The Couch Potato Report

I did enjoy DRIVE…but not everyone will.

The Couch Potato Report – February 4th, 2012

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report is a film about a driver and we boldly go where no blu-ray has gone before.

Every now and then a film comes out that isn’t for everyone, and isn’t a complete waste of time. These films are for a select few…and they will love them and watch them over and over again, while others will dismiss them and maybe not even watch it once all the way through.

DRIVE starring Canada’s own Ryan Gosling is one of those films…and you can count me as someone who loves it!

Gosling stars in DRIVE as a Hollywood stunt driver, making movies during the day, and driving the getaway car for criminals at night.

He is a loner…but when he meets his new neighbour – the single Mother Irene – he falls in love with her…and that leads to some dangerous situations.

Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan plays the mother and as good as she and Ryan Gosling are in this film, the best performance comes from the great Albert Brooks – of BROADCAST NEWS and DEFENDING YOUR LIFE.

Brooks plays a gangster who – at first – is working with the Driver…then needs to get something back from him.

DRIVE is a moody film that reminded me of some of the great car action flicks from the seventies, even though it has a music soundtrack that feels like it is from the eighties. There is not a lot of dialogue at times, and there is even less driving, which is why this film will never be embraced by the masses.

But I loved it…and I easily recommend it. It isn’t for everyone, but it is for me!

Also for me is the 1988 song “Breakaway” by the Australian band Big Pig.

I love that song…and I would rather play you the whole thing, instead of talking about the made-in-Toronto wannabe comedy BREAKAWAY…but this is The Couch Potato Report, so here I go.

BREAKAWAY is a not funny, not entertaining, not worthy of any of your time movie about an Indo-Canadian University drop-out named Rajveer Singh who loves hockey and wants to play, but his goals – in life, not on the ice – his goals and dreams differs from his father and his traditional family values.

Rajveer just wants to play the game he loves, while respecting the family he loves…and maybe even fall in love…and you won’t care.

I went into BREAKAWAY looking forward to it…I thought it could be a nice little film about a family and a sport that I love…but it just doesn’t work on any level. Plus, the outcome of everyone of the hockey games is predictable…there are absolutely no surprises on their very thin ice!

There have now been two films made in Toronto about characters from India with a connection to hockey – this one and Mike Myers abysmal 2008 film THE LOVE GURU. You should avoid them both at all costs.

I do still love that song though!!

Also not great is the would be comedy THE BIG YEAR…but at least this one is not completely awful.

Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black star in this one as three avid bird watchers who are competing to spot the most amount of birds across North America in one year.

A Big Year is an informal competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area.

Finding that out is all I will take away from this movie. While watching it, I just didn’t care. Partially filmed in British Columbia and the Yukon, THE BIG YEAR looks great and has a superb lead and supporting cast – that also includes John Cleese, Rosamund Pike, Kevin Pollak, Joel McHale and JoBeth Williams – but the movie doesn’t work.

Birders may get something out of it, due to the different types of birds referenced and shown in the film…but that is not a recommendation!! Make no mistake, THE BIG YEAR is a movie to skip.

If you are like me – and you will watch absolutely any science fiction films – then I can offer a mild recommendation for the action film IN TIME, starring Justin Timberlake from FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS and THE SOCIAL NETWORK.

IN TIME is set in a future where people stop aging when they turn 25 and only live one more year after that. However, if you have money, you can live longer…even forever…and if you don’t have money you might not even live that final year because money is also currency.

Timberlake plays a guy who is accused of murder, and ends up on the run with a hostage – the beautiful Amanda Seyfried – and together they try to find a way to find more time for everyone.

The story behind IN TIME is interesting, but not fully realized in the film…primarily due to the fact that Timberlake isn’t an action star. He has been very good in the light hearted films he’s been in, and the supporting roles he’s had, but he is miscast here and as a result IN TIME is a movie that isn’t great…but isn’t awful either.

And there’s your mild recommendation!

Here now is the latest film from Academy Award nominated director Gus Van Sant – who gave us GOOD WILL HUNTING and MILK.

RESTLESS is his latest and it is an odd little coming-of-age love story between a young man who has given up on life and a young woman who possesses a deep-felt love of life and the natural world.

He is healthy…she is dying of cancer…and as they spend her final few weeks together, maybe she can save him.

RESTLESS isn’t a movie for everyone, but it is a nice film with some very good performances. Ultimately I didn’t love it, but I liked it because it didn’t cop out of telling its story.

If you stumble upon it, give it a shot.

Okay…it is guilty pleasure time now!!

I don’t mind admitting that I am a huge fan of the cast of the television series HOT IN CLEVELAND – Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and the great Betty White – and I had a blast this week watching every episode from SEASON TWO.

HOT IN CLEVELAND is about three friends from Los Angeles who unexpectedly find themselves in Cleveland, and are thrilled to discover – THEY’RE HOT. They are desired, and in demand, professionally and personally….so they rent a home together, a home they share with a quick-witted caretaker…played by Betty White…who is joined in one episode by her Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star.

Two seasons in the actresses look like they are still having a blast making this show, and that makes HOT IN CLEVELAND a lot more fun than it should be. I enjoy watching this show, it is a guilty pleasure of mine and I easily recommend it!!

Our next release this week is LOVE, HATE & PROPAGANDA: THE COLD WAR a four-part documentary series which originally aired on CBC television. It is hosted by “The Hour’s” George Stroumboulopoulos and it looks at the cold war through propaganda ads, interviews and media reports…Canadian, and otherwise.

LOVE, HATE & PROPAGANDA excels when it shows us ads, newspaper stories and footage from the Cold War as humankind was literally on the brink of disaster.

Unfortunately it also drags at times as the actors hired to do voice over work aren’t always that convincing and most of the “experts” who offer opinions and facts are not very compelling.

Ultimately there is more bad than good, and I learned a lot about this time in our planet’s history, so there is enough for me to recommend LOVE, HATE & PROPAGANDA: THE COLD WAR. It is available now in a 3-disc Box Set.

It is blu-ray beacon time now as three classic films from the Master Of Suspence – Alfred Hitchcock – are brand new in High Definition!

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was a British film director and producer who pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood and in 1940 his first American project – REBECCA – was released.

It would go on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards!

REBECCA stars Joan Fontaine as a young woman who marries a rich widower and moves into his gigantic mansion, where she finds the memory of the first wife maintaining a grip on her husband and the servants.

The legendary Laurence Olivier plays the husband.

REBECCA is a true classic film, and although the high definition transfer isn’t pristine, it looks very good for a seventy-two year old movie.

In 1945, Hitchcock gave the world the psychological mystery thriller SPELLBOUND about a female psychiatrist who is protecting the identity of an amnesia patient who is accused of murder.

This one stars Gregory Peck and the timeless Ingrid Bergman.

SPELLBOUND looks great in HD – in glorious Black & White – and even though I love the cast, the film itself has never been one of my favourite Hitchcock films. That said, it is still a very good movie that is worthy of your time if you have never seen it.

The final new Hitchcock film that is new on blu-ray this week is one of the best movies he ever made…1946’s NOTORIOUS.

Hitchcock followed up SPELLBOUND with NOTORIOUS in 1946 and again cast Ingrid Bergman. In this romantic thriller she plays the daughter of a disgraced father who is recruited by American agents to infiltrate a post-World War II spy ring in Brazil.

Cary Grant plays her handler, and her CASABLANCA co-star Claude Rains is the man she has to marry, for the good of the country.

NOTORIOUS is a classic film, with tremendous pacing, and some great twists and turns. The characters aren’t always likeable, but you never actually dislike them. The cast is great, the story is great, the direction is great…this one is a must see, and a must own!!

Finally this week is a release that I am glad to have…thoroughly enjoyed watching…and although I have almost nothing bad to say about it…the disc doesn’t cost that much…and I am a huge Trekkie…I won’t recommend you pick it up.

This is STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION…on blu-ray for the first time!!

The complete first season of STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION will debut on blu-ray later this year, and in order to get fans excited a single-disc has been released with three episodes on it.

Yes, you get “Encounter At Farpoint”, “Sins Of The Father” and “The Inner Light”, all for under twenty dollars, but there are no great special features, the transfers to HD are very good, but they aren’t so exceptional that you need to need to own this right now….plus… The complete first season of STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION will debut on blu-ray later this year!!

Some fans of STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION will want to see THE NEXT LEVEL on blu-ray right away, and that is cool…but I would suggest you save your money until the full set comes out…and so you can travel to Calgary in April as the main cast of the series will reunite onstage at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.

That – to me – seems like a better way to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION – THE NEXT LEVEL. Alfred Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS, SPELLBOUND and REBECCA, SEASON TWO of the show HOT IN CLEVELAND, LOVE, HATE & PROPAGANDA – THE COLD WAR, the misfit film RESTLESS, the failed comedy THE BIG YEAR, the failed sci-fi action film IN TIME, the complete failure BREAKAWAY and the great film DRIVE are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report


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!