Inescapable A Nice Escape For Action Movie Fans

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

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

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

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Courtesy: Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter Pan Diamond Edition Another Welcome Re-Issue From The Disney Vaults

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Peter Pan is one of the greatest of Walt Disney’s original classic animated features.  This animated take on Sir James M. Barrie’s classic literary work may not stay entirely true to the original.  But what movie ever adapted from a book ever does or has?  Considering that, one is left wondering what exactly it is that makes this adaptation of Barrie’s classic story so timeless on screen.  The very first aspect of the movie’s success is a simple one that is echoed in the 2004 movie, Finding Neverland.  Johnny Depp plays Barrie in the movie.  At one point in the movie, he notes that once a person loses their childhood, their innocence, it’s gone.  Peter Pan really shows that Walt Disney was perhaps himself just a big kid in an adult’s body.  Thus audiences got the final product of fourteen years’ work that so many still love today.  Wendy’s father states before she goes off to Neverland that everybody has to grow up.  Sure, everybody has to grow up.  But that doesn’t mean that in growing up, everybody has to lose at least some sense of their childhood.  It’s that element of childhood after all, that helps establish the suspension of disbelief that makes this story timeless.

Peter Pan is the embodiment of the belief that while we all have to grow up, we should never completely lose our childhood.  That is the most important aspect of Peter Pan’s success.  It’s an excellent reminder both for kids and their parents across generations.  That aspect is but one part of what makes it timeless.  Another aspect that makes this adaptation such a success is its animation.  As is the case with Disney’s other early animated features, this feature stands out because of its entirely original hand drawn animation.  The colors used throughout the feature are so rich and vibrant.  They make the story feel “alive.”  By comparison, so many of today’s “animated” features are crafted through computers.  In turn, they all feel sterile and look alike.  Animation through this venue takes away any identity from said features.  But true hand drawn animation gives classics such as this one its own identity and life.  It’s a stamp of originality so to speak.  And it’s something that once again is examined in the bonus features included in the brand new triple disc Diamond Edition of Peter Pan.

The new triple-disc Diamond Edition of Peter Pan offers a whole new generation the same joy that was offered to their parents and grandparents.  The inclusion of the bonus features will also offer a whole new appreciation to parents who originally watched it as kids themselves.  It discusses the importance of the hand drawn animation through the new feature, “Growing Up With Nine Old Men.”  This feature is a culmination of sorts from bonus features on previous Disney re-issues.  It offers a glimpse at the lives of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” from the vantage point of those who were closest to them; their own children.  Their children discuss the hard work and long hours put into making Disney’s classic films, Peter Pan included.  Audiences will appreciate learning that one of the “Nine Old Men” was not just an illustrator, but a true artist.  He was a painter outside of his job.  His daughter explains his attention to detail in his paintings just as he did with his art for Disney’s films.  It’s just one of the bonus features that audiences will appreciate with this latest re-issue.

If the discussion on Disney’s “Nine Old Men” wasn’t enough to earn new appreciation for Peter Pan, perhaps the short feature on Tinkerbell, “Tinkerbell: A Fairy’s Tale” will do the trick.  Audiences get a glimpse into the woman who was the original inspiration for Tinkerbell as well as Tinkerbell herself being an example of a progressive woman.  As is noted, she represented a very independent, strong and strong willed woman who would eventually become the basis for so many of Disney’s modern princesses.  As short as this feature is, had a person not watched it before, then watching it now with the movie’s new re-issue will show just how far ahead of everything this movie is simply through this factor.  And hopefully it will develop a new appreciation among audiences who had otherwise never considered Tinkerbell’s overall importance before.  It’s just one more of so many features included in the new re-issue that exemplify why Peter Pan always has been and always will be a timeless family film both in the world of Disney and in the movie industry as a whole.

The brand new triple-disc diamond edition of Peter Pan will be available next Tuesday, February 5th.  It will be available in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com

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 get the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Aerosmith Set To Celebrate New LP With Surprise Performance

Boston’s favorite sons (aside from the Boston Red Sox) are set to tentatively release the new Aerosmith album in two weeks.  Music From Another Dimension is currently set to hit stores and online outlets on Tuesday, November 6th.  In celebration of the band’s upcoming new release, Aerosmith will perform on the streets of Boston Monday, November 5th.  The performance will not only be a way to promote the band’s new album, but also a way to get everyone to do their civic duty and vote.  The band is scheduled to appear in a surprise location around noon on November 5th and play.

Courtesy: MSO PR

The upcoming performance date is also a pre-party for the band’s upcoming month-long tour in support of its new album.  The tour will take Aerosmith to fourteen arenas across the country along with Cheap Trick.  The first pair of singles from the album has already been released together to radio.  Other highlights from Music From Another Dimension include a duet with American Idol star Carrie Underwood and another song with actor Johnny Depp on backing vocals.

Aerosmith fans can get the band’s full tour itinerary and the band’s latest news online at http://www.aerosmith.com, http://www.aeroforceone.com, http://www.facebook.com/aerosmith, http://twitter.com/#!/Aerosmith, and http://www.youtube.com/theofficialaerosmith.

To keep up with all the latest entertainment news and reviews, 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 news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Citizen Gangster Is One of The Year’s Best Indie Releases

Courtesy: IFC Films/MPI Media Group

Citizen Gangster is one of the best indie releases of 2012, hands down.  Some critics obviously have had their say.  But in an era when so many crime dramas are riddled with too much overt violence and sexuality, this piece strikes just enough of a balance to maintain its grip on the audience through the course of its almost two hour run.  One can’t help but feel some sympathy for lead character Edwin Boyd (Scott Speedman) as he faces his own inner trials after deciding to take on a life of crime just to be able to support his family.  The world is in a state of economic uncertainty right now.  And while this movie by no means intends to reiterate that, seeing Boyd’s struggles after returning from WWII makes him at least somewhat relatable. 

Speedman is spot on in the role of Boyd.  Rather than trying to be some sort of over the top type of gangster a la James Cagney, Speedman’s quiet inner battles show him to be a flawed, imperfect character.  It makes him that much more human.  Some would say that he is the only real light of this movie.  But one has to remember that an actor alone can only do so much.  Thanks to the work of writer/director Nathan Morlano, Speedman has given a brilliant performance.  And the story itself is emotionally powerful and gripping.  As disturbing as some moments may be, audiences won’t want to look away.  Nor will they want to look away from the wonderful cinematography, either.  That too adds its own extra element of enjoyment.

As impressive as this indie flick is, it should be noted that it is unrated.  But there is enough violence and foul language to qualify it at least for an “R” rating.  That being noted, viewer discretion is advised for those with younger children.  Speaking of that language and violence, it is nowhere at the level of say Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) or Francis Ford Coppela’s Godfather trilogy.  It has enough of a balance even there, that any fan of the gangster genre will likely find this to be enjoyable, given the opportunity.  It’s even better than 2009′s big screen fiasco, Public Enemies, which paled in comparison to the book on which it was based.

Citizen Gangster likely won’t be seen by the number of people who have seen the Godfather Trilogy, or Goodfellas, or even Public Enemies.  But one thing can be said of it.  It is one of the year’s most underrated–and probably most underappreciated–movies in the crime drama/thriller category.  It is also without a doubt, one of the best in the indie field this year.

Citizen Gangster will be available Tuesday in stores and online.  It can be ordered online at http://www.ifcfilms.com/dvd-digital-download

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.

Dark Shadows Fan Favorites collection boasts nine great episodes at a great price

Twilight.  The Vampire Diaries.  Supernatural.  Buffy The Vampire Hunter.  Ask any viewer is they know these franchises.  Odds are that the majority of those asked would know at least one of these franchises, if not more.  But ask them about a little gothic daytime drama by the name of Dark Shadows, and the number of people who know of it would likely be far less.  Next month though, that number may start to rise, as Tim Burton and Johnny Depp reteam once again for a big screen adaptation of the classic vampire drama.  Wait.  There was a vampire drama before all those others?  That’s right.  And in celebration, MPI home video is offering quite the treat for fans of this classic tv show.

MPI Home Video has released a pair of collections of classic Dark Shadows episodes, alongside a full series set with the full five year run in a special coffin shaped box.  Being that the full box set boasts a hefty six hundred dollar price tag, we’ll focus more on the new single disc sets, as they’re more affordable at roughly ten bucks a pop.  With any luck, next month’s resurrection of this classic series to the silver screen will also mean its re-birth on television, too.  It used to run on Syfy at one point many years ago.  Before that, it originally ran on ABC on weekday afternoons.  And it had more than its share of gripping episodes.  Nine of those episodes are included in the first of the two sets on which we’ll focus, “Dark Shadows:  The Greatest Episodes Collection.  Fan Favorites.”

The “Fan Favorites” collection includes episodes from 1967, 1969 and 1970.  One of the best fo this collection is Episode 212, which opens the set.  Episode 212 is one of the black and white episoeds from early in the show’s run.  In this episode, Barnabus returns to Collinwood for the first time and meets Elizabeth and a then young David.  At first Elizabeth and David are welcoming to Barnabus, despite the fact that he still looks the same as his picture that hangs in the house.  He does a good job keeping the pair from knowing it’s really him.  But eventually Elizabeth becomes very suspicious of Barnabus, and wishes she hadn’t let him in.  Meanwhile, as he looks around, Barnabas states that he was home and that he’d make Collinwood his again.  It’s a great start to the collection.

Episode 212 is just one of the great episodes in the “Fan Favorites” collection.  In what is considered one of the odder episodes, Episode 1065 sees Barnabas and Julia travel to 1995.  That in itself is what makes this episode such a standout.  It’s not the first tv show to wonder what the 1990′s and beyond would look like.  So seeing how the show’s heads decided to take that story was interesting.  In this episode, Barnabas and Julia discover that Collinwood in 1995 was in ruins and that both Carolyn and Quentin had gone insane.  Doctor Stokes is apprehensive at first about admitting this to them.  But he finally breaks down and tells them.  Though he adds he doesn’t know what drove the pair crazy. While he tries to get in to Carolyn’s mind for answers as to what happened, Barnabas and Julia encounter Quentin, and try to get answers from him.  Neither side results in answers in this episode.

The “Fan Favorites” compilation also includes another important favorite in Episode 370.  This episode aired November 24th, 1970.  This time out, audiences what really happens when the spurned Angelique unleashes her fury on Barnabas and Josette.  Angelique uses a voodoo doll of sorts and wraps a cloth around its neck, strangling it.  This causes Barnabas to be strangled.  He’s checked out by a  doctor who determines that Barnabas is fine, and can’t figure out why he’s choking.  Ultimately, when Barnabas is about to die from the strangulation, Angelique realizes the error of her ways.  So she runs to the doll and unwraps it just in time.  But she still vows to find a way to get revenge without killing him.  What makes this episode important is that Angelique is the one that turned Barnabas to a vampire.  She also plays a role in the new upcoming big screen adaptation of this classic show.

According to most of the material that’s out there, the big screen adaptation of Dark Shadows essentially takes a bunch of the show’s various episodes and mixes them together.  Bits and pieces of these are seemingly included in the overall plot for the new movie remake.  However the reviews turn out for the new movie, this “Fan Favorites” compilation is a great re-introduction for fans who haven’t gotten to see Dark Shadows in ages, and an equally impresive first impression for those audiences who’ve never seen it.