Escape From Planet Earth A Fun Escape For Families

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company

Escape from Planet Earth (Anchor Bay Entertainment/Weinstein Company) was released to theaters in February 2013.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t last very long in theaters after its premiere.  The reason(s) why it didn’t last are anyone’s guess.  But the most probable of reasons would be its comparison to the 2009 family friendly CG “animated” sci-fi comedy, Planet 51.  There is no denying the comparisons to said story.  But in its defense, Planet 51 isn’t the only movie from which Escape from Planet Earth lifted.  There are also influences from the likes of Monsters, Inc. and Monsters vs. Aliens throughout this movie.  And while it does lift from previous movies, it does have some originality in terms of its messages and its comic elements.  Those comic elements include the sci-fi and pop culture spoofs made much in the same vein as in Planet 51.  The spoofs aren’t the same as in Planet 51, either.  This makes them that much funnier and helps to make up for the story’s less original aspects.

It’s difficult to honestly write this and call Escape from Planet Earth the most original movie of its kind.  That’s because of the fact that it can so easily be compared to the 2009 family friendly sci-fi comedy, Planet 51.  On the surface, Escape From Planet Earth can so easily be considered to be Planet 51 in reverse.  Instead of the human astronaut trying to escape from the alien planet, this time, it’s the aliens trying to escape Earth.  It’s not the only movie to which this work can be compared.  It can also be compared to Disney/Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001).  The comparison to that movie comes in the form of General Shanker’s (William Shatner—Star Trek) soldiers.  A close look at the men will bring viewers to note that his men are always running around in yellow, rubber hazmat suits that cover their entire bodies, including their faces.  This is very much in the same style as the agents of the Child Detection Agency from Monsters, Inc.  And the general story itself makes it just as easily compared to Dreamworks’ Monsters vs. Aliens.  It’s just that movie as much in reverse as Planet 51 in reverse.  Knowing all of these influences takes away quite a bit from the movie.  But for all that is taken away from it, Escape From Planet Earth isn’t without its positives.

Writers Cal Brunker and Bob Barlen (hmmmmm Bob, planet Bob…..coincidence?) did a lot of lifting from other previous CG based family friendly sci-fi flicks to make Escape from Planet Earth.  For all of the comparisons that can be made, what can be said of this creation is that it does still manage to save itself.  It saves itself thanks to its theme of family bonds and its pop culture and sci-fi spoofs made throughout the nearly ninety minute movie.  The theme of the family bond is something that those other family films don’t have.  So this serves to help set this movie apart from those movies and give it its own identity.

Just as the movie’s theme of family bonds helps to set it apart from other movies of its ilk, the pop culture and sci-fi references made throughout the movie help to set it apart even more.  The jokes are quite plentiful throughout the course of the movie’s run time.  There are jokes about classic 1950s sci-fi flicks, conspiracy theories and even a subtle stab at director James Cameron.  It’s so subtle that if a person isn’t really watching closely, one will miss it.  Those that catch it will truly appreciate it, considering Cameron’s reputation when it comes to science fiction movies.  There are far more subtle jokes and pokes that are peppered throughout the movie.  And those that give this movie a chance will appreciate the movie even more for them.  In turn, they will see that while it may not be the most original movie in its genre, it really is a movie that is worth at least one watch.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=5b081188-3392-e211-b3c9-d4ae527c3b65.  Fans can also check in on all of the latest updates on new releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com.

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The Trouble With Bliss An Underrated Dramedy

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Lightning Media/7A Productions/Topiary Productions, Inc./OffHollywood/Tornsky Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Lightning Media/7A Productions/Topiary Productions, Inc./OffHollywood/Tornsky Entertainment

The Trouble With Bliss is both a funny and touching dramedy that while not the first movie to ever enter the world of the coming-of-age genre, still manages to stand on its own two feet.  The story, which is based on Douglas Light’s novel, East Fifth Bliss, has largely been met with mixed reviews by critics and audiences alike.  More than likely the reason for those mixed reviews is that while the story isn’t the first of the coming-of-age genre, it doesn’t exactly fit into the standard mold of said style.  The concept of an unemployed thirty-something living at home with his father while dating an eighteen-year old is humorous.  But what sets the story apart from others in its genre is its ability to balance that quirky standard story with the deeper and more emotional father-son dynamic, which is ultimately at the heart of the entire story.  Though, this isn’t made entirely clear until the story’s end.  This perhaps is what led to so many critics and viewers panning this underrated story.   

The Trouble With Bliss is an underrated story in that it’s one of those works that isn’t spoon-fed to viewers.  Audiences think they know everything about Morris’ blissfully (get the title now?) ignorant lifestyle through most of the movie.  But it isn’t until the story’s end that viewers discover that instead of living in bliss, he has been living in denial all along.  That denial is centered in his relationship—or lack thereof—with his father (played by Peter Fonda).  He isn’t stuck at home with his father.  He has made the choice to live there. It can be argued in understanding this and looking back at the story that it is his mother not being there that has led Morris to be living with his father at thirty-five years old and dating an eighteen-year old.  Having only had his father for parental guidance through his youth, that was all that Morris ever knew.  So it became his comfort zone.  Understanding this makes Morris something of an underdog type of figure; a sympathetic character so to speak.  He becomes a figure that audiences might not have rooted for had they not had this knowledge.  What really makes his an underdog figure in hindsight is why his mother is not in the picture.  That reveal in the story’s final minutes is perhaps the culmination of everything that audiences experienced leading up to that point.

Some audiences might ask if this is the case, why he started acting as an adult before that moment.  The answer is that what happened as a result of his interactions with Stephanie and Andrea was just the catalyst that he had needed to start realizing and growing as a person.  His whole life up until that point was ignorant bliss.  Finally having been faced with a situation that forced him out of his comfort zone, it acted as a kick in the pants so to speak. That eventually lead to the deepest center of what had led to his first introduction to audiences.  The result is that it leads to hindsight among audiences and in turn will lead them to see he’s really quite the underdog character.  And in understanding all of this one can only hope that those who criticized the movie will take all of this hindsight and give the movie a second chance and see it for the underrated and underappreciated work that it is.

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War In HD Box Set An Excellent Piece Of Military History

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E TV/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E TV/A&E Home Video

History Channel released one of its most impressive box sets yet earlier this year with the release of WWII in HD: Collector’s Edition.  That four-disc set took audiences in the lives of just a handful of members of the “Greatest Generation.”  It was the follow-up to the network’s equally impressive military history piece, Vietnam in HD.  Now for all the military history lovers out there, History Channel has combined both mini-series into one full six-disc set featuring both presentations in their entirety.

War in HD is a good gift idea for the military history lover in anyone’s house this holiday season.  The entire thing starts with the hugely acclaimed WWII in HD.  This series takes viewers through the history of WWII from its earliest days before the United States’ entrance to its final days.  This mega set even includes the bonus segment, “The Air War” from the previous releases of WWII in HD.  Presented in full HD, the footage culled for the presentation that is WWII in HD looks outstanding, even on standard def DVD.  And new light is shed on life on the frontlines and stateside from the interviews collected for this mini-series.  One of the most intriguing factors of WWII in HD is the drastic difference in support for the war.  Whereas support for the war in both the Pacific and in Europe was overwhelming from America, support for the war in Vietnam was quite different.

Support for the War in Vietnam went from being in support of the troops to being completely against the men fighting the war.  But now thanks to the inclusion of Vietnam in HD those who perhaps have always had a certain view of how things went down get an entirely new view of what really happened.  It’s intriguing to see the progress made in support of South Koreans in the fight against the North.  From new schools and much needed medicines, American forces did a lot to try and help the South Koreans.  Just as intriguing to learn from this double disc portion of War in HD was that despite the draft being in full effect, nearly one-third of the men serving in Vietnam by the late 1970’s were actually volunteers.  Considering how many were drafted into service (and that number is given), that one-third of enlisted men were volunteers is still quite eye opening.  It changes the view of things from that angle.  And for that matter, viewers actually learn that about four years in the war, North Vietnamese casualties far outnumbered those of American forces.  Narrator Michael C. Hall (Dexter) explains that the measure of victory in Vietnam was not by ground taken (as was the case in WWII), but by the body count.  That perhaps is what makes the Vietnam War so controversial more so than what happened during the war.  That military brass openly said that was the measure of victory set off both citizens back home and the men serving on the frontlines.  There is so much more eye opening material that audiences will appreciate from Vietnam in HD than just what is noted here.  On the note of the forces fighting the war, there is a discussion on the part of deciding whether to save the life of a fellow soldier or decide if one of the locals was a North Vietnamese fighter.  That brief moment makes for quite the discussion.  And it’s just one more of the many topics raised in this half of History Channel’s new War in HD box set.

War in HD is available now.  It can be ordered online at http://shop.history.com.

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