The Couch Potato Report

Overall, it’s a pretty mediocre week.

The Couch Potato Report – August 30th, 2014

There are some huge stars in this Labour Day Long Weekend edition of The Report. Its just too bad the films that they’re in aren’t more worthy of your time. The stars’ fans will enjoy them, but most of these new releases are not for everyone.

First up is the drama THE NORMAL HEART starring Mark Ruffalo from THE AVENGERS, Jim Parsons of THE BIG BANG THEORY, and Julia Roberts.

Based on a true story, THE NORMAL HEART is the story of the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984. Mark Ruffalo plays writer/activist Ned Weeks, the founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.

Ned is trying to raise awareness of the epidemic, and get help. To do that he’s often fighting with politicians, who don’t want to help or even hear about what’s going on, and even members of his own organization.

THE NORMAL HEART is exceptionally well written, and the acting is fantastic, but overall the film is not that compelling or engaging. I never felt connected to it…I never felt that I was watching real people seeing their loved ones die from a disease they knew little about…instead it seemed more like big name actors sharing their star power for a film and cause they believed in.

The story in THE NORMAL HEART is worth knowing, so history doesn’t ever repeat itself with another unknown disease, and that is why I will mildly recommend it. Just know going in that while it does have some great scenes, the movie isn’t as good as it should be.

Knowing that they’ve done one great romantic comedy together – THE WEDDING SINGER in 1998 – and one pretty good one together – FIFTY FIRST DATES in 2004 – could lead you to think that the re-teaming of Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore would lead to something that isn’t a complete waste of time.

Please don’t think that. BLENDED is a complete waste of your time!

Drew and Adam star here as single parents who met during a bad blind date and don’t like each other, yet – as happens in movies like this – they end up sharing a resort in Africa. And wouldn’t you know it, they fall in love.

While I’ll admit that BLENDED isn’t the worst film of the year – I actually laughed a few times, and I was smiling at the end – but it is mostly boring and predictable.

Adam and Drew have done better before, and I hope they do better again, but BLENDED isn’t worthy of your time.

Okay, how is this for a cast of stars…John Turturro from THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Sharon Stone of BASIC INSTINCT, Sofia Vergara from TV’s MODERN FAMILY and Woody Allen?!

Now that is a cast, and they all star in the comedy FADING GIGOLO.

John Turturro – who also wrote and directed the film – stars as a man who agrees to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend.

His friend acts as his “manager”, finding the women for him to seduce, but soon love and money get on the way, occasionally with hilarious results.

It must be said that even though Turturro wrote and directed FADING GIGOLO, it is basically a Woody Allen film, so if you don’t like Woody’s films, skip it at all costs.

Now for those of us who do enjoy his films, admittedly this is Woody Allen light…this is not ANNIE HALL, or even close…but it is still pretty good. It isn’t great, but I liked it, and can recommend it…but to fans only.

Okay, how about a positive review now? I’m about to be totally positive as I recommend the latest season of PARKS AND RECREATION.

PARKS AND RECREATION features a top notch ensemble cast lead by Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler playing an ambitious and hopeful small town government worker.

She is pushy and doesn’t always listen, and could have come across as unlikeable, but Amy is just such a great comedian, that instead of not liking her, you actually root for her.

Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Rob Lowe, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott and Nick Offerman round out the cast of PARKS & RECREATION and in SEASON SIX they continue to be the best ensemble cast on television!

I love PARKS AND RECREATION and highly recommend SEASON SIX…and the previous seasons as well…to everyone!!

There was a lot of hype last year at this time surrounding a television show starring James Spader called THE BLACKLIST.

That hype was totally worth it, as this show is well above average!!

Spader has previously starred on the television shows THE PRACTICE and BOSTON LEGAL. In those shows he played a lawyer.

In THE BLACKLIST he plays a former government agent who has eluded capture for decades, only to walk in to the FBI headquarters in Washington one day to surrender.

He then offers to help catch criminals on a “blacklist”, people who he believes are dangerous to society, most of whom are unknown to the FBI.

But, he’ll only speak to Elizabeth Keen, a young FBI profiler who’s just barely out of Quantico.

Spader is so great here, so smart and creepy and confident and relaxed. With a different actor THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON of THE BLACKLIST might have been another run of the mill police procedural drama. With him, it is great, it crackles and is well above average.

I really enjoyed the show, and am looking forward to SEASON TWO!!

Finally this week is BELLE, a film full of character actors who are all stars in their own right. You might not know their names, but you definitely know their voices and faces from all of the Academy Award winning films they’ve been in.

Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson and Tom Felton all appear in BELLE, which tells the story of a mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle in 18th century England.

Had BELLE focussed more on what an aristocratic woman of mixed race could and couldn’t do at the time, it would have kept my attention longer. Unfortunately it spent too much time on the love triangle she is involved in, and so I can really only mildly recommend BELLE to fans of historical dramas.
The interesting but not that engaging drama BELLE; SEASON ONE of the above average series THE BLACKLIST; SEASON SIX of the still great show PARKS AND RECREATION; the likeable but not all that funny comedy FADING GIGOLO; the mostly boring and predictable, almost totally unfunny Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore reunion flick BLENDED; and the also very good, but not engaging AIDS drama THE NORMAL HEART are all full of stars not doing their best work, and 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!