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The Couch Potato Report – June 25th, 2011
 
Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report is a visit to the bureau that regulates fate and the outlaw Josey Wales.
 
The months of January, February and March have become a cinematic dumping ground. The movie studios use them to release films that they know won’t do business during the profitable Summer Movie Season, or receive any statues during the Awards Season.
 
This year the underwhelming films THE GREEN HORNET, THE MECHANIC, THE RITE, THE ROOMMATE, BIG MAMMAS: LIKE FATHER LIKE SON, I AM NUMBER FOUR, DRIVE ANGRY, THE LINCOLN LAWYER and so…many…others…all came out within the first three months of the year, and none of them are very worthy of your time.
 
However, once in a while…occasionally…a couple of films will come out during the Dumping period that is good, that does offer some entertainment value, that is worthy of your time…and this year was once such year, in fact we had a couple of them!!
 
A film from February is coming up, and on March 4th a movie called THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU came out that remains – well into the big budget Summer Movie Season – my favourite of the year.
 
It is called THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU and it is a romantic science fiction thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
 
Based on a short story by science-fiction icon Philip K. Dick – whose writings were also the inspiration behind BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL and MINORITY REPORT, among others – THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU has Matt Damon playing an aspiring politician who meets a woman in the men’s bathroom on the night of his loss in the election.
 
They hit it off…but they aren’t meant to be together, as we learn from the group of men who are working overtime to keep them apart.
 
Matt Damon gives another great performance here and the very beautiful Emily Blunt – from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – is his equal in every way. They have great chemistry, and work really well off of each other. Plus, they are both very likeable…you want them to end up together…and in addition to Damon and Blunt, the film also stars Terence Stamp, John Slattery – from MAD MEN – and THE HURT LOCKER’s Anthony Mackie as men who work for “the bureau”.
 
I really enjoyed THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU! The cast is great, the story intriguing and I can easily recommend it. No, it isn’t perfect…if it was, it wouldn’t have come out during the cinematic dumping ground…but it is a very entertaining movie that is quite worthy of your time.
 
Now to that film from February, February 18th to be exact, that was the release date of the action thriller UNKNOWN…starring Liam Neeson and January Jones – Betty Draper from MAD MEN – as a couple who travel to Berlin for a biotechnology summit.
 
A car accident  in Germany’s capital city puts him in a coma…and when he wakes up he finds out that someone else has taken on his identity and that no one – not even his wife – knows him.
 
Liam Neeson asks Diane Kruger from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS to help him prove that he is who he says he is…even though all signs seem to point to the fact that he is not.
 
UNKNOWN is basically a Jason Bourne type story, mixed with elements of the 1988 Harrison Ford thriller FRANTIC – which was set in Parid, not Berlin – but no matter how familiar it is, I enjoyed it. It isn’t always compelling, but it kept me interested, and I can recommend it as a good rental.
 
Up next…let there be rock!
 
Back in 1980 a movie came out called LET THERE BE ROCK. It featured concert footage from the band AC/DC’s 1979 concert in Paris along with interludes and interviews…including conversations with lead singer Bon Scott, who died only two months after the concert was filmed.
 
For years the only way to watch the movie was on video as it had never come out on DVD…until now, and it is also available on Blu-ray as well…and both come with not only the original movie, but a wealth of Special Features and interviews.
 
LET THERE BE ROCK is a fascinating time-capsule look back at AC/DC and rock and roll itself in the late 1970s, and it is also a great last look at Bon Scott, who died way too young. It is a must own for fans, and music lovers…PLUS, for AC/DC fans there is a Limited Edition Collector’s Tin available that comes with a 32-page tribute book, a souvenir guitar pick and a concert photos.
 
This is another release that I easily recommend!
 
Now…let me ask you…have you ever imagined seeing chameleons fighting, rock climbing lemurs, fish – with no eyes – that swim upside down, or a spider lifting an empty snail shell into a bush to use for living quarters? Well, if any of those things ever entered your thoughts – or you just like having your thoughts and imagination and world expanded due to nature documentaries, then do no miss the latest BBC Nature documentary – the three part series MADAGASCAR!!
Featuring the familiar voice-over of David Attenborough, this three hour series reveals the many wonders of the world’s biggest island, a place of startling variety in terms of both geography and wildlife.
MADAGASCAR is interesting, insightful, engaging…it is fantastic!!!! I highly, very highly recommend it…and if you have little ones who love the animated MADAGASCAR movies, pick this up for them as I think they will enjoy it too!!
 
From the southeastern coast of Africa, we move now to the northernmost region of the continent for it is there where a platoon of soldiers from France find themselves on a rescue mission in the movie STRANDED.
 
It is also in North Africa where they are forced to confront invisible evil creatures called Djinns.
 
STRANDED is a well made and well acted movie, and it is interesting at times…but never compelling. I was curious to see what happened to the soldiers, and whether they were able to complete their mission, but I didn’t really care. It is an okay movie…I will give it a mild recommendation.
 
IT IS GUILTY PLEASURE TIME!!
 
I enjoyed the series ROME much in the same fashion that I enjoyed THE TUDORS…it is a pseudo-soap-opera, using real people from history, and real stories and events…also including the more salacious sides of their personalities.
 
Here’s the plot synopsis for the series as it begun: Set in 52 B.C., Rome charts the dramatic shifts in the balance of power between former friends Pompey Magnus, leader of the Senate, and Julius Caesar,  whose imminent return after eight years to Rome after conquering the Gauls, has the ruling class up in arms.
 
And for the second season: The year is 44 B.C. Julius Caesar has been assassinated and civil war threatens to destroy the Republic. In the void left by Caesar’s demise, egos clash and numerous players jockey for position.
There are also dozens of smaller human stories, salacious and otherwise, and I enjoyed almost all of them.
 
Are the stories true? Is it what actually happened? I don’t know, I didn’t watch them because I thought they were documentaries, I watched ROME to be entertained…and entertained I was!!
 
THE COMPLETE FIRST AND SECOND seasons of ROME are available now individually on Blu-ray – with enhanced content – or you can pick up the ten disc box set ROME: THE COMPLETE SERIES.
 
Enjoy!!
 
What you won’t enjoy, what is unenjoyable is the made-in-Vancouver big screen version of RED RIDING HOOD, fr
om the director of the first TWILIGHT film, starring Amanda Seyfried from MAMMA MIA! as a version of Little Red Riding Hood.
 
Nope, you won’t enjoy this at all!!
 
Set in a medieval village RED RIDING HOOD is about a beautiful young girl torn between two men whose life is changed forever when her sister is killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village.
 
In order to try and prevent further killings, the townsfolk call on a famed werewolf hunter to help them kill the wolf…and…you…won’t…care!
 
RED RIDING HOOD is utterly pointless! It isn’t the worst movie ever made, but don’t waste your time on it!
 
And you should also avoid a movie called HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE, which is almost the same movie as the 2004 film GARDEN STATE.
 
That was a movie about people in their twenties and their angst that was written and directed by the star of a very funny television show…and so is this! In that case it was Zach Braff of the show SCRUBS and in this one it is Josh Radnor of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.
 
This is the film that HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE thinks it is – as written by the studio – Captures a generational moment – young people on the cusp of truly growing up, tiring of their reflexive cynicism, each in their own ways struggling to connect and define what it means to love and be loved.
 
What it is actually about is a guy in his mid-twenties who is floating by in life who finds a lost foster care child on the subway, and instead of contacting the authorities…he keeps him. Thinking he is doing the right thing, he keeps him…even though everyone around him keeps telling him it is wrong.
 
Oh it is also about his friends too…none of which come across as real people, these are all movie people and while it isn’t awful you…also…won’t…care.
 
I hope with HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE Josh Radnor has gotten this angst and need to be an auteur out of his system and now he can go back to the TV show and never make another movie again!!
 
Skip it!!
 
One television star who has had some success in films is Ed Helms from THE OFFICE who also co-stars in THE HANGOVER films.
 
In addition to those movies, he also appears from time to time in smaller character driven films…including one called CEDAR RAPIDS where he plays a na├»ve, small town insurance salesman from Wisconsin who is sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention.
 
He soon finds himself under the “guidance” of three convention veterans…one of them played by John C. Reilly from TALLADEGA NIGHTS.
 
CEDAR RAPIDS is a nice little R-rated comedy that is never great, but never predictable either. It is an interesting little movie that left me with a smile on my face when it was over.
 
Again…that is a mild recommendation.
 
Also good, but never great is the mob movie KILL THE IRISHMAN.
This is the based-on-a-true-story of Danny Greene, a tough Irish thug working in Cleveland during the 1970’s.
 
There isn’t anything special about KILL THE IRISHMAN, the special effects are explosions are done on the cheap, and much like the series ROME, I don’t know how much of it is historically accurate, and there isn’t anything here that you haven’t seen in other gangster movies – like STATE OF GRACE or THE DEPARTED…but it was good.
 
KILL THE IRISHMAN is good.
 
Finally this week, The Blu-Ray Beacon shines on the 35th Anniversary Edition of the classic Clint Eastwood western THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.
 
Originally released in 1976, Eastwood stars as a man with a name – he’s Josey Wales – and after avenging his family’s brutal murder, he is on the run from a pack of killers and bounty hunters looking to collect the reward for his capture.
 
Originally he travels alone, but he eventually settles in with a group of outcasts – including Sondra Locke and Chief Dan George – and decides that he can’t leave them unprotected in the wild west.
 
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is a terrific western, but it is also very funny. It has always been one of my favourite westerns, and it is now available in HD with a 32-page Blu-ray book with photos and production notes, a new documentary, a commentary and an introduction from Clint Eastwood.
 
I highly, very highly recommend this one!!
 
 
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, KILL THE IRISHMAN, CEDAR RAPIDS, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE, RED RIDING HOOD, THE COMPLETE FIRST AND SECOND SEASONS of ROME, STRANDED, the superb BBC documentary series MADAGASCAR, AC/DC’s fantastic concert film LET THERE BE ROCK, the thriller UNKNOWN, and my favourite film of the year – so far – THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU are all available now in stores and online.
 
Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report
 
THE EXTENDED VERSIONS of the films in THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY finally debut on Blu-ray, the made-in-Vancouver film SUCKER PUNCH, and the superb BARNEY’S VERSION, based on the novel of the same name by Mordecai Richler.
 
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 again next time on The Couch!