary about the building of the helicopter in this film.
There is also a 44 minute documentary and the theatrical trailer. Sadly, none of it is in High Definition, but was still nice to see at least something.
BLUE THUNDER stars the late Roy Scheider as a test pilot for an experimental police helicopter who learns that their are other reasons for it’s creation, and it is available no won Blu-ray, along with the other eighties films STARMAN, ABOUT LAST NIGHT and ST. ELMO’S FIRE. They are all brand new on Blu ray, and are available on DVD as well.
The mediocre, but okay role reversal comedy 17 AGAIN, the superb Palme d’Or winning THE CLASS, and the spectacular animated film WALTZ WITH BASHIR are both brand new on Blu-ray and DVD.
The less than entertaining ST. TRINIAN’S, the early stand-up work of RICHARD PRYOR in LIVE AND SMOKIN’, and the very entertaining COMPLETE SECOND SEASON of the HBO series FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS are only available on DVD.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS: THE WAY OF THE TOSSER is a Canadian made documentary about a coupld why try and prevail at the Rock, Paper, Scissors World Championships.
Also next week, a new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES collection and the insightful Mike Tyson documentary TYSON.
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!
The Couch Potato Report – August 15th, 2009