Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (X-Men, X-2 X-Men United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

MST3K XXVI Offers Audiences Offers More Movie History, Laughs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K as it will henceforth be known) has always been considered largely a cult hit among audiences.  If that is the case, then it’s something of a surprise that to this day, it is still such a massive hit among not just its original audiences, but a whole new generation of audiences.  That is thanks to the good people at Shout! Factory.  And thanks to those same people, fans of this timeless show have yet another brand new volume of so bad they’re good b-movies to enjoy along with Joel, Mike, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot.

Everything that’s been said about this show has already been said twenty-five times over and then some.  But it would be impossible to go into this latest set of episodes without reminding audiences that this show is just one part of what used to make Syfy (then SciFi Channel) so great. As already noted, the movies presented in this classic cult show are so bad that they’re good.  Though, it’s great to see many of Universal’s classic monster and sci-fi movies resurrected here.  They’re just part of the show’s success.  And this latest set also includes another of those classic Universal movies in the form of The Mole People.  This movie features actor Alan Napier, who many might recognize as Alfred Pennyworth from the classic Batman TV series.  It’s one of those movies that fans of Svengoolie would definitely have on his show on Me-TV on Saturday nights.  The movie itself takes the heroes into the interior of the Earth, where they discover an ancient civilization of people who worship the goddess Ishtar.  But they aren’t the only ones that the heroes have to face.  The mole people are there, too.  And they are a danger to everyone.  The movie itself is pretty campy on the surface.  That’s not bad.  But the bonus “Making of” feature included with this movie really makes it worth the watch.  It is a bonus in every way.  It discusses the deeper, more social take on the movie.  Those interviewed in the feature discuss how the white guards flogging the darker mole people who “came from below” was a commentary on the America’s racist past.  Speaking of racist views, it’s interesting to learn that scenes involving a man and woman from different ethnic backgrounds being together were edited out by censors, since this was released in the 1950’s.  These are just a couple examples of what make this “making of” feature a true bonus and why it makes this movie even more of an interesting addition to this latest set.  It’s one more example also of the impact of bonus features on a movie.

The Mole People is just one of the movies in this set featuring an underground world.  The absolutely campy 1988 movie, Alien From L.A. also takes place in a world just beneath the Earth’s surface.  It stars a then very young Kathy Ireland.  Ireland was actually in her mid-twenties at the time that this movie—which was also her very first ever feature film–was filmed, though she was playing the role of a teen.  Ireland stumbles into the underground world when she sets out to find her lot archaeologist father (played here by Richard Haines).  In the process, Wanda (Ireland) is transformed from a plain, whiny, high pitched girl to a beautiful supermodel style figure.  And during her time in the underground world, she uncovers an evil government plot to keep the people of the world to know about the surface world.  As campy as the movie is, the interview with director Albert Pyun raises an interesting note.  Pyun notes in his interview that part of his intent in the movie was examining the feeling of what was a young girl having the feeling of an adult being trapped in a girl’s body, thus the transformation.  Just as interesting to note in his interview is that he admits that he had never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 before the show’s heads announced that this movie would be featured.  Pyun also discusses plenty of other matters centered on the movie.  But audiences can check out all of that for themselves when they pick up the brand new box set for themselves.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216588.

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.

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.

Les Miserables Not 2012′s Best, But Close To It

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Adapting classical literature for the big screen is one of Hollywood’s most time honored traditions.  Countless books have been adapted for the silver screen since the industry’s Golden Era.  Just as common for movie studios to do is to adapt stage plays that have themselves been adapted from books.  So as common as this practice is even now in Hollywood’s modern era, it takes a lot to make a movie of this fashion stand out in today’s overly crowded movie market.  Enter the newest big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic story, Les Miserables.

The latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless story of redemption is one of the best movies of 2012.   It isn’t the year’s best.  But it does come close as it struggles with at least two glaring issues.  Those issues are the movie’s scene transitions and its general cinematography.  Much of the cinematography issue goes hand in hand with the problematic scene transitions.  Though there’s just as much problem with this movie’s shooting style not directly linked to the transitions in question.  Despite having issues with shooting and scene transitions, the movie’s positives far outweigh its negatives.  And those positives are many.

The most obvious problem weighing down this latest adaptation of Les Miserables is its shooting style (I.E. its cinematography).  Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) makes a valiant attempt to bring out as much of the emotion as possible from each scene with his shooting style.  The problem is that he tried too hard.  Throughout the story’s near three-hour run time, this shooting style is so consistent that it could potentially leave audiences feeling somewhat dizzy and even confused.  The cameras spin, cut, and make every other possible transition so much that it leaves audiences not knowing where they are going to go next.  It happens so much that it would be no surprise if it leaves some audiences so bothered by it that it makes audiences contemplate just walking out because they can’t take feeling the way which they feel.  The issue with the shooting style is just the tip of the iceberg for this movie’s problems.  To make matters worse, the shooting style is at times linked directly to its problematic scene transitions.

Anyone who has seen Les Miserable live on stage knows that while they take time, the scene transitions are smooth enough to keep track of exactly what’s going on in the story.  The case with the latest on-screen adaptation is the polar opposite of the stage play.  The scene transitions in this version happen so fast that viewers almost need a program to keep up with what’s happening.  This is one of the areas in which Hooper obviously struggled to do honor to the legacy established by this timeless classic.  Rather than making smooth transitions, it felt almost as if much of the movie was just a load of scenes tied together with jump cut edits.  Add in that problematic shooting style, and audiences get a work that felt anything but fluid.  Rather it felt like each scene was piecemealed together.  The two factors together made the movie noticeably less enjoyable than it could have been, despite the outstanding performance on the part of both Jackman and co-star Anne Hathaway.

While Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Get Smart, The Princess Diaries) isn’t technically a veteran in the acting business, she surprisingly proved herself in the role of Fantine.  Her chops as a singer were the most impressive part of her performance.  The emotion with which she sang made her portrayal fully believable.  There are those who have alleged that she was doing little more than simply hamming it up for the cameras.  But that obviously isn’t the case.  Considering her previous roles, this could finally be the one to catapult her to the upper echelons of the movie industry.  And while he is already in the businesses’ upper echelons, the choice of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean was common sense considering his current track record both on stage and screen.  He carried the movie on his shoulders.  Watching his moment of redemption at the story’s end will leave any viewer with more than just a tear in his or her eye.  Perhaps the only poor choice in casting this movie was that of Russell Crowe.  Crowe’s portrayal of Inspector Javert worked on the superficial level.  He is old enough that he looked the part.  But his general performance simply was not believable.  Luckily that was about the only poor choice in casting this take on the time honored classic.  That being the case, it is no surprise that this take on Les Miserables has been nominated for a handful of Golden Globes.  And it would be no surprise if it makes the Oscar nod list more than once, 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.

Philip Sayblack can be contacted at psayblack@wnct.com

Shout! Factory Gives Film Buffs Even More Laughs In New MST3K Set

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Thank goodness for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and thank goodness for Shout! Factory keeping this classic comic science fiction show alive on DVD.  This modern classic is one of the single greatest shows ever created for film lovers.  There was no other show like it during its time.  And there has been no show like it since.  On the surface, the very concept of a man and his robot friends watching a bunch of really bad B-movies sounds like something wouldn’t work.  But it did.  And it still does today.  Now, fans of MST3K have been rewarded once again for their loyalty with another new collection of so bad they’re good movies and great skits from an equally great modern classic TV show.   

Shout! Factory released the latest volume of this modern classic earlier this week.  Included in this brand new set are four more movies that are so god awful that they’re great.  Contradictory, no?  This four disc set is anchored by the absolutely campy sequel to Universal’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon in Revenge of the Creature and the equally campy Operation Double 007.  1955’s Revenge of the Creature sees the return of the famed creature.  This time out, the creature actually becomes a bit of a sympathetic character as it’s captured by scientists and taken to an aquarium in Florida to be studied.  Awakening in the aquarium and gawked at by hundreds of people, the creature (played here by Ricou Browning) becomes angered and tries to escape his tank.  This leads to more strict means to hold the creature, which only makes it angrier when it finally escapes.  And as was the case with classic monster flicks of that era, it went after the first young, attractive woman it saw as it wanted her for a mate.  The creature is of course stopped in the end and the damsel in distress saved.  While the film is absolutely campy, the very fact that it’s part of a franchise featuring one of Hollywood’s great movie monsters, having the opportunity to take in this flick will be appreciated by any true classic movie buff.  As an added bit of trivia, a young Clint Eastwood plays an uncredited role in this campy sci-fi classic.

Revenge of the Creature is a great addition to the new MST3K set from Shout! Factory.  It’s just one of the movies included that make the set great for anyone that wants to go back in time to just one era of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”  Along with that flick, classic film buffs will also appreciate the even campier, Operation Double 007.  This largely forgotten flick from 1967 starred the younger brother of now retired actor Sean Connery, Neil.  Neil plays a plastic surgeon that is brought on board by the British government when his older brother (who just happens to be a secret agent) turns out to not be available to help them for a special mission.  Here’s where things get completely ridiculous.  The mission in question involves Neil stopping the evil crime syndicate Thanatos from using a giant magnetic wave device that will stop all metal machinery in the world.  Yes, it’s laughable.  But that’s what makes it so fun.  Of course, the action is just as campy, making it that much more fun and funny.  Think it can’t get any worse?  It can.  Not only is the plot and the action hilarious, but the scriptwriters didn’t even try to give Connery’s character a name.  He is actually called by his real name throughout the story.  There is even more that classic film buffs will love and laugh at throughout this movie proving why it’s one more that’s so bad that it’s great.  Thanks to being part of this new set, it’s one more movie that would be great for a classic camp movie marathon.  Of course, it’s just one more in this set.  Audiences will also love Robot Holocaust and Kitten with a Whip.  They finish out the four disc set that’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct at Shout! Factory’s online store, http://www.shoutfactorystore.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.