My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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

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.

Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For Mr. Ed: The Complete Series

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release another important piece of television history next month.

On Tuesday, December 9th, Shout! Factory will release Mr. Ed: The Complete Series on DVD. Between 2009 and 2011, Shout! Factory released the first five seasons of this standout classic on separate stand-alone DVD box sets. Now all six seasons and 143 episodes will be available for the first time in one complete box set courtesy of Shout! Factory. Along with being the first time that the entire 143-episode series will be presented in one box, Mr. Ed: The Complete Series also marks the first time that each episode of the series’ first season will be presented in their original full-length presentation. It also marks the first time that the series’ sixth season will have ever been released, too.

Along with the series’ complete 143-episode run, Shout! Factory’s upcoming complete series release of Mr. Ed will also include a number of bonus features for true lovers of classic television. Audiences that order Mr. Ed: The Complete Series now from Shout! Factory’s online store will get free U.S. standard shipping. It can be pre-ordered now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/mister-ed-the-complete-series.  

Mr. Ed centers on architect Wilbur Post (Alan Young—Duck Tales), and his equine friend after whom the series was named. As the story goes, Mr. Ed was left behind in his barn when his former owner sold the barn and the rest of the farm on which he lives. When Wilbur and his wife Carol (Connie Hines) buy the property, they are surprised to learn that the property includes Mr. Ed. Wilbur and Mr. Ed end up forming a friendship that leads to quite a number of madcap adventures over the course of six seasons. Mr. Ed earned a Golden Globe in 1963 for Best Television Series (Comedy).  More information on Mr. Ed: The Complete Series and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: 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.

Lionsgate’s Latest Family Friendly CG Centerpiece Will Entertain The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s latest CG animated feature Jungle Master is one of the year’s more welcome family features to come along so far in 2014.  Unlike so many of the movies released in recent years by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, Jungle Master actually takes the road less travelled.  The movie’s animation is the most obvious way in which it takes that road less travelled.  Despite being a CG presentation, it doesn’t bare that cookie cutter appearance of the movies released by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  Another reason that it stands out is its run time.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under the ninety-minute mark.  That’s a very good thing and will be discussed later.  Last but not least of all that makes this movie stand out is its script.  The story lifts lightly from The Wizard of Oz believe it or not and adds in a touch of Avatar for good measure as well as other sci-fi flicks.  The end result is a story that the while it may never be as big as anything from Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar, is still enjoyable in its own right.  It proves to be a movie that the whole family should watch together and will enjoy together when they do watch it together.

Jungle Master is not one of the most well-known family flicks to be released by any of Hollywood’s major studios this year.  That aside, it still proves in the long run to be one of the year’s more welcome family friendly flicks.  One reason for that is the movie’s “animation.”  Lionsgate’s CG features are completely unlike those of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar in the realm of animation.  It’s almost impossible to tell Dreamworks’ CG movies from Disney/Pixar’s because they all look alike.  The only way to really differentiate the two studios’ works is by the studio names.  That speaks volumes.  Lionsgate on the other hand has strived to keep itself separate from the mold used by those studios in terms of its animation.  The look of Lionsgate’s CG movies is rawer for lack of better wording.  But it isn’t raw to the point of looking like some pieces from perhaps independent studio Engine 15 Media Group and others.  There is actually some attention paid to detail with Lionsgate’s CG movies, including this one.  That attention to detail helps Jungle Master maintain its own identity separate from its bigger name counterparts from Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  It even helps the movie to maintain its own identity from Lionsgate’s previously released CG features.  That mostly original look is just one of a number of positives that surround Jungle Master and make it stand out among this year’s crop of CG movies.

The largely original look of Jungle Master plays a key role in the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged through its entire eighty-two minute run time.  That run time is another reason that families will enjoy this movie.  It doesn’t even reach the ninety-minute mark.  That relatively short run time drastically increases the chances of keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  This is especially the case with the movie’s target younger audiences.  Most of the CG movies released since 1995—which is when Pixar broke the mold and released Toy Story—have averaged about ninety minutes.  There have been a small number of movies that have come in just under that time.  But most either reach the ninety-minute mark or go well over it as was the case with Toy Story 3.  That movie came in at almost forty-five minutes.  Luckily its story worked well enough that it still succeeded and quite well at that.  Speaking of story Jungle Master’s story works wonderfully with its run time.  Its story combines elements of a number of other movies to make a story that somehow actually works.  It’s one more way in which Jungle Master works and makes itself one of this year’s more welcome family films.

Both the look of Jungle Master and its run time are important to the movie’s overall success.  They each play their own important role to the overall presentation as they both have an impact on whether or not audiences are kept engaged.  Luckily, both factors succeed by themselves and together.  As much as they succeeded, the look of Jungle Master and its run time are not all that made this direct-to-DVD feature work.  One would be remiss to ignore the movie’s script as an equally important part of the whole.  The movie’s script centers on a twelve year-old girl named Rainie (pronounced rainy) who runs away from home ater her mother forgot about her birthday.  It is assumed by the fact that Rainie was upset enough to run away that her mother (who remains nameless throughout the movie) has probably left Rainie alone more than once.  Her decision to run away ends up taking her to al alien planet  and a much biger adventure that is directly linked to the company for which her mother works.  It’s thanks to her adventure that Rainie realizes her mom hasn’t intentionally ignored her, obviously leading to an eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter.  The central story of the parent/child relationship is obviously anything but new.  It’s been done more times than a person can count on his or her own two hands.  However, the story’s execution is what makes this plot work.  Screen writer Steve Kramer lifted liberally from the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Avatar to make this story.  While he obviously lifted from the noted movies, Kramer didn’t try to just remake them and mix them together.  He used them more as influences for his story about family.  What’s more he balanced said elements quite well; well enough in fact that audiences will be moved to overlook the references to said movies and enjoy the presented story.

Kramer’s re-telling of original writer/director Xu Kerr’s story is one of the most important of this movie’s aspects in considering its level of success.  He obviously used at least a couple of rather well-known movies that have come before as both influences and elements of this movie.  But he also didn’t try to just rip off either work.  He balanced them together to make a largely original story that centers on family.  That creativity and homage still is not all that makes this movie work.  One should also take into account the movie’s cast and even its bonus shorts.  Victoria Justice (Victorious, Victoria Justice, iCarly), Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night, Wreck-It-Ralph), David Spade (Just Shoot Me, The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy), Josh Peck (Drake & Josh, Ultimate Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Christopher Lloyd (Cyberchase, Back to the Future 1 - 3), and John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Critic, Gorwn-Ups 1 & 2) make up the movie’s cast.  Lovitz proves to be the real star of the story with his comical antics voicing Mulla.  The fact that so many well-known names overall would feel confident enough about such a movie makes it even more worth the watch.  And the bonus shorts included with the movie will entertain children for a little while after the movie ends.  These extra positives combined with the positivews already noted make Jungle Master a movie well worth at least one watch together by any family.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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.

Captain America Sequel Another Largely Forgettable Flick From Marvel

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was touted as one of the biggest hits of 2014 when it hit theaters earlier this summer. While it is enjoyable enough, the sad truth of this movie is that it really is not as great as some would like to believe. It all starts with the script. The issues with the script can be summed up in one word: predictability. In its defense, the writing trio of Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Ed Brubaker make one unpredictable move. That will be discussed at a later point. Getting back to the movie, another major issue from which the movie suffers is what this critic has coined as “whisper scenes.” They are exactly what they sound like. And together with the movie’s scripting issues, it serves to bring this movie down and leave it even less enjoyable. The final product is a movie that proves in the end to be more forgettable than fun. Sorry, fanboys and fangirls. It’s true.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier got a lot of hype leading up to its debut this past April. And while for many, it was considered a hit, a closer examination of Marvel’s latest in its endless river of prequels, sequels, and remakes proves it to be hardly as good as many would want it to be. The primary reason for this is the movie’s scripting. The issues with the movie’s scripting can be summed up in one word. That word is predictability. As soon as Nick Fury shows up in Rogers’ apartment, and secretly tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised, it was pretty obvious the direction in which the script was headed. The bad guys infiltrate the good guys’ headquarters and pretend to be good guys until a certain point at which a major conflict arises. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious. Even without the spoilers that had been “leaked” before the movie’s debut, it was pretty obvious who the real good guys were and who the real bad guys were. And even without those spoilers, it was pretty obvious that The Winter Soldier in question was a former good guy. That formula has been used far too many times before in far too many other action flicks that far exceed this one. Not to ruin the movie for those that haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, but it’s also pretty obvious that the movie’s (and studio’s) heads were not going to kill off the biggest names in their franchises. Again, audiences are presented with so much predictability, greatly decreasing from the movie’s enjoyment.

For all of the issues of predictability that run throughout Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is one unpredictable aspect to the script overall that deserves being noted. That aspect is that Markus, McFeely, and Brubaker actually opted not to let a romance develop between Natasha and Steve. There is a point at which Natasha tells Cap to kiss her so as to avoid detection by some Hydra agents. A conversation between the pair later leads some to believe that perhaps there is a potential for romance there. Luckily though, that doesn’t happen. And for that, the movie’s writers deserve at least some credit if no more. It is one of only two shining rays of light in a movie that lacks greatly in terms positives. The only other positive worth noting is the fact that it keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum unlike the movies that have been churned out over the years from DC. Even with Bucky’s own personal demons, his brooding is kept in check. It really helps the overall product. For that reason too, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to stay at least somewhat afloat.

Those behind the cameras on Captain America: The Winter Soldier did plenty of damage to the movie with just the massive amount of predictability throughout the script. They try to make up for all of that by filling the movie’s nearly two and a half-hour run time with all of the standard fight scenes, explosions, and chase scenes that are all too common with big screen action blockbusters. Thanks to the number of these elements crammed into the movie and the movie’s relatively long run time, it ends up having the same feel as its fellow Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World. That feel is that it’s a movie that is just one explosion, chase scene and fight scene after another. Simply put, the imbalance of substance versus action flick filler hurts the movie even more. And coupled with the script’s predictability from start to finish, it becomes even less memorable.

It should be crystal clear at this point that Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn’t exactly live up to its hype. For those not yet convinced, there is still one more aspect of the movie that while subtle still hurts it in its own way. That last aspect is what this critic has come to call “whisper scenes.” These scenes are exactly what they sound like (no pun intended). Actors talk in hushed tones so as to heighten the tension of a given scene. Those scenes are typically bookended by really loud action scenes or scenes that are otherwise the polar opposite of said scene. Whisper scenes aren’t bad. Don’t misinterpret that. The problem is that this movie is one more that uses them far too often throughout the course of its run time. It seems like an increasing number of directors have been relying on “whisper scenes” in recent years. Simply put, it is annoying. It’s as annoying as the number of lens flares thrown into director J.J. Abrams’ movies. Anyone that is familiar with Abrams’ works will understand this frustration. Anyone that has experienced such over use of “whisper scenes” will be just as able to relate. It is the last straw of a movie that ends up proving to be all but the enjoyable summer blockbuster that it was touted to be.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not a terrible movie. Anyone looking to just turn off their brains and enjoy a standard, mindless orgy of explosions, chase scenes, and fight scenes will enjoy this movie just as much as its predecessor. But those that give the movie a closer examination will see just how many problems it has. Its script is predictable. It relies largely on those aforementioned chase scenes, fight scenes and explosions to try and make up for its predictability and overall lack of substance. And the overload of “whisper scenes” that fill the movie’s run time only serve to hurt it more. The movie’s only shining rays of light are the fact that its team of writers didn’t allow for Steve and Natasha’s partnership to become a romance and it kept Bucky’s brooding to a bare minimum. Other than that, there is very little good that can be said of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a movie that is fun for one watch, but little more.

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.

Nickelodeon, Shout! Factory Finishing Off Another Classic Nicktoon Next Month

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon established a partnership only a few years ago that has seen some of the network’s greatest classic series, called Nicktoons, get full, proper releases. Almost all of those classic Nicktoons has seen releases in separate seasons and complete series box sets. Now what is one of the last of those series sets will be released next month in the form of CatDog: The Complete Series.

CatDog: The Complete Series will be released on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. The series’ complete four-season, sixty-eight episode run will be released in one complete multi-disc set. It will retail for MSRP of $29.93. After this release, the only full series sets that are left to be released under the companies’ current partnership are The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series and Hey Dude: The Complete Series. Audiences can keep up with the latest on all of these releases online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: 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.

Slugterra: Return Of The Elementals Will Impress Any Anime Fan

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Disney XD/Nerd Corps

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Disney XD/Nerd Corps

Disney X D’s Slugterra is one of the most popular series on the Disney Channel’s digital sister station today.  The CG-based series has drawn large numbers for the network and seen a handful of episode compilations since it first debuted.  This week, Shout! Factory released the series’ latest DVD, which is in fact the first non-compilation disc rom the series in the form of Slugterra: Return of the ElementalsSlugterra: The Return of the Elementals is the first “movie” spawned Disney X D’s series.  Those that might not be so familiar with this presentation will enjoy this story for more than one reason.   The first reason that audiences will enjoy this feature is the fact that while it is an anime series of sorts, it can only rightfully be compared to maybe one other series stylistically speaking.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this “movie” is its writing.  It is a bridge of sorts between the series’ previous episodes and those to come.  And unlike other features of its ilk, it doesn’t necessarily require viewers to come into the presentation with knowledge of the series up to this point.  Last to note of the note of the “movie” is the series’ exhibition of its stylistic difference from the likes of Beyblade, Pokemon, Digimon, Monsuno, and others within that realm.  All three factors taken into consideration, audiences will see in watching this latest release from Shout! Factory and Disney X D, that Slugterra actually proves worth watching by any anime fan.

Disney X D’s Slugterra has proven to be a big hit for the network in its now three seasons.  It is sure to grow in popularity now with the brand new release of its first full length “movie” Slugterra; Return of the Elementals.  The primary reason that this presentation will help increase Slugterra’s popularity is the fact that it can’t necessarily be compared to all of the other series out there today in terms of its look.  Series such as Monsuno, Pokemon, and Digimon have a very specific look about them.  The only series to which one could truly and justifiably compare Slugterra, as evidenced in this DVD, is the short-lived series Hot Wheels Battle Force 5.  This should come as no surprise as both series are produced by the Canadian animation studio Nerd Corps.  Viewers that are familiar with Hasbro Studios’ properties will see a similar trend among its series, too.  So the fact that Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals can be compared to only another series under the Nerd Corps umbrella and not other CG/anime hybrid series makes it stand out right from the start.  It’s only one aspect of this DVD that will impress especially audiences that are new to Slugterra, both in terms of the series and this DVD.

The look of Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals is an important part of this presentation especially among those audiences that are experiencing the series for the first time on this DVD.  Just as worth noting in this DVD is the writing behind the presentation’s story (I.E. its script).  The story behind this feature picks up where the events of the series’ second season leaves off.  The Shane Gang thought that they had gotten rid of Dr. Black and The Goon, and saved the caverns.  So, things seem okay at first.  But when all the slugs start essentially becoming possessed, Eli knows that something is very wrong.  It turns out that things are very bad and are about to get much worse as they didn’t finish the job after all at the end of the series’ second season.  It leads to a perilous hunt for the fabled Elementals, which are essentially the ancestors of all of the slugs in the caverns.  It makes for a fun story within itself and an equally enjoyable bridge between the events of the series’ first two seasons and the potential third season to come.   The inclusion of a series recap before the story even begins enhances the overall viewing experience even more both for viewers that are more familiar with the series than others.  It shows respect for those that might be coming on board for the first time and for those that had forgotten what had happened even having watched the series’ first two seasons.  It’s one more way that Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals proves to be worth the watch by any anime fan at least once.

The writing and the look of Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals are both important in considering the impact of this DVD among its key audiences.  They both help to set this movie apart from the extended features spawned from other series such as Digimon, Pokemon, and Monsuno just to name a few examples.  There is one more aspect of this presentation that makes it stand out from that crowd worth noting.  That last aspect is the “movie’s” stylistic approach.  The stylistic approach taken with Slugterra is rather different from those aforementioned series.  Whereas the series in question center on battles between characters, Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals presents a somewhat different approach.  The series’ characters do use super powered creatures and even keep them in their own special containers as with the other anime series out there.  But unlike those series, Eli and his friends in the Shane Gang, don’t necessarily engage in the same kind of battles per se.  Rather the slugs are used as part of the overall action of the story.  From saving Eli and company from a raging underground river by crafting a web to hold back rocks to protect them from evil attackers and even to heal a person, the slugs are more tools so to speak than the sort of creature used in the other anime series currently populating the television spectrum.   It’s one more aspect of this feature that makes it stand out and in turn makes it even more enjoyable for viewers new and old.  Together with the feature’s script and its overall style, all three elements collectively make Slugterra: the Return of the Elementals even more worth the watch by any anime fan.

The general style or look of Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals is one that can only be compared to its fellow Nerd Corps counterpart in Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 much as the series under Hasbro Studios are quite similar to one another.  The story that makes up Slugterra: Return of the Elementals is full of action and even humor that audiences old and new will appreciate.  Whether viewers are jumping on board for the first time with this DVD or are more familiar with the series at this point, its series recap before the presentation serves as an excellent addition to the overall program.  And rounding out the whole presentation is the “movie’s” stylistic approach. While it is fantastic in its own right and bears a slight similarity to other anime series out there, it still maintains its own identity from those series in how the creatures are used.  All three factors alone make this feature rather interesting in their own right.  Collectively, they prove Slugterra: The Return of The Elementals is a “movie” worth at least one watch whether one is new to the world of anime or is far more a fan of the genre.  Slugterra: Return of the Elementals is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Shout! Factory online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-animation/slugterra-return-of-the-elementals.  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.