The Couch Potato Report

Need a movie for the weekend?

The Couch Potato Report – January 28th, 2012

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report is a film that isn’t all about cancer and it isn’t all funny …it is 50/50. Plus, real steel and the first film ever named Best Picture.

Being diagnosed with cancer is not a laughing matter…but the filmmakers behind the dramatic comedy 50/50 try to provide us with a story that is equally serious and funny as we meet a radio producer in Seattle named Adam who is diagnosed with a rare type of the disease and given – as the title indicates – a 50/50 chance of beating it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt from INCEPTION and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER plays the straight laced, nice guy who can’t believe the news and Vancouver’s Seth Rogen from KNOCKED UP and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is his goofball stoner buddy who is trying to be supportive…in his way.

Gordon-Levitt and Rogen are great together as old friends, but the best performance in 50/50 comes from Academy Award winning actress Anjelica Huston. She has a small role as Adam’s Mother.

50/50 is based on the true story of writer Will Reiser’s battle with cancer, and how he and his friends and family dealt with it. His personal tragedy has inspired a very good film.

As usual Seth Rogen isn’t always likeable, and the story moves along very slowly at times, but the end result is a movie that is very good…and occasionally even great.

Due to the fact that the film is about a person possibly dying of cancer, 50/50 isn’t always an easy film to watch…but I easily recommend it.

I also recommend the set in the not too distant future action film REAL STEEL, directed by Montreal’s Shawn Levy and starring Hugh Jackman from the X-MEN films as a likeable loser former boxer who is now a struggling promoter of a robot fighter.

But before you dismiss the film because of that…and think of it as just a movie with fighting robots…you should know that it is also a movie about family, as Hugh decides to take temporary custody of his 11-year-old son.

Now before you start to think that REAL STEEL is overly dramatic…let me point out once again that this is a movie about fighting robots, set in the year 2020!!

Okay, REAL STEEL does have a lot of drama in it – some of it comes courtesy of Alberta born actress Evangeline Lilly of the television show LOST – but that drama added together with the fighting robots somehow all works.

Turn your brain off for a couple of hours…leave it in the other room if you can…and this one will make a good night’s entertainment.

Over the past couple of years the films in the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series have made every hair on my body stand on edge as they gave me thrills, and chills, and maybe even made me worry about my safety a bit…I love them and I love scary movies!!

After meeting adult Katie in the first film and grown-up Kristi in the second, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 takes the franchise right back to the beginning and we see the sisters as little girls as the cameras are on and recording when evil first begins to terrorize them.

These “Found Footage Films” offer up film that was found after the events in the film took place, and edited together for all to see and I love them.

No, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 isn’t as good as Part 2, which wasn’t as good as the first one…but this series still give me the creeps each and every time I see them! I love them!!

We have arrived at the worst film of the week now…a movie called THE WHISTLEBLOWER that fails to offer an emotional connection to the tragic human story of sexual trafficking and forced prostitution in Bosnia.

Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz from THE CONSTANT GARDINER stars as a police officer who accepts a lucrative contract to be a peace keeper in post-war Bosnia, eventually outing the United Nations for covering up a sex scandal.

THE WHISTLEBLOWER is full of horrific truths, tragic events that actually happened and should strike a chord with the viewer, yet the film is so boring. I felt sympathy for the victims, but I had no emotional connection to the film.

Skip this one…it isn’t worthy of your time…although the story must never be forgotten.

We head back to 1994 now, for a baseball film that I hoped to love when it first came out, and this week when I watched it again.

Sadly, I didn’t care for it either time…but I wanted to love THE SCOUT!!

THE SCOUT stars the great comedian Albert Brooks as a major league baseball scout for the New York Yankees sent to the most remote part of Mexico as punishment for recommending players who never lived up to their potential.

It is there where he discovers Ottawa raised actor Brendan Fraser from THE MUMMY films. This guy can pitch and hitter better than anyone…but he is childish and mentally unstable.

Only concerned for himself, the scout can’t resist bring him to The Big Apple…no matter what happens.

THE SCOUT has been released on blu-ray this week and as much as I love Albert Brooks, and baseball movies, this one is not a great movie.

Never has been, never will be.

When the nominations for the 84th Annual Academy Awards were announced last Tuesday morning, Woody Allen’s latest film – the fantastic MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – received four nods – for Art Direction, Original Screenplay, Directing and Best Picture.

He isn’t likely to win any of the categories this year, but thirty-four years ago at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1978, Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL won four Oscars…Best Actress for Diane Keaton, Best Director, Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.

In this classic comedy Woody plays a neurotic comedian who falls in love with Diane Keaton’s ditzy and positive Annie and we meet their friends and families and witness the ups and downs of their relationship over the years.

ANNIE HALL has heart, and laughs, is full of characters you will care about and like, and it is one of my favourite films of all time. Even if you do not usually like Woody Allen’s films, you should see it. It is a beautiful, witty and entertaining movie that is now on blu-ray and I highly recommend!!

I also highly recommend Woody’s follow-up, 1979’s MANHATTAN…but this one – also new on blu-ray – isn’t for everyone. This one is for true fans only!

MANHATTAN tells several different love stories – including Woody playing a twice-divorced comedy writer who dates a very young woman before eventually falling in love with his best friend’s mistress – but the main love story in the film is Allen’s love for his city. Manhattan is loving shot and featured, in glorious black and white, by a man who knows what her best side is.

This film loves the women in it – including a young Meryl Streep – and it loves Manhattan.

I love the film, and how great it looks on blu-ray

MANHATTAN may not be for everyone, but this film is definitely for me!

Finally this week is the very first film ever named Best Picture by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences.

Actually…at the first Academy Award ceremony, held at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood on May 16, 1929, WINGS was named Most Outstanding Production as there was no Best Picture award. The title was changed in 1930 to Best Production and to Best Picture for the 1931 awards.

But it is regarded today as the first Best Picture winner by the Academy, and it is regarded by all film fans as a classic…and now it has been meticulously restored and is available in High Definition for the first time on blu-ray!

WINGS is about two men – both in love with the same women – who become fighter pilots in World War I. It is the only silent film to be named Best Picture – so far – and this new release offers two different audio tracks to accompany it…you can select the more common to silent films Wurlitzer pipe organ score.

Or you can choose to watch it with a more modern sounding score that also includes sound effects.

WINGS was a spectacular achievement when it was first produced, and it remains one now. It is a true movie classic!!

The fully restored, truly classic film WINGS, Woody Allen’s modern day classics MANHATTAN and ANNIE HALL, the failed baseball comedy THE SCOUT, the failed dramatic thriller THE WHISTLEBLOWER, the not as good as the first two but still very good horror thriller PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, the very good rental REAL STEEL and the very good comedy drama 50/50 are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

The film that didn’t get London, Ontario born actor Ryan Gosling an Academy Award nomination this week – DRIVE will be available for you to watch at home and decide in your own mind if he was snubbed or not. Also next week, the made-in-Toronto hockey comedy BREAKAWAY. Spike Lee’s MALCOLM X, and STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION debuts on blu-ray. I’ll tell you how THE NEXT LEVEL looks in HD.

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!