The Couch Potato Report

I’ve had this written since the 8th…I just kept forgetting to post it. Oooooooooops!!

The Couch Potato Report – December 10th, 2011

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report are penguins, cowboys, aliens, another hangover and the help.

Back in 1994, after years of doing stand-up and television work, Newmarket, Ontario born comedian Jim Carrey became a household name thanks to the success of the film ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE.

Since then – with the exception of the 1995 sequel ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS – Carrey has primarily stayed away from appearing in films with animal co-stars…until earlier this year.

In MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS Carrey plays a businessman whose life begins to change for the better after he inherits six penguins from his father.

Carrey starts off as a ruthless man of business who is great at his job but doesn’t have much time for his family, until they fall in love with his new roommates – yes, he keeps the penguins in his New York City apartment – and as the film goes on he starts to change, putting his business ambitions aside, and becoming a great father to his two kids and to their six frozen friends.

Not unlike the guy he played in the 1997 film LIAR LIAR, Carrey’s character here is a man who lies to everyone……but this movie has penguins.

However, unlike that movie – which I would highly recommend – MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS is a film just for kids. I – a middle aged man – found it good, but never great.

However the younger set should enjoy it immensely.

MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS exists on DVD and Blu-ray as it was in theatres.

Director Jon Favreau’s COWBOYS & ALIENS is not the same…there is an extended version of the film now available, with sixteen additional minutes added in, and that extra footage makes it a much better movie.

When I first saw this western science film – based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg – I didn’t care for it…but when I watched it again this week, I really enjoyed it!!

COWBOYS & ALIENS stars Daniel Craig as a man who wakes up in the middle of nowhere in 1873 Arizona, bleeding, and he has no idea where he is or who he is, and he also doesn’t know why he has a metal band attached to his wrist.

Harrison Ford plays a local cattle rancher who needs Craig’s help when his son – and other people from the nearby town – are abducted by flying metal objects in the sky.

Imagine that…you live in the wild west of 1873, you don’t know that things other than birds can fly, let alone that there are men from space…yet all of a sudden there they are, and you have to deal with it using the technology you have…and perhaps a mysterious metal band attached to someone’s wrist…now that is a fantastic premise!!!

It is fully realized in the graphic novel, and the extended cut of COWBOYS & ALIENS brings it to life.

Admittedly, the COWBOYS stuff is far more enjoyable than the ALIENS part, and if you don’t care for science-fiction this is not a film for you…but I enjoyed it…really enjoyed it!!

It is easily one of my favourite films of the year!!

Easily…easily the film I found to be the most disappointing this year was THE HANGOVER – PART 2, the lazy, uninspired sequel to the fantastic surprise comedy hit from 2009.

In the original, three friends lose their buddy during their partying and misadventures, and when they wake up the next morning – wildly hungover – they must retrace their steps in order to find him.

In the sequel, three friends lose their buddy during their partying and misadventures, and when they wake up the next morning – wildly hungover – they must retrace their steps in order to find him.

The only differences…the only ones…the first one was set in Vegas…and the sequel is set in Bangkok…they have added a capuchin monkey, and it is a different character getting married.

Other than the location, just about everything else in THE HANGOVER – PART 2 is the same as the first one…and I had hoped director Todd Phillips and crew would come up with something better…but they didn’t, and that is why this movie is so disappointing.

It even ends exactly the same, with the guys looking at pictures from the night before to help them piece everything together.

However, all that negativity aside…I still love the characters in these films…Phil, Stu and Alan…The Wolf Pack…they are fun to hang out with, and the movie does have some laughs, even a few HUGE ones, so while I was disappointed in it, I will watch it again.

But when the inevitable sequel – THE HANGOVER – PART 3 – comes out, I hope they work harder to give us a movie that is as good, as entertaining, and as much of a pleasant surprise as the first one.

That one was a blast!!

Out of all of this week’s releases, the one that caught me the most off guard, and entertained me and moved me the most – when I didn’t think it would – is THE HELP…a comedy-drama film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett.

THE HELP stars young actress Emma Stone as an aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s who decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view as they take care of white children, and deal with racists and racism on a daily basis.

THE HELP is a movie full of fantastic scenes and moments, provided by some great actresses…including Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer – who should both receive Academy Award nominations for their work – and Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain.

It is meaningful and moving, and I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it.

It has been quite a year for actress Jessica Chastain – one of the stars of THE HELP – despite having an impressive list of television credits, I had never really heard of her until this year, when she starred in three high profile films: THE HELP, of which she gives her finest performance, director Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE with Brad Pitt, and THE DEBT…co-starring Academy Award winner Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson.

That latter film is also out this week and it is a spy thriller about a mission to track down a Nazi war criminal.

It takes place in 1966 as a trio of agents in their twenties work to capture him, and in 1997 as they are now older, and must come to grips with what they’ve done.

THE DEBT is a slow and dramatic film that is meant for adults…it never moves any faster than it needs to…and it is a very well made movie. It’s never great, but it is very good. I never felt invested in the characters, but it did hook me enough that I wanted to see how it all played out…so consider that a very mild recommendation.

We are off to France now for the Foreign film POINT BLANK about a male nurse named Samuel whose life is going fairly well.

But then his beautiful and very pregnant wife is kidnapped right in front of him and he is knocked out cold.

When he wakes up, a phone is ringing and he is told that he only has three hours to get a man who is under police surveillance, out of the hospital in which he works.

So he has to do that, and evade the cops and the criminal underground – who are all after him – and time is ticking out to rescue his beloved.

POINT BLANK doesn’t offer up anything we haven’t seen before – especially in most of the films Harrison Ford did in the nineties, like FRANTIC, but it moves very quickly, has a great cast, and at 84 minutes isn’t long enough to ever come across as a waste of time.

I liked it!!

The Miss Rowling there is Joanne Rowling, J.K. Rowling to her millions and millions of fans, the people who love and adore her creation…the wizard orphan named Harry Potter.

MAGIC BEYOND WORDS – THE J.K. ROWLING STORY is a made-in-British Columbia, unauthorized biography about the woman, her family and friends, and it features dozens of references to the characters and worlds she created.

J.K. Rowling’s actual real-life story – a rags to riches success about a woman on welfare who – through her imagination and writing – became one the world’s richest – is inspiring and engaging.

MAGIC BEYOND WORDS has some of those qualities, but not many of them, and what it does have it glosses over as it is trying to get so many story elements in.

So this one is for curious J.K. Rowling fans only…and I mean curious fans of the women herself, not her books.

The Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies around the world, and the films based on them have earned almost 8 billion dollars…but I have something much, much smaller for you now.

Much smaller!!

THE ART OF GETTING BY is about George, a lonely and fatalistic teen who’s made it all the way to his senior year of high school without ever having done a real day of work.

One day he makes friend with Sally, a beautiful and popular girl who decides they should be friends…but he falls in love.

THE ART OF GETTING BY is not great in any way, but it is a nice little character study featuring some good performances and I liked it.

This is one of those films you have to stumble upon, because it didn’t make enough money to be featured everywhere, and I am glad I found it.

I hope you find it too!!

Before he made THE LORD OF THE RINGS films, Peter Jackson gave the world a small film of his own, one starring a then unknown actress named Kate Winslet. The movie is based on a true story about the obsessive relationship between two young girls who enjoy spending time together so much that they conspire to murder one of their mothers in order to try and avoid being separated.

The film is presented from the girls’ meeting in early 1953 to the murder in 1954.

HEAVENLY CREATURES is imaginative, interesting and a very good film. It was produced on a very low budget, so the filmmakers had to be extra inventive and creative. This is a fantastic addition to the Kate Winslet or Peter Jackson section of your movie library.

Hey…wanna go on a trip to Arabia? Not a real trip, as getting there from Canada can cost upwards of $2500…lets go there through our televisions and the new blu-ray ARABIA 3D.

This IMAX film takes us into the heart of this exotic land to experience the great mystique of Arabia. We are shown a lost city, and go into the ancient tombs, see a wild desert sandstorm, and dive amongst coral reefs and ancient shipwrecks.

We go from mud villages to modern skyscrapers and it is all fascinating stuff to see!!

While the sights we are shown are amazing, the story in ARABIA 3D isn’t compelling at all. The narration by Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren about what we’re seeing is great, but the rest of it is lacking.

So, let’s call that another mild recommendation.

Finally this week is an amazing documentary, one for everyone who loves movies…and wants to see them last forever.

THESE AMAZING SHADOWS: THE MOVIES THAT MADE AMERICA is about The National Film Registry, the organization that works to preserve films that are deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.

The National Film Registry currently has 550 films on it, includes selections from every genre – documentaries, home movies, Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels and silent films – including “Casablanca,” “Blazing Saddles” and “West Side Story” – and THESE AMAZING SHADOWS features clips from them, and people talking about them.

As a film fan, I loved THESE AMAZING SHADOWS: THE MOVIES THAT MADE AMERICA…it is a spectacular documentary about some great movies!!

The spectacular documentary THESE AMAZING SHADOWS: THE MOVIES THAT MADE AMERICA, the travelogue ARABIA 3D, Peter Jackson’s HEAVENLY CREATURES, the nice small film THE ART OF GETTING BY, the only okay unauthorized biography MAGIC BEYOND WORDS – THE J.K. ROWLING STORY, the very good Foreign action film POINT BLANK, the good but not great dramatic thriller THE DEBT, the spectacular – soon to be Oscar nominated THE HELP, the disappointing sequel THE HANGOVER – PART 2, the entertaining COWBOYS & ALIENS and the family film MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS – featuring Jim Carrey – are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

The made-in-Alberta redneck horror comedy TUCKER AND DALE VERSUS EVIL, the animated family film KUNG FU PANDA 2, SEASON 14 of THE SIMPSONS, and the surprisingly good Summer reboot RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

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!