The Couch Potato Report

Need a movie? Here are some to see, and some to skip.

The Couch Potato Report – December 1st, 2012

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report we head to Yellowknife and travel back in time to the dust bowl of the 1930s.

There haven’t been that many television series filmed in Yellowknife, or the Northwest Territories, so I was very excited when it was announced that the CBC series ARCTIC AIR would not only be set there, but that it would also be partially filmed there…giving us the chance to see a part of our home and native land we don’t get the chance to see all that often.

My excitement continued as I watched the show…because it’s good.

Manitoba born First Nations actor Adam Beach of the television series LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and Clint Eastwood’s feature film FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS stars here as Bobby Martin, a man raised in the Territories who left his world behind – as fast as he could – and moved to Vancouver in search of bigger and better things.

When he returns home for a business deal, and to go to a family wedding, he discovers that the airline founded by his late father is on the brink of bankruptcy. So he is forced to decide whether he should stay and save the company or retreat back to the big city once again.

The planes and pilots in ARCTIC AIR fly people, goods and supplies across Canada’s North and that is what I especially like about the show, that we see Canada’s North.

I also like Adam Beach and Pascale Hutton who plays Beach’s potential love interest.

What doesn’t work for me are most of the other main characters. Too many of them are unlikeable. I know a show needs conflict to work storylines around, but when you can’t see both sides of any arguments, when one side is always seemingly wrong, that works against the show for me.

No it isn’t perfect, but THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON of ARCTIC AIR has enough good stuff for me to recommend it. I liked it!

And don’t forget, SEASON TWO of ARCTIC AIR will premiere Wednesday, January 9th at 9 pm on CBC Television!!

Yes, I liked THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON of ARCTIC AIR…but I loved, absolutely loved documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ latest project – THE DUST BOWL.

The Dust Bowl was a period when a wheat boom on the Plains followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket and caused major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands.

Burns’ documentary tells several American stories from people who survived the Dirty Thirties and historians who put it all in context. And it also takes us inside the dust storms using historic pictures and old video footage.

I know…a four hour documentary about dust and dirt…how could that be interesting? Well, it isn’t just interesting, it is also informative, entertaining and heartbreaking.

Not unlike his previous productions – Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), The War (2007), and Prohibition (2011), KEN BURNS’ THE DUST BOWL is fantastic and I highly recommend it!

Once again this week I have a trio of releases for you. One is very good, pretty good, and the other is very bad…but it does have a pretty actress as the star.

Two releases for the horror fans among you are coming up, but to start the trio I have the very good LAWLESS.

Based on the historical novel “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant LAWLESS stars Tom Hardy from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and Shia LaBeouf from the TRANSFORMERS films as two of three bootlegging brothers in Depression-era, prohibition-era Virginia.

Their successful business is threatened by a new deputy and other authorities who decide that they want a cut of the Bondurant Brothers’ profits.

But these boys ain’t hearing none of that!!

Characters actors Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce, and the always lovely actress Jessica Chastain round out the cast of this well-made crime drama…a film that is very good, but as much as I enjoyed it, I wanted to like it more.

Don’t get me wrong, LAWLESS is very good, and I did enjoy it…but you know how sometimes a movie is just missing that something that makes it great, and you can’t quite put your finger on it? That is true with this movie.

Anyway…check it out, because unlike some other films released this week, LAWLESS is actually worthy of your time.

Okay, so if LAWLESS is a movie that is just missing that little something, this next one is the type of film that should have been better than it is. It is still pretty good, but why isn’t it great?

Why isn’t PARANORMAN great?!

Norman is a boy who isn’t very popular with his classmates and only has one friend. One living friend.

You see, Norman is able to speak with the dead, including his late grandmother and various ghosts in town, but unfortunately, almost no one believes him, and others just don’t like him.

Then, Norman’s time to shine comes when the boy who has paranormal abilities has to use them to take on ghosts, zombies and even grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

PARANORMAN is shot using stop-motion animation and it looks great. Plus, it has a voice cast that includes Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, all great voices for animation.

Plus it has that great, time tested story of the outsider who longs for acceptance and finds it when he rises up to become a hero… so why isn’t PARANORMAN great?!

I liked it, but it just isn’t great. Sometimes movies don’t always work.

PARANOMAN is pretty good…so call that a mild recommendation.

Now to the very bad movie, with the pretty actress as the star.

It is called THE APPARITION and Ashley Greene from the TWILIGHT films stars here as a woman who is part of a couple who are being haunted by a supernatural presence, one that was unleashed during a college experiment.

And guess who co-stars with her in this mess? Tom Felton from the HARRY POTTER films.

Yes, the HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT worlds come together in THE APPARITION and you won’t care!

THE APPARITION doesn’t offer anything that we haven’t seen before in dozens of other horror films. It just isn’t new or original in any way, so even with the convergence of the TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER worlds, you should skip it at all costs.

You have better things to do…and better horror films to watch, as we head into the Christmas season.

Finally this week is a movie I did not like, one that I hope to never have to sit through again, the pointless cash grabbing sequel MEN IN BLACK III.

The original 1997 sci-fi comedy starring Will Smith as a streetwise New York City detective who joins and Tommy Lee Jones in a secret organization that polices extraterrestrial affairs on Earth was amazingly entertaining.

The 2002 follow-up had a few good scenes, but not much to offer…although kids did love the talking dog Frank The Pug.

And now we have more of the same, and not the good stuff, the bickering and arguing and look Will Smith is funny, and Tommy Lee Jones needs to relax…ha ha ha haa!!

The only thing, and I mean the only thing about this third MEN IN BLACK movie that even remotely works is Josh Brolin’s performance as a younger Tommy Lee Jones. When Will Smith has to go back in time to prevent his partner’s assassination he meets the younger Tommy Lee, played by Brolin and Brolin nails it. That stuff is good.

But too much of MEN IN BLACK III doesn’t work…simply put, this movie was a waste of my time. Don’t let it waste your time too…just skip it.

The pointless second sequel MEN IN BLACK III; the boring horror-thriller THE APPARITION; the enjoyable but not great animated ghost story PARANORMAN; the very good crime drama LAWLESS; Ken Burns’ tremendous documentary on THE DUST BOWL; and the very good THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON of the CBC series ARCTIC AIR are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

The made-in-Ottawa post-apocalyptic thriller THE DAY, the Pixar classic FINDING NEMO debuts on blu-ray and Christopher Nolan’s spectacular Batman Trilogy concludes with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

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!