Breslin’s Latest Just As Enjoyable As Any Big Budget Paranormal Flick

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/MPI Media Group/IFC Films/IFC Midnight

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/MPI Media Group/IFC Films/IFC Midnight

IFC Midnight (a division of IFC Films) and its partner MPI Media Group will release their latest paranormal thriller next week.  Haunter will be released on Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday, February 11th.  The movie, starring Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, Ender’s Game) is quite a surprise for anyone that is a fan of movies in the paranormal genre.  It’s a surprise first and foremost because as audiences will discover of the movie, it is not so much a horror movie as it is a thriller of sorts.  It could even be argued to be a mystery,too.  By direct connection, the script behind the story makes it the thriller that it is.  That is another element of this piece that makes it well worth the watch.  One more factor to be taken into consideration with Haunter is its pacing.  The story’s pacing is factor that audiences will appreciate about it.  Its run time barely tops the ninety-minute mark.  But even with that relatively short run time, it doesn’t move too fast or too slow at any one given point.  It gets right to the point, instead of wasting unnecessary time building backstory or any unnecessary elements.  That factor is among the most important.  And along with the other mentioned factors, it makes Haunter a movie that any fan of the paranormal genre a must see.

The very first thing that viewers will notice about Haunter is that it is more paranormal thriller than a horror story per se.  One could even argue to a point that it is a paranormal mystery movie because Lisa (Breslin) is left to figure out the mystery of what is happening with her family and what happened to them for that matter.  It leads to an even bigger mystery that will be left for viewers to find out for themselves.  The trail that Lisa follows will have viewers literally on the edge of their seat, trying to figure out the mystery with her.  It’s nice to see that this movie is so easily able to walk that line of paranormal and mystery, all while keeping the blood and gore to a minimum.  This is just the first aspect of Haunter that makes it so enjoyable for any fan of the paranormal genre.  By direct connection, script writer Brian King’s script for this movie is just as impressive.

Writer Brian King’s script for Haunter is an important piece of the whole that makes the indie-paranormal thriller so enjoyable.  King’s script combines elements of The Lovely Bones and The Others to bring this story to life.  On the surface, the fact that he has combined those movies’ elements seems like a bad thing.  But in combining them, he was able to craft a wholly new story that turns the paranormal genre on its ear.  It is essentially a battle of good and bad that takes place in the spirit realm.  He throws in just enough twists and turns throughout the script to keep audiences engaged, but not confused.  The catch is that in order to not be confused, audiences must be completely engaged in the movie, and not otherwise distracted by anything.  Anyone that allows themselves to become distracted will become distracted and in turn, confused.  This will lead to less appreciation for King’s script.  It goes to show how well King balanced all of his script’s elements and eventually developed this impressive final product.

King’s script is definitely impressive, even having used elements of at least two other paranormal thrillers.  He was able to craft a balanced script that keeps viewers engaged straight to its end.  The script’s balance of elements is just part of what makes it a success.  Along with that balance, King is to be applauded for his script’s pacing.  He wastes no time getting right to the story.  It launches right from its outset.  There’s no overloaded backstory slowing things down.  And the twists and turns peppered throughout the story are placed at just the right points so as to not overwhelm viewers.  The same can be said of Lisa’s transitions between the spirit world and the human world as she tries to solve the mystery that she uncovers.  He sets the pacing so well that as with the writing, it requires audiences to engage themselves entirely in the story, and not let themselves be distracted by anything else.  THAT is the truest sign of this story’s success.  It requires audiences to pay attention.  Few movies do that today, either indie or mainstream.  And those that do pay full attention will agree that it is a paranormal thriller that is just as enjoyable–if not more so–than any major mainstream movie in the paranormal genre.  It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, February 11th.

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A Case Of You A Quirky, Fun Rom-Com For Today’s Thirty-Something Audiences

A Case of You Blu-ray

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/IFC Films

IFC’s new rom-com A Case of You is the first fun story of its type in 2014.  The story is one that has been told countless times.  But in the case of A Case of You, co-writers Justin and Christian Long have teamed up with Keir O’Donnell to craft a story that is more than just the standard boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  Sure that standard story line is there.  But the execution of the story is what makes it worth the watch.  The writing is just one part of this roughly ninety-minute plus story.  Actor/writer Justin Long (Going The Distance, Live Free Or Die Hard, He’s Just Not The Into You) is fully believable as a desperate character looking for love.  His personal development over the course of the movie will keep viewers completely engaged.  And while it is usually not the most noticeable portion of any movie, the soundtrack used for the story gives it even more charm.  These three factors together make A Case of You a rom-com that any of today’s thirty-something audiences will enjoy.

A Case of You is a fun rom-com for today’s thirty-something audiences.  That is primarily thanks to the writing of Justin Long (who also stars in the movie), his brother Christian Long, and Keir O’Donnell.  Sitcom and movie writers have touched on the oft times ludicrous lengths to which men and women will go in order to attract the opposite sex.  But basing an entire movie on this concept is in its own right original.  That’s because few of said writers have ever actually taken the risk of doing so.  The primary update on the classic rom-com formula isn’t all in the writing that audiences will appreciate. O’Donnell and the brothers Long also collectively impress audiences in that they have taken the rom-com and turned it on its ear by mixing in elements of a stoner flick, too.  One wouldn’t think that a rom-com and a stoner flick would work.  But thanks to the teamwork of O’Donnell and the Long brothers, the stoner elements don’t manage to overpower the central story.  The end result is a story that is quirky but has enough charm to make it endearing at the same time.

The writing and the manner in which it was balanced is the biggest part of what makes A Case of You as enjoyable as it is.  In direct relation, Justin Long shows his ability to interpret his character quite well through his acting.  Many won’t want to publicly admit to it, but there are audiences that will say they too have used Facebook to try and land their love interest.  It’s a sign of the times.  But that’s a commentary for another time.  Sam’s personal growth as he gets to know Birdie even more is relatable to any viewer male or female.  Sam’s sudden fear of commitment when Birdie finally expresses her feelings for him is a classic rom-com and even romantic dramedy element. It’s been used time and again throughout the history of both genres.  But that moment, in relation to his attempts to woo Birdie, makes it an even more impactful moment.  It proves to be the pinnacle of his personal growth.  And it makes the movie’s final minutes all the more heartwarming.  On a side note, the Long brothers and their writing partner deserve even more kudos for not having gone the formulaic route and used the all too clichéd final airport scene that every other rom-com and romantic dramedy uses.  Rather, they actually pay tribute to Dustin Hoffman’s 1967 classic The Graduate.  Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess.  There is no commentary allowing for such insight.  But it is there regardless.  And it’s one more bonus that classic movie buffs will appreciate.  The positives don’t end here, either.

The writing and acting on the part of lead Justin Long go a long way toward making A Case of You a quirky yet fun flick for today’s thirty-something viewers. There is still one aspect of the story that is deserving of note here that makes everything complete.  That aspect is the movie’s soundtrack.  The music that makes up the movie’s soundtrack is just as quirky as the movie itself.  Included in the movie’s soundtrack are the likes of Spin Doctors, Joan Baez, Johnny Mathis, Fitz and the Tantrums, and so many other artists.  The musical spectrum that makes up the movie’s soundtrack runs the gamut.  As wide as that swath is, each song was a perfect fit for its companion scene.  And each song works just as well on its own on a soundtrack.  It’s the final touch on a movie that is a great fit for any younger couple this Valentine’s Day or another.  It will be available Tuesday, February 4th on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on this and other releases from IFC Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial and http://www.IFCFilms.com. 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.

MPI, IFC Announce Details For New Paranormal Thriller

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/IFM Midnight/IFC Films/MPI Media Group

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/IFM Midnight/IFC Films/MPI Media Group

Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Signs, Rango) returns this Winter with her latest film.  She stars in IFC Midnight’s new horror story, Haunter in which she plays the part of a spirit of a girl named Lisa.  The film co-stars veteran actor and director Stephen McHattie (300, Watchmen, The Fountain) Eleanor Zichy (Skins), Peter Outerbridge (Silent Hill: Revelation), Michelle Nolden (RED) and David Hewlett (Rise of the Planet of the Apes).

In this new “reverse ghost story”, Breslin plays the spirit of a teen girl named Lisa whose family was killed by a mysterious figure in 1986.  Now over three decades after Lisa and her family were killed, Lisa must convince her family that they are no longer among the living.  Making things even more interesting, a new family has moved into the house that was once home to Lisa and her family.  Now this new family faces the same danger that led to the death of Lisa and her family.  So Lisa must do whatever she can to protect the new family living in the house.  Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Splice, The ABCs of Death 2, Cube)  and co-written by Brian King and Matthew Brian King, this movie is sure to impress fans of movies the likes of: The Lovely Bones, The Others, and Insidious).

Haunter will be available on DVD and Blu-ray via MPI Media Group and IFC Midnight on Tuesday February 11th.  The DVD will be available for SRP of $$29.98.  The Blu-ray presentation will be available for SRP of $24.98.  The trailer for the movie can be viewed online at http://www.ifcfilms.com/uncategorized/haunter-trailer.  The DVD and Blu-ray can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Haunter-Blu-ray-Abigail-Breslin/dp/B00FYV7W9W/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1390420977&sr=1-1&keywords=Haunter.  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.

Blancanieves Presents Snow White Like Never Before

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

The Brothers Grimm’s classic fairytale, Snow White is one of the most beloved of all classic literary works.  It has been imagined and re-imaged so many times both in books and on the big screen that it would seem impossible to count just how many times the story has been adapted for every new generation.  Regardless, the story has stayed largely the same from one rendition to the next.  But never has the story been told as it has been in the recently imported silent Spanish film, Blancanieves.  This Spanish import takes the timeless tale and turns it completely on its ear.  Yet ironically enough, it somehow manages to entertain in its own right.  It does so first and foremost with a wonderfully written script.  Secondly to the movie’s credit, the acting of the cast was just as impressive as the story itself.  And the fact that audiences have only been re-introduced to the beautiful world of silent films once in recent years makes this movie even more of a treat for fans of not just classic films, but films in general.  All these factors together make Blancanieves a must see for anyone that has yet to see this love letter to the golden era of film making.

Blancanieves is the story of Snow White as it has never been seen before.  Whereas most renditions of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale take place in a land of kings and queens, this updated take on the story places young Snow White in 1920s Seville, Spain in the world of professional bullfighting.  It seems, on the surface, like a rather unbelievable setup for this rendition.  But somehow, writer/director Pablo Berger has managed to make it work, tying together the Brothers Grimm’s original literary work into his own rich story.  Audiences will appreciate that despite the change of setting and other differences from the original fairytale, Berger maintains most of the original story’s elements, including the dwarves, the evil stepmother, and even the poisoned apple.  Speaking of the dwarves, Berger actually pokes fun at himself in a way when the dwarves paint on their wagon that there are seven dwarves.  He then has one of the dwarves point out that there are in fact only six dwarves.  It’s such a small moment.  But the laughs that it adds to the story make it such a welcome addition to the script.  It was just one of many wonderful moments included throughout the story that make the whole work such a pleasure to watch.

So many directors have tried to update classic stories with their own takes on said classics.  Most have failed.  But Pablo Berger is one of the rare directors that have succeeded in his task.  His success is directly tied into another factor that makes Blancanieves a success.  That second factor is the acting on the part of the movie’s main cast.  Macarena Garcia, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, and Maribel Verdu (Pan’s Labyrinth) are wonderful as Snow White, her father, and her evil stepmother, Encarna.  The bond between Snow White and her father is touching to say the least.  By contrast, it makes Maribel Verdu’s take on the evil stepmother character that much more vile.  Audiences will love to hate her and will love just as much to root for Snow White and her father.  The dwarves are just as wonderful an addition to the cast.  They along with Verdu, Cacho, and Garcia expertly interpret Berger’s script and pull audiences into the story with ease.  They pull in audiences so easily that they won’t even realize that nearly two hours have passed by the time that the story has ended.  That is the sign of both an expert acting cast, and an equally expertly written script.  Even Berger himself notes in the bonus “Making of” featurette just how difficult it is for actors to do their jobs in a silent movie because of how they can hide behind dialogue in regular movies.  Obviously this movie’s cast wasn’t afraid to drop their proverbial security blankets.  Their acting was spot on.  And it shows throughout the entire story.  Together, they make for two of the most important factors in the success of this movie.  There is one other factor to be taken into consideration when examining Blancanieves’ success.  That remaining factor in question is of the story’s originality.  It brings the entire presentation full circle.

The writing and acting involved in Blancanieves make it an unsuspecting success.  The fact that the last time a studio—independent or major—released a silent film was in 2011 makes it even more of an unsuspecting success.  It was that year that Sony Pictures and The Weinstein Company released the mega-hit, The Artist.  Few studios if any have tried their hand at making a silent film since save for this release from The Cohen Media Group.  Keeping that in mind, it makes Blancanieves even more special.  And thanks to the combination of Pablo Berger’s writing and directing, and the cast’s acting, it’s even more special of a film.  As a matter of fact, those factors come together to make Blancanieves one of the year’s best independent movies.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from the Cohen Media Group website at http://cohenmedia.net/blancanieves/synopsis/.  More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online at http://www.facebook.com/CohenMediaGroup and http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup.

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Kerouac Fans Will Appreciate IFC Films’ Adaptation Of Author’s Book

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

The new small screen adaptation of author Jack Kerouac’s legendary novel, On The Road, is a work that any fan of the man’s work will appreciate.  It will also appeal to college age audiences because of its story of self-discovery and discovering the meaning of life.  Those that are not so familiar with his work are far more likely to not be fans of the movie.  However, those that are more open minded may be at least somewhat more open to the movie.

On The Road’s narrative style is nothing new to moviemaking.  But it works quite well with the novel on which it is based.  It doesn’t overpower the overall story.  Rather, Sal Paradise’s occasional narration helps to serve as a tool to help advance the story through each chapter.  And his final moment of enlightenment at the story’s end that led to him furiously typing away at his typewriter drove home quite well the two-hour journey experienced by Sal and his friends (played by Kristen Stewart and company).  The journey embarked upon by the story’s characters is enlightening for those open minded enough to experience it with them.  Even for those that are open minded enough, the story’s sexual content might be a little bit unsettling.  The groups cross country journey of self-discovery and search for the meaning of life leads to lots and lots of sex.  Some of it straight, some of it not so straight.  But there is a lot of it.  In connection, there is also a certain amount of nudity, thus the movie’s “R” rating.

The sex and everything else tied into this adaptation of Kerouac’s book definitely make this a niche film.  To its defense though, so much can be said of the movie’s cinematography.  As the group of friends makes its way across the country in its journey, it crosses through so many different areas.  The wide shots of the different areas through which the friends travel are stunning.  And even lesser scenes such as when the stops made along the way offer their own extra touch to the overall presentation.  Whether in those shots, or others such as tight, confined apartments or the others that make up the movie, those behind the cameras did their jobs with full professionalism.  If for no other reason than the camera work, this most recent adaptation of On The Road is worth at least one watch.   That’s not to say that the movie’s writing or the cast’s acting were any less.  But the cinematography stood out more than any other factor in this movie.  On The Road is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Save the Date A Quirky But Interesting Romantic Dramedy

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

IFC Films’ romantic dramedy, Save the Date, is a story that despite its pacing and its stereotypical indie flick style characters is actually entertaining and thought provoking.  The fact of the matter is that while sisters Beth and Sarah (Alison Brie and Lizzy Caplan respectively) come across as the stereotypical self-righteous, wanna-be trendy hipster scene kids, there really are people just like them in everyday life.  Of course most of them are the college age audiences at whom this movie is aimed.  But they are out there, as are young hopeful musician types such as Andrew and Kevin.  Again, those audience types are more along the college age set, thus making this more entertaining for younger college-aged audiences than for older audiences.

While theirs are quite stereotypical indie flick characters, the character styles of Beth, Sarah, Andrew, Kevin, and even Jonathan all play quite well into the overall story.  All four are forced to take a whole new perspective on life thanks to a series of dramatic events that happens between them.  The events in question include a surprise marriage proposal, relationship changes, and another surprise in the story’s final moments that will not be revealed here.  Simply put, it’s another to reveal the tensions that had been simmering between Beth and Sarah all along.  The closing minutes of the story between the sisters is certain to bring about quite the ethical and moral discussion among the movie’s audiences, too.  Again, this is something that will not be revealed here.  But it is definitely something that will have audiences talking long after the story has ended.

Save the Date offers audiences a relatively well-balanced story with its share of both lightly humorous and more serious moments.  It all works to make a story that is worth at least one watch.  The story is relatively balanced.  But it isn’t without at least one problem.  That one problem is a very glaring issue, too.  The problem in question is the story’s pacing.  The story’s pacing begins to drag roughly halfway through the movie.  As it can be linked right back to the scripting, this means that as much as the scripting works, so does it have a problem.  The movie clocks in at just over an hour and half.  In defense of those behind the movie, it would not have made sense to cut scenes from the movie.  Perhaps a re-write might have been better in pre-production.  Staying on that issue, audiences will appreciate the bonus deleted scenes included in the movie’s DVD release.

The DVD presentation of Save the Date offers viewers the option of watching its bonus features with or without commentary.  Some of the bonus features are in their own right, pretty funny.  While it’s obvious why they were removed from the story, they are still nice additions to movie’s overall presentation.  Add in the bonus outtakes and original “Making of” mini-comic, and viewers get what is quite the interesting story and presentation.  The “Making of” mini-comic is one of the best of the bonus features.  Never before has a movie covered its “making of” in this style.  That in itself makes the movie worth the watch.  The DVD is available now online and in stores.  To find out more about Save the Date and more films from IFC and IFC Films, go online to http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial and “Like” it.  Fans can also keep up with the latest from IFC and IFC Films at the official IFC website at http://www.IFCFilms.com.

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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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MPI, Cohen Media Group Making Their Name With Their Latest Uncovered Classic

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

The partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video has made the two companies leaders in re-issuing cinema classics.  Universal Studios is a close second thanks to the recent re-issues of Cape Fear, its Alfred Hitchcock Essentials collection, and it Universal Monsters collection. Now two more companies are staking their claim in the classic movie world.  Those companies are Virgil Films and Cohen Media Group.  Early in 2013, the two companies partnered for the release of what is one of the single greatest classics of all time in the Thief of Bagdad.  Now months later, they have released an even lesser known classic in Perfect Understanding.

The plot of Perfect Understanding rests in the agreement between Swanson’s Judy and Olivier’s Nicholas that could be equated to an open marriage.  Right off the top, it’s obvious just how original this is, considering social norms and values of America in the early 1930s.  The agreement between the couple is meant in order to break the trend that the couple sees among its friends.  Neither wants to end up like their friends.  Ironically enough, it is because of the agreement that the couple reaches the point of its friends.  The ensuing story is unlike anything that fans of the rom-com genre have seen since.  It’s obviously not just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  It’s almost Shakespearian in a way when one really goes back through the story a couple of times and analyzes it at a much deeper level.  It should also be noted here that despite a run time of an hour and half, the story actually moves along at a relatively easy pace.  This, along with the largely original story is another positive to this unearthed gem of a classic film.

For a film of its era and its style, Perfect Understanding could very well have been much longer and less able to relate to viewers, even today.  Luckily, it didn’t do that.  And roughly eight decades after it premiered it’s still as funny today as it was in its premiere.  Taking into account the film’s age, it’s incredible that it still sounds and looks as good as it does to this day.  What audiences see and hear is largely what audiences heard when the film first premiered so long ago.  It is a true testament to those charged with restoring the film to its original glory.  And now thanks to those individuals, a whole new generation of film buffs can enjoy this rare classic.

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Little White Lies A Powerful, Emotionally Charged Drama

Courtesy:  EuropaCorp Distribution/mpi Pictures/Films Caneo/M6/W9/Canal+/Cine Cinema

Courtesy: EuropaCorp Distribution/mpi Pictures/Films Caneo/M6/W9/Canal+/Cine Cinema

Little White Lies is a very emotionally powerful and moving story.  As powerful as it is, it is not a movie for anyone.  The reason for this is that it is a direct reflection of life.  Just because it is a French film doesn’t mean that the characters only reflect the French.  Rather, it reflects humans in general.  Whereas the BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances does this in a full on comical nature, this roughly two and a half-hour long allegory about the lies that we tell ourselves and others every day takes a far more dramatic turn on this subject.

Little White Lies was marketed as a dramedy of sorts.  And while there are some humorous moments, the humor of those moments is slight at best.  So it would be safer to consider this movie as leaning more in the direction of a drama than a dramedy.  The movie’s drama rises from the central theme that the group of friends have to put their annual vacation plans on hold when Ludo (Jean DuJardin—The Artist) is hit by a box truck while leaving a bar one day.  The drama starts right from the moment the group of friends leaves Ludo’s room at the hospital, their actions speak volumes.  They all agree to cut their annual vacation short by two weeks so as to be able to see Ludo, thinking that he will be okay.  The way that they act is almost that of people who feel inconvenienced by Ludo being in the hospital.  It is so subtle.  But it is there.  So it’s evident from early on just how much this story reflects real life.

The reflection of life doesn’t end with the moment the friends leave the hospital.  Throughout the time that the friends are together on their vacation, the lives that they live and that they use to impress one another are revealed.  From an unhappy couple to a gay man that is in the closet to lies about their own situation in life, each member of the group mirrors people in everyday life.  This ugly truth is eventually revealed in the story’s bittersweet ending.  The story’s end is its most powerful moment, too.  It leaves viewers to question what is really important in life.  Is it one’s own reputation or one’s own family and friends that are the most important?  Given, it is a foreign film.  But the message is one that will resonate among all audiences.  And because of that, it is worth at least one watch as emotionally charged as it is.

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Knuckleball An Emotional, Informative Baseball Documentary

Courtesy:  mpi media group/MLB Productions

Courtesy: mpi media group/MLB Productions

Anybody can play music fast and loud.  But it takes a real musician to play music slowly and softly.  That is the mantra of music teachers, students and musicians the world over.  This is a mantra that believe it or not can also be applied to the game of baseball.  One might ask one’s self in reading that, what do baseball and music have to do with one another, right?  Simple.  Just as any musician can play fast and loud, any pitcher in baseball can throw fast and hard.  But just as it takes a true musician to play slowly and softly, it takes a true pitcher to throw a ball that to this day befuddles players on both sides of the bat.  That is shown through the new baseball documentary, Knuckleball

Knuckleball is more than just another documentary.  It’s a documentary that presents two underdog figures who have overcome some big odds to become two of baseball’s most respected pitchers despite throwing what is considered one of the game’s least respected pitches.  Those men are R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield.  The pair’s rise to fame wasn’t an easy one.  In the case of Dickey, he was shuffled up and down through baseball’s big leagues and the minors until he was ultimately given a chance by the New York Mets.  On the other side, audiences are presented the story of fellow “knuckleballer” Tim Wakefield.  Both men were doubted early on by their teams, managers and fans because of their pitch of choice.  But through perseverance and respect for their craft, viewers see how the pair has helped to bring new respect to the pitch and to other pitchers that throw knuckleballs.

The story is told expertly by film makers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg.  The pair culled footage of Dickey and Wakefield from both their professional careers and their formative years as youths.  The pair’s professional footage comes courtesy of a partnership with Major League Baseball Productions.  Their discussions with fellow “knuckleballers” Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti, and Phil Niekro are something resembling members of an elite fraternity.  Audiences will enjoy these moments as members of two totally separate generations share their “war stories.”  Dickey and Wakefield also share their own stories with the film makers.  Their stories range from the humorous to the deeply emotional as they explain where they came from and the work put in to reach baseball’s highest level.  Combined with the accompanying video profiling each man’s career, these stories are the highlights of this feature.    

Some by now might be asking why they should have any interest in this documentary.  Again, the answer is simple.  It goes back to the documentary’s early minutes, when Newsday writer David Lennon references Americans’ desire for immediate gratification and higher speeds.  They don’t want to see slow pitches.  Lennon is right.  There seems to be an ever increasing push for pitchers to throw faster than the last guy.  But, in watching this feature, baseball fans will see why the knuckleball—and throwing the knuckleball–should be given as much credit as the fastball, curve or slider.  It proves that the knuckleball is more than just a pitch and why throwing it is an art in itself.  The pitcher is throwing, with a knuckleball, a pitch that forces the batter to second guess himself, much like a racer on the starting line at a drag strip does against his competitor.  It’s a pitch that forces both sides to think and have full clarity of mind.  A pitcher that can fake out a batter time and again with this pitch is a true pitcher.  He isn’t just relying on being able to throw fast and hard.  He is throwing a ball that takes true thought to deliver and to hit.  And while the current generation of pitchers isn’t exactly chock full of “knuckleballers”, viewers will see in the bonus features that there is still another generation of pitchers ready to carry on the legacy of this pitch and those who threw it before them.  And who knows?  Maybe one day, baseball fans will see another documentary on this fabled not-so-fast-ball.  And with that next documentary, it will be spoken of in far more respected terms.

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.