IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial

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Anchor Bay’s The Midnight Game Is A Fright Filled, Fun Indie Horror Flick

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new horror flick The Midnight Game is a surprisingly entertaining work for an indie horror flick.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script.  One watch of this fright-filled story shows that it’s not just another teen slasher flick.  For that matter, there’s barely any blood shed throughout.  It will however leave audiences guessing right up to the end.  Another reason that horror fans will appreciate The Midnight Game is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast knows that this movie is an indie flick.  And while the cast doesn’t necessarily ham it up per se, each cast member’s acting does come across as lightly poking fun at the whole teen horror sub-genre of the horror realm.  Last but not least of all worth mentioning about The Midnight Game is the fact that while it obviously lifts from certain other horror flicks, it doesn’t go so far as to blatantly rip off said movies unlike far too many movies out there regardless of their genre.  These three factors each play their own role in the overall success of The Midnight Game.  Together, they make this indie horror romp one that any fan of the genre will want to watch at least once now that the movie is officially available in stores and online.

The central point of The Midnight Game’s success lies in the movie’s script.  At first glance, one might think that this movie is going to be just another run-of-the-mill gore fest loaded with lots of references to people taking part in satanic rituals.  The reality of the movie is that it is anything but.  Sure, it is essentially another teen horror flick.  But at least it isn’t just another one of the standard gore-filled slasher/evil spirit flicks that are all too common nowadays from the world of horror.  Yes, there is some blood shed at points in the movie.  And there is one very brief moment of nudity.  But both elements have been kept to a minimum.  For that reason alone, the movie’s writing staff is deserving of a certain amount of credit.  There’s no denying that there is at least some predictability at certain points in the story.  But the writing staff makes up for that by throwing in a rather interesting twist ending, which will not be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet seen this frightfully fun teen horror flick.  It is a twist though, that will leave audiences wondering and talking.  And that it will have that lasting effect is a fitting final testament to the talents of those behind the movie’s script.

The talents of those responsible for crafting the script behind The Midnight Game are definitely worth noting in the overall enjoyment of the movie in whole.  The work of those charged with crafting the story’s script goes a long way toward making the movie work.  The same can be said of the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast—Renee Olstead (The Secret Life of the American Teenager13 Going on 30Still Standing), Shelby Young (The Social NetworkDays of Our LivesEverybody Hates Chris), Guy Wilson (Little Black BookDays of Our LivesThe Open Door), Valentina de Angelis (As The World TurnsGossip GirlBereavement), and Spencer Daniels (Star TrekThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThis Is 40)—doesn’t necessarily ham it up.  But it’s obvious that the cast members had fun with their roles throughout the movie’s filming.  They did take their roles with a certain level of seriousness.  But they didn’t take them so seriously that they went over the top.  Their acting could be argued to have even been a little bit of a spoof of the teens in every teen-centric horror flick ever released to a point.  That’s really what made this aspect work so well.  They were just that spot on in their depictions of the stereotypes used in all the other teen horror romps already out there.  Audiences will know in watching the cast at work that they are watching a movie.  Yet thanks to that acting, audiences will still want to watch what happens to each “teen” next, even going so far as to laugh at their characters at some points.  Again, herein lies one more reason that any horror aficionado will want to see this movie if only once.  There is still more worth mentioning even after considering both this aspect of the movie and its script.

The script and acting that went into The Midnight Game are both key to the movie’s overall enjoyment and success.  Anyone that is familiar with the world of horror will note in watching though, that this movie bears quite the similarity to a number of other horror flicks out there.  Those flicks include the likes of: Fear Dot ComThe Ring, Shadow People and others of that ilk.  Audiences that give The Midnight Game will see the comparison rather early on and even in the story’s final minutes.  The catch is that while the similarity is there, The Midnight Game doesn’t go so far as to directly rip off those works.  Despite being loosely related to said movies, it still maintains its own identity against them, thus helping to maintain at least a certain sense of originality.  That is the final touch to this movie that makes it one of this year’s more surprising entertaining indie flicks.  It’s a movie that any horror aficionado should watch at least once whether this Halloween or any other time of the year.

The Midnight Game is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered directly online via the official Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=8e063eb4-72ab-e311-b062-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other titles available from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay.  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.

Anchor Bay’s Born To Race Franchise Revs Up Again This Summer

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Born To Race: Fast Track, the latest movie in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born To Race franchise, will be released this summer. The movie stars Brett Davern and Beau Mirchoff, both of MTV’s Awkward. The pair star as small-town racing rivals Danny and Jake. The pair ends up being partnered together after summer scholarship to a top tier racing school. Danny also finds himself in a relationship with love interest played by Tiffany DuPont (Greek). Veteran actor Corben Bernsen (Psych, L.A. Law, Major League) co-stars along with Diogo Morgado (The Messenger, The Bible, Son of God), Grant Show (Devious Maids, Melrose Place, Private Practice, Big Love), and Sharon Lawrence (Rizzoli & Isles).

Director Alex Ranarivelo returns to helm this latest installment of the Born To Race franchise. He also directed the franchise’s previous film. He is joined by screenwriter Steve Sarno, who also crafted the script for the franchise’s previous film, and producer Ali Afshar. Afshar also produced the previous Born to Race film. He is also a professional race car driver.

Born To Race: Fast Track will be available for digital download via iTunes August 29th. It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and OnDemand Tuesday, September 9th. The DVD will retail for SRP of $22.98 while the Blu-ray will retail for SRP of $26.99. More information on Born to Race: Fast Track is available online via Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/BornToRaceMovie and http://twitter.com/borntoracemovie. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, http://www.anchorbayent.com and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. 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.

Fleischer’s Superman Flies Higher Than Ever In New Blu-Ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Gaiam

Superman is flying again.  And this time it’s thanks not to DC, but to a little company called Gaiam.  Thanks to Gaiam, Max Fleischer’s classic Superman cartoons have been restored and made available once again to the public.  These classic cartoons are an example of everything that was once right with animation.  And now not only can the generation that grew up with these classics enjoy them once more, but so can a whole new generation.  At a time when DC and Marvel are increasingly going toe to toe with one another, churning out feature after feature (both on the big and small screen), this double disc collection is a welcome breath of fresh air for comic book fans the world over.

While there may have been only a grand total of seventeen episodes of Superman created by Max Fleischer between 1941 and 1942, those seventeen episodes are some of the finest animation to ever grace any television screen.  As with so many early pieces of animation, Fleischer and his team of nearly six hundred (yes, nearly six hundred) animators gave Superman its own identity through their work.  This is something that has so sadly been lost in today’s “animated” features.  Being that so many “cartoons” are created via computer, they all look alike.  They’re sterile.  They have no real identity, compared to the likes of Superman.  Sure, older cartoons such as these took massive amounts of time, money, and staff.  But the end result is well worth it.  That is evidenced here.

One might ask how it’s known that Fleischer used nearly six hundred animators and large amounts of money to create Superman.  The answer to that is simple.  The commemorative booklet included in this double disc set gives a full in-depth history lesson on how Fleischer came to ring one of the greatest superheroes of all time to the small screen.  Dr. Thomas R. Reich, Ph.D. explains in the culled information that the shorts collected in this set were the result of discussions between Paramount and Fleischer Studios over a Superman movie.  Because of the costs that the movie would have incurred, the two sides agreed that instead of a Superman movie, Fleischer would break up its movie proposal into what is now one of the earliest of the Superman TV series.  Dr. Reich explains with excruciating detail how the series eventually came to life, and just as soon came to its end.  There are also discussions on Fleischer Studios’ early days creating the likes of Gulliver’s Travels, Betty Boop, and even Popeye.  The bonus booklet even includes a full episode listing with equally in-depth synopsis for each episode.

The bonus booklet included in this new Superman Set offers loads and loads of trivia for audiences.  The story of how these seventeen shorts came to be is enlightening to say the least.  Just as enlightening is the revelation that it’s Fleischer and company who are to be credited with the now famous lines, “Faster than a speeding bullet” and “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  This is just one more example of the value of this set to audiences.  Valuable information such as this, along with the equally impressive animation and storylines make this Blu-ray re-issue of Max Fleischer’s one of the best kids’ releases of the year.  It also makes it one of the year’s best in the category of general DVD’s and Blu-rays.  It will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, October 30th.

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NCircle Entertainment brings back another piece of television nostalgia

Courtesy: NCircle Entertainment

The 1990’s was one of the greatest eras of television.  That’s especially the case for children’s programming.  However, it wasn’t the only great era of broadcasting for kids.  Kids had a lot from which to choose during the 1980’s, too.  One of the greatest of the cartoons from the 1980’s was the one and only Super Mario Brothers Super Show.  Who doesn’t remember watching this after school animated classic on the original Family Channel way back before it became Fox Family and then ABC Family?  Now, fans that grew up watching Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Toadstool take on King Koopa can enjoy a whole volume of episodes all over again, thanks to Super Mario Brothers Super Show Volume One.

Originally, both volumes of this classic cartoon’s episodes were released by Shout! Factory in 2006.  Now, NCircle Entertainment has re-released the show in a trimmed down format.  This collection offers all of the classic Super Mario Brothers Super Show cartoons sans the live action segments that bookended them in the show’s original airings.  As enjoyable as those segments were, the cartoons themselves were just as enjoyable.  And Volume One has more than its share of enjoyable episodes.  Volume One sees Mario, Luigi and Toad having to care for Princess Toadstool after she’s turned into a baby.  Also, Mario and company tackle the classic tale of Jack and The Beanstalk in their own way.  And in a Halloween themed episode, the gang faces King Koopa and his evil minions in their own take on Brams Stoker’s horror classic, Dracula.

One of the key episodes in this most recent release of Super Mario Brothers Super Show is “Two Plumbers and a Baby.”  It could be argued that the title is a spoof of the classic 80’s movie franchise, “3 Men and a Baby.”  In this episode, Mario Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool are in the kingdom of youth.  They have to face down King GooGoo GaGa Koopa.  Of course, it’s really King Koopa in disguise.  They are hunting Koopa down because he’s using the kingdom’s fountain of youth for his own evil purposes.  Surprisingly, the fountain works.  Only it works too well.  When Princess Toadstool accidentally falls into the fountain, she gets turned into a baby.  So Mario, Luigi, and Toad are left to protect her from King Koopa.  She causes all kinds of trouble for the guys along the way, including being carried away on a raft.  Things reach a head when the princess follows some fireflies to Koopa’s castle. During the conflict, Mario and Luigi swing King Koopa into the fountain, turning him into a baby, too.  Once he’s out of the way, the guys turn the water’s flow and turn everyone back into an adult.

The Super Mario Brothers Super Show spoofed more than popular culture during its run on television.  It also spoofed classical literature.  One of the best of those spoofs is in the episode, “Mario and The Beanstalk.”  This episode is a loose take-off of the classic tale, with a few minor changes thrown in.  Mario and Luigi have to get 100 Gold Coins to save the Mushroom Kingdom orphange.  So the princess tells them to sell the royal cow to get the coins.  They end up selling the cow for a handful of Garbanzo beans.  When they bring the beans back, the princess is anything but happy.  She tells them that she’s allergic to Garbanzo beans, and tosses them out.  While everyone is sleeping later that night, a giant beanstalk grows.  The group discovers the beanstalk in the morning, and climbs it to see how high it goes.  It leads them to a castle in the sky.  Instead of a giant, they encounter a giant King Koopa.  In their attempt to outrun Koopa, they stumble on his treasure room, and the fabled “Golden Goose.”  Instead of laying eggs, the goose lays Gold Coins.  When they help the goose escape being held captive by Koopa, the goose helps Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and Toad get away from the castel.  They all get out together and climb back down the beanstalk where Mario cuts it down.  When the beanstalk falls, it brings Koopa’s castle with it.  The castle falls into a pond, causing Koopa to shring down to their size. 

Jack and The Beanstalk is just one piece of classical literature that The Super Mario Brothers Super Show spoofed during its run.  In “Count Koopula”, Mario and the gang are lured into the castle of Count Koopula, who is, of course, really King Koopa.  This time, he takes on the mantle of the infamous Count Dracula.  As they try to escape Count Koopula’s castle, the group has to face wereturtles, zombie Goombas and Koopa’s lead henchman, Mouser.  When the princess is captured, the guys take some spare garlic that they have, and eat it.  They use their powerful garlic breath and natural light to defeat Koopa.  Koopa turns into a bat and flies out the castle, leaving it to crumble after being defeated.  The group gets out of the castle safe and sound before it crumbles.

Super Mario Brothers Super Show has so many great episodes.  There are far more in this new volume of episodes than there is room and time to discuss.  That in mind, this is one more great piece of nostalgia for anyone who gew up in what is arguably one of the greatest eras of animation.  After having released so many single disc collections, it’s great to see NCircle Entertainment release this newest double disc set.  And with any luck, whenever the next volume is released, it will include  not just the rest of the show’s original episodes, but the Mario Bros. plumbing live action segments that originally came with the show, too.  Until then, this first volume is still a great chance for many viewers to go back to their own childhoods once again.

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