Starz Acquires Rights To Hawkins Brothers’ Directorial Debut

Courtesy:  Starz Media

Courtesy: Starz Media

Kevin Kasha, Head of Acquisitions for Starz, announced this week that the company has acquired the award-winning movie We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.  The movie, which was the directorial debut of the Hawkins Brothers, premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Audience Award at AFI Fest.  The deal, signed this week, gives Starz Digital Media exclusive rights to the movie in both Canada and the United States.

Kasha was upbeat in discussing acquiring the film from the up-and-coming directing duo.  “I love when our team discovers films by talented new filmmakers,” he said.  “Set in a dead-end Texas town, Zeke and Simon Hawkins offer audiences a gritty thriller that presents a fresh, sometimes surreal take that will appeal to film fans everywhere. We’re excited they’ve partnered with Starz to share their debut film.”

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place is a gritty crime drama that centers on a trio of teens in Texas that gets pulled into the world of organized crime after the young men go partying with some stolen money.  The movie stars Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire), Mark Pellegrino (Being Human), and William Devane (The Dark Knight).  The story was written by Dutch Southern and produced by Rough & Tumble Films.

More information on new releases from Starz and Starz Digital Media is available online at http://www.starz.com, http://www.facebook.com/Starz, and http://twitter.com/starz_channel.  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.

ITV Import Another Impressive Addition To PBS’ Programming Lineup

Courtesy:  PBS/itv Studios

Courtesy: PBS/itv Studios

It’s been said time and again that people love a good story.  People also like drama.  So if this is the case, then why is it that so few people are watching PBS?  The network’s recent import of itv Studios’ Mr. Selfridge offers viewers both a good story and more than its share of drama.  The ten-part mini-series is expertly led by veteran actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage, PCU).  His performance in the role of the famed retail magnate on which the mini-series is based is his finest yet.  The same can be said of co-stars Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Madame Bovary), Aisling Loftus (Page Eight), Zoe Tapper (Zen), Katherine Kelly (Coronation Street), Gregory Fitoussi (Spiral), and Trystan Gravelle (Anonymous).  Together with Piven (and the show’s writers), the ensemble crafted a work that fully immerses viewers both male and female into its world and keeps them engaged through each episode.  Of course, one would be remiss to omit any mention of the show’s production values in its success, too.  As viewers will note in the bonus “making of” featurette, painstaking work went into creating a historically accurate world.  The sets and costumes took massive amounts of time to get just right and accurate.  This understanding makes the final product that much more entertaining for those viewers whose minds are open enough.  By the time it’s all said and done, audiences will see that while it is a British import, much as with Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge shows even more the value and importance of PBS.

The choice of bringing in Jeremy Piven to lead the cast for this itv mini-series was the first positive choice in bringing to life Harry Gordon Selfridge’s story.  His portrayal of Selfridge was completely believable.  He presents a man that despite being a strong and self confident businessman on the surface was also emotionally fragile and complex beneath the surface.  He showed that while Selfridge was this larger than life character, he was just as human as anyone else.  It makes him deeply relatable to viewers.  That ability of viewers to relate to Selfridge is the starting point of the show’s success.   Viewers will see this for themselves when they watch the program for themselves.  On a side note, perhaps most intriguing of all about Piven being picked was why he was chosen.  It was noted in the included bonus features that an American actor was specifically wanted to portray Selfridge.  The woman that is interviewed tells viewers in her interview that while there were plenty of British actors that could easily handle an American accent, an American actor was wanted over a British actor for his role.  This is important considering how many British actors have played American roles recently.  Two prime examples would be Christian Bale and Henry Cavill as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman respectively.  There are others, but these are the first two that come to mind.  Keeping this choice in mind, it makes Piven, the show and its heads worthy of even more respect. 

The acting on the part of Jeremy Piven and his co-stars is one of the prime reasons for the success of Mr. Selfridge.  Their ability to interpret the writing will keep viewers fully engaged from the series’ opening minutes to its bittersweet end.  Staying on that note, the writing behind Mr. Selfridge is another reason for the show’s success.  So much goes on throughout the course of the ten episodes that make up this standout British import.  Despite the number of storylines that interweave throughout the primary story, the show’s writers don’t allow the story as a whole to get bogged down even once.  Rather, the script moves fluidly and at a fast pace.  It isn’t too fast to lose viewers, either.  The different storylines incorporated into the bigger picture make the whole thing even more successful in that they will entertain both men and women.  Men will appreciate watching Selfridge’s personal journey from upstart businessman to one of London’s biggest names to an emotionally broken man.  They will enjoy seeing him in his highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Women will enjoy the series’ more soap opera style elements.  There is infighting between the women working the displays.  The infighting is the result of power struggles and to a far greater degree, romantic interests.  Because the storylines are able to keep from bogging down the mini-series as a whole, it allows viewers in general to focus on one more factor that makes Mr. Selfridge even more believable.  That factor is the series’ production values.

Viewers will see the painstaking efforts taken to make every episode believable in the set’s bonus features.  The bonus features included in the set tell a little about a lot.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Those that are interested in set construction and related topics will enjoy the discussions on how a carpet warehouse was turned into the first Selfridge & Co. store.  It’s incredible to think that such an open space could be turned into such a stunning set.  And anyone that has any interest in fashion will appreciate the discussion on making sure that the costumes worn by both the men and women were precise for the period.  Viewers will especially appreciate the discussion on the use of the corsets for women’s attire.  One of the female cast members even states that she liked using the corset and wearing clothes from the period of the story.  Not many women would likely so openly admit this.  But she did.  It’s one more entertaining and enjoyable aspect of the set that proves programming on PBS is just as valuable as any mainstream American dramas.  It is available now and can be ordered from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19273126&cp=&sr=1&kw=selfridge&origkw=Selfridge&parentPage=search.  And for all of the latest update on PBS’ Masterpiece series, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs and “Like” it. 

For all of 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.

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.

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.

Top 10 Major Motion Pictures Of 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012

 

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1.  The Artist:  While it originally made its debut overseas in 2011, it wasn’t until January 20th of this year that The Artist actually made its nationwide debut in theaters across the U.S.  Before then, only the lucky few at the big festivals got to see it.  That being the case, it should be considered a 2012 release.  So what makes it 2012’s best?  So much could be said.  At a time when so much of what Hollywood churns out is prequels, sequels, and remakes, this story—distributed by Sony Pictures—went the total opposite.  How simple and ingenious is it to make a silent film in a movie of major flash-bang-boom films?  Because the movie’s only sound is its music, viewers are forced to watch.  And the cast was force to really put on its best possible performance, rather than rely on everything else that most movies use to distract audiences from poor performances.  The music is quite enjoyable, too.  And of course, the general cinematography is just as impressive.  It all combines to make for a movie that any movie lover should see at least once.

Mirror Mirror BD2.  Mirror, Mirror:  Some of you might shake your heads at this pick.  But the reality is that this is really a fun and family friendly movie.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  While young Lily Collins (the daughter of superstar Phil Collins) is billed as the lead star here, it’s the dwarves who are really the story’s stars.  Their antics make for more than their share of laughs.  Though watching Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer—The Lone Ranger) put under the evil queen’s puppy love spell is pretty funny, too.  It’s obvious that this spoof of the classic fairy tale was aimed both at boys and girls.  With its mix of wit and charm, it will always be one of the best takes on the old Snow White story.

Courtesy:  Disney Studios

Courtesy: Disney Studios

3.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green:  This is another truly enjoyable family movie.  The general story is one to which any parent can relate and will enjoy because of that.  Though the concept of what happens with Timothy might be a little bit tough to discuss with younger viewers.  The beautiful backdrop adds even more warmth to the story.  And the cast’s acting makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Sure it’s sappy, emotional, and all that jazz.  But that can be forgiven as it’s such an original and heartwarming story.       

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

4.  Skyfall:  This is where things begin to get a little bit touchy.  Skyfall is by far the best Bond flick to come along in a very long time.  That’s not to say that the previous two were bad.  But this one brought back memories of the old school James Bond that everybody knows.  It’s got the gadgets and the humor and none of the melodrama that weighed down the previous two Bond flicks.  The only downside to the movie is that it tends to drag in the final act.  Other than that, it is a nice return to form for the Bond franchise and gives hope for any future Bond films….that is at least if Christopher Nolan doesn’t get his hands on the franchise.

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

5.  The Avengers:  The Avengers was a very nice way to cap off the build-up created by Marvel Studios with the recent bevy of comic book based movies.  It had great special effects.  Its story was simple and solid.  And the shooting was equally impressive.  Considering all the action going on, audiences weren’t left feeling dizzy to the point of wanting to walk out (or in the case of home release, just turn it off).  But like so many ensemble cast movies, it suffered from a common problem.  That problem was the movie’s run time.  Most of the characters in The Avengers had already been introduced through their own separate movies.  So there was no reason to re-introduce them all over again this time.  A lot of that extra time could have been spared.  Hopefully those involved have learned from that and will present viewers with a shorter movie in the second of the Avengers movies.

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

6.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I am just as much a comic book fan as anyone else out there.  So it goes without saying that I was excited to see this movie.  It did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy.  The problem is that it did too much of a good job, as David Goyer and the Nolans tried too hard to cram everything into one movie.  Word is that this latest installment of the Batman franchise left many people checking their watches when it was in theaters.  It might have been better served to have been split up into at least one more movie because of everything added into the mix.  And having what seems to be a lack of commentary on the new home release, fans can only guess what the logic was in cramming so much into one story.  Much like The Avengers, the shooting and the special effects were great.  So it has that going for it.  But the writing was the story’s big problem.  Here’s to hoping that whoever takes over the Batman franchise next (whenever it’s re-launched) won’t make the same mistake as Christopher Nolan and company.

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

7.  Prometheus:  This semi-prequel to Ridley Scott’s hit Alien franchise was met with mixed reviews.  There seemed to be no gray area here.  Audiences either loved it or hated it.  Truth be told, it worked quite well as both a prequel and as its very own stand-alone movie.  Sure the special effects are different from those used in the original movies.  But times are different.  So viewers should take that into account.  And the shooting was just as impressive.  While it may not be as memorable as Scott’s previous works, at least audiences can agree that it’s better than the movies in the AvP franchise.

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

8.  Les Miserables:  This latest reboot of Victor Hugo’s classic story of love and redemption in one of history’s darkest eras is not bad.  But it’s not great, either.  Audiences who know the stage play will thrill at how director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his staff of writers paid tribute to the stage play both in its writing and its shooting.  At the same time, Hooper tried so hard to pay tribute with his shooting style and the transitions that the whole movie felt dizzying to say the least.  The shooting and transitions felt like nothing more than a bunch of cuts from one shot to the next.  There was never a total sense of fluidity anywhere in the story.  It was almost as if despite staying true to the stage play, the script for this latest big screen adaptation was written by someone with ADHD.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway did a superior job with their performances.  But despite that, odds are that the movie will sadly be remembered more for its flawed shooting and transitions than for its award-worthy performances.  Nonetheless, it’s still a good movie for any fan of Les Miserables or for fans of musicals in general to see at least once.

Courtesy:  CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

9.  Salmon Fishing in the YemenSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is without a doubt an original story.  It’s next to impossible to find anything like it out there or present.  But it suffers greatly from an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama, a romance, or a little bit of both.  It’s nice to see the simple message of something as simple as fishing being able to bring the world’s people together peacefully.  But it really seemed to let the romance factor get too much involved.  As a result, it got bogged down in itself.  Had it not had the romance subplot, it might have been better.

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

10. Arbitrage:  It was once noted that three factors more than any other are the causes of crime.  Those factors are:  money, power, and sex.  Arbitrage has all three of these.  It’s an interesting movie.  And it definitely wastes no time noting the latter of the trio of factors, as it lets audiences know that Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having an affair with another woman.  And also, Miller’s boss has a very firm talk with him early on letting him know that he knows about the financial inaccuracies that he’s causing.  It doesn’t take long to know where this story goes.  It’s something of a tried and true story.  Add in this critic’s pet peeve of movies, the “whisper scenes” and it makes for a movie that as good as it is it could have been better.  For those wondering, the “whisper scene” is exactly as it sounds (bad pun there).  The “whisper scene” is one in which actors essentially whisper throughout the scene against overpowering music to make the scene more emotional and powerful.  But put against the sudden transition to normal volume scenes (and above normal volume scenes), it becomes rather annoying as one has to constantly change the volume on one’s TV as a result of that.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets the Golden Globe for which it was nominated.

There you have it folks.  That is my personalist of the year’s ten best major motion pictures.  You are more than welcome to share whether you agree or disagree and what your top 10 list would look like.  2013′s already shaping up to be an interesting year.  As the movies start to come out, I’ll have reviews of them, too.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Batman Finale One Of 2012′s Best Movies, Home Releases

 

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Thank you David S. Goyer.  Thank you Christopher Nolan.  And thank you Jonathan Nolan.  Thanks to this trio, action film fans have gotten what is one of not only the best actions films of 2012, but one of the best films of 2012, hands down.  And while it is an impressive movie, one can’t help but wonder if perhaps it would have been better served to have been split at least into one final movie instead of trying to cram the entire thing into a near three hour time span.  That, perhaps, is the only true fault of this franchise closer……or is it the closer.  For those who have yet to see The Dark Knight Rises, Goyer and the Nolanâ(TM)s leave the door somewhat ajar for the possibility of another movie, even if it isn’t helmed by either of the Nolans.  What that means will not be given away, for the sake of those who have yet to experience this thrill ride of a story.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting title for this third and final(?) movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise.  What audiences see in this installment is Bruce wayne having had everything taken away.  He even loses his fortune through a series of twists and turns written into the primary plot.  That is one of the problems with the story’s writing.  How he loses his money exactly won’t be given away, either, here.  But the manner in which it is tied into the larger storyline is somewhat roundabout.  But being that said instance happens, combined with another downfall of sorts (there’s a little hint there), it makes the movie’s title that much more of a fit.  Audiences see Bruce Wayne AND Batman rise.  There’s even homage to the comic storyline in which Bane broke Batman’s back.  Of course, in that storyline, another character named Azrael had to take on the Batman mantle.  That doesn’t happen here.

As subtle as it was there was another factor that made The Dark Knight Rises an interesting movie.  In the first fight scene between Batman and Bane, there is no music to heighten the mood of the moment.  Typically, with any action movie, said music would be standard.  But in this case, that fight scene in question as just as powerful without the music.  That’s because audiences see just how tough Bane is.  There’s no need for music to emphasize that he was one tough villain.  The music is actually discussed in the bonus features in the new home release of The Dark Knight Rises.  It’s just one of many bonus features that make the movie even better now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  Whether one is a trained movie production professional or simply has an appreciation for the work that goes into bringing such an epic movie to life, the extensive bonus features included in this release make for much more appreciation for the dedication to the Batman franchise.  The only irony of the new home release of The Dark Knight Rises is the lack of commentary on the main disc with the movie.  That isn’t entirely a loss though.  Considering the extensive bonus features included in the set, the lack of commentary is a minor issue.  Add in impressive quality footage in the Blu-ray presentation and audiences get a work that is not just one of the best movies of 2012 but also one of the best home releases of 2012.

As previously noted, The Dark Knight Rises clocks in at nearly three hours in length.  Goyer and the Nolans should be commended for making such an effort to bring everything from the first two movies and bring the whole franchise full circle.  Even Dr. Crane (A.K.A. The Scarecrow) is back again.  But because the trio made such an effort, it felt like too much was crammed into too little space.  While most critics might have panned the men for doing it, since the Harry Potter franchise did the same thing,The Dark Knight Rises might have been even more of a joy had it been spread out into another movie.  It would have left both the most seasoned Batman fans and the more casual ones feeling fulfilled while still wanting more.  Instead, it obviously left some audiences feeling winded after such a wild ride.  Regardless, what David S. Goyer and the Nolans have done for audiences with not just given this generation its definitive Batman, but it has clearly left the door open for Nolan or anyone else to continue the franchise in his or her own vision.  Should that happen, here is to the hopes that whoever should take the reins next will bring audiences a Batman franchise as impressive as Nolan’s, AND Burton’s.

To  keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.