eOne’s “Cell 213″ Is An Interesting Theological Thriller

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Paramount.  Disney.  MGM.  20th Century Fox.  Warner Brothers.  For the longest time, these studios were what made Hollywood and the movie industry great.  But somewhere along the way, something changed.  Something very bad happened.  Somewhere in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these five major studios went from churning out some of the greatest titles that audiences have ever seen to churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and remakes.  Now in 2014, there seems to be no end in sight for this trend from Hollywood’s own “Power 5″ (only sports fans will get that reference).  Thankfully, independent studios such as IFC Films, Level 33 Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and eOne Entertainment have picked up the slack, releasing some of the most original and entertaining movies that audiences have seen in years.  One example of that originality lies in eOne’s recently released thriller Cell 213.  The movie’s box art and description leads one to believe that it is a horror movie of sorts.  The reality is that it is in fact a rather deep and surprisingly original story.  The story behind Cell 213 is by itself more than enough reason for audiences to watch it at least once.  Veteran actor Michael Rooker’s (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Thunder, Cliffhanger) acting as the vile prison guard Ray Clement is another positive to the movie.  While the movie centers on Michael Grey (Eric Balfour), Rooker is the real star of this story.  And last but not least of all worth noting here is the movie’s run time versus its pacing.  At a time when it seems like Hollywood’s major studios are continuing to battle one another to see who can cram the most material into their movies within a given time span (more often than not that time span is about 2 1/2 hours or a little more), this roughly hour and forty-nine minute movie does plenty without even reaching the two-hour mark.    Each of these aspects by themselves play their own important role in the overall success of this interesting indie thriller.  Collectively, they make Cell 213 worth at least one watch and prove once more why indie movies are just as worth the watch as all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being currently churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ if not more so.

At first glance, eOne and Alliance Films’ recently released thriller Cell 213 looks like another run-of-the-mill horror flick.  But as the old adage states, never judge a book (or in this case a DVD) by its cover.  The movie is in fact far more than just another one of the overly gory and violence laden flicks that Hollywood’s “Power 5″ call a horror.  Rather, it proves to be more a thriller than a horror.  What’s more, it’s not just another thriller, either.  The movie’s script, which was crafted by Maninda Chana, combines traditional thriller elements with some rather deep theological discussions for a movie that will ultimately leave open-minded audiences really thinking.  As audiences learn, young up-and-coming lawyer Michael Grey himself ends up in jail after one of his clients kills himself, essentially framing Michael for his murder.  It is at this point that the movie’s biggest plot hole emerges.  The plot hole is big enough to drive a handful of semis through it.  Thankfully though, the theological discussions that make up the remainder of the movie more than make up for that glaring issue.  The discussions in question center on the battle between good and evil and on making the right choices in life before we die.  A close look at the story reveals these discussions and really makes the movie a lot more interesting than one might have originally thought at first glance.  The end result is a script that makes this indie thriller worth at least one watch.

The theologically based story behind Cell 213 is a big surprise.  By itself, the discussion raised on judgment of one’s soul, etc. is more than reason enough for audiences to check out this movie.  Another reason that Cell 213 is worth at least one watch is the acting on the part of Michael Rooker.  Rooker is most well-known for his work on the NASCAR-based drama Days of Thunder.  He has also worked on Marvel Studios’ latest hit blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, too.  So this movie is obviously not the first time that he has played the role of a villain. And he shows his experience as a villain quite well. Between showing no mercy to the inmates at the prison to putting a chokehold on another officer (a female no less) to showing something of a troubling, almost Norman Bates sort of personality at another point, Rooker makes Ray Clement an absolutely disturbed character that will disturb audiences and make them love to hate him at the same time. If for no other reason, audiences should watch this movie at least once to see just how diabolical and disturbed Rooker makes Clement. That portrayal together with the movie’s deep, theological themes, makes for even more reason for audiences to give it at least one watch.

The theological themes that make up most of Cell 213’s story and the work of veteran actor Michael Rooker are both key to making this movie worth at least one watch. That still leaves one more aspect worth noting—the movie’s run time. Anyone that has been to the theater in the past couple years or so has noticed that Hollywood’s major studios have been seemingly caught up in a competition to see who can shove the most amount of material into a roughly two and a half-hour movie without making it too mediocre. The problem is that movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and even the recent Spiderman and Superman movies have been mostly mediocre. That’s because the people behind the cameras and the scripts have in fact crammed so much into each one of those movies that they have overpowered audiences. That’s hardly the case with Cell 213. The movie clocks in at just under the two-hour mark. Within the confines of that roughly hour and forty-nine minutes, writer Maninder Chana and director Stephen Kay waste no time ruminating on personal drama or any such related topics. The entire time is well-spent, focusing on the battle being waged for Michael’s soul and how he was essentially being tested, thus tying back in to the story’s theological themes. What’s more, at no point do those themes ever get so deep as to lose audiences. Viewers are kept engaged from start to finish thanks to that well-balanced mix of the movie’s run time and its overall content. That, coupled with Michael Rooker’s acting and the themes incorporated into the story, makes this movie complete. They collectively make Cell 213 a story well worth at least one watch whether one is a fan of the horror genre or has any interest in Christian theology. It all makes for a movie that is actually quite surprisingly interesting.

Cell 213 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Cell-213-Michael-Rooker/dp/B00K2OBSI2/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1416580052&sr=1-2&keywords=cell+213. More information on this and other titles from Alliance and eOne is available online at:

 

Website: http://ca.eonefilms.com

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

 

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.

Are Khloe And Lamar Back Together? That And More In The New Issue Of Us Weekly

Courtesy:  DKC Public Relations

Courtesy: DKC Public Relations

It’s Khloe and Lamar Take Two.  In the new November 11th issue of Us Weekly magazine, Odom has allegedly apologized to Khloe and asked for her forgiveness according to an insider close to the situation.  The unnamed insider said of Lamar’s apology, “Lamar broke down and apologized deeply to her” and that “he got clean, and that’s why she started talking to him again.  She was willing to give him a second chance.”  The article also quotes the anonymous figure as saying that Khloe wasn’t the only one that had to be won over.  His mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, was in attendance at the time of Odom’s apology and that while she was forgiving, she had a small warning for the NBA star.  “She told him she loved him and he said the same.  But she also told him, ‘Don’t you ever do this again.’”

Also in the new issue of Us Weekly, Hart of Dixie star Rachel Bilson is featured in this week’s ’25 Things You Don’t Know About Me.’  Here’s a quick look at some of the things fans might not know about her.

–“I was in a full-on standoff fight with my pet pig; it ended in tears.”

–“The most starstruck I’ve ever been was when I saw Larry David.”

–“Paul Rudd is my hero.”

–“I was memorized the entire dance to Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U” and performed it in my living room.”

In “Hot Hollywood” section, Us Weekly takes a look at just how much celebrities charge to make appearances.  Kristin Stewart, star of the Twilight franchise, charged $500,000 just to spend fifteen minutes with a prince that donated money to the Hurricane Sandy relief fund.  And veteran action star Sylvester Stallone was at the recent New York Comic Con, charging $445 for photos.

The features noted here are just part of what readers have to look forward to in the new issue of Us Weekly.  The November 11th issue also includes features on Prince George, Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, and an exclusive interview with Dallas Buyers Club star Matthew McConaughey.  That’s all in the new issue of Us Weekly.  More information on this and other stories from Us Weekly is available online at http://www.facebook.com/UsWeekly and http://www.UsMagazine.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.

Liberty’s Kids Makes History Fun For Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Liberty’s Kids is a wonderful way to get young audiences into history.  The series follows a group of youths through America’s formative years, from the days of the Revolutionary War to America’s eventual full independence.  While its key audience is youths age 7 to 14, even teachers and parents will enjoy it because it does more than just focus on names and dates.  Rather, it takes those names and dates, and puts them into a visual format for young eyes and minds.  It obviously wasn’t going to last too long, considering that it was based on America’s younger years.  But even in lasting only forty episodes, those forty episodes are still episodes that teachers and parents will want to use for more years than it took for America to go from Declaration to full independence.

The very first factor in the success of Liberty’s Kids is that it takes history out of the classroom.  Though, it can be used in the classroom.  Rather than just sitting at their desks, writing down notes, teachers can pop in the four discs that contain the show’s forty episodes, and use them as a way to reach their students.  Parents can even use the set in their homes regardless of whether their children are home schooled or are in public school.  That dual use is a major positive, especially considering what is currently happening with public schools today.  It takes all the names and dates, and puts them into short half hour episodes that can be used over the course of nearly an entire school year, using one episode per week. A couple of weeks might require a couple episodes to make it fully pan out right.  That at least applies for schools not on block scheduling.  Children need every educational aid that they can get to get them interested in history.  Because its episodes are short, and have writing that reaches its intended audiences, it already has two checks in its favor.

The ability of Liberty’s Kids to relate to its audiences through its writing and being an equally wonderful visual aid is key in the success of this short-lived children’s educational series.  There is more to consider in what makes it worth more than a couple watches, though.  So many of today’s children’s “cartoons” are cartoons in name only.  That’s because they are brainless shows based in CGI, rather than true animation.  The thing is that because so few children’s shows are hand drawn today, that when they do show up, very little thought is given to them.  Liberty’s Kids is one of those rare modern cartoons that keep the art of actual art alive.  Given, its style is much like that of the more modernized take on Archie.  But it still manages to maintain some identity separate from that cartoon, and other Cookie Jar titles.  It serves as one more reminder for today’s young audiences how much work goes into bringing hand drawn art to life on screen, and how important it is to have said style of art versus the colder, stale and soulless computer generated children’s shows that are out there today.  Again, it is one more positive to this set that makes it worth more than just a couple watches.  Sure, it’s a minor factor in the grand scheme of things.  But it is no less important to consider in the set’s success.

The animation involved in Liberty’s Kids is a minor factor in the grand scheme of things.  But it is no less important than any other factor in the show’s success.  The same can be said of the guest voice talents that make appearances of sorts throughout the series.  Throughout the show’s forty episodes, veteran actors such as: Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg make appearances as famous historical figures from America’s infancy.  One might ask how in the world veteran acting talents are important in the success of a children’s cartoon.  The answer is quite simple.  The inclusion of such big names will potentially influence parents to sit down and watch the show with their children.  Most adults won’t admit it to themselves or others just how much they have lost since their own school days.  So maybe the use of big Hollywood names will be enough to get parents interested and in turn, refresh their own knowledge of American history.  The latent effect of this interest is that it could serve as a starting point for parents to discuss the actors and actresses that make appearances and their film histories both good and bad.  And perhaps when those young audiences that watch Liberty’s Kids today grow up to be adults themselves, they will have an appreciation for movies that will be in their time classics.  So in a roundabout manner, this is a far more important factor in the success of Liberty’s Kids than any viewer would have otherwise realized.  Along with the other factors that went into bringing it to life, it’s one more factor that makes Liberty’s Kids a hit both in the classroom and the living room.  And chances are, it will be for many more years to come.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/liberty-s-kids-the-complete-series.html.

Parents and children can keep up with all of the latest family friendly releases from Mill Creek Entertainment online at http://www.MillCreekDirect.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

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.

Gloomball Impressive On Its Debut Record

Courtesy:  SPV/Steamhammer

Courtesy: SPV/Steamhammer

Most people in the metal community have either heard of heard of Godsmack or heard them.  Mudvayne, Hellyeah, and Five Finger Death Punch are just as well known in the metal world.  So what if one were to take these bands, toss them into a pot and stir them all together?  One would get Gloomball.  This German five-piece is primed to be one of the next big acts in the United States, given the right support from rock radio programmers.  The band’s debut album, The Distance, is a solid mix of all of the aforementioned bands that at the same time it shows their influences, still manages to solidly maintain its own identity.  It goes without saying that this record is one of the year’s best of the hard rock and metal category.

The album’s opener, ‘Burning Gasoline’ is fittingly titled.  It’s a full throttle hard rock song that wastes no time getting listeners’ blood boiling.  The song’s chorus is just as high powered as the music itself from band members Bjorn Daigger (guitars), Danny Joe (drums), Basti Moser (Bass) and Jossi Lenk (Guitars).  Front man Alen Ljubic sings in the song’s chorus, “The more that you throw/I’ll be back for some more/I have told you before/I’ve told you/What I/Feel a-bout you/Just because/I Don’t see/The point/To help you/Anymore/You’re just gonna stay here/Progress/No less/Just like you were before/Overcome/I’m overcome.”  The somewhat syncopated style of the chorus is reminiscent of Godsmack front man Sully Erna’s vocal style from much of that band’s songs.

The ability of Ljubic to change his vocal style from one song to another on this album is interesting to say the least.  The same can be said of the band’s sound overall.  On the album’s title track, the band has gone from a heavy, up-tempo adrenaline racer to a more controlled piece that still has a certain heavy element.  It’s something more akin to something one might hear from Five Finger Death Punch.  The song’s lyrical side shows a very deeply emotional topic.  Ljubic sings in an almost mournful style, “This will be difficult/We all want things we cannot have/Don’t drown in disbelief/Control yourself/You learn it’s a lie/Don’t betray yourself/It’s just not there/Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” He goes on to sing “This distance makes the heart grow colder.”  This song’s subject is pretty obvious.  And the talent of Ljubic’s band mates to interpret the lyrics makes this one more piece of the whole that will make any rocker proud.

Save for the album’s closer—a cover of ‘Living Within My Tender Pain (from the Rocky IV soundtrack)—the album’s energy picks right back up after the title track from Gloomball’s debut record.  It carries listeners straight through to that much more subdued closer, leaving audiences completely breathless, even after this much more gentle moment.  As gentle as it is, its proof of Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde’s statement long ago that a song can be heavy lyrically and musically without heavy guitars.  The strains of the piano set against Ljubic singing, “I, I’m the only thing that’s real/Deep inside is where I bleed/Living with my tender pain/Ever since you’ve gone away/Why/Does it still feel like a dream/All my pain feels so unreal/And your shadow it will stay/Right beside me every day.”  Yet again, Ljubic has shown his talent with this piece.  Unlike so many other songs of love lost, the combination of his vocal tone expertly comes together with the sad sounds echoing from the piano to truly catch the pain one must feel in having lost someone close to one’s self.  Of course as already noted, its only one of two moments when the album slows down.  Those wanting something with more energy have plenty to choose from throughout the heart of The Distance.  And by the time that audiences have finished their musical journey with the band, they just might find themselves wanting to travel “The Distance” with this band again.  The Distance is available now in Europe and will be available in the United States on Tuesday, May 7th.  The band’s only current planned performance in support of the record is a release show in Mannheim, Germany on Friday May 17th.  Fans can check in on the band’s Facebook page and official website for all of the latest updates on its tour and more at http://www.facebook.com/GLOOMBALL and http://www.gloomball.com.

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.

Special Forces Offers Nonstop Action For Military Movie Fans

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

EOne’s latest action thriller, Special Forces, is a solid work that will impress any fan of the military movie genre.  It is a gripping story that follows a group of French Special Forces commandos who are sent behind enemy lines to rescue a kidnapped journalist played by Diane Kruger.  On the surface, one might glance at this story and think that it’s just another run of the mill military action flick along the lines of perhaps Delta Force, Seal Team Six, The Expendables, and Zero Dark Thirty.  But a much closer look shows that it’s more than that.  Yes it’s a story about good versus bad.  But it’s more than that.  It’s also a story of man versus himself and man versus nature.  The entire thing is set against the backdrop of the Afghan/Pakistani border.  At the same time that the commandos have to fight a group of relentless Taliban fighters along the way, they also must battle the elements and their own wills in order to survive.  The script’s writing will keep viewers engaged as will its cinematography and its backdrop.  By the story’s end it is that writing, cinematography, and backdrop that will make this movie one more in the military genre that is worth at least one watch.

Special Forces wastes no time moving the story forward.  Right off the bat, audiences are presented with the central plot.  That plot is that young reporter Elsa Casanova (Diane Kruger) has been kidnapped by a ruthless Taliban fighter who threatens to kill her because of something that she wrote about him in a newspaper.  Considering the recent headlines concerning a young girl who was gunned down by Taliban fighters and by some miracle survived the shooting, this simple plot is actually quite believable.  That believability will instantly pull viewers in and allow them to suspend their disbelief.  That’s all the script writers needed as audiences will be hooked by the nonstop action throughout the rest of the story.

The writing keeps the movie’s action moving at a rapid fire pace early on.  The cinematography does much the same.  That’s especially the case during the shootout scenes between the commandos and the Taliban fighters.  There are those who might complain that it moves too fast.  But the point in the quick pacing of the shots is to emphasize the adrenaline levels of the commandos.  One can only imagine if that’s what military forces currently fighting the Taliban and Muslim insurgents actually feel when they are actually in the process of firefights.  The firefight scenes make for some of the best throughout the movie’s near two-hour run time.    Just as impressive is the work of the camera crews in capturing the landscape which the commandos must navigate in their journey to get Elsa back to Afghanistan.  Not to give away too much but it is that same cinematography that helps heighten the drama of the man versus nature element of this action/drama.  Audiences see just how much adversity the soldiers have to overcome throughout their journey.  Whether it be against the Taliban forces that are constantly on their heels, or against the vast Middle Eastern mountains and plains, Elsa and her protectors are never really safe.  The camera crews and director Stephane Rybojad are to be commended for their interpretation of the script in this aspect.

As one can hopefully tell by now, Special Forces is not just another military action thriller.  There is more to it than one would realize from simply watching it.  But hopefully in understanding everything noted here, viewers who give the movie at least one watch will have more understanding and appreciation for it.  It is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and can be ordered online direct via Amazon.com at http://amzn.com/B00AFQSYMU.  The Phil’s Picks Facebook page is also holding a drawing for copies of the movie.  Fans can get into the drawing for the movie at the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  A trailer for the movie is also available now.  It can be viewed at http://youtu.be/tIe7Vvt0jDA

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  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.

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.