The Couch Potato Report

Here are my reviews from last week, I forgot to post them before now. SORRY!!

The Couch Potato Report – March 15th, 2014

At last weekend’s Canadian Screen Awards – recognizing accomplishments in film, television, and digital media – THE ART OF THE STEAL had two nominations: Jonathon Sobol was nominated for ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY and Jay Baruchel received a nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.

Neither man won a Screen Award, but their film is a winner and one that I can easily recommend.

I love heist flicks! Whether the thieves in the film are trying to steal money, diamonds, cars, paintings, or just about anything, I tend to enjoy even the most mediocre films in the genre.

The made in Hamilton and Niagara Falls flick THE ART OF THE STEAL isn’t an instant classic – like OCEAN’S ELEVEN, THE TOWN or RESERVOIR DOGS – but it has a great cast, an interesting story, and you can’t see the ending coming a mile away…all important ingredients for heist films.

The great Kurt Russell of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK stars in THE ART OF THE STEAL as a motorcycle daredevil and part-time art thief who teams up with his brother to steal one of the most valuable books in the world, even though that same brother ratted him out on their last job, sending him to jail for five and a half years.

Matt Dillon plays the brother and Jay Baruchel of the Academy Award winning film MILLION DOLLAR BABY is Kurt Russell’s closest friend and confident.

THE ART OF THE STEAL has more than a few really smart scenes, and some well-done action. This is a very good heist flick and I easily recommend it.

I also recommend – highly recommend – INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, although I know many movie fans will disagree with me and not like it.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, the brothers who also gave us O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, FARGO, THE BIG LEBOWSKI and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

But this one is not in the same league with those great, more accessible Coen Brothers films. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is more for people who enjoyed A SERIOUS MAN, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY and BARTON FINK.

Llewyn Davis is an exceptionally talented young singer trying to make it in the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, but he can’t seem to catch a break.

However, he isn’t a cinematic hero you root for, someone you hope rises above his position in life and beats the odds to succeed. Instead, he’s actually kind of a jerk, someone who maybe doesn’t deserve to be successful.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is – as you’d expect from Joel and Ethan Coen – exceptionally well written and populated with a unique cast of characters, and I really enjoyed it – even its flawed ending.

I highly recommend it to anyone who loves the Coens or likes their films to be a bit challenging.

AND if you love the roots style folk music featured in the film, the blu-ray and DVD comes with the bonus concert film “Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis” that features Joan Baez, Marcus Mumford, Patti Smith, and Jack White, as well as the star of the film Oscar Isaac.

I loved the concert just as much as the film!!

I have two releases for you now that are based on well received books, but neither film is worth the time of anyone who hasn’t read them.

Fans of the literary version may really enjoy them, but I did not.

No, I did not enjoy THE BOOK THIEF, the war drama based on the novel of the same name by Markus Zusak. I was interested in seeing it, and the story is interesting, but the film is so boring.

THE BOOK THIEF takes place during World War II in Germany. A young girl finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others, especially her foster Father and the Jewish refugee who is being hidden by her foster parents in the basement of their home.

Add to that interesting plot the fact that the film – and the book – are narrated by Death, during a place and time when he notes he was extremely busy.

First published in 2005, THE BOOK THIEF has won numerous awards and was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks. The film stars Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush and Oscar nominee Emily Watson.

A great pedigree and cast, but the filmmakers failed to capitalize on all of that. They failed convince me the movie was taking place in wartime, and that the little girl aged at all, even though she’s supposed to as the story lasts over the course of a few years and as it went on I just couldn’t wait for it to end.

Now, that said, in conversations I’ve had this week on Facebook and Twitter, you can find me at and on Twitter I’m @DanReynishCBC, in those conversations it seems that those who’ve read the book also really enjoyed the movie, and those who didn’t did not.

I did not, and – as I’ve said many times before – if you have to read a book to fully enjoy a movie, then that movie has failed.

As I’ve not read the book, I can’t profess it a failure, but THE BOOK THIEF is not a movie I recommend

I also don’t recommend the movie ENDER’S GAME, based on Orson Scott Card’s military science fiction novel of the same name, although it too has an interesting premise and a great cast – that includes Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley.

This is the story of a young boy named Ender Wiggin. Before he’s even a teenage he is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race that nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.

Ender doesn’t think he’s ready to lead, and just about everyone agrees with him, but the Colonel, played by Harrison Ford thinks he’s the only one who can save the human race.

ENDER’S GAME is not awful, but it is never great and – since I haven’t read the book – it just seemed like a version of STARSHIP TROOPERS for kids.

The novel won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1985, and the Hugo Award for best novel in 1986, considered the two most prestigious awards in science fiction, but the movie was a bit too slow and boring for me to recommend.

But if you love the book, check it out. You may very well love it!

Finally this week, less a review than a chance for me to let fans of the television series NEWHART know that THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON is now available on DVD.

NEWHART was a comedy series that aired from October 25th, 1982 to May 21st, 1990, and starred comedian Bob Newhart and actress Mary Frann as an author and wife who owned and operated an inn located in a small, rural Vermont town that was home to many eccentric characters.

Season Two highlights include Dick fighting against the advances of a celebrity author, Joanna challenging the town’s historical practice of the men and women eating separately during the town’s potluck dinners, and more!

I laughed out loud at THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON of NEWHART this week, and fans of the show shouldn’t miss this great three-disc set!

THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON of the still great series NEWHART; the slow and boring teenager’s sci-fi flick ENDER’S GAME; the very slow and also boring adaptation of the bestseller THE BOOK THIEF; the great, but not for everyone Coen Brothers film INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS; and the very good Canadian Screen Award nominated heist picture THE ART OF THE STEAL are all available now, either on disc or on demand.

Hey, coming up inside the next Couch Potato Report is the Box Office smash FROZEN, which features the Academy Award winning song “Let It Go”!

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!