The Couch Potato Report

Some weekend viewing ideas…or advice on ones to skip.

The Couch Potato Report – November 16th, 2013

I love an underdog, and in a year that saw the release of the very successful animated films MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, THE SMURFS 2, PLANES and DESPICABLE ME 2, the animated Canadian film THE LEGEND OF SARILA is definitely an underdog.

THE LEGEND OF SARILA is Canada’s first 3D animated feature and it takes place in our Far North where a group of Inuit nomads are threatened by famine when all the animals in the area suddenly disappear due to the actions of their Shaman.

When the clan’s wise woman Saya recalls the legend of Sarila, a promised land hidden among the glaciers, where wild game is said to be plentiful, three young friends who are pure of heart set out with their pet lemming to try and bring back some food.

I watched the original French version, but the English version of THE LEGEND OF SARILA has a voice cast that features Canadians Christopher Plummer, Rachelle Lefevre and Genevieve Bujold and while the animation doesn’t rival anything you’ve seen Hollywood do lately, meaning it all looks a bit stiff, the movie is still very good.

I liked this story, this animated Canadian story and I recommend you offer it to your kids. I think they will enjoy THE LEGEND OF SARILA too.

They might not watch it over and over and over again like MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, THE SMURFS 2, PLANES and DESPICABLE ME 2, but they’ll watch it.

Fans of Superman will definitely watch MAN OF STEEL, the latest Hollywood re-boot of the iconic character which was co-created by Canadian Joe Shuster. Yes fans will watch it…once, but probably not many more times than that.

And non-fans should probably just stay away from it altogether.

Easily surmised, MAN OF STEEL is a bloated film that believes that more is more. Superman and the villain General Zod can’t just fight, they have to fight for forty minutes. There can’t just be a little bit of backstory from Superman’s home planet of Krypton, there has to be a lot of it. And there can’t just be a few scenes featuring product placement, the stores and items who are featured have to be everywhere!

That negativity aside, on the positive tip, director Zack Snyder has populated MAN OF STEEL with a great cast and some unique ideas, scenes and moments.

But most of the good stuff gets lost amongst the unnecessary mess.

MAN OF STEEL isn’t the most disappointing film of the year, there is enough good stuff for me to mildly recommend it to action film fans, and I will likely watch it again, but Superman purists won’t love it as much as we Batman fans love THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY…unfortunately for them.

Surprise, surprise!! As there was with all three films in his LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY, there has been an Extended Edition released of director Peter Jackson’s first film in his Hobbit Trilogy. AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY adds almost thirteen minutes and the film now comes in at 182 minutes – or three hours and two minutes – and I have to admit that this was the fourth time I’ve seen the movie, but the first time I truly enjoyed it.

If you’ve seen the original and have been wondering, the extra footage was been added to the prologue, shows us Bilbo as a child, and allows some characters to be more fleshed out. A few scenes have also just been padded, but overall I really like how the film plays now as reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an “unexpected journey” with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.

I liked it a lot! The EXTENDED EDITION of THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is a must see for fans of the series!

And you’ll love the more than nine hours of bonus materials…yes nine hours!!

The worst! The absolute worst release this week is the eighth and final season of the television series DEXTER.

After building the story up for seven years, with endless possibilities for a spectacular conclusion possible, the people behind this show have let down the audience, the cast and even the characters on the show by delivering a final season that not only betrays the lead character, but is ludicrous in just about every way, from how bad the special effects are, to the utter implausibility of it all.

For years DEXTER was one of those shows that everyone said was a must watch, and for the first five, maybe six seasons I agreed with them, but the last two years were nowhere near as good and THE FINAL SEASON is horrible. Skip it, skip it, skip it, it is awful, awful, awful in each and every way.

Farewell Dexter, you – and your fans – deserved a better fate.

We’re off to MAGIC CITY now, specifically Miami Beach, Florida, circa 1959.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan from GREY’S ANATOMY and WATCHMAN stars in this show – called MAGIC CITY – as Ike, the owner of a luxurious hotel. However, in order to finance his dream hotel he had to sell his soul – and partial ownership – to a mob boss.

And as Ike tries to remain an honourable man, both his mob ties and the CIA threaten to take him down.

Much like the first season, released last year, the new COMPLETE SECOND SEASON of MAGIC CITY was never awful, but it always seemed like a low-budget gangster show to me, populated by character actors who’ve appeared in other mob flicks.

The sets and stories are all okay, but the cast doesn’t feature any really big names…and so, it is never captivating the way classic mob movies are.

Negativity aside…I actually enjoyed THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON of MAGIC CITY, and the first one as well.

It builds to a great finale, and there are some very beautiful people who star in the show, so even though it never is anything special…I did enjoy it.

So, let me call that a mild recommendation for the two and out seasons of MAGIC CITY.

Here’s a surprisingly good film now, from Denmark. THE HUNT stars Mads Mikkelsen from CASINO ROYALE as a teacher in a small town who is wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a child.

He didn’t do it, and the child is only repeating something she heard her brother say, but no one is looking for the truth, they just believe the accusation.

THE HUNT was screened at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and competed at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival where Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor Award for his role and he does an amazing job playing a guy who no one believes. His colleagues, friends, neighbours and even his girlfriend all doubt his innocence, yet no one asks him for an explanation or looks for the truth…and that is what I found so frustrating, no one believes that he is innocent, they just pronounce him guilty. Even when the child says that he didn’t they don’t believe her.

As frustrating – and uncomfortable – as it was at times, due to the subject matter, I liked THE HUNT. It is a very good film.

I also liked the film FRANCES HA, but that is primarily due to the lead actress, Greta Gerwig, from NO STRINGS ATTACHED and GREENBERG.

Here she plays a New York woman, who doesn’t really have a home, she lives with friends in their apartment until they eventually kick her out. She doesn’t really have a job either, she is an apprentice at a dance company, although she’s not really a dancer. And she tells everyone she is best friends with a woman named Sophie, but they don’t really speak anymore.

Despite all of her shortcomings and her own reality, Frances remains a positive person and throws herself headlong into her dreams, as the chance of them coming true continues to dwindle.

FRANCES HA is a black and white, quite artistic film that isn’t for everyone, the character is too flaky for most movie fans and her reason for the change the plot eventually puts upon her isn’t really explained, but I liked it.

I don’t really recommend it, but I did like it.

Finally this week is a film that I love, actually, and have actually loved for a decade now.

LOVE ACTUALLY has an incredible cast that includes Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson and Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick on THE WALKING DEAD.

They are part of ten separate stories, many that weave together, that all take place primarily in London in the weeks before Christmas.

Each story is involving, and every character – even the ones that are clichés – are entertaining.

Unfortunately this tenth anniversary edition of LOVE ACTUALLY doesn’t come with any new bonus materials…a retrospective featuring this cast would have been incredible, but the film is so good it can survive the lack of anything new.

Yes, LOVE ACTUALLY is that good and this 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION is a must see. Pick it up, and enjoy!!

The 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION of the still fantastic LOVE ACTUALLY, the interesting and personable but not great FRANCES HA, the very good Danish film THE HUNT, THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON of the very good Mob series MAGIC CITY, the absolutely awful FINAL SEASON of DEXTER, the very entertaining EXTENDED EDITION of THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, the not great…at all…Superman reboot MAN OF STEEL, and the likeable 3D Canadian animated film THE LEGEND OF SARILA are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

And that’s this week’s COUCH POTATO REPORT.

Enjoy the movies and I’ll see you back here again next time on The Couch!