The Rangers Return With More Lessons, Adventures In New Set

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Power Rangers are back once again.  Thanks to Lionsgate and Saban, fans of the latest team of Rangers get to experience four more action packed adventures from Power Rangers Samurai.  In the latest set of adventures, the Rangers face one of their most difficult challenges yet.  The whole thing starts when Kevin is put under a mind control spell by a new Nighlok monster.  It just so happens that the monster also has control of the Rangers’ Tigerzord.  Making things worse is that there’s already some tension among the team because of Master Ji’s evaluation of Kevin and Jayden.  While the Rangers are able to overcome this hurdle, things don’t get any easier as Mike has to face his own doubts after not being given the Beetle disc.  This causes problems when the team faces off against a new Nighlok monster.  It in turn leads to a conflict between Mike and the rest of the Rangers. But after a heart to heart between Mike and Master Ji, things turn around for Mike.  Having overcome so much adversity, the Rangers face one final challenge in a two-part episode that will test Jayden like never before.

It goes without saying that the Rangers come out on top in each of the four episodes in this new single-disc collection.  And just as with previous incarnations of the famed Power Rangers franchise, these new episodes teach the lessons of believing in oneself and of the value of teamwork.  These are lessons of which today’s younger viewers to be reminded. 

The continued lessons alone make the episodes in this new release valuable in their own right.  But anyone who has grown up with the Power Rangers franchise will see a number of similarities between this new team of Rangers and those having gone before.  Many of the zords are very similar in style to previous zords.  And even the Rangers’ own weapons are similar to those of previous teams.  They have simply been given a little bit of a twist to update them.  This will create in older audiences a sense of nostalgia.  And even for those who are new to the Power Rangers universe, these episodes make for a good starting point.  Older audiences can teach the younger audiences about the similarities to the older Rangers’ series, and in turn show where the show has come from.  Power Rangers Samurai: A Team Divided is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Lionsgate store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=27840&TitleParentId=8041.

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.

Gere Shines in Jarecki’s Latest Screenplay

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Richard Gere’s latest starring vehicle is not the first thriller ever centered on the business world.  But it is a well written and equally well acted performance.  Writer/director Nicholas Jarecki’s script moves at a pace that is just enough to keep the attention of his intended audiences throughout the near two hour course of the story.  Jarecki makes things even better both for himself and for audiences as his script doesn’t allow itself to get bogged down in a bunch of technical business jargon and unnecessary extraneous drama that would have otherwise caused audiences to want to fast forward through its near two-hour run time.  A look at any other movie based in the business world shows how far too many movies within this sub genre get too serious about themselves, and thus lose their audiences as a result.  Jarecki hasn’t done that here.  Rather he’s made a movie that’s both believable and accessible to audiences because he has managed to find the just right balance between story and acting.  Speaking of acting, veteran actor Richard Gere shines in the story’s lead role of high powered businessman, Robert Miller.    

Gere’s acting goes a long way toward making Arbitrage a success.  He shows his veteran chops yet again here, expertly interpreting the script as he worked with Jarecki.  The script’s strong writing and equally strong acting both on the part of Gere and his co-stars help the near two-hour movie proceed smoothly without slipping up save perhaps for the story’s final moments.  It is the final moments of the story that might leave some audiences scratching their heads as it ends somewhat abruptly.  That aside, the rest of the story keeps audiences fully engaged.  Getting back to the acting, in what seems like a career comprised mainly of rom-coms and romantic dramas, it’s nice to see Gere step up to the plate and take on a more serious role again.  He both has the look and the persona to have taken on Miller’s role.  His take on Miller really does its part to pull viewers in and make the story believable. This is especially the case as co-star Susan Sarandon does very little to help move the story, despite her star status.  In her defense though, she isn’t really utilized very much in the course of the story.     

The crux of Arbitrage rests in what happens to high powered businessman Robert Miller (Richard Gere) after a series of events is set in motion that nearly push him to the brink.  After accidentally causing the death of his mistress in a wreck, he is pursued by the police.  Given, this is a tried and true plot.  It’s been used in different fashions time and again.  But it still manages to work in this case.  To make matters worse for Miller, his unethical and somewhat illegal financial dealings lead to even more problems for him.  Though it seems like that element becomes secondary to the investigation surrounding the death of Miller’s mistress.  Miller’s story is not the first of its kind brought to the big screen.  But there’s no denying that despite the story’s abrupt ending and other minor issues, it makes for one of Gere’s best performances in ages next to perhaps that of his work in The Mothman Prophecies.  It’s no surprise that it has garnered Gere a Golden Globe nomination for his acting.  The only question left is will he take home the trophy.  And for that matter will it be enough to garner him an Oscar nod, too?  That’s all anyone’s guess.  Nonetheless, his acting alone is enough to make Arbitrage a movie worth at least one watch from 2012.

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.

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.

Everybody’s Fine One Of De Niro’s Finest Performances

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Miramax

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Miramax

Everybody’s Fine is one of veteran actor Robert De Niro’s “finest” moments.  There are those who have already had their say of this atypical holiday family film. But odds are the people who have lambasted it have done so because it is indeed such a mirror image of reality that they don’t want to have to admit how real it is.  The story centers on widower Frank (De Niro) who recently lost his wife.  Having been married for over four decades, Frank is heartbroken after the loss of his wife.  How she died isn’t immediately revealed.  Nor is it important how she died.  It’s the psychological and emotional impact on Frank that makes this story so believable.

Frank’s emotional and psychological response to having lost his wife is so real in that as much as people may not want to admit it to themselves, his reaction is very much the same as any older person with adult children.  He reaches out for support from his now adult children.  Although in his mind, he’s just trying to get his kids together at least one more time.  As he sets off to surprise his kids, audiences learn that Frank spent most of his life helping to set up the telephone lines that criss-cross the country.  It’s these lines that eventually play a metaphorical role in that while he helped put up the lines, it’s those same lines that his own adult children use to keep a painful secret from him.  They’re keeping the secret not to be mean, but to protect their father purely out of love and respect for him.  That secret is the basis of the real story in Everybody’s Fine.

The real story of Everybody’s Fine is less about Frank’s relationship with Amy, Rosie and Robert and more about his strained relationship with his other son, David.  The relationship between David and Frank had been strained ever since David was a boy.  Writer/Director Kirk Jones hints at this through flashbacks that Frank has during the course of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute plus run time.  While Frank obviously loves his kids, it’s David that he’s really focused on.  He wants so badly to see David; so much so that as audiences hear the conversations between Frank’s other children over the telephone wires he helped put up through his career, it makes them feel that much more for Frank.  As much as his relationship with David was seemingly strained, Frank still loved David unconditionally, just as any parent would their own child.  Again, it’s that mirror image of real life that helps maintain the story’s relateability.

The story between Frank and David does have at least a somewhat happy ending.  Though perhaps bittersweet would be the better suited term to use here.  But there is closure for both figures nonetheless.  And it’s that closure that leads to an ending that wraps everything in its own deeply moving gift to audiences.  Everybody’s Fine is not the standard happy-go-lucky movie that audiences might think of when they think of holiday movies.  But its deeply emotional story about family makes it a holiday movie that stands out among the crowd even today as it has been re-issued on blu-ray.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.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 keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Expendables 2 Is A Great Escape

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Expendables 2 is a man movie, hands down.  Yes, it’s another sequel.  But it’s more than just that.  It’s an escape.  It’s exactly what a big budget action blockbuster should be.  Just as was the case with the action movies of the 80’s to which this franchise pays homage, it’s a chance for the intended audiences to turn off their brains and get away from the real world if only for about an hour and a half.

On the surface, The Expendables 2 is just another bang-bang shoot-em-up action flick aimed at one specific audience.  But in watching the bonus feature, “Big Guns, Bigger Heroes:  The 1980’s and the Rise of the Action Film”, audiences see that it’s more than just that.  As the individuals interviewed in this feature note, the action flick of the 1980’s was exactly what audiences needed in comparison to everything going on around them.  Having come off the back end of the political upheaval of the 1970’s, the 1980’s offered its own share of changes.  So the action franchises of the 80’s (and 90’s) and their stars became more than just figures on screen.  They became these larger than life figures who lived up to the reputation of the title, “Hero.”  They were figures to whom their audiences could admire.  Audiences of the 80’s needed heroes, just as today’s audiences need them, too. 

The political and general world climate today openly necessitates the need for the movies in The Expendables franchise and their heroes.  Stallone and company shine just as brightly in this franchise as they did in the respective franchises discussed in the movie’s main bonus feature.  They are just as much the heroes today as they were in the movies discussed in this movie’s main bonus feature.  They are still those larger than life figures.  And there’s no doubt about them being heroes.  Unlike so many of today’s movies, there are no flawed, conflicted, anti-hero types.  The Expendables 2 presents Stallone and company as classic style heroes.  To add to that clarity, audiences are also presented with a cut and dry story here.  Everyone knows right off the bat who the good guys are.  And it doesn’t take long for the script to reveal Jean-Claude Van Damme as the evil psycho bad guy.  His intentions are made clear pretty quickly, too.  Considering that this movie (without credits) runs just shy of the two-hour mark, the quick establishment of the cast and story make the rest of it fast moving and fun.  It’s not meant to be taken seriously, as is evident with all the classic one-liners.  It’s just a chance for audiences to escape the stresses of the outside world for a little while just as the classic action franchises of the 80’s were meant to do.  Keeping that in mind, anyone who wants to get away from it all for a couple hours (bonus features included), then The Expendables 2 is a very good way to do just that.  It will be available next Tuesday, November 20th, just in time to beat the holiday shopping rush.  For those who want to get away from the shopping rush, it can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate store at http://www.lionsgateshop.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 keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Collection Holiday Fun For Any Power Rangers Fan

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Power Rangers are back with three more holiday themed episodes courtesy of Lionsgate.  Lionsgate recently released another compilation featuring a trio of Halloween themed episodes.  This time, fans new and old get three Christmas themed episodes.  Two of those episodes are culled from the Power Rangers’ early years.  The third is a retrospective by a member of the newest team of rangers, as the Rangers count down to Christmas.The feature episode of Power Rangers Samurai: Christmas Together, Friends Forever sees the Samurai Rangers in the holiday spirit.  The team is decorating for Christmas.  As they do, Emily (the Yellow Ranger) decides to send an e-mail to her sister, telling her all about the Rangers’ past year.  She tells her sister about each member of the squad, going all the way back to the day that the team members met.  She starts off telling about Mike (the Green Ranger).  She explains how things started off for Mike, but that he eventually came around and became the Ranger that he was at that Christmas.  From there, she tells her sister about Kevin and Mia before eventually making her way to Jayden and Antonio.  The most moving moment of this episode comes not in Emily reminiscing, but in Mike’s reaction after he receives his gift on Christmas.  He keeps thinking that he’s not going to get anything.  But after the rest of the team members have their gifts, he gets quite a surprise.  Viewers can find out what that surprise is for themselves.  What makes the moment even better is that his surprise becomes an even better surprise for a certain other pair of characters.   Again, viewers will have to find out for themselves who that pair is.

From the current team of Rangers, audiences are treated to a pair of adventures from previous Ranger teams.  In the first of the teams, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers have to face off against one of Lord Zedd’s minions as he sends Rito Revolto and Goldar to the North Pole to take over and force Santa’s elves to make toys that will take over children’s minds.  The Rangers teleport to the North Pole, and with the help of Santa’s elves manage to trick Rito and Goldar and tie them up, thus saving the day.  While the Rangers may have saved the day, there’s still one problem they have to deal with back in Angel Grove.  And unwittingly, even Bulk helps to solve the problem, too.  It will end up leaving any viewer with that warm holiday spirit filling them.

In the last of this new set’s episodes, Tommy and the Zeo Rangers have to face off against King Mondo once again.  Mondo pulls a plan to make the Rangers fight about each other’s different religious traditions.  This episode is simply put, an episode that teaches about religious differences and tolerance.  It’s a valuable episode for any young viewer, even today.  And combined with this new set’s other pair of episodes makes for another enjoyable set for any Power Rangers fan.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.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 keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Salmon Fishing Will “Hook” Audiences

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

For a movie that is one more piece based on a book, one can only hope that the paper take on this story is better than the movie.  Salmon Fishing in The Yemen isn’t the worst movie of the year.  That *honor* belongs to Nichols Cage’s Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance.  But it isn’t the best, either.  It manages to sort of linger somewhere in the middle.  That’s because it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a romance or a satire on foreign policy by the British government.  The plot of this movie starts off after the bombing of a mosque in a Middle East nation.  Upon seeing it on the news, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) sets out on a PR campaign of sorts, in order to try and maintain ties between the Yemeni and British governing bodies.  In looking for a way to build some sort of good will between the two bodies, Patricia stumbles on the salmon fishing idea proposed by Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked).  Thus ensues what comes across as the seeming satire on the absurdity of political inner workings.

Had the story maintained its seeming political roots, it would have been a much stronger work.  The problem is that it continued to tie in a romance story between Alfred (Ewan McGregor) and Harriet (Emily Blunt).  The constant romantic interludes throw off the story’s pacing and do little to really advance the primary story any.  It’s another classic boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end romance.  The addition of this storyline almost makes the story feel as if it’s suffering from an identity crisis.  Though through all the romance, there is at least one bright moment.  That moment comes as Alfred comes across as a little bit neurotic.  He tells Harriet at lunch one day that he only drinks on the weekend, and he only drinks certain drinks.  That makes him come across as at least slightly neurotic.  Audiences who pay close enough attention will get a kick out of that.

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

For all the problems caused by the interweaving romance subplot, Salmon Fishing’s main political storyline is both moving and worth its own share of laughs.  While the main story may not center on American issues, it’s one to which even American audiences can relate.  The absurdity of political pandering is something that’s obviously universal.  By contrast though, that something as simple as fishing could bring two men from two entirely different ethnic backgrounds and two entirely different sides of the world is a bold statement.  It serves that much more to make all the political maneuvering of the world’s governments that much more pathetic. Sheikh Muhammed’s statement to Alfred makes that maneuvering that much more pathetic.  He says to Alfred, “For fishermen, the only virtues are patience, tolerance, and humility.”  He is saying in simple terms that a man can learn more of the world from fishing than all the political lessons combined.  Sure, it’s a metaphor.  But anyone who has ever gone fishing can vouch for this statement’s truth.

When it’s all said and done, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen proves to be anything but the year’s best movie.  However, neither is it the year’s worst.  But at a time when so many movie studios are relying increasingly on prequels, sequels, and remakes, all involved with this story get bonus points for taking the old school road and adapting a book to the big screen.  For that matter, all involved get even more points for adapting a book with a largely original story, save for the romance.  That being said, this is definitely one of the year’s most underrated movies.  And it’s one that’s worth at least one watch.

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.facebok.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.

Lionsgate Releasing Classic Rankin Bass Halloween Special Sept. 4th

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Rankin Bass

Rankin Bass is one of the best known names among holiday movies.  Most audiences associate the company with the likes of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, Jack Frost, and so many other holiday classics.  Well how many people know that Rankin Bass also made a  Halloween special, too?  That’s right.  The special in question was 1967′s Mad Monster Party.  The special boasted the voice talents of veteran horror actor Boris karloff and the now late comedianne, Phyllis Diller, along with Allen Swift, Gale Garnett, and Ethel Ennis.  Now, fans of Rankin Bass’ works will have the opportunity to own this classic.

Mad Monster Party will be available in stores and online Tuesday, September 4th courtesy of Lionsgate.  Mad Monster Party sees the mad genius Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (voiced by karloff) deciding to announce his retirement from the Worldwide Organization of Monsters.  He has to figure out how to tell the other members of the organization.  So he decides what better way to make his announcement than to throw a party.  Among the guests are all of the classic monsters:  The Wolfman, Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and a whole lot more.  It will be available both on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack.

Bonus features include two kids’ sing-a-longs, a featurette on the magic of stop motion animation, and featurettes on the special’s music and how it was brought to life.  The blu-ray/DVD combo pack is currently listed at $14.99 MSRP.

To keep up with 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.

The Hunger Games Will Feed Any Movie Lover’s “Appetite”

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Hunger Games is quite the interesting work.  It’s one more work that has greatly divided audiences.  It’s one of those movies which audiences and critics alike have either loved or hated.  It has been most closely compared to the Japanese flick, Battle Royale (2000).  But in its deepest roots, The Hunger Games lifts very liberally from Greek mythology.  Keeping this in mind, it would be wrong for any one person to come down on the movie for essentially telling an updated version of that story.  So many of modern Hollywood’s most well known movies have been little more than liftings from classic Shakespeare plays.  This being the case, a more fair way to analyze The Hunger Games would be to look at it purely from a standpoint of film making, rather than storytelling alone.

On the positive side, once the movie does get going, the action sequences in the battle are more than enough to keep audiences’ attention.  The backdrop of North Carolina’s Henry River Mill Village and the DuPont State Park made for quite the contradiction to the dystopian world of The Hunger Games.  Here are these young combatants fighting for their own survival in a violent and bloody contest.  Yet all around them is what would otherwise be an entirely peaceful and serene setting.  The juxtaposition of the two is really quite interesting 

On a more mixed positive and negative side, the writing on which The Hunger Games is based is problematic, but very good in its own right.  The downside to the story’s writing is that it does take far too long in leading up to the actual competition.  The actual back story and setup takes at least an hour, if not more, of the movie’s near three hour run time.  Most of that time is spent focusing on the pomp and circumstance around the Hunger Games’ opening ceremony and Katniss’ own personal drama.  A good portion of all the pomp and circumstance could have been cut out, saving a least half an hour. 

The positive side to the writing for this script is that while it does spend an inordinate amount of time on back story, the story itself is one that is entirely relatable today.  Having the “games” televised the country over hints at our country’s growing love affair with reality television and with violence on television.  In relation, audiences’ blood lust could be argued to be pointed out here, too.  Forcing young adults into the games could be argued to be linked to America’s obsession with youth.  Except in this case, that obsession is twisted to say the least.  One could also argue that what The Hunger Games does is it points out young adults’ increasing exposure to high levels of violence in the media today, and the resultant desensitization to said violence, and the consequences therein.

Whether for its beautiful scenery or for its messages (intended or not), The Hunger games has a lot going for it.  Yes it does get off to a rather slow start.  But looking at it from a much deeper, more analytical vantage point, it has the ability to create so many discussions.  That alone is the sign of a very good movie.  And The Hunger Games is just that; a good movie.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go 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.

New Power Rangers Compilation More Super Powered Fun For Audiences

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban

Good news Power Rangers fans.  Lionsgate and Saban released two brand new DVD compilations of Power Rangers Samurai episodes this week.  The first of the pair saw the new team of rangers get its Super Samurai powers, and learn how to use them.  The adventures get even bigger in the second set, “Power Rangers Super Samurai:  Super Showdown Volume 2.  In the second volume of the pair, the rangers have to tame the new Bullzord with the help of their friend, Cody.  And in another adventure, the rangers have to save Master Ji and Antonio when they’re kidnapped by the Nighlok Eyescar.  Those adventures and another pair are included on “Power Rangers Super Samurai:  Super Showdown Volume 2.”

One of the most important developments for the Samurai Rangers so far was the acquisition of the Bullzord.  The reason is that it was such a powerful zord.  As the story in the aptly titled episode notes, the Bullzord was so powerful when it was originally created, that its creators had to keep it locked up, as it couldn’t be tamed.  But when the rangers’ young friend, Cody, releases the Bullzord, the rangers have to help tame it.  As if taming the Bullzord wasn’t tough enough, the rangers also had to deal with the Nighlok, Crustor.  Crustor’s after the Bullzord, too.  In his attempt to take control of the Bullzord, Crustor goes after Cody, who has its discs.  Jayden has to stop Crustor and protect Cody, who is finally able to tame the Bullzord.  Once the Bullzord is tamed, Jayden sends Cody back to his dad and uses it to finish off Crustor.  After defeating Crustor, the rangers go back to check on Cody and his dad who are both okay.

The challenge of taming the Bullzord wasn’t the only tough moment for the Samurai Rangers.  In “The Rescue” the team has to free Master Ji and Antonio after they’re kidnapped by the Nighlok Eyescar.  Luckily for the rangers, when they are captured, Antonio leaves a trail of twine a la Hansel and Gretel for the rangers to follow.  This leads to a brief funny moment, when Mia makes a joke about the trail just having to lead down a dark and creepy tunnel.  It’s almost like she was speaking through the viewers, joking about how cliché it was.  That in itself made for a few laughs.  The rangers follow the trail through the tunnel, when they encounter a group of Moogers.  The rangers manage to defeat the Moogers and get to the end of the tunnel where they discover Antonio and Master Ji are being held by Eyescar and a huge horde of Moogers.  The rangers regroup get the edge with an aerial attack that clears enough Moogers for the team to release Antonio and Master Ji.  The rescue couldn’t come at a better time, as Eyescar goes mega size.  The rangers assemble the Samurai Megazord and finish him off once and for all.

These two adventures are just half of the enjoyment that fans of the new Power Rangers team will get on the new Super Showdown Volume 2 compilation.  There are two more episodes included in this set that fans will also enjoy.  Fans can check both of those episodes, along with the pair noted here now.  The compilation is available in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Lionsgate at http://www.lionsgateshop.com.