The Couch Potato Report

JAWS looks stunning!!

The Couch Potato Report – August 18th, 2012

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report another great movie about a teacher, the hunger games and Duh nah…

Over the years there have been dozens of films made about teachers who inspire their students. GOODBYE MR CHIPS, MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS, DEAD POETS SOCIETY, DANGEROUS MINDS, LEAN ON ME, STAND AND DELIVER, TO SIR WITH LOVE are just some of them. Teachers are a universal theme in movies because we all went to school, we all had them, and many of us have been fortunate enough to have had teachers that have inspired us.

You can now add the made-in-Montreal film MONSIEUR LAZHAR to the list of movies made about inspirational teachers.

MONSIEUR LAZHAR was nominated as the Best Foreign language film at the Academy Awards this year, and it is an amazing film about an Algerian immigrant who is hired to replace a popular grade school teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.

As he helps the students work through their grief, they help him work through his own, as we find out he has also recently suffered a loss.

In addition to the Oscar nomination, MONSIEUR LAZHAR won six Genie Awards earlier this year, including trophies for Best Actor and Best Picture. Simply put, it was the best Canadian movie made last year, and it is a beautiful movie about love, loss and a teacher who inspires people.

I really enjoyed it, and highly recommend it.

“The Hunger Games” is a global pop culture phenomenon created by Suzanne Collins that has resulted in sales of over twenty-six million books and one movie – so far – that has made almost $700 million dollars at the box office.

My review of THE HUNGER GAMES is not aimed anyone who has read the books – and loved them – or seen the film – and loved it. You have already made up your mind and so to you I just say, enjoy the film and the extra disc of bonus features!

Instead, this review is for uninitiated movie fans who are wondering if they should spend their money and set aside the almost two-and-a-half-hours it will take to watch the film.

THE HUNGER GAMES is set in a post-apocalyptic future where once a year one 12 to 18 year-old boy and one 12 to 18 year-old girl from the twelve surviving districts are selected by random draw to take part in a competition…to the death…on live television.

Katniss Everdeen is the hero of the piece. She is a sixteen year old girl from District 12 who volunteers to take part when her younger sister’s name is chosen.

Ultimately what director Gary Ross and the writers have given us is a movie with no immediacy to it. It takes forever to get to the Games themselves, and once it does nothing happens.

This is supposed to be a fight to the death, but the participants we are introduced to – who we are supposed to believe are blood thirsty – are content to take their time…for instance: at one point an alliance of five bad characters manage to trap Katniss up in a tree, and after shooting two – count ‘em two arrows – and failing to climb that tree, they decide to wait her out.

Not shoot more arrows, cut down the tree, or smoke her down…they wait.

The lack of immediacy in THE HUNGER GAMES is the primary reason why it isn’t a great movie, plus, the computer graphics all look cheap, most of the cast is wooden, and the movie takes far too long getting where you know it is going…even if you haven’t read the book.

But…all that said… the young actress Jennifer Lawrence and veterans Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Canadian Icon Donald Sutherland are so entertaining in their roles that I have to admit I didn’t dislike the movie. That is why I will mildly recommend THE HUNGER GAMES to movie fans.

However…here’s hoping that when the second film – CATCHING FIRE – comes out next year the filmmakers do a better job of transferring Suzanne Collins’ words to film.

Not great, but not awful. Those five words easily sum up these next two films.

THE FLOWERS OF WAR stars Christian Bale from THE DARK KNIGHT films in this historical drama as a Westerner who poses as a priest and stays in a church with a group of women and girls in a church during Japan’s Nanking massacre of 1937.

Historians and witnesses have estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people were killed during this massacre, and the film centres on Bale’s reluctant decision to try and get the women and girls to safety.

THE FLOWERS OF WAR is a well made film with some very smart action scenes, and even though it is almost 2.5 hours long it goes by fast. However, there are more good intentions contained in it than good moments and that is why I can only use those five words to describe it: Not great, but not awful.

So, call that a mild recommendation.

We are off to Los Angeles, California, now because that is where the film GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR is set. This is a pseudo-sequel to a 2010 film called ELEKTRA LUXX and a movie from 2009 called WOMEN IN TROUBLE.

And even though I love the girl who walks into the bar – and all the women in the film – the film itself isn’t awful, but it also isn’t great.

The women in the film include Canadian actress Emmanuelle Chriqui from ENTOURAGE, Carla Gugino and Rosario Dawson of SIN CITY, and former model Amber Valletta. I am also a fan of most of the men who co-star, including Danny DeVito, Robert Forster, Zachary Quinto and Vancouver’s Gil Bellows.

The stories here take place in ten different Los Angeles bars over the course of one evening and how they overlap is what is interesting about it.

GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR does feature actresses and actors I like – many of who play interesting characters – and there are some interesting topics of conversation, but the sum of its parts isn’t all that great.

Once again the filmmakers seem think they have given the world a comedy with some dramatic moments…but after three attempts, I wish they would stop making these movies.

Admittedly, GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR is not great, but it is also not awful. However, unless you absolutely love one or more of the performers, you might just want to skip it.

With the new television season about to begin, the DVD and blu-ray sets for last season are starting to be released at a frantic pace. I have a trio of them for you right now, and we begin with THE SIXTH SEASON of DEXTER.

DEXTER is a multiple award winning show about Dexter Morgan – played by Emmy winner Michael C. Hall of SIX FEET UNDER. He is a bloodstain pattern analyst who uses forensic science to help the Miami Metro Police Department catch criminals.

Oh, and he also moonlights as a serial killer.

In THE SIXTH SEASON of DEXTER our anti-hero has to track down a delusional religious zealot or pair of zealots.

DEXTER is a smart police procedural drama, that is exceptionally well written and if you have never seen it, you should.

This is an amazing show, and THE SIXTH SEASON is fantastic!! This show keeps getting better and better!!!

I can’t wait for SEASON SEVEN!!!

Another dark show that has come out on disc this week is GRIMM – a police procedural fantasy drama set in a world in which characters inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales exist.

Set in modern day Portland, Oregon, a police detective discovers that he is part of a line of guardians known as Grimms. They are charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world.

I am a huge fan of procedural dramas, and the fact that GRIMM is set in the supernatural world gives it a unique twist. Unfortunately there are no characters in the show that I like and am interested in following. Plus, the computer effects here are not that great. It looks really fake when some of the characters change from being regular folk to members of the supernatural realm.

GRIMM – SEASON ONE has a great premise, but it isn’t fully realized. I liked it, but it is never great.

One show that is great, is COMMUNITY. It is also smart, hip, funny, always fresh and full of characters that I always enjoy hanging out with!!

COMMUNITY is sitcom about a group of people who met when they joined a study group at Community College in Colorado who – over the course of the first two seasons became a pseudo family and during the newly released COMPLETE THIRD SEASON, they continue to have their ups and downs…and we get to enjoy it all!!

COMMUNITY isn’t the greatest show on TV, but it is fun and has a great ensemble cast.

If you are looking for some laughs, you will definitely find some in THE COMPLETE THIRD – and FIRST and SECOND – in all seasons of COMMUNITY!!

We are off now to the beach…get in the water…if you dare.

On June 20, 1975, a movie about a great white shark that terrorizes a small island community was released.

In the film – directed by a then unknown talent named Steven Spielberg – the community fights back as a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to capture it.

JAWS was a huge hit and it is known around the world as the first summer blockbuster.

JAWS has now been completely remastered for release in High Definition and it looks and sounds fantastic!! Plus, there are some great retrospective features, old and new.

JAWS is a classic film and this blu-ray is one of the best releases of the year!!

Pick it up…and get back in the water…if you dare.

Steven Spielberg’s still amazing JAWS, SEASON ONE of the okay supernatural police procedural GRIMM, THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON of the very entertaining show COMMUNITY, THE SIXTH SEASON of the very smart show DEXTER, the well cast but not great movie A GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR, Christian Bale’s never great non-BATMAN movie THE FLOWERS OF WAR, the phenom THE HUNGER GAMES – which I can mildly recommend to movie fans, and the great Canadian Academy Award nominated film MONSIEUR LAZHAR are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

The made-in-Ontario undead comedy A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE; Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey star in BERNIE; Sacha Baron Cohen of BORAT infamy is THE DICTATOR; and the Academy Award winning, partially made-in-Toronto film GOOD WILL HUNTING gets a Fifteenth Anniversary Edition.

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!