The Couch Potato Report

The weekend is here…how about a movie?

The Couch Potato Report – March 23rd, 2013

Inside this week’s Couch Potato Report are 1, 2, 3, 4…yup, all of them. All of this week’s films are about fighting and war.

Yes, it’s all about fighting and battles and war this first weekend of Spring. War, what is good for? Sometimes it’s good for informative and entertaining documentaries and films.

The CBC television series LOVE, HATE AND PROPAGANDA looks at how propaganda influenced significant moments in history, the wars that took place at the time, and the lives of the people who lived through them.

It is hosted by THE HOUR’s George Stroumboulopoulos and the latest installment is all about THE WAR ON TERROR.

LOVE, HATE & PROPAGANDA is engaging, interesting and informative. It stands above other documentaries on this subject matter – and there have been dozens of them since 2001 – when it shows us actual footage from news stories and the battles that have taken place. The footage is very graphic at times, so it isn’t always easy to watch, but that footage is very effective at helping to tell the story.

Unfortunately LOVE, HATE AND PROPAGANDA – THE WAR ON TERROR also drags at times as the “experts” who offer opinions and facts about the war aren’t always that compelling.

The good far outweighs the bad here though, and so I can easily recommend LOVE, HATE & PROPAGANDA – THE WAR ON TERROR.

From a documentary about the war on terror, we move now to a movie…based on real events, mind you…but it is a movie.

The Academy Award winning film ZERO DARK THIRTY looks at the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May of 2011.

ZERO DARK THIRTY is director Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to THE HURT LOCKER and it is an incredible film.

Even though we all know how it ends, it is very tense, features some great action scenes and has some great performances from Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and James Gandolfini from THE SOPRANOS.

ZERO DARK THIRTY has some very graphic torture scenes and so it isn’t always easy to watch, but I still think it is an amazing film.

If you didn’t see it in theatres, don’t miss it now.

Some lighter action and battles now, not based on real life, but the fantasy works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Director Peter Jackson heads back to this world he knows so well, and follows up his LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY with THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.

AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is the first part of an all-new trilogy, with Part Two coming this December, and the finale in December of 2014 and it is an impressive piece of work. The film moves at a faster pace than the LORD OF THE RINGS movies and has more action and adventure…plus it has many of the timeless characters we all love, like Bilbo, Frodo, Gollum, and Gandalf.

A warning…as with the other films that have been released in this series, there will be an extended version of THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY released somewhere down the road, probably as early as this Christmas, just in time for the second film. So if you can hold off, you might not need to own it as the extras are good, but not impressive.

But the film is worthy of your time…all 169 minutes of it.

“Sitting on the fence” is a common idiom used to describe one’s neutrality, a hesitance to choose between one side or another.

I have three films for you now that you should be on the fence about, reluctant to make a decision about whether to watch them or not, and for all three, if you are on the fence… if you don’t think you’ll like them… don’t watch any of them because you won’t like them.

For instance, even though it has some incredible costumes and performances, if you don’t think you want to sit through a two-and-a-half-hour musical about the French revolution…do not watch LES MISERABLES.

But if that sounds great to you…get off the fence and don’t miss it!!

With a cast including Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert and Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter this latest version of LES MISERABLES is based on the 1980s musical, which was based on the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo.

Set in 19th-century France, this is the story of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean who has been hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert, after he breaks parole.

A reformed Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, and everyone’s lives change forever.

I was on the fence about LES MISERABLES when I first saw it in theatres, and yet I went anyway. Thinking I’d been too harsh on it, I watched it again on blu-ray and I had the same feeling both times.

I didn’t care. I like the cast, I enjoy musicals, I respect the fact that the actors all sang live under tough filming conditions, but I just didn’t care. It’s too long, and it never won me over or made me sing along.

So if you are on the fence, skip it. If you can’t wait to see it…then enjoy!!!

With his films THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP, SUPERBAD and BRIDESMAIDS Judd Apatow is a filmmaker who has – deservedly – become a household name amongst fans of comedies and comedic dramas over the past decade.

His latest film THIS IS 40 looked funny when the trailers debuted last year, but unfortunately it continues the downward trend that he began with his last directorial effort. FUNNY PEOPLE with Adam Sandler. That movie was a mess, and like all Apatow films was far too long.

THIS IS 40 is not a mess, but it is a comedy…a comedy…most comedies are about 90 minutes…the unrated version of THIS IS 40 that is now available for home viewing is two hours and seventeen minutes!!

That is waaaaaaay too long!!

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are the two main stars of THI SIS 40 and they are playing the same characters who were friends of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl in KNOCKED UP…but those two aren’t in this movie…instead we get the life of Pete and Debbie and all they do is fight and fight and fight and fight and fight and fight. Everything with this two leads to a fight…and they are both at fault.

THIS IS 40 is supposed to be a comedy, it is supposed to be funny, but it’s actually so dramatic and angry that I only laughed a few times, and usually only at the secondary characters. Mostly it just made me uncomfortable as I didn’t care to watch a movie full of people fighting, with everyone…even doctor’s.

I like the actors, I like the characters they play, and I like their friends and employees…I just needed to see less of all of them. This movie could have been 45 minutes shorter without taking anything away from the main story and the character’s struggles.

Instead, THIS IS 40 is a drama, promoted as a comedy that isn’t funny. It is a very dramatic movie about life, love and relationships.

So if you are on the fence, skip it…you will not enjoy it. At all!!

The last of the “Sitting on the fence” flicks that I have is one that doesn’t give you all the answers to all of the questions it poses, so if you are someone who likes to know why things happen in movies and what motivates the main characters, stay away from RUST AND BONE.

Personally, I really enjoyed this one…but you might not.

RUST & BONE is a foreign film from France that stars Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard from INCEPTION and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. She plays a killer whale trainer, who loses her legs in a tragic accident.

The film is also about a selfish and self-destructive man who takes his son from Belgium to France to start a new life. After arriving, and presumably before, he betrays everyone in his life, even his son, yet somehow he starts being nice to the woman, even after she falls in love with him.

But he’s not really in love with her…as I mentioned he is selfish and self-destructive…and you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it does drop.

RUST & BONE primarily interested me as I am a huge fan of Marion Cotillard, but it kept my attention and I enjoyed the performances and the odd love story at its core.

If that description has you on the fence against it, skip it. It won’t win you over.

But if you are curious…search it out. You might not get all the answers, and the ending is a bit cliché, but I really enjoyed it.

Finally this week is a film that comes from the same vein as THE HOBBIT and the LORD OF THE RINGS films, Ron Howard’s 1988 fantasy film WILLOW, which was conceived and produced by George Lucas.

WILLOW is the story of a shy little person who must summon the courage within himself to leave his village and travel a great distance to deliver an infant princess to safety.

Along the way, he is joined by a warrior, the evil queen’s daughter and a rag tag army full of others who believe in the cause.

WILLOW is a little bit like LORD OF THE RINGS, and a little bit like STAR WARS, and the performance of Warwick Davis – who was recently seen in the television series LIFE’S TOO SHORT – is what is most impressive thing about it.

WILLOW has never been a great film, but he is great, and the film now looks amazing in HD on blu-ray.

Fans of the film should not miss it!! Plus, it comes with some great retrospective features, and deleted scenes introduced by Ron Howard.

Ron Howard’s 1988 fantasy adventure film WILLOW, the very entertaining drama RUST & BONE, the dramatic and angry “comedy” THIS IS 40, the Academy Award winning bore – that others will love – LES MISERABLES, the very good LORD OF THE RINGS prequel THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, the exceptional ZERO DARK THIRTY about the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the very well done 2 part CBC special LOVE, HATE AND PROPAGANDA – THE WAR ON TERROR are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report

We’ll visit a futuristic Montreal in the science fiction drama MARS ET AVRIL and go back in time for Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN. Plus, STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON debuts on blu-ray, and Brad Pitt stars in KILLING THEM SOFTLY

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!