The Couch Potato Report

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The Couch Potato Report – February 2nd, 2013

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report are some great pieces of British entertainment and we’ll go under the sea!!

We are taking a cinematic trip across the ocean, and even back in time this morning, in fact lets head to 1920 and 1921, specifically our destination is the fictional Yorkshire country estate known as Downton Abbey.

In the past I have highly recommended both SEASON ONE and SEASON TWO of DOWNTON ABBEY, the British dramatic series about the Crawley family and their servants, and now SEASON THREE is out and while I did also enjoy this third one, I didn’t love it as much as the first two.

In this season of the show – and I’ll speak to those now who have watched the first two – in SEASON THREE Mary and Matthew are married; Tom and Sybil, who are expecting their first child, arrived at Downton and Downton itself is suffering some financial hardships.

The plotlines as they are remain entertaining enough, but the problem that I’ve begun to have with the show is that there doesn’t seem to be a big picture plan for it. Storylines are introduced and then never advanced, characters are now entering and exiting for plot reasons and not to serve the legacy of the story, or the Abbey, and in episode five something happens that we – the viewer – can see coming a mile away, but no one on the show seems even remotely aware of it.

The characters on the show can be extremely selfish, but they usually don’t miss anything…especially two time Emmy Award winner Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.

Big picture problems aside, and even though I don’t love it as much these days, SEASON THREE of the show remains very entertaining and it still provides us with class battles, period settings & costumes, and many great conversations about life and love in the world, as it exists at Downton Abbey.

As I did with the first two, I highly recommend SEASON THREE.

Fans of Shakespeare and British television and movies should also check out this next release. I didn’t personally love Ralph Fiennes modern day retelling of the Bard’s CORIOLANUS, but I was impressed enough by it to think others might enjoy it more.

Ralph Fiennes from SCHINDLER’S LIST and THE ENGLISH PATIENT makes his directorial debut here in this story of banished hero of Rome who sides with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.

CORIOLANUS is a well-made movie, that tells an age old tale, and features a top-notch cast – including Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain from ZERO DARK THIRTY.

As I said, I didn’t love it…but it is impressive enough for me to recommend that anyone who is interested in seeing it, should see it.

I also highly, very highly recommend THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE as well…although it is the polar opposite of CORIOLANUS and DOWNTON ABBEY!

This is a light piece of entertainment that is never as serious as Shakespeare of London in the 1920s.

THE INBETWEENERS was a profane and honest British series that ran for three seasons about four friends trying to navigate life in and out of high school. I loved the series, it is laugh out loud funny, and now we have THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE where the guys – now graduated from High School, head off to Greece for a fun in the sun holiday…and hilarity ensues!!

I do and will always love shows and movies about friends just hanging out and doing stuff, even doing nothing, and that combined with the quality and well written situations continually offered up in THE INBETWEENERS and the MOVIE is why I love it and continue to highly recommend it.

This is great stuff…it’s not for everyone due to how profane and raunchy it is…but I love it!!

Because it takes around three to four months for films released to theatres to debut for home viewing, we continue to get a wealth of movies released around Halloween debuting on disc these days…in fact, I have three of them right now that are all aimed at those who like movies about things that go bump in the night.

The first of these three is the fourth installment in the found footage PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series…a series that I absolutely love…although I will be the first to admit that this latest one is nowhere near as good as the first three, and that third one wasn’t as good as the first two…and I am sure you see where I am going…the quality of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films continues to slide

That said, I will keep watching them…and hope they get better.

The PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films are based around a family and the haunting of them by a demon who has been troubling them for years.

They are presented in the style of hand-held found footage, and even though they are no longer new or as scary as the original one was, the sequels still offer some creepy moments…some very creepy moments.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 introduces us to a whole new family, who live across the street from a woman and mysterious child…that turn out to be Katie and Hunter, from the previous films.

But you won’t care too much about the new people…it is only what is going on with Katie and Hunter that is interesting.

Yes I will watch these films for as long as they make them, even if they’re not as good…and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is certainly not as good.

If you’ve seen the other three, then it is a must see as it continues Katie’s story…and that stuff is awesome!!…but if you haven’t seen the other ones, don’t bother with it.

However, the other three are out there for you to see, and they are much, much better and soooo creepy good!!

I do love a good creepy movie, but a bad creepy movie can just be a waste of time and when I was watching THE AWAKENING this week, I couldn’t help feel that I was wasting my time…although I liked the ending.

THE AWAKENING takes place in 1921 in an England that is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I.

Rebecca Hall from THE TOWN is a woman who exposes hoaxes and people trying to capilatlize on that grief.

When she is visits a boarding school to try and explain sightings of a child ghost everything she believes in starts to unravel as people who have been missing for years begin to appear to her.

Yes, I liked the ending of THE AWAKENING, but had I not been so bored as it worked its way there, I might have figured it out…and I was bored, very bored.

It isn’t an awful movie, it’s just boring…until the end…but you don’t need to waste ninety minutes so you can enjoy the final seventeen so I suggest that you just skip THE AWAKENING.

You should also skip the animated family film HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the latest mis-fire from Adam Sandler.

I didn’t laugh once, not once…I didn’t even come close to laughing…I honestly just didn’t care.

Sandler gives voice here to Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world in order to protect his daughter.

And when a human stumbles in to the resort, and falls for the count’s teen-aged daughter, you still won’t care.

There is nothing new or original about HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, nothing at all. It is just another opportunity for Sandler to give work to his friends Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade and Jon Lovitz.

I know it wasn’t actually meant for me, that it is a kids film, but spare your kids this mess.

Skip HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, at all costs!!

Now, if you’ve been with The Couch Potato Report since it first debuted in 1991, you’ve probably heard me say this many times…I love nature and wildlife documentaries! Just love them!!

Now, if this is the first time you’ve tuned in to this weekly look at what’s new on DVD, Blu-ray and available online for Digital Download…you’ve now heard me say it once…but it won’t be the last time!!

Because I love nature and wildlife documentaries!!

There are three great new ones out this week, in 3D and 2D, and they are AMAZING OCEAN, FASCINATION CORAL REEF and FASCINATION CORAL REEF: MYSTERIOUS WORLDS UNDERWATER.

AMAZING OCEAN is the best one, but all three – and I am speaking of them as one as I recommend all three – in them we see whale sharks, rays, elephant seals, coral reefs & forests and we get to observe turtles searching for food as they swim by…and if you have the technology, it is all in 3D!!

If not, even in 2D it all looks amazing and you will learn plenty of things too!!

I love nature and wildlife documentaries and so I enjoyed AMAZING OCEAN, FASCINATION CORAL REEF and FASCINATION CORAL REEF: MYSTERIOUS WORLDS UNDERWATER, but I will admit they aren’t the greatest I have ever seen.

To talk about and show a blowfish and puffer fish and explain how they blow up to protect themselves, but then to not show them blow up is unforgiveable.

Still, there is enough here to enjoy, to learn from and for me to recommend.

The visually amazing documentaries FASCINATION CORAL REEF 3D, FASCINATION CORAL REEF 3D: MYSTERIOUS WORLDS UNDERWATER and AMAZING OCEAN 3D, the latest waste of time Adam Sandler project – the animated HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the boring wannabe supernatural thriller THE AWAKENING, the not-as-good-as-the-first-three sequel PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, the exceptionally dirty fun time offered in THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE, Ralph Fiennes’ impressive but not spectacular retelling of Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS, and the very entertaining, but lacking SEASON THREE of DOWNTON ABBEY are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

The made-in-Montreal crime drama DEADFALL starring Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde; the comedic drama CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER with Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg; PETER PAN debuts on blu-ray and Denzel Washington received an Academy Award nomination for his work as a flawed hero in Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT.

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!