The Couch Potato Report

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The Couch Potato Report – October 3rd, 2009
This week The Couch Potato Report peels releases that will take us all the way from Victoria Day to Christmas.
Let’s get in the wayback machine to start this week’s Report, destination 1988.
Specifically Victoria Day 1988 in Toronto.
For Ben Spector, a smart, sensitive hockey playing kid from a Russian immigrant family, the end of school is in sight, and the Stanley Cup playoffs between the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers are underway.
Ben runs into a teammate at a concert and lends him five dollars to buy some drugs.
And then…the teammate disappears…and Ben is conflicted because he starts to fall for the missing boy’s sister.
VICTORIA DAY is partially based on the book “Natasha and Other Stories” that was part of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads back in 2007.
It is a film about three friends, hockey and being a teenager, and while the ending wasn’t as strong as the rest of it, this is a good little movie.
If you see it on the shelf at the store, give it a shot.
From a small Canadian film set in Toronto, let me now tell you about a small Hollywood film that is partially set in Montreal.
John Krasinski – who plays Jim on THE OFFICE and Maya Rudolph from Saturday night live star in AWAY WE GO.
They play an expectant couple with no fixed address who decide to travel around North America, visiting family and friends, to try and decide where to live in order to start their family.
Simply put, they are looking for a place to call home.
AWAY WE GO was directed by Sam Mendes – who also gave us the Academy Award winning film American Beauty (1999), along with Road to Perdition (2002) and last year’s Revolutionary Road. And in a stroke of genius his supporting cast includes Allison Janney from THE WEST WING, Maggie Gyllenhaal of THE DARK KNIGHT, DUMB AND DUMBER’S Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara, from SCTV.
AWAY WE GO is funny, touching, goofy, poignant, beautiful, filled with interesting characters, and it is a movie about hope. I loved it.
This one might even make my list of the year’s Ten Best!
On the other hand…MANAGEMENT will not.
This one is the latest Romantic-Comedy-With-A-Touch-Of-Drama-Thrown-In-For-Good-Measure release starring Jennifer Anniston.
And while it isn’t as bad as her most recent release – LOVE HAPPENS – it isn’t great either.
In addition to Anniston, MANAGEMENT also stars Steve Zahn, who has appeared over the years in supporting roles in some pretty successful films, like Sahara, Daddy Day Care, You’ve Got Mail and Out of Sight.
He plays a motel night manager who falls for a traveling art saleswoman.
She sort of falls for him too.
Now, with a different cast, this could have been a very entertaining film. As it is, MANAGEMENT is not awful, but I felt no emotional connection to it, and that is rare when it comes to a Romantic-Comedy-With-A-Touch-Of-Drama-Thrown-In-For-Good-Measure film.
Call this an okay rental, if you like those sorts of films.
Okay…it’s question time…imagine you are married to a woman and you have a young child together. Then, one morning, she is arrested for murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
How far would you be willing to go, to defend her, or maybe set her free?
How far would you be willing to go for her?
Well, that is the premise of a film from France called POUR ELLE…FOR HER.
FOR HER is a very good movie that allows the viewer to decide what is right and what is wrong in the story because it doesn’t always offer up the answers.
This is the type of film that you’ll talk about after it is over.
I like those kinds of films!
I also like heist movies!
From A Fish Called Wanda, Die Hard, Reservoir Dogs, Bottle Rocket, Catch Me If You Can and Fun with Dick and Jane to The Great Muppet Caper, Heat, Hudson Hawk, The Italian Job, Jackie Brown and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels I love heist movies.
And I haven’t even mentioned, Ocean’s Eleven, Quick Change, The Sting, or The Thomas Crown Affair…but I love them too!!
However, not every heist film belongs in a list with those ones.
They are not all good…and that is definitely true with the British film TUESDAY.
I do love to see these films, good and bad, so I have no regrets about sitting through it…but you might want to skip it…unless you love all sorts of heist films as well.
TUESDAY is about four experienced criminals, two beautiful bank clerks and one desperate penniless man nearing retirement who all – by coincidence – decide to rob the same bank on the same day.
And while I like the genre, and the cast of the film itself, the movie has no energy. And for a heist film to have no energy, that is saying something.
What I am saying is that I remain a fan of heist movies, and the day of the week itself, but the film TUESDAY left me cold.
And you know what, so did THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. This is the latest film from Academy Award winning director Steven Soderburgh, a man who gave us a great heist film with his OCEAN’S 11, and if it wasn’t for his name on this film, I probably wouldn’t have watched it, and – in all honesty – it probably wouldn’t even have gotten made.
Sasha Grey – who in her everyday job is an adult film actress – stars in this movie as a high-end call-girl in Manhattan who is trying to meet the challenges of her boyfriend, her clients, and her work.
At times, I admit, it is interesting and engaging as the non-linear storyline bounces all around, but in the end, there is no story told in this film. It isn’t really even about anything, and it is barely about anyone, despite the fact that it has a large cast.
So, to sum up…THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE is a film that you should skip.
Okay, I have nothing but positive things to say about the final four releases I have for you now. Maestro, a little music if you please!
In June 1979, Pete Townshend gave a solo acoustic performance at Amnesty Internationals Secret Policeman’s Ball benefit show in London, inspiring Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Sting, Bob Geldof, Phil Collins and many others to perform for Amnesty over the following years.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of that historic first show, there is now a one-hour collection of the musical highlights from three decades of Secret Policemans Ball shows.
Pinball Wizard, In the Air Tonight, Running Up That Hill, Imagine performed by Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins, On The Turning Away, I Don’t Like Mondays, Message In A Bottle, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Biko and I Shall Be Released make SECRET POLICEMANĂ­S BALLS: THE SECRET POLICEMAN ROCKS! a must have, if you like the music of the 70s and 80s.
This is great stuff!!
Okay, on many, many occasions here on The Couch Potato Report I have pledged my ongoing allegience to and love of Jim Henson and The Muppets.
That is why, last December 17th, I sat in front of my television to watch the holiday special – A MUPPETS CHRISTMAS: LETTERS TO SANTA.
And – as you might expect – I loved it!!
If you like The Muppets, you can’t go wrong with this one as the gang try and deliver some late letters to the North Pole on Christmas Eve…if you don’t, then A MUPPETS CHRISTMAS: LETTERS TO SANTA isn’t for you…and thats okay, because I loved it!!
Hee hee hee!!
In the early 1980s, after the success of The Muppet Show on TV and THE MUPPET MOVIE in theatres, Jim Henson started to branch out and make a couple of different kind of films…and THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH are both available on Blu-ray.
Both films have their flaws, but if you follow – or followed Henson’s career path they both completely fit within his body of work as he streched the limits of possibilities to see where his imagination could take him…and us.
Especially in THE DARK CRYSTAL.
If you were not a fan of Him Henson’s fantasy films when they first came out, these movies might not appeal to you now…although they have continued to grow on me over the years.
I both respect and admire them, and THE BLU-RAY BEACON this week shines on THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH, which co-stars David Bowie and a very young Jennifer Connely.
The Jim Henson films LABYRINTH and THE DARK CRYSTAL are both available now in High Definition on Blu-ray, along with THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, MANAGEMENT and AWAY WE GO.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
It has been seven years since the success of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING and now the latest film from Winnipeg born Nia Vardalos actually takes us to Greece.
We’ll head there cinematically and I’ll tell you about MY LIFE IN RUINS
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!