EOne’s New Horror Comedy Is Full Of Frights And Fun

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

One part stoner flick, one part buddy comedy, and one part horror spoof, Entertainment One’s new horror comedy Knights of Badassdom (yes, that’s really its title) is an outrageously over-the-top  story that any of today’scollege frat boy audiences will enjoy watching at least once.  It’s obvious right from the story’s outset that it was not meant to be taken with a single grain of seriousness.  It centers on a group of twenty-something friends that have to face off against a succubus from Hell after their obsession with live action role playing (LARPing)—yes, that is a real thing, not just something cooked up for this movie—goes a little bit too far.  The completely outrageous script behind this story is central to its intended audiences being able to enjoy it.  Equally important to the story’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the cast.  And of course, what home release is complete without its special features?  There are actually some interesting tidbits shared through the movie’s bonus features that make the movie more interesting.  Those tidbits, the cast’s acting and the outrageous, over-the-top story make this indie horror spoof a movie well worth watching at least once.

Co-writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wallhave crafted a story in Knights of Badassdom.  Dreyfuss and Wall have done so much with so little that it is difficult to know where exactly to begin in examining their script.  On the surface, Knights of Badassdom works because of its silly factor.  It is just a good, fun, and slightly gruesome turn-off-your-brain flick.  It’s one part stoner flick, one part buddy comedy, and one part horror spoof that has absolutely no intention of taking itself the least bit seriously.  On a deeper level, one could argue that there’s a story of a group of men forced to grow up if only a little because they got what they’d always wished for and then some during their make believe games.  That’s thanks to them having accidentally unleashMatted a succubus from Hell during one of their imaginary ceremonies.  At first the five friends think that they’re just taking part in a weekend of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing)—yes it is in fact real and not something conjured up for this story.  But when people start turning up dead, they start to realize that there is an evil force among them.  The friends—Hung (Peter Dinklage), Gwen (Summer Glau), Eric (Steve Zahn), Joe (Ryan Kwanten), and Ronnie Kwok (Jimmi Simpson)—end up having to face that evil force and stop it once and for all, essentially allowing them to finally live out their make believe fantasies for real.  Any viewer that can take this movie for the all-out nonsensical work that it is will appreciate all of the inanity (and insanity).  Those viewers will agree in watching the story that it is funny enough that it is worth at least one watch.

The story behind Knights of Badassdom has so many different facets about it that even as intentionally nonsensical as it was, it was still entertaining.  Helping the story’s entertainment was the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  Led by actor Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), the cast’s interaction with one another throughout the story made for more than a few laughs.  And their portrayals of the stereotypical people in the role playing culture are just as entertaining.  One can’t help but laugh watching Steve Zahn as the wanna-be wizard, casting his “spells.” And Jimmi Simpson’s portrayal of the controlling, somewhat egotistical “game master” Ronnie Kwok is a complete laugh riot. Both Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage add their own charm, to the mix, too. The whole cast together will have viewers laughing nonstop right to the final scenes.

The movie’s cast and its interpretation of the movie’s script work together to make it a surprisingly entertaining work. It’s the cast’s interpretation of the script that makes all of the total absurdity believable and entertaining all at once. There is still one remaining factor in this new release from Entertainment One that makes it the surprisingly enjoyable work that it is. That last factor is the movie’s bonus material. The interview with director Joe Lynch is the best of the bonus features. Lynch discusses in his interview his love of the classic 1980s horror flicks and how that influenced his direction on this movie. Even more interesting is his mention of special effects company Spectral Motion making the monster and handling all of the special effects for this movie. He discusses how he wanted to have an actual monster and real special effects versus the far too overused CG effects employed by Hollywood’s biggest studios. That devotion to using the physical versus the digital made a big difference in the movie. Sure the monster looked cheesy. But as Lynch notes in his interview, it was supposed to look cheesy.   It was part of that homage to the 80s monster movies that Lynch grew up watching. Audiences will be amazed even more to learn that Spectral Motion is the company behind the creatures seen in Hellboy and Hellboy II. That such a well-known and equally respected company would offer its services for an indie horror flick—an indie horror spoof even—speaks volumes. And it paid off in a big way. Audiences will appreciate Lynch’s interview when they see it in its entirety. They will also appreciate the acting on the part of the movie’s cast and the script, penned by co-writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall. Audiences will appreciate all of these factors and more that they will find for themselves when they order the movie on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Knights-Badassdom-Blu-ray-Peter-Dinklage/dp/B00HOGRJQG/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1398801394&sr=1-2&keywords=knights+of+badassdom.

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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.

Danny Phantom Complete Series Set Is Loads Of Ghostly Fun For All

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Nickelodeon’s programming today is comprised largely of live action sitcoms aimed at teen viewers.  However, from the early 1990s up until the mid-2000s, the network was known more for its vast array of cartoons.  It’s “Nicktoons” were its heart and soul.  While Nickelodeon does have some cartoons today, the network’s sole remaining real Nicktoon is Butch Hartman’s hugely successful series Fairly OddparentsFairly Oddparents is a standout series, too.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t his first series to have the honor of being added to Nickelodeon’s list of beloved Nicktoons.  His first notable “Nicktoon” was the short-lived supernatural series Danny Phantom.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, fans of Danny Phantom will be able to own the complete series in one box later this month.  Danny Phantom only ran for three seasons.  In its defense, it could be argued that this was because it was ahead of its time.  That aside, series creator Butch Hartman and his writers crafted a number of enjoyable episodes throughout the show’s short run.  Just as worth noting about this new upcoming box set is that is alleviates some minor problems raised in the box sets containing the series’ second season.  Lastly, those that know their Nicktoons history will appreciate the voice talent that made up the series’ cast.  That who’s who of voice actors combined with the enjoyable stories, and the fact that they are all available together for the first time collectively make this upcoming set well worth picking up for any Danny Phantom fan.

Fans of Danny Phantom: The Complete Series  will appreciate this new complete series set first and foremost because it presents the series’ entire three-season run in one complete box set.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released three complete series sets from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers.  Those sets proved to actually take up far less space on DVD racks than the stand-alone season sets that had originally been released.  This set is no different.  All nine discs that make up all three seasons are included in this box.  Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have sweetened the deal even more for fans in that they have maintained the established wise packaging that was used in the aforementioned complete series sets.  The discs are placed inside the box on either side of their own “insert” with the ninth and final disc being placed in its own spot inside the back of the case.  As with the previously noted box sets, this protects the discs and allows the episodes contained within each one to be enjoyed much longer.  It is the starting point of what audiences will appreciate about Danny Phantom: The Complete Series.

The packaging for Danny Phantom: The Complete Series is a good starting point in discussing everything that makes this box set well worth its price.  The episodes contained across the set’s nine total discs make the presentation as a whole even more enjoyable.  It would be easy to say that because its main characters were high school students, Danny Phantom was just another program aimed at audiences of the same age. To a point, it could be seen how teen audiences would take an interest in the series.  Case in point, one of the series’ story arcs involved a potential inter-racial romance between Danny and black classmate named Valerie Gray (voiced by Cree Summer—The Cosby Show, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, etc.).  It really is a sign of the times that the show’s writers would include this without making a big fuss over it, either.  It is a subtle, but nice addition to the series.  There are also the constant struggles to balance trying to be a regular teen with being a superhero. But the jokes that are tossed in each episode aren’t above some younger viewers, either.  So while teens might have been the primary audience, younger viewers would have obviously enjoyed the show, too.  The same applies to today’s teens and pre-teens, too.

The packaging and writing that make up Danny Phantom’s episodes are collectively a big part of what makes the series so enjoyable even for today’s younger audiences.  There is at least one more aspect of the series’ new set that audiences will appreciate in examining the presentation as a whole.  That aspect is the series’ voice cast.  The series’ primary cast reads like a who’s who of voice acting.  It has already been noted that veteran voice actress Cree Summer is part of the primary cast (even though she doesn’t come into play until the second season).  Along with Ms. Summer, Grey DeLisle (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford: The Puppy Years, Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) Kath Soucie (Futurama, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.) and a whole slate of others each play roles in the series.  Fans will also recognize the voices of Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Hellboy & Hellboy II), Martin Mull (Roseanne), and the man who is perhaps the busiest male voice actor in the business, one Frank Welker (Curious George, The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, etc.)  Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Taylor Lautner (the Twilight saga), and the late David Carradine even make appearances throughout the series among so many other big names.  If the massive list of A-listers that play roles in Danny Phantom isn’t reason enough to check out the new Danny Phantom: The Complete Series box set, then one need only set that alongside the enjoyable writing and the equally wise packaging to see just how worthwhile this set is for kids and kids at heart.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, January 28th.  It can be pre-ordered online now from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/danny-phantom-complete-series.  More information on this and other 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 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.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty A Surprisingly Enjoyable Story For A Reboot

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

More often than not, Hollywood’s seemingly undying hunger for prequels, sequels, and remakes has led to some of the movie industry’s worst movies in memory in recent years. However, the 2013 remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye classic The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has proven to be the rare exception to that rule. One part Death of a Salesman and one part Forrest Gump, this last movie of 2013 is also the year’s best. This is despite the fact that it is just one more on the industry’s ever-growing list of prequels, sequels, and remakes. The very first factor in the success of this updated story is its writing. Writer Steve Conrad has taken author James Thurber’s original story and updated it in a way that works even despite being changed around so much.  Also to be taken into consideration is the acting of the cast.  Veteran actress Shirley MacClaine (Downton Abbey), comedienne Kristen Wiig (SNL), and Adam Scott (Parks & Rec) each expertly carry out their roles and make the story all the richer.  The same can also be said of surprise guest stars Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn.  The last aspect of the movie to consider in its success is its cinematography.  The scenes shot in Greenland and Iceland were beautiful to say the very least.  The same can be said of so many other scenes that make up Walter’s fantasies and his real life adventures.  That aspect comes together with the cast, its acting, and the general writing to make this movie one of the biggest surprises of 2013.

Writer Steve Conrad’s adaptation of author James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not the first time that the story has been adapted to the big screen.  Its first big screen adaptation was in 1947.  Little changed from that story–penned by writers Ken Englund, Everett Freeman, and Philip Rapp–and this latest take on Thurber’s story.  The one big difference between the two stories is that the original adaptation was a rom-com.  Conrad’s update is more of a human drama that centers on overcoming the fear of life’s uncertainties and taking risks.  Typically, making such a drastic change is a formula for disaster.  But this case is a very rare exception to the rule.  Somehow, Conrad has managed to make his story work.  And he has managed to do so in so many ways.  What he offers audiences in this adaptation is the story of a man that sets out to find a photograph, but ends up finding himself in the long run.  It’s all brought on as Life magazine, the magazine he works for is preparing to release its very last print issue before it becomes an entirely online entity.  This is another aspect of Conrad’s script that makes it work so well.  That’s because it is such a real story element.

The use of Life magazine transitioning from a print outlet to an entirely online entity is a hugely useful tool to advance this story.  That’s because of its realism.  So many branches of the print media have transitioned mainly to an online presence in order to survive in the digital age.  That transition makes for a lot of uncertainty in any number of individuals’ lives including the story’s lead character.  It’s that uncertainty of the future that forces Walter to make his daydreams become reality.  And Stiller’s take on Walter as he grows through his adventures serves to make the story all the richer.

Steve Conrad’s updated take on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is surprisingly enjoyable despite being an update on one of Hollywood’s classic movies.  The human drama that makes up the story’s main plot does so much to make the story work.  The same can be said of the acting of lead Ben Stiller and his cast mates.  He makes his take on his character one that is entirely believable as Walter grows from a socially awkward wallflower type of figure to a more self-confident man.  His isn’t the only portrayal that makes the story work, either.  Surprise guest star Patton Oswalt is spot on as a tech rep with e-harmony.  He interacts with Walter solely via phone throughout most of the story.  Even over the phone, those moments make for so many laughs.  Just as funnier is the reveal of Oswalt’s character late in the movie.  His joke of what he thought Walter would look like compared to his own looks makes for one of so many classic moments throughout the story.  Adam Scott plays the story’s antagonist, Ted Hendricks, that comes in to Life as a “cleaner” of sorts responsible for downsizing the magazine’s staff.  He was just as much on spot in his role as the rest of the cast in its roles.  He is a completely cold, despicable figure that cares only about his own advancement.  He makes audiences cheer happily for Walter both when he confronts him in his daydream and for real later in the story.  That’s the sign of an actor fully grasping his character and getting the job done.  The same can be said of supporting actress Shirley MacClaine as Walter’s mom.  She is Walter’s only real source of support among everyone around him.  And one can feel the love that Walter’s mom has for him, too.  Anyone that doesn’t laugh and smile at the pair’s personal moments have no heart.  That ability of the cast to reach audiences on so many emotional levels is just as important as the script itself in this story’s success.  The story’s success doesn’t end here, either.  There is one more aspect of this movie that makes it successful.  That aspect is the movie’s cinematography.

The cinematography of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is beyond belief.  From Walter’s imaginary fight scenes with Ted to his real life adventure across Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan, the camera crews and editors went beyond the call of duty.  The contrast of Walter set against the giant magazine covers that lined the halls of Life make for their own statement.  That’s because as Walter runs past the covers, audiences see the figures on each cover turn to Walter’s face.  It makes for a statement of his dreams potentially becoming reality.  And in its own right, it is also a foreshadowing of sorts, not to reveal too much for those that haven’t yet seen.  These are just some of the examples of the expert cinematography that is exhibited throughout the course of the story.  There is much more for audiences to see for themselves.  And they will indeed find so much when they watch this story for themselves.  And together with its casting and writing, audiences will find so much to applaud in this movie; so much in fact that they will agree that despite being a reboot, it still proves to be 2013’s best new movie.

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.

Hey Arnold! Goes Out On Top In Its Fifth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

The end is finally here for another of Nickelodeon’s beloved classic Nicktoon, Hey Arnold! The final season of Hey Arnold! is finally available to the masses. And it goes without saying that Hey Arnold! has gone out on top in its final season. In fact, it was at the same level as the series’ third season. That is primarily because of the solid writing throughout all twenty-three of Season Five’s episodes. Also to note in this season are more guest spots. Both Andy Dick and Tim Curry offer their voice talents this season. And of course, one can’t ignore that as with the series’ previous season releases, Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have continued to lead the pack in multi-disc sets. This season’s packaging was done just as the series’ previous seasons, making it that much more worthy of applause. And together with the solid writing and guest appearances, it all comes together to make Season Five a fitting send off for Hey Arnold!

The writing behind the final season of Hey Arnold! is some of the best writing in the show’s five total seasons. Being that this season was the show’s final run, the show’s writers sent the show off on top of its game. This season, the show’s writers spoof all the big name crime fighters with one of their own. They also take on the political machine when a local businessman in Arnold’s neighborhood takes on one of the city’s politicians. And in what are some of the series’ absolute best episodes, the show’s writers finally offer hints at who were Arnold’s parents in a pair of episodes. One of those episodes was a two-part episode that is certain to make even the strongest viewer tear up. This is just a small sampling of what makes Season Five so enjoyable. Audiences will also enjoy seeing Arnold and Eugene take on a bitter playwright in their annual school play. If that’s not enough, there’s even a bonus Halloween episode that sees Arnold and his friends take on the legend of a female spirit that murdered her fiancé. It sounds violent. But it’s entirely family friendly. There is still much more to enjoy this season, including an episode using the classic plot element of a young person learning the reality of germs. It makes for plenty of laughs every time. These episodes and the others from the show’s original run are all here. And whether one grew up with this classic series or one is a new fan, audiences will find what makes these episodes some of the series’ best.

Hey Arnold! goes out on top in Season Five. That’s primarily because of its writing. Season Five boasts not just solid writing but two great guest spots. Celebrities Andy Dick and Tim Curry make appearances this season. Andy Dick voices of a vigilante named Monkeyman in the season premiere. Monkeyman learns some very valuable lessons about both himself and those that he protects after meeting Arnold. And in “Eugene, Eugene”, Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Wild Thornberrys, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties) stars as a bitter playwright that make his own version of a well-known play for the annual P.S. 118 fourth grade class play. When Arnold and Eugene discover the revisions made by Curry’s character, they confront him and then set the play on the right course despite the changes. The guest spots by both Curry and Dick aren’t the only ones made over the show’s five seasons. Jim Belushi (Life According to Jim, K9) and Jennifer Tilly (Family Guy, Monsters Inc.) also appear in the show. Tilly appears in Season Five’s episode, “Ernie in Love.” Having such big names appear in Hey Arnold!just goes to show that even into its fifth season, it had quite the high level of credibility. It adds even more to appreciate about both the series’ fifth season and the series as a whole.

The guest spots and the writing that went into Hey Arnold! Season Five both do so much to make this season one of the series’ best. The set’s packaging should also be taken into account in examining it as a whole. Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have packaged Season Five exactly as the previous seasons of Hey Arnold!  The set’s first pair of discs each get their own spots on “plates” inside the standard size DVD case.  The third disc is placed on the inside back of the case on its own spindle.  This protects the discs from scratching one another and in turn allows them to be enjoyed with every watch.  It’s the crowning touch on a near perfect set for any true Nicktoons Nostalgic.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/217616.  More information on this and other Shout! Factory releases is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

Chihuahua Too A Fun, Family Friendly Film For Any Halloween Party Or Fall Festival

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Halloween is just around the corner once again.  That means that before we know it, lots and lots of little ghouls, ghosts, princesses and more will be making their yearly rounds around neighborhoods, malls, and even churches.  Some will also be heading to the associated Halloween parties with their friends and parents.  This means that parents are going to be looking for family friendly fare to share at said get-togethers.  Parents of young ladies would do well to start at the latest canine-centric small screen release, Chihuahua Too.  The sequel to the company’s 2011 movie, simply titled Chihuahua is not a sequel to that movie.  Nor is it a ripoff of Disney’s Buddy franchise.  Though, it can be agreed that it does capitalize on the aforementioned franchise.  EOne isn’t the first franchise to do this, either in its defense.  Keeping this in mind, Chihuahua Too ends up being a good family friendly movie for younger female audiences’ Halloween parties.

Chihuahua Too is the latest family friendly release from Engine 15 Media Group, the company responsible for other canine based movies such as the Bailey trilogy just to name one group of movies.  Chihuahua Too is different from those movies in that it has no link to the previous film in its franchise.  It is its very own stand-alone story.  Much like Engine 15’s other releases though, it maintains a positive message.  The message presented in Chihuahua Too is one of the importance of family.  The message is set up by having a young family that goes by the name of The Fasteners taking on a house once owned by its ancestors.  There’s just one catch.  The Fasteners aren’t alone in the house.  The house is haunted by the spirit of a dog once owned by the Fasteners’ ancestors.  The reason why the dog, named Sophie, is still in the house is revealed late in the story.  And it’s that reveal that plays up the message of family.

The message of family is the most important factor of Chihuahua Too.  It’s just part of what families and churches will appreciate about this piece for their Halloween parties and Fall Festival celebrations.  Engine 15 Media Group is most well-known for churning out movies that are entirely family friendly.  This is another positive to this latest release from Engine 15.  There is no questionable content whatsoever at any point in the story.  Sure, the acting could have been better.  But this isn’t a big budget production.  And Engine 15 isn’t a major studio.  So those audiences that would prefer to talk and write negative things concerning the acting and general production values need to keep this in mind and watch it again.  Perhaps in doing so, they will see the more intrinsic value of the feature, and appreciate it more.

The positive message about family and the family friendly content that make up Chihuahua Too are both important parts of the story’s overall presentation.  There is one factor in this movie that has a latent effect on audience.  Or rather, one would hope that it would have a latent effect.  The hoped for latent effect of the story presented here is of an appreciation for classic movies.  Some might consider this a stretch.  But today’s movie industry pales by comparison to the golden era of Hollywood.  Cohen Media Group, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and others have proven in recent years (2013 included) that there is still very much a market for classic films.  Maybe in being exposed to faux silent films, young audiences will gain a new interest in classics such as Cleopatra or other classics.  Who knows, maybe it will even influence the parents of said children to become interested in the classics.  On a side note, Cleopatra has been re-issued on a 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set by 20th Century Fox.  It’s available now in stores and online.  Chihuahua Too is also available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D3XMJMI/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1DM9RH2JPP6ETJ128JM3&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.

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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Lincoln A Solid Biopic From Start To Finish

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Courtesy: Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Much has been written of Abraham Lincoln.  Books upon books upon books have been published that center on the man and the myths surrounding his life.  Just as much has been crafted for televised documentaries.  And even more has been penned about the era in which our nation’s sixteenth President led his country.  Now courtesy of author Doris Kearns Goodwin, director Steven Spielberg and screen writer Tony Kushner, audiences have been presented with what is one of the most gripping portrayals of President Lincoln and his time in office in the simply titled, Lincoln.

Lincoln was largely met with applause from critics and audiences alike.  Though there were those that had their qualms with the near three hour long semi-biopic.  Many of the arguments against the story were centered on the fact that the movie in fact focuses on Lincoln and the battles in the halls of the nation’s government.  In the story’s defense, audiences should remind themselves that this movie is not about the war on the battlefield.  It is about the battles in Congress over the abolition of slavery and bringing a final end to the Civil War.  It is a beautifully shot and well acted story.  However, those who have mentioned its sometimes long winded nature can be agreed upon.  Sometimes, it does get rather wordy.  And the story’s slower pacing might turn off some viewers considering that the movie comes in at nearly three hours long.  But those that are true history buffs and/or civil war buffs will easily be able to overlook these issues and enjoy it for its positives, which outweigh the negatives.

For the negatives that weigh down Lincoln, its positives outweigh those negatives.  The first of the positives in Lincoln is that it doesn’t get lost in itself throughout the course of its run time.  The story is meant to focus on President Lincoln and what was the most pivotal moment in his time in office; his waning days in office before his assassination.  The new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack home release of the movie includes the bonus feature, “The Journey to Lincoln” on both formats.  This feature is a welcome addition as Spielberg, author Doris Kearns Goodwin—whose book was the inspiration behind this movie—and screen writer Tony Kushner all point out in this feature that the aim was meant to be on what went on in Congress during the final days of the Civil War, rather than on the frontlines.  Having this hammered home so gently by all three individuals makes the story more watchable in comparison to the likes of Public Enemies which was also based on a historical non-fiction.  That movie was a mere shadow of the far better book.  It really was a movie that never should have happened.   This movie at least attempts to stay closer to the book on which it is based.  It presents less the mythical Lincoln and more the actual man, and what he faced in what would be his final days in office.

The story and its primary associated bonus feature make up just one of the positives to the new home release of Lincoln.  The acting on the part of the star-studded cast is another positive to Lincoln.  Even though there are some portions of the movie that are more drawn out than they perhaps should have been, veterans Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black 1-3), and Sally Field (Mrs. Doubtfire, Smoky and the Bandit), all contribute expertly, making their parts fully believable.  Making their performances even more believable are costumes that are spot on.  While the movie may not have taken the Oscar for this category, there is no denying how impressive the end result of that work was.  Speaking of which, audiences that pick up the new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Lincoln get another bonus in the addition of a feature titled, “Crafting The Past” in the set’s bonus Blu-ray disc.  This feature examines not just the costumes, but also the production work and other more fine details of the movie.

The costumes and production of Lincoln are just as important as any other part of the movie that makes it successful.  There is at least one more factor to the movie that makes this the impressive work that it is.  That factor is the movie’s cinematography.  The shooting style us especially powerful in the movie’s closing scenes as the President surveys the result of a battle.  And the movie’s final scene (which will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see the movie), is a prime example of expert cinematography.  The transition into that scene and the final pullout are such powerful statements in themselves, and will leave any true history and civil war buff feeling completely satisfied after having made it through the rest of the movie’s emotional journey.  After having made that journey and having viewed the extensive bonus features included in the new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, those same individuals will agree that Lincoln is in fact one of the best biopics crafted in recent history, albeit only a semi-biopic.  It is available now in stores and online.

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