The Couch Potato Report

The weekend is here, how about some movie reviews?

The Couch Potato Report – September 29th, 2012

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report – we take a waltz, survive progress, touch the sky and meet The Avengers.

Sarah Polley is a Canadian actress from Toronto who first became known through her role on the CBC series ROAD TO AVONLEA.

She also starred in the films EXOTICA, THE SWEET HEREAFTER, GO and DAWN OF THE DEAD, among many others, before she made her feature film directorial debut in 2006 with the Academy Award nominated drama AWAY FROM HER.

Her second film as a director is called TAKE THIS WALTZ and it stars Oscar nominee Michelle Williams from BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN as a restless married woman who falls for a man she meets on a plane, a man who just happens to live across the street

Williams character is married to Vancouver’s Seth Rogen from KNOCKED UP and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. He is a loving, caring husband trying to cater to her ever changing moods and desires and although she does love him…there is an emptiness inside her. Something seems missing.

Desire, restlessness and emptiness are at the core of TAKE THIS WALTZ and even though it isn’t predictable, it does get a bit boring in the middle. I actually grew impatient with the main character and although I felt bad for the predicament she was in, I just wanted her to make a decision already.

I have the utmost respect for Sarah Polley and I really enjoy Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen’s work as actors, and that respect and adoration are the only reason why I can mildly recommend TAKE THIS WALTZ. With lesser talents it could’ve been a complete waste of time. As it is, it isn’t the best movie of the year, but it isn’t the worst either.

Moving forward and what that means to humankind is at the core of this next release, the documentary SURVIVING PROGRESS.

SURVIVING PROGRESS is a Canadian made documentary that looks at the double-edged reality of the grave risks we pose to our own survival all in the name of progress.

This movie features some incredible visuals to go along with the facts, figures and opinions being offered by people such as Canadian author Margaret Atwood and theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking.

Unfortunately SURVIVING PROGRESS offers a little too many facts, figures and opinions and it gets to be a little bit much at times. This is a documentary that doesn’t believe in the less is more approach.

But that said, it is very interesting, and will give you a lot to think about…and the visuals are incredible. I say check it out.

The characters in the made-in-Vancouver film THE CABIN IN THE WOODS are also trying to survive, but it isn’t progress that they are afraid of, it is the creatures lurking outside.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a horror thriller about five friends who venture to a cabin in the middle of nowhere for a weekend and soon must fight for their lives…but, BUT…what makes this film different that the many, many, many others that have shared this premise is the fact that this group of friends is being watched by a crew in a studio, and that crew has the ability to manipulate just about everything that is going on.

The main problem I had the first time I saw THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was that I was trying to figure out what was going on…why are these people manipulating what is happening in and near this cabin? I just couldn’t get past that, and so I didn’t think it was very good.

But when I watched it again this week, knowing the secret, I really enjoyed it. It’s smart, and entertaining, and even though it is a horror thriller genre picture, it is also a movie that tears apart many of the stereotypes we usually see in this sort of film.

Yes, it does all start to fall apart a bit at the end, but don’t think too much about that or about anything in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS when you watch it – and horror fans do need to watch it!

Just shut of your brain and enjoy!

It is my pleasure now to offer up a trio of films for you, a trio that you should search for. You aren’t likely to find them everywhere, but if you look for them, or do a search within all the titles available on-demand, you will be rewarded with a nice piece of filmmaking.

The first one is called DELICACY and it is from France. In it, Audrey Tautou from the great film AMELIE is a widow still deep in mourning over the loss of her husband three years after his death.

One day at work, completely out of the blue, she kisses a colleague and they begin dating…even though no one – not even her close friends…understand what she sees in the guy.

DELICACY is a great cinematic romance and I really enjoyed it. This is a tremendous film full of nice people and I highly recommend it.

Greta Gerwig is a beautiful and very talented young actress who has appeared in several high profile films – such as the romantic comedy NO STRINGS ATTACHED and the re-make of ARTHUR – but she is far from a household name.

Her two latest films are now available for home viewing and in LOLA VERSUS she is a woman dumped by her boyfriend just three weeks before their wedding.

Lola is now a single woman approaching thirty, and after the break-up she finds herself looking for – not just love – but a life, occasionally with the help of her friends.

Greta Gerwig is very good in this film, but the best performances come from Bill Pullman and Debra Winger who play her parents.

The biggest problem with LOLA VERSUS is that the cast is better than the movie. It is never great, but it is okay. I didn’t love it, but I liked it and can mildly recommend it.

Now, a Greta Gerwig film I can’t recommend is one that is actually a HUGE disappointment. DAMSELS IN DISTRESS is the latest release from the great writer-director Whit Stillman, who also gave us the nineties classics METROPOLITAN, BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. That last film came out in 1998, and since then…nothing!

And now he is back…unfortunately.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS stars Gerwig as the leader of a group of girls on a college campus who are working to change the male-dominated environment. They also want to try and help fellow students avoid depression, grunge and low standards of every kind.

Whit Stillman is a filmmaker who writes great dialogue, the words he writes all stand out and every single one of them mean something. But the characters he writes aren’t always likeable, some are outright unlikeable. However, in his past films, he had great and likeable actresses such as Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny and Mira Sorvino reading his dialogue, and it always worked.

In DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, the actresses – other than Greta – just aren’t up for the task and so the dialogue and the situations don’t work. It all just seems completely implausible.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS does have a few nice surprises, and several moments that are pure Whit Stillman, but not enough and the result is a boring, uninteresting film.

I missed Stillman’s work in the fourteen years he was away, and I hope it doesn’t take him that long to make another movie. But more than that, I hope when he does make another one, it is better than DAMSELS IN DISTRESS.

What a disappointment!

At the Emmy Awards last weekend the great show MODERN FAMILY was once again named Best Comedy Series, for the third straight time, and when you watch THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON of this brilliant show – and I highly recommend that you do – you will see why.

MODERN FAMILY is about a multinational, multisexual and exceedingly complicated extended family and their hilarious antics, and it is all filmed in a pseudo-documentary style – the same format that is used for the show THE OFFICE.

MODERN FAMILY is a fantastic show that is heartwarming, heartbreaking and exceptionally funny!

If you have never seen it, see it!! It is laugh out loud funny and even beautiful at times. I LOVE MODERN FAMILY and very highly recommend THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON, all three seasons!!

I thought I would also love 2 BROKE GIRLS, the premise and the lead actress – Kat Dennings from THOR – all appealed to me, but I didn’t love it. I’m not even sure I liked it.

This is a show about two women in their twenties who find themselves working together at a small diner and forge a friendship because of their dream of quitting and raising enough money to have their own business.

Good premise, nice cast, but what absolutely didn’t work for me is how abrasive the Kat Dennings character is.

Admittedly, she is an actress who has had a pretty good career being the sarcastic one in anything she’s appeared in, but what she says and does in this show never seems real. She goes on tirades against people and customers here in situations that would never happen in real life, and there are no consequences.

Yes, okay, THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON of 2 BROKE GIRLS has a few laughs, and some nice moments between the two leads, but not enough. Ultimately I just didn’t care enough about them to say I enjoyed it in any way.

I also didn’t enjoy TERRA NOVA in any way…not in one single way. This cross between STARGATE and JURASSIC PARK was a complete waste of my time.

TERRA NOVA is a would be science fiction mystery adventure show that begins in the year 2149, a time when the planet is dying. The Shannon family – and others – are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization…and you won’t care.

TERRA NOVA has already been cancelled, and now THE COMPLETE SERIES is available to watch and own, but don’t bother. The special effects are poorly done, the dinosaurs all look fake and the family drama isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, and done much better.

Skip TERRA NOVA – THE COMPLETE SERIES, you have better things to do with your time.

One science fiction mystery adventure show that does work – that continues to work – that continues to offer thrills and be thrilling – is the television series FRINGE.

FRINGE is sort of a cross between The X-Files and The Twilight Zone, combined with the film Altered States. It was co-created by J.J. Abrams, who also gave us ALIAS and LOST.

It is about an unorthodox team, lead by a female FBI agent who works with a once institutionalized scientist and his son in order to solve cases that are all connected to a series of unexplained events, and in THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON we get even more answers to just what is going on…in the mythology of the series…as even more questions are posed as the battle between the two worlds on the show heats up.

FRINGE is a very entertaining show that has a great cast, including Canadian Joshua Jackson from DAWSON’S CREEK, and it is kooky, creepy, odd and interesting…and sometimes it is even all of those things at the same time.

The stand-alone episodes aren’t always as good as the ones that are part of the series’ ongoing mythology, but the majority of them are still above average.

FRINGE continues to be a show that I really enjoy and THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON is something I easily recommend.

Finally this week, the biggest movie of 2012…Marvel’s THE AVENGERS.

In this tremendous comic book based action film Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, Chris Evans – Captain America, Mark Ruffalo – The Hulk, Chris Hemsworth is Thor , Scarlett Johansson plays Black Widow and Jeremy Renner is Hawkeye as Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings them all together to help save the Earth from Loki and his army, and – in the beginning – not everything goes as planned.

THE AVENGERS has that superb cast, a great story, some incredible action scenes, actual emotion, and it is fun and funny!! It is absolutely everything that a summer action film should be, which is the easy answer as to why it is now the third highest grossing film of all time.

Now, would I recommend THE AVENGERS to people who don’t like movies based on comic books? I absolutely would! This is a very entertaining piece of filmmaking that works on absolutely every level.


Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

The great Canadian space documentary TOUCH THE SKY, Johnny Depp stars in Tim Burton’s big screen version of the seventies gothic soap opera DARK SHADOWS, Disney’s CINDERELLA gets the HD treatment, we travel to MAGIC CITY for THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON of that crime drama, and I’ll also tell you about the made in Saskatchewan thriller CHAINED from Director Jennifer Lynch.

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!