The Couch Potato Report

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The Couch Potato Report – February 8th, 2014

I always love it when smaller, well-made films that don’t do that well at the Box Office, but have great performances, grab the attention of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For instance, a film like DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB, from Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée. When movies like this are recognized over showier, higher profile films like THE BUTLER, I always love it.

DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB did get some early attention simply because of the fifty-plus pounds that star Matthew McConaughey of MAGIC MIKE lost to play a man with AIDS in the early 1980s, but once people started seeing the film the attention it received was primarily due to the quality of his performance.

For the upcoming 86th Annual Academy Awards on March 2nd, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB has six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for McConaughey, who plays a homophobic electrician and rodeo cowboy in Dallas who is diagnosed as HIV positive and given 30 days to live.

When he’s subsequently told that the medicine he needs to survive isn’t available in Dallas, he smuggles it in from around the world and creates a club where members pay a fee to join and are then given the drugs. He works around the system to help others, with the authorities fighting him every step of the way.

Jarred Leto from FIGHT CLUB co-stars as Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman, who McConaughey is initially hostile towards, then befriends to help get the Club started. Leto is amazing as well, and his work was also justly recognized and he is nominated as Best Supporting Actor.

Based on a true story, DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB is a superb movie, and don’t be surprised if both Matthew McConaughey and Jarred Leto win Oscars for their performances. Due to the subject matter it isn’t always easy to watch, but it is very worthy of your time.

From THE TALL GUY in 1989, 1994’s FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and NOTTING HILL in 1999 all the way up to LOVE ACTUALLY in 2003 and PIRATE RADIO in 2009, the films that British writer and director Richard Curtis has given us have been very worthy of our time.

And while that is also true about his latest – ABOUT TIME – this is nowhere near his best work. I still enjoyed most of it, and will recommend it in about a minute, but don’t press play on this one and expect the quality of his other works.

His other films have been set in real life situations, where love truly does concur all. Even if the people have to suffer a bit, they all seem like actual humans, and not just movie characters.

ABOUT TIME is set less in the real world as it involves time travel.

No, time travel may not be the central story in the film, it is still a movie about falling in love, being in love, and loving your friends and family – as most Richard Curtis’ films are – but it is present enough to seem like a gimmick.

Canadian actress Rachel McAdams – from THE NOTEBOOK – stars as the main love interest in ABOUT TIME and she is great…a lot of the film is great, but it is far from the best that this great filmmaker has given us.

I do still recommend ABOUT TIME as there are some great Father/Son moments in the film and Richard Curtis knows how to make us laugh and love, just know that this isn’t his best film. But even a mediocre Richard Curtis movie is more enjoyable than some filmmaker’s absolute best.

I really enjoyed this next release, the documentary CUTIE AND THE BOXER.

This very good film is currently nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards and it is a candid look at the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko.

He sees he as just his assistant, while she continues to work on her own art and has found a voice of her own.

I hadn’t heard of Ushio Shinohara or his work, or Noriko and so CUTIE AND THE BOXER was all-new to be, and in addition to how interesting it is, their dedication to each other is beautiful at times.

The movie is never great, but it is worthy of your time and I do recommend it.

Also never great is the comedy LAST VEGAS, where four sixty-something year old friends get together in Las Vegas for what might be the final time, because they are all aging and not all completely healthy.

The story here is secondary to the cast, that features Oscar winners one and all – Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline.

What a cast!! They deserve a better movie.

LAST VEGAS is never awful, with that cast AND Oscar winner Mary Steenbergen as a love interest, how could it be, but it isn’t great either. It’s too broad, too predictable, and not as great as it could’ve been.

But the cast and their combined cinematic history enriches the material and ultimately I enjoyed it…I guess, truth be told, I enjoyed the cast.

They were great. Their movie…good enough for me to mildly recommend.

I can’t recommend, mildly or otherwise, the ten part series THE WHITE QUEEN even though the cast is pretty good, the sets are pretty good, and the stories are pretty good.

The reason I can’t is because this historical drama isn’t unique in any way, we’ve seen this type of thing done many times over the past few years in THE TUDORS and shows like that.

This series introduces us to three different, very beautiful, yet equally dedicated women who are all vying to become Queen in 15th Century England.

If these shows are totally your cup of tea, don’t miss THE WHITE QUEEN. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with it, but we’ve seen it all before, and seen it done better.

Let’s get in the WABAC Machine now and head to March of 1982 and the debut of a spin off series from the hit show HAPPY DAYS.

By this point there had already been two successful series that had spun off of that show, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY and MORK & MINDY, and there was no reason to think that JOANIE LOVES CHACHI wouldn’t be a third.

Unless you read the premise, or watched the show. At that point…you knew this wouldn’t be the next big spin off.

In the show Joanie and Chachi moved from Milwaukee to Chicago – along with his Mom and her new husband Al.

The kids tried to make it as a couple and make it as musicians as the house band in Al’s new restaurant. The show tried to be funny, but it wasn’t funny all that often. Mostly it was just a pale imitation of the type of stuff we’d grown accustomed to on HAPPY DAYS.

Yes, Joanie and Chachi – or Erin Moran and Scott Baio in real life – were popular characters on HAPPY DAYS, but people didn’t primarily watch HAPPY DAYS for them, they watched it for The Fonz, and that is why JOANIE LOVES CHACHI is considered – to this day – to be one of the biggest blunders in television history.

JOANIE LOVES CHACHI only lasted for two abbreviated seasons before the characters moved back to Milwaukee to be a part of the final season of HAPPY DAYS.

I love these characters so much, it’s too bad the show wasn’t better…isn’t better…but – for you true fans – THE COMPLETE SERIES is now available in a three disc set – and it includes the episode where Fonzie came to visit.

The not quite classic show JOANIE LOVES CHACHI, with classic characters; the okay but never great series THE WHITE QUEEN; the likeable – because of the cast – comedy LAST VEGAS; the very interesting Academy Award nominated documentary CUTIE AND THE BOXER; the very good – but far from great – romance ABOUT TIME, starring Canada’s Rachel McAdams; and the superb – soon to be Academy Award winning – film DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, from Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée, 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!