Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (X-Men, X-2 X-Men United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Unfinsihed Song A Complete Joy

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Everybody knows the story of The little Engine That Could.  Well now, people are going to start learning the story of the little movie studio that could.  That’s thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment’s latest home release, Unfinished Song.  This latest release is one more from Anchor Bay that has found its way onto this critic’s list of the year’s best independent movies.  The other is the recently released rom-com, Shanghai CallingUnfinished Song is nothing like Shanghai Calling.  It is also entirely unlike 20th Century Fox’s geriatric drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Despite attempts by some to make a comparison, there is no comparison as the two are wholly separate stories.  Unfinished Song is its own story.  And it is a story that will both entertain and move audiences just as much as the aforementioned works.

Unfinished Song boasts so much heart throughout its roughly ninety-minute plus runtime.  It is centrally a story about family.  On a deeper level, one could argue that it is also a story about appreciating life.  Throughout both story elements, writer/director Paul Andrew Williams throws in more than enough laughs to keep audiences of any age laughing, too.  His ability to balance both the story’s dramatic and comedic elements is to be highly commended, especially considering the story’s length.  Also to be considered in the success of Unfinished Song is the story’s casting.  Terrence Stamp (Superman II, Get Smart, The Adjustment Bureau) was the perfect choice to fill the role of grumpy old Arthur Harris.  And Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Mission: Impossible, Cars 2), was just as solid a choice to play Arthur’s wife Marion.  The two play off of each other so well.  Their interpretation of Williams’ scripts draws viewers in even deeper, and thus makes suspension of disbelief that much easier.  The resultant effect of both of that acting prowess and the general writing make this movie one more surprise hit from Anchor Bay, and one of the year’s surprise hits.

The writing behind Unfinished Song is, as already noted, one of the keys to the movie’s success.  Despite attempts by some to compare this movie to the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the two stories are total opposites.  The latter is centered more on the elderly acquaintances’ personal journeys of self realization.  Unfinished Song is its own story in that it is more centered on family.  Audiences are introduced in this story to Arthur Harris, a very Scrooge-like character that doesn’t want to have a good time or smile.  He’s just a crotchety old man.  But underneath that rough exterior, Arthur is very much the sympathetic character, as audiences will learn as the story progresses.  The change that he eventually undergoes as the result of a tragic event completely envelops audiences and makes them cheer even more for him; perhaps even more than his fellow choir members.  By the story’s end, Arthur’s transformation is complete so to speak.  And audiences will realize just how deeply they have been pulled into the story thanks to Williams’ writing and by Stamp’s acting.

The acting on the part of the veteran Stamp was perfect from start to finish.  Though, his wasn’t the only acting that audiences will appreciate.  The passion in Redgraves’ voice when Marion sang ‘True Colors’ to Arthur will bring even the strongest person to tears.  And his reaction to what happens after the fact is even more powerful.  Of course there are some funnier moments that come from the supporting cast.  Audiences will find themselves laughing uproariously as the members of the elderly choir perform Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ and Salt ‘N Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ to an audience made up of people of various ages.  There is just something hilarious about a group of older people trying to rock out to Motorhead.  And one would think that older people would be more conservative when approached with the idea of singing Salt ‘N Pepa seductive song.  Yet, they were entirely open and enthusiastic about it.  Their reactions are more than worth the laughs that are generated.  And countered by Arthur’s view of the song, it makes this moment even funnier.  Paul Andrew Williams has given audiences quite the story, as is evidenced here.  He has written a story that boasts a perfect balance of comedy and heart.  It is a story with equally excellent acting.  Whether for the acting, the writing, or both factors, both work hand-in-hand to make Unfinished Song a story that will leave viewers feeling entirely complete.  It will be available this Tuesday, September 24th on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Anchor Bay Home Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=3967a252-b0ce-e211-838a-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this release is also available here and through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEnt.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Inescapable A Nice Escape For Action Movie Fans

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

There is nothing more powerful in the world than the love of a parent for his or her child.  This common theme has been used time and again throughout the history of motion pictures.  A quick glance through the annals of movie history will show no fewer than at least a dozen films whose plots are based on this theme.  One of the most recent films to use this theme comes from mpi media group.  The movie in question is the action/thriller Inescapable.  While it isn’t the first movie of its kind, it does have quite a bit going for it.  The story itself offers viewers a different take on the classic theme that sets it aside from the likes of Liam Neeson’s Taken franchise.  It also has going for it an all-star cast led by Alexander Siddig (Da Vinci’s Demons, Primeval, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).  Most people are more apt to know the names of Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson.  And most of all, it has some very interesting commentary courtesy of writer/director Ruba Nadda and cinematographer Luc Montpellier.  These three factors offer so much more than can even be discussed within these confines; so much so that one would be best served to watch the movie by one’s self or with friends to really take in everything that the movie has to offer.  Regardless of alone or with friends, it is a work that is worth at least one watch.

 
Inescapable offers viewers first and foremost a take unlike that of other movies within this vein.  Something interesting to learn (as viewers will learn in watching this movie with additional commentary) is that writer/director Ruba Nadda in fact wrote this movie in 2005, three years before Taken premiered.  This makes the comparisons to that franchise in question understandable.  Sadly, this type of thing happens far more often than audiences realize both within the confines of the movie industry and the music industry.  Understanding that this movie came years before the Taken franchise took off, it makes it easier to take in its differences from the franchise in question.  This story does have its share of action.  But the character development (again as noted in the commentary) of Siddig’s Adib is a big part of what makes the story progress.  The story becomes just as much about learning about Adib’s past as it is about his journey to find his daughter.
 
Adib’s quest to find his daughter is the most obvious comparison that critics and audiences have made in discussing the story of Inescapable.  His search for his daughter is entirely unlike that of Taken.  The latter of the two films centered on human traffickers kidnapping a man’s daughter. Inescapable, on the other hand, centers on a group of figures that kidnapped a man’s daughter to use her as a political pawn of sorts.  Why they kidnap her is typical movie fare.  But the revelation of why they kidnapped her is revealed.  And it is just enough of a twist to leave viewers guessing and cheering for Adib especially in the eventual happy ending.  Yes, it does have a happy ending.  That much will be revealed.  Though, that is the extent of what will be revealed. 
The script behind Inescapable should visibly unlike that of either of the movies in the Taken franchise by now.  So from here, it would serve viewers best to move on and focus on the movie’s cast.  Veteran actress Maris Tomei (Parental Guidance, Crazy Stupid Love, The Wrestler) and actor Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek, Fringe) are billed as major stars of the story.  But the reality of the story is that much as in the case of Johnny Depp in Chocolat for example, Jackson and Tomei are really just lures to get viewers’ eyes.  They are in fact just supporting cast.  Alexander Siddig is the real star of this movie.  And considering his personal background, he could not have been a better choice.  For those that don’t know, Siddig was born in the Sudan in North Africa.  Keeping that in mind, and adding in his professional resume, his was a natural choice.  He looks and sounds every part the role of a Middle Eastern man.  His experience with some of the U.K.’s most well-known acting schools and on the large and small screen made him even more the natural choice for the movie’s lead role.  He had a real ability to take his character and bring such depth out of him.  It makes Adid that much more of a believable character for viewers.  That, along with the understanding of the story helps to make the movie even more worth the watch.
 
Audiences should see by now that despite early preconceptions about it, Inescapable has far more to offer viewers than they might have thought without seeing the movie.  If what has been noted already is not enough, then perhaps the additional commentary by writer/director Ruba Nadda and cinematographer Luc Montpellier will change viewers’ minds.  Their discussions range from politics of the Middle East and their effect on shooting, to shooting on location in Damascus, to so many other topics.  It adds so much more depth to the story in a second watch.  That second watch will hopefully prove to viewers that have yet to see this action/thriller just how underrated it is.  Hopefully it will serve as one more example of the fact that indie flicks can be just as enjoyable and interesting as the big screen pieces to which they are so quickly and close-mindedly compared far too often.  Inescapable is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from mpi media group and IFC Films. 
 
Indie flick audiences and fans can keep up with all of the latest from IFC Films and mpi media group online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial, http://www.IFCFilms.com and http://www.mpimedia.com. 
 
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MPI, Cohen Media Group Making Their Name With Their Latest Uncovered Classic

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

The partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video has made the two companies leaders in re-issuing cinema classics.  Universal Studios is a close second thanks to the recent re-issues of Cape Fear, its Alfred Hitchcock Essentials collection, and it Universal Monsters collection. Now two more companies are staking their claim in the classic movie world.  Those companies are Virgil Films and Cohen Media Group.  Early in 2013, the two companies partnered for the release of what is one of the single greatest classics of all time in the Thief of Bagdad.  Now months later, they have released an even lesser known classic in Perfect Understanding.

The plot of Perfect Understanding rests in the agreement between Swanson’s Judy and Olivier’s Nicholas that could be equated to an open marriage.  Right off the top, it’s obvious just how original this is, considering social norms and values of America in the early 1930s.  The agreement between the couple is meant in order to break the trend that the couple sees among its friends.  Neither wants to end up like their friends.  Ironically enough, it is because of the agreement that the couple reaches the point of its friends.  The ensuing story is unlike anything that fans of the rom-com genre have seen since.  It’s obviously not just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  It’s almost Shakespearian in a way when one really goes back through the story a couple of times and analyzes it at a much deeper level.  It should also be noted here that despite a run time of an hour and half, the story actually moves along at a relatively easy pace.  This, along with the largely original story is another positive to this unearthed gem of a classic film.

For a film of its era and its style, Perfect Understanding could very well have been much longer and less able to relate to viewers, even today.  Luckily, it didn’t do that.  And roughly eight decades after it premiered it’s still as funny today as it was in its premiere.  Taking into account the film’s age, it’s incredible that it still sounds and looks as good as it does to this day.  What audiences see and hear is largely what audiences heard when the film first premiered so long ago.  It is a true testament to those charged with restoring the film to its original glory.  And now thanks to those individuals, a whole new generation of film buffs can enjoy this rare classic.

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The Great Escape Is A Great War Movie

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/MGM

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/MGM

The world celebrated what is one of the most important dates in history last week with the remembrance of VE Day.  That was the day that the war in Europe ended.  Interestingly enough, last Tuesday, MGM and 20th Century Fox released the fiftieth anniversary edition of what is one of the most talked about films centered on the war in Europe in The Great Escape.  This is hardly the shortest movie made about events from the war.  It clocks in at nearly three hours long.  And even with certain fictionalized portions as noted in the movie’s bonus features, it still proves almost half a century later to be one of the greatest WWII themed movies to ever be crafted.

What makes The Great Escape enjoyable, despite its run time, is that while it is on the surface a story based in WWII, it is more a story about the power of teamwork and of the human spirit to survive.  Having so many P.O.W.s from so many different backgrounds in one confined area could be argued to be a microcosm of the nations of the world.  This likely wasn’t the primary intent of script writers James Clavell and W.R. Burnett.  But seeing this and the ability of the men to work together for a singular cause despite their varied backgrounds helps to illustrate the power of teamwork and the human spirit to survive.  Those messages are made even more powerful when juxtaposed against the ideologies of the Nazi party.  It shows that no matter how great the odds, even ordinary people can do extraordinary feats when they come together.

The messages of teamwork and the human spirit are integral to the enjoyment of The Great Escape.  Those same messages are illustrated even more through the movie’s main storyline and its action sequences.  The movie’s main storyline is not that difficult to follow.  A group of P.O.W.s is sent to what is supposed to be an inescapable P.O.W. camp created by the Nazis.  The allied prisoners find every way to hide their “great” escape plan from the Nazi guards manning the camp.  The ways in which the plan is covered up are funny.  From singing Christmas music to using special code, it all seems so outrageous.  But it’s that outrageousness that is so entertaining.  As soon as audiences allow themselves to be pulled into the story, and get over the fact that some of the story was in fact fictionalized, they will find themselves appreciating the story even more.

Staying on the matter of the fictionalized portions of The Great Escape, the bonus features included in the movie’s fiftieth anniversary Blu-ray edition do a lot to justify the fictionalized portions of the story.  It is noted in the bonus features that portions of the story were in fact added that didn’t happen, such as Steve McQueen’s famous motorcycle chase.  It is noted that he made the demand that unless this scene was added, he was not going to star in the movie based.  Perhaps most interesting to note in the included bonus features is that despite some changes and additions here and there, the men that actually escaped from Stalag Luft III were quite accepting of the movie and even tried to claim that this character and that was based on him.  One can’t help but laugh at the pride brought out in those men when they shared their stories and joked about being the influence behind given characters in the movie.  The pride of the men on whom the movie was based is the most important reason for the movie having been made.  And it’s the most important reason for the movie to be seen to this day.  It is a tribute to just one more group of individuals of what former newsman Tom Brokaw properly called “The Greatest Generation.”  With members of this generation passing away each day, a movie like this is increasingly necessary in order to keep the memory of that generation alive.  It’s a movie that members of every generation should see at least once.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via the Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com

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New Shout! Factory DVD One Of The Best Takes On Robinson’s Life, Legacy

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Audiences are going to be treated to yet another new big screen biopic next week in the form of the new movie, 42.  The film centers on baseball legend Jackie Robinson.  42 won’t be the first release that centers on the famed baseball star.  The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) first told the player’s…well…story with Robinson himself telling his life story.  So needless to say, more than likely this latest biopic will likely over embellish Robinson’s life story at more than one point.  So before audiences go to see that movie, they would do well to check out Shout! Factory’s new DVD release, Jackie Robinson: My Story.

Jackie Robinson: My Story is just that.  It isn’t a documentary so to speak.  It is the story of Robinson’s life as told by actor Stephen Hill.  While the presentation is obviously aimed largely at younger audiences, it is just as entertaining for adults, too.  Hill plays the role of Robinson throughout the roughly ninety-five minute feature.  It’s a bare bones, no nonsense presentation that is easily accessible and just as easy to understand.  The presentation also includes footage of Robinson’s career both on the field and off.  That inclusion will help to both inform and entertain viewers.  The only real downside to the entire product is that it doesn’t offer the option of selecting individual chapters.  If a viewer stops at one point in the feature, one can only hope that the DVD starts back at that point.  Otherwise, said viewer will have to skip through the chapters and then fast forward or rewind to get to the point at which said individual stopped previously.  Luckily, it is the feature’s only negative.  Also included in this single disc story is a history lesson on both Robinson and his teammates and their role in societal changes from the ballpark.  When weighing all of these factors in with the fact that a new baseball season has just started and new biopic on Robinson is set to debut next week, Jackie Robinson: My Story becomes that much more of an enjoyable piece both for kids and adults alike.

The first thing that viewers will notice about Jackie Robinson: My Story is its simplicity.  It’s not some overblown drama or even overblown dramatic documentary.  It’s a simple story about a great man.  Presented here is actor Stephen Hill playing the role of Robinson in a simple setting.  The setting is meant to be the locker room of the then Brooklyn Dodgers.  Hanging behind Robinson…er…Hill are the uniforms of some of Robinson’s fellow legendary teammates.  Hill tells the entire story of Robinson’s life entirely from that simple setting.  Because of the set’s simplicity, there is nothing to distract viewers as they listen to Robinson’s incredible and at times painful life story.  And while there are loads of names and dates thrown out there, that lack of distraction help viewers to remember some of them, including: Pee Wee Reese, Satchel Paige, and Roy Campanella among others. 

The inclusion of Reese, Paige, and Campanella was important in that it was Reese that first took Robinson under his wing and helped make the push for Robinson to be able to play as a member of the Dodgers.  Hill proceeds from here to explain that despite the popular belief, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella and other African-American players didn’t just start flowing into the major league ranks after he was allowed to play.  He explains how the process was actually more gradual and how African-American athletes still faced an uphill battle as the views of baseball fans still had yet to change at the time.  But that they had managed to break in and become the stars that they did shows that views were beginning to change.  Keeping this in mind, it serves as a reminder how pivotal this was not just in the history of baseball but in American history in general.  It’s just one of so many moments that viewers will find interesting throughout the course of this original bio.

The simple set used for Jackie Robinson: My Story and the acting (so to speak) of Stephen Hill help make this new release from Shout! Factory enjoyable for audiences of all ages.  There is one other factor that makes this a DVD worth checking out, whether in the classroom or the clubhouse.  That factor is the inclusion of actual footage and pictures from Robinson’s life.    Just as with the simple set, the inclusion of actual video footage and pictures from Robinson’s career and life serve as valuable visual aids.  Whereas the simple set helps to draw attention to Hill and his take on Robinson, the video and pictures help to illustrate the story being told.  They help to bring the entire thing full circle and that much more accessible for audiences. 

There is an irony in the inclusion of one piece of footage in particular.  That piece of footage is the Dodgers’ 1951 pennant matchup against the rival Giants.  This piece is also used in 20th Century Fox’s recent movie, Parental Guidance.  It’s ironic that this is included in both because of the timing of each one’s release.  Both pieces were released within roughly a week of one another.  Sure, the timing of the pair’s release to home viewers is purely coincidental.  But it makes for an interesting discussion bridge.

As one can note by now, Jackie Robinson: My Story offers plenty of positives.  For all the positives, there is just one negative.  Surprisingly enough, it’s not too bad of a negative.  It is the lack of a chapter selection option in the main menu.  If a person were to remove the DVD from a DVD player, and put it back in later, this means that one would have to skip through chapters and then fast forward and/or rewind the show to where it was last stopped, rather than simply being able to jump to a given spot.  While this is at least a slight detriment to the overall package, it isn’t too bad as the entire feature is interesting that a person won’t want to stop watching once getting into it.  So to that extent, while it is a negative, it’s a minor negative at worst.  It’s because of that this Jackie Robinson: My Story is an enjoyable piece both for sports fans and for those studying African-American history.  It is available in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at

http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216808.

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The Sandlot Still A “Hit” Twenty Years Later

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Two decades ago, what is one of the best modern coming-of-age stories ever crafted was released in the form of 20th Century Fox’s baseball based story, The Sandlot.  In the twenty years since that movie first debuted, it hasn’t’ lost a single bit of its shine, even with a previous Blu-ray release having been put out a little over two years ago.  What continues to make The Sandlot so appealing to this day is its continued ability to relate to viewers of every age.  It reminds older audiences what it’s like to be a kid.  It reminds them of all the joys and simplicities of being young.  And despite being set in the 1960’s, it’s a story to which even today’s younger audiences can relate.  Older viewers remember the “good old days” of hanging out with friends, and getting into all kinds of trouble.  They remember the joys of simply being kids as well as the trials and tribulations of being the “new kid” trying to fit in in a new environment.  And even today’s generation knows of these joys.  So for those audiences who have yet to see this movie, it makes for a nice addition to said individuals’ home libraries.

The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Edition was released on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack last week, only a little over two years since its previous Blu-ray release.  Little has changed between that release and this one.  But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The story is so enjoyable in its own right there really is no need for much in the way of bonus features.  Though some audio commentary would have been a nice addition to offer viewers more insight into the story and how everything came into place.  Especially being that 20th Century Fox is celebrating the movie’s 20th birthday, it would have been just as interesting to have any of the original cast members that could have been recruited to offer their own retrospective on the movie and its meaning to each one to this day.  Perhaps that could be taken into consideration for the movie’s twenty-fifth or thirtieth anniversary edition.

The bonus features aside, The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Edition is still a wonderful addition to any family’s home library.  It offers so many fun and funny moments both for parents and kids alike.  Watching Squints fake a drowning in order to get a kiss from a certain young lifeguard is one of the story’s many funny moments.  What young boy hasn’t fantasized the way that Squints did?  And the boys’ various plans to get the Babe Ruth signed baseball back from “The Beast” will make viewers of all ages laugh.  There is a certain reality to those scenarios.  It’s one of those “boys will be boys” types of scenarios.  And speaking of “The Beast”, his ability to thwart the boys’ every attempt is equally comical in its own way.  Then of course, there is also the famous chase scene in which Benny is being chased by the massive Mastiff.  The music and shooting style made this one of the movie’s best moments, if not the best moment in the movie.  It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what makes this such a memorable moment.  But audiences of all ages will love the entire sequence. 

The chase scene with “The Beast” and the boys’ attempts to get Smalls’ signed baseball back make for their own share of enjoyment.  Just as enjoyable and relatable is the story element of the myth surrounding the owner of “The Beast”, Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones).  The boys all believe that Mr. Mertle is this evil man who told “The Beast” to eat a boy years ago.  But after Benny retrieves Smalls’ baseball, the pair meets Mr. Mertle for himself, dispelling the myth once and for all.  Again, while this story is set in the 1960s, this is another element to which audiences even today can relate.  Every young generation has its myths surrounding certain figures.  And the revelation about the figures’ always turns out to be entirely different from what is believed.  It makes for yet another of so many great moments included by writer/director David Mickey Evans and co-writer Robert Gunter.  The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Edition offers more memorable moments than could be shared in one sitting.  There are so many that audiences will consider their favorites.  And it’s because of this abundance of wonderful moments and equally wonderful writing (and camera work) that anyone who has yet to add this timeless story to their home library will want to do just that.  The movie is now available in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/the-sandlot-20th-anniversary.html.

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Hitchcock A Surprisingly Interesting Story

Courtesy: Fox Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Fox Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Fox Searchlight’s Hitchcock is quite the interesting story.  While it would be so easy for some to attempt to call this largely independent film a glorified biopic, it is anything but.  It is in fact one more movie adapted from the written word.  It has been adapted from the book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.  Author Stephen Rubello’s book is a nonfiction work.  It’s one thing to try to adapt a fiction work to the big screen.  It’s a whole other task to try to translate an author’s work from a nonfiction into a near two hour movie that will be accepted by both uninitiated audiences and those more “experienced” Hitchcock devotees.  That has already been evidenced in the likes of Public Enemies.  The original book on which it was based is an excellent read.  But the big screen take on that story hardly translated.  So the question remains, where does Hitchcock get things right where other historically based movies adapted from nonfiction books get it wrong?

Despite what apparently many critics and audiences had expected of this movie, it is not just another standard biopic.  Rather it is the story of how the famed director made his now legendary cinema classic.  It examines not just how he made the movie, but how the movie made him.  Audiences see in this story, the impact that making Psycho had on his marriage, too.  In simple terms, this adaptation of Rubello’s book is less a history lesson and more a romance.  It portrays a couple that is nearly torn apart as each becomes wrapped up in their own personal projects before each reach a revelatory point that brings them back together.  This, in turn, leads the husband and wife team to finish Hitchcock’s masterpiece that remains one of horror’s best ever.

Audiences are instantly pulled into this movie as Hopkins introduces the story exactly as the real life Hitchcock had done in his classic TV series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  This homage to Hitchcock history is enough to generate some laughs and applause from those who remember the classic program.  From there, the combination of the movie’s sets and costumes work together to keep audiences fully engaged in the story, as they strive to keep the story as historically accurate as possible.  Also worth noting here is the inclusion of facts about how studios and censors operated in the days of Psycho.  This was one of the hurdles which Hitchcock had to face in bringing his movie to the masses.  While the process of bringing Psycho to theaters may or may not have played out exactly as portrayed in this movie, it will still keep audiences engaged.  And seeing him overcome everything thrown out at him, audiences will cheer at his success.  That cheering will continue right to the story’s end.  The reason behind that will be left to those who have yet to see the movie.  But any viewer that knows anything of Hitchcock history will appreciate it, and will in turn be left agreeing that this turns out to be a movie worth having seen at least once.

Life of Pi One Of 2013s Best Home Releases

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

20th Century Fox’s big screen adaptation of author Yann Martel’s book, Life of Pi is one of the best movies of 2012. And now that it has been officially released on DVD/Blu-ray/Digital combo pack, it is become one of the top home releases of 2013. The movie has been billed as “The Next Avatar” as a means of promoting the movie. But the reality is that it isn’t the next Avatar. Rather, it’s better than Avatar. Unlike that movie, Life of Pi has so much more than just special effects going for it. What’s more, it doesn’t have the “preachy-ness” of that movie. It’s a work that in its little more than two hours succeeds in keeping viewers engaged, and by the end of that time, will leave any viewer moved. Even though there are disparities between the movie and the original, book, this adaptation still succeeds in the end. And thanks to the bonus features of the home release, audiences who perhaps might have criticized it for the differences between the book and movie will have a different view thanks in large part to the movie’s bonus features. BY the time one watches through the movie and its bonus features, one will see exactly why this is one of the best home releases of 2013.

The big screen adaptation of Life of Pi is such a wonderful work. Despite being billed as “The Next Avatar”, it is far better than that movie. It succeeds in so many ways that Avatar fails. Life of Pi is obviously not the first epic tale ever made. But it is the first great epic of the 21st Century. A lot has changed from the book, obviously. But as audiences will learn through the movie’s home release that even the book’s author, Yann Martel openly accepted the big screen adaptation. He even notes early in the bonus features that it would be difficult to directly translate the book to the big screen. This is just one of so many factors that make this such an impressive story.

Also interesting to note from the movie is its dual faceted storyline. On one side, audiences get an allegory about having something in which one can believe. Audiences are presented with this from early on as Pi discusses with the writer about trying his hand at so many different faiths. That theme of faith continues throughout Pi’s journey. The second storyline that makes the movie a success is the classic man versus nature/man versus himself storyline. Pi being alone at sea, save for one other figure—in this case, a tiger. Being lost at sea, he has to face the tiger, himself, and the elements. For those who have read the book, one could make the argument that the tiger was really just a product of his own imagination, just as the other animals. That plays perfectly into another part of what made Life of Pi so enjoyable.

Late in the movie (not to give away too much plot information), the adult Pi tells his reporter friend about a second story that he told a pair of Japanese officials, since the ship on which Pi and his family were traveling was Japanese. In explaining to his reporter friend the second story that he told to the officials and why he told the second story, he asked the reporter which story he preferred. This is really a dual purpose question. On the surface, he was asking the reporter which story he preferred and what he believed. On another level, he was asking audiences—regardless of whether or not they had read the book before watching this movie—which story they preferred. That in itself makes the big screen adaptation that much more entertaining. The fact that writer David Magee could have Pi break down that fourth wall with such subtlety adds even more to the movie. Magee is asking not only which story do viewers believe from Pi, but which version do they “believe” more?; the book or the movie? That is the eternal question with movies after all. Regardless of which version viewers “believe” more, it is still a movie that any true lover of movies should see at least once.

As one can already tell, a lot of work went into the adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel. In terms of the storytelling, the story was adapted quite well, changes aside. The story was just part of what made this one of the greatest movies of 2012, and the first great epic of the 21st Century. Also to be taken into account with this movie is its spectacular special effects and cinematography. Not enough can be said of the work that went into both. Viewers will be amazed in watching the movie’s bonus features to learn that the tiger in the movie was a real tiger less than half the time. The bonus features reveal that the majority of the time, the tiger was in fact digitally created. But it looks so realistic that one can’t really tell the difference. And of course, who can forget the now famous whale scene or the flying fish? These and so much more make Life of Pi a visual masterpiece.

Staying on the movie’s visual aspects and its bonus features, there is perhaps one negative to the entire package. That one negative comes as director Ang Lee discusses how he and his staff presented the movie to 20th Century Fox’s studio heads not in storyboard form, but in digital storyboard form. So not only have animated movies gone the way of the dinosaur, but apparently the mere art of storyboarding has, too as studios are apparently opting even more for a digital product even in movies’ storyboarding. It’s a minor negative. But it’s still very telling about the direction that movies and visual entertainment in general have taken. It makes the statement without saying it, that the very art of making art is dying. And that is a sad statement. So while it isn’t necessarily a negative to Life of Pi, it makes for an interesting dissertation for those involved in the movie and television industry. Keeping this in mind, it takes little to anything away from the movie itself, and allows the movie to maintain the status of one of 2012’s greatest movies as well as one of 2013’s greatest home releases. It’s available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com/life-of-pi.html.

See A Movie, Concert On Phil’s Picks

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The Phil’s Picks blog and Facebook Page is hosting two brand new giveaways during the week of March 18th – 22nd.  The first half of the week will see giveaways of 20th Century Fox’s award winning movie, Life of Pi.  The adaptation of the book by Yann Martel is available now on Blu-ray/DVD/Vudu combo pack.  Next Monday – Wednesday, I’ll be giving away one copy each day on the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  But I’m not just going to do any drawing.  Those of you who have already “Liked” my FB page have to recruit more people to “Like” it in order to win.  It will start Monday, March 18th.   Here’s how it’ll go down.  The first person to get just five (5) people to “Like” my page each day will win that day’s copy of “Life of Pi” on Blu-ray/DVD/Vudu.  The people that you get to “Like” my page have to post to my timeline noting that you got them to “Like” my page.  That way I can count each person’s recruits under your name.  Make sense?  Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll try to explain it in simpler terms.  I’ll announce the winner of each copy each afternoon at 4pm.  Again, that’s the first person Monday – Wednesday to get 5 people to “Like” my page.  And it doesn’t start until Monday.  So that means that you need to get out there and spread the word about the Phil’s Picks FB page if you really want to win!  I’m going to run the contest for these copies of “Hitchcock” the same way the following week

And if you’re not one of the people to enter or win, you can pick up your copy in store or online now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.foxconnect.com.

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

The second contest of the week of March 18th – 22nd will be held throughout the week.  It is a contest for a pair of tickets to see Holy Grail on the Metal Alliance Tour.  The band will play at Charlotte’s Tremont Music Hall on Saturday, April 13th alongside Anthrax, Exodus, and Municipal Waste.  The performance is part of the band’s tour in support of Holy Grail’s new album, Ride the Void.   Names will be taken beginning today, March 15th until 8:45a.m. EST March 22nd.  One winner’s name will be drawn next Friday morning at 9am EST.  The contest is courtesy of Prosthetic Records.  You have to be able to attend the show in order to enter. 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.