The Couch Potato Report – December 24th, 2011
Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report is one of the best films of the year…and not much else. It is a pretty slow week actually.
Many people don’t, I actually know a lot of people who don’t, but I love Woody Allen’s films.
From his earliest, late sixties releases TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, through his seventies classics ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN, into the eighties with HANNAH AND HER SISTERS and CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS, and even his more recent films MIGHTY APHRODITE, SWEET AND LOWDOWN and MATCH POINT, I love his work…I am a fan…but I know not everyone is. The man can be an acquired taste, and he has sure made more than a few stinkers over the years as he continues his torrid one release a year pattern.
I have not recommended all of his films, even as a fan I know that a bad movie is a bad movie, but I will recommend his latest, and not just to fans…MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a great movie that I think everyone will like, and credit for that goes mostly to the cast.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS stars Owen Wilson from WEDDING CRASHERS and MARLEY & ME. Wilson is a great comedic actor and writer – he co-wrote RUSHMORE and the Academy Award nominated THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS – and he is at his best here as a man who is in love with the city of Paris, it’s art, it’s legacy and history.
It is the most romantic and inspirational place in the world to him, and one night – as he walks the streets and alleys of the city – he suddenly finds himself back in time, in the Paris of his dreams, the Paris of the 1920’s, where he meets many of his idols…and some of the best known artists of all time!
Canadian actress Rachel McAdams of THE NOTEBOOK and SHERLOCK HOLMES plays his materialistic fiancé and she is also great in the film.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a movie about nostalgia, full of great performances, and I highly recommend it.
Even if you have never been a huge Woody Allen fan…I still say that you should check this one out…it is a very enjoyable film…one of my favourites of the year!
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS also features Carla Bruni in a small role as a Museum Guide. In real life, she is better known as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France.
Mr. Sarkozy is the focus of the biographical French film THE CONQUEST, which takes a look at his rise to power.
I didn’t really know that much about President Sarkozy before I watched the film, and I was entertained and informed by this film about him. But THE CONQUEST is never great…it is very good at times, but never great. I would recommend it to anyone who also enjoys biographies, everyone else should skip it.
And unless you love Mixed Martial Arts…the full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, karate, judo and other styles…unless you love MMA, you absolutely should skip WARRIOR, an exceptionally well acted movie, that ultimately has too many plot holes to recommend.
WARRIOR is about an estranged son who returns to the home of his alcoholic former boxer Father to seek his help in training for an MMA tournament.
It is also about his older – also estranged – older brother – and the path of desperation that leads him to the same tournament.
As happens in films like this, the brothers are on a collision course to fight in the finals…but which one do we root for?!?
I didn’t care who won, because while WARRIOR isn’t totally predictable, holes in the plot get in the way, and I never felt emotionally connected to either brother, or the Father.
Plus, I am not really a fan of Mixed Martial Arts…so this movie had very little for me to enjoy, or recommend.
It is truly for MMA fans, only.
Doing a complete switch of topics now…I have never hidden the fact that I find the musical numbers on the television show GLEE to be very entertaining. I don’t always care about the teen melodrama on the show…but I like the musical numbers.
Not the music, necessarily, the music numbers.
Well, if you take away the well choreographed numbers, and the melodrama, you are left with just the characters from the show singing songs.
You are left with the failed late Summer concert film GLEE – THE CONCERT MOVIE, which flopped at the box office.
None of the grown-ups from the show appear in the film, including Sue Sylvester – although she does pop up in the special features – GLEE – THE CONCERT MOVIE is just the kids singing the songs, mixed together with clips from fans at the concerts…and if you are a fan of the music the show offers up, you may enjoy it.
I didn’t care for the film at all, it looks like they are lip synching – and not even singing – most of the time, the songs – when performed by the cast without musical numbers – aren’t as great as the originals, and even at only 84 minutes, it was till much too long for me.
This one is only for true, very dedicated Gleeks.
GLEE – THE CONCERT MOVIE is just a pale imitation of the show itself, just as CONDUCT UNBECOMMING is a pale imitation of director Rob Reiner’s 1992 film A FEW GOOD MEN.
That film features a lawyer defending Marines accused of murder, who say that they were acting under orders.
This one is about a Marine – who defends himself – against war crimes.
In both people fight for their lives and honour in the unfamiliar battlefield of a military courtroom.
A FEW GOOD MEN was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, CONDUCT UNBECOMMING is best forgotten.
If you stumble across this made-in-Toronto release, skip it and pick up the Oscar nominee…now THAT is a tremendous movie.
CONDUCT UNBECOMMING…not so much.
This movie came out a while ago, and I finally had the chance to see it this week, and I am glad I did as I love – and still love – Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts…but the movie they did together this year – about a man named LARRY CROWNE – is a stinker!!
Hanks – who also directed the movie, and co-wrote it with Winnipeg’s Nia Vardalos – stars here as a middle aged man named Larry Crowne who – after losing his job – tries to reinvent himself by going back to college.
Julia Roberts is one of his professors, whose life needs some reinventing itself, and wouldn’t you know it, they fall in love.
LARRY CROWNE isn’t a bad movie, per se, but it is absolutely nothing special. If you love the cast – as I do – and you want to see it, go in with low, extremely low expectations, and you might enjoy some of it.
Otherwise, skip it…at all costs.
The great animated television series FUTURAMA, which aired from 1999 to 2003, before ceasing production. It was revived in 2007 as four mediocre straight-to-DVD films, and then last year it was brought back full time, and now the 13 newest, half-hour episodes are available on FUTURAMA – VOLUME 6.
Yes, the Planet Express crew is back and you can once again spend time with Fry, Bender, Leela and the rest of the gang…and I am happy to report, that these new episodes are as good as many of the ones from the original series.
The show remains fun and clever, and I really enjoyed it!!
FUTURAMA – VOLUME 6 is a blast!!
We leave the future of FUTURAMA now, to head to the past to meet the PREHISTORIC PREDATORS OF THE PAST.
This single disc, three episode feature has a trilogy of shows that look at – as the title implies – the PREHISTORIC PREDATORS OF THE PAST, and how they became extinct.
The documentaries here also take a look at the lineage these beasts have left behind.
I love nature, wildlife and dinosaur documentaries, and eat them up and PREHISTORIC PREDATORS OF THE PAST is no different. It features some very interesting stories.
No, the computer graphics they use to bring the creatures to life aren’t always completely effective…but I still enjoyed it.
I wanted to enjoy the biographical film about composer and conductor John Philip Sousa, but I did not…there just isn’t enough about the man in this film about him.
This is the man who is known as “The March King”, and among his best known pieces of work are “The Washington Post”, “Semper Fidelis” – which is The Official March of the United States Marine Corps, and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” – The National March of the United States of America.
STARS & STRIPES FOREVER came out in 1952 and it looks at Sousa’s life, from his early days in the Marine Corps Band through the Spanish-American War in 1898, and for me it has always failed because it is not a comprehensive look at his life, it is just a portrait of him.
STARS & STRIPES FOREVER is new on blu-ray and even though I have never enjoyed the film, the music it contains will last forever!!
Another old film that is new on blu-ray is the impressive 1970 Academy Award winning action movie TORA! TORA! TORA! about the attack on Pearl Harbour.
TORA! TORA! TORA! shows both sides of the attack, the Japanese planning, and the series of blunders on the American side that allowed it to happen.
It is two stories, two films, that slowly intertwine to become one.
TORA! TORA! TORA! features plenty of war footage and it is all exceptionally well done, and looks amazing in HD.
Plus, the blu-ray is housed in a Collectible Hardcover Book, and features the original version, and a longer cut that showed in Japan.
This is a must have for war buffs!!
Finally this week…finally this year, in fact, as this is the final Couch Potato Report of 2011, the last release I have to tell you about is a spectacular set – VIETNAM IN HD!
The producers of this 2 disc, six part series searched for colour footage from Vietnam in private collections, museums, government vaults, veteran’s and news organizations as well as sources from Vietnam to tell the stories of the soldiers who fought there.
VIETNAM IN HD starts with the initial troop build-up in 1965 and goes right through the fall of Saigon a decade later.
All of it has been re-created using music, sounds and the footage itself – all remastered in High Definition, to share the story of the war.
The war itself was very rarely pretty, and there are scenes in VIETNAM IN HD that are tough to watch, but this historical look back is a fantastic piece of work, and a beautiful tribute to the soldiers and people who were there.
The spectacular VIETNAM IN HD, the very good TORA! TORA! TORA!, the could have been better STARS & STRIPES FOREVER, the entertaining PREHISTORIC PREDATORS OF THE PAST, VOLUME 6 of the very fun and clever show FUTURAMA, skip LARRY CROWNE, and skip CONDUCT UNBECOMMING, GLEE – THE CONCERT MOVIE is for huge fans only, WARRIOR – for MMA fans only, the good but never great biopic THE CONQUEST about French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – one of my favourite films of the year – are all available now, either on disc or on demand.
Like, I said at the start, it is a pretty slow week for new releases.
Coming up in two weeks inside the first Couch Potato Report of 2012!
The disease thriller CONTAGION, the action film SHARK NIGHT, the made-in-Vancouver sci-fi film APOLLO 18, and the punk rock fairytale SID & NANCY debuts on Blu-ray!!
I’m Dan Reynish and I’ll have more on those, and some other releases, in fourteen days.
For now, and this year, that’s THE COUCH POTATO REPORT.
Enjoy the movies and I’ll see you back here again next time on The Couch!