BBC Studios Announces Release Date For ‘Good Omens’

Courtesy: BBC Studios

BBC Studios — Americas is bringing the much talked about series Good Omens to DVD and Blu-ray.

The program (based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett) is scheduled for release Nov. 5 on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be purchased through BBC Shop and Amazon.  The series follows an angel and a demon — Aziraphale Michael Sheen — Masters of Sex, Midnight in Paris, The Queen) and Crowley (David Tennant — Dr. Who, Duck Tales, Fright Night) respectively — who are forced to team up to avert the apocalypse.

Sheen and Tennant are joined by an all-star cast made up of celebrities, such as Jon Hamm (Mad MenBaby DriverMillion Dollar Arm), Micheal McKean (This Is Spinal TapA Mighty WindClue) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Star TrekInto DarknessIn Search OfSherlock) for the series.Miranda Richardson (The Crying GameSleepy HollowThe Hours), Jack Whitehall (Fresh MeatBad EducationMother’s Day) and Adria Arjona (Pacific RimUprisingTrue DetectiveLife of the Party) are also included in the program’s cast list.

The six episodes that make up the miniseries’ six-hour run are spread across two discs.  They are accompanied by a variety of bonuses that are exclusive to the series’ DVD and Blu-ray platforms.  They include items, such as a variety of galleries, feature-length commentaries for all six episodes and a page-to-screen comparison of the series and its source material.

More information on this and other titles from BBC Studios is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.bbcstudios.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CCBStudios

 

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‘Penguin Highway’ Will Get A Lot Of Mileage In Anime, Sci-Fi Fans’ Blu-ray, DVD Players

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Eleven Arts Studios

Shout! Factory has been busy this year, releasing a handful of anime titles for fans of the noted genre.  The latest of those titles, Penguin Highway was released early last month on DVD and Blu-ray.  Based on a book crafted by author Tomihiko Morimi, this debut outing for director Hiroyasu Ishida is a work that will appeal to anime fans and even some science fiction fans.  That is due to the movie’s story, which will be addressed shortly.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s recent domestic release adds to its appeal for the noted audiences, and will be addressed a little later.  The primary and secondary content considered, they collectively make the movie’s average price point money well spent for the movie’s noted viewers.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of the presentation.  All things considered, they make Penguin Highway an offering that anime and science fiction fans alike will appreciate.

Shout! Factory’s recent domestic release of Eleven Arts’ presentation Penguin Highway is a presentation that will appeal widely to anime fans and to some science fiction fans.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story.  The story follows a 9 year-old boy named Aoyama who is a lot smarter than any children his age. An easy comparison would be to a young Sheldon Cooper, just without the social ineptness.  Aoyama is a very smart young man, but also has a lot of learning to do in general about life.  He learns a lot about life in this coming-of-age story, too.  He learns about friendship, life and love as he meets a peculiar woman who works at one of his town’s dentist offices.  As Aoyama’s friendship with the woman grows, so does the mystery of a giant orb that his friends discover in a forest near the town and the woman’s connection to the orb.  As it turns out, the two are connected, as are the penguins that keep appearing around town.  This leads to the movie’s secondary story which will appeal to the noted sci-fan fans.  The concepts that Aoyama brings up about time and space being twisted by the orb and the woman’s connection to the penguins (and monsters) delves into not just the sci-fi realm, but the fantasy realm to a certain extent, too.  Through it all, audiences familiar with the movie’s source material will be glad to know the story follows its literary source material quite closely.  This will be addressed shortly in the discussion on the movie’s bonus content.  Getting back on the subject at hand, The story at the center of Penguin Highway is a unique presentation.  It takes some very familiar plot elements and crosses them in a way that is rarely ever used, if ever at all.  That in itself makes the story worth taking in at least once if not occasionally.  It is just one of the elements that makes the movie a worthwhile watch for its target audiences.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s home release adds more interest to its presentation.

The bonus content featured with the home release of Penguin Highway includes interviews with Morimi and Ishida as well as a promo video for the movie.  The promo video is nothing memorable, but the interview segments add a certain degree of engagement and entertainment to the movie’s presentation.  Ishida, during his interview, discusses items, such as the deeper meaning of the movie, his favorite scenes, casting the movie and the movie’s creation.  Ishida reveals in his interview that Penguin Highway was his debut as the director of a full-length feature, adding how nervous he was about helming the project.  That is because, as he reveals, all of his previous work was on independent shorts.  In discussing some of the movie’s scenes, he reveals that the sequences in question were a reflection of his own intentions to make the story progress in a certain fashion.  That is an interesting discussion that audiences will be left to take in for themselves.  Ishida also takes a moment to discuss the freedom of creating independent releases versus the controls of making a full-length feature.

Morimi’s interview finds him discussing items, such as his real target audience with his book, the connection between his book and its cinematic adaptation and how he developed the title for his book.  His discussions are just as natural as those of Ishida, as he takes on each item.  In talking about the creation of the book’s title, Morimi admits he does not fully recall how or when he developed the book’s title, saying only that it happened when he was in college.  He also admits that when he wrote Penguin Highway, he did not write it with children in mind as his target audience.  That would make sense, considering some of the content featured early on in the movie.  He also admits that knowing Ishida was an untested director made him uneasy about his book being adapted cinematically by Ishida, but adds he was pleased with the outcome.  This is just a sampling of the items that Morishi addresses as well as Ishida.  Between the noted discussions and lots more not noted here, the bonus interviews featured with Penguin Highway add their own share of engagement and entertainment for the movie’s target audience.  When this is considered along with the engagement and entertainment generated through the movie’s primary content, the two elements together make the movie’s average price such that those audiences will not mind paying.

The average price point for Penguin Highway’s Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is $19.98.  that price is obtained by averaging prices from Shout! Factory, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million.  The movie’s price point for its standalone DVD packaging is $18.56.  Almost all of the same retailers’ prices were used for that price.  The only outlet that did not list the price for the movie’s  DVD packaging was Best Buy.  Amazon and Walmart have the least expensive price listing for the BD/DVD combo pack at $17.96 while Target and Best Buy listed the BD/DVD pack’s price just above that at $17.99.  Books-A-Million’s price listing of $26.99 is its most expensive listing.  To that end, the price of $17.96 is money well spent on for those noted viewers who are fans of anime and/or science fiction.  That is especially considering the movie’s script and bonus content.  The same applies to the movie’s listing of $12.39, again at Amazon and Walmart.  Regardless of which retailer consumers choose for either platform, Amazon and Walmart offer the most competitive pricing.  What’s more, that pricing is such that the noted fans will find it worth spending considering everything noted here already.  Keeping that in mind, all three elements discussed here come together to make Penguin Highway a presentation that anime fans across the board will find appealing.

Shout! Factory and Eleven Arts’ recent domestic release of the anime flick Penguin Highway is a work that is certain to get plenty of mileage among the most devoted anime and science fiction fans.  That is proven in part through the movie’s dual story lines that interweave together so well.  The bonus interviews with the movie’s director and the author of the book that spawned the movie collectively add more engagement and entertainment to the presentation.  They collectively make the movie’s relatively low average price of less than $20 a welcome pricing, again, for those noted target viewers.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of Penguin Highway.  All things considered, they make the movie a presentation that will certainly get plenty of mileage in the noted viewers’ DVD and Blu-ray players.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from Eleven Arts is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://elevenarts.net

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ELEVEN_ARTS

 

 

 

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The Appeal For ‘The Andromeda Strain’ BD Re-Issue Will Spread Like A Virus Among Audiences

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group/Universal Pictures

Michael Crichton was one of the greatest literary minds of his time during his life.  He was, for all intents and purposes, the second coming of Jules Verne.  That is because his novels, like those of Verne, told stories that were so far ahead of their time.  Jurassic Park, for instance was not so much about a bunch of dinosaurs living on an island, but rather the issue of cloning before it become a major topic for scientists and news agencies to talk about daily.  Now it is everywhere.  Next focused on genetics and government control thereof before the news ever picked up on the issues, such as drug companies using people’s blood types to control the drug industry and people being able to pick the gender of their babies with their doctors.  In The Andromeda Strain, one of his earliest works, Crichton addressed the issue of germ warfare and the issue of what constitutes “intelligent” life from other worlds other than our own.  That book was adapted to the silver screen in 1971, and subsequently released (and re-issued multiple times) to home viewers.  Early last month, Arrow Video re-issued the movie again, this time on Blu-ray, resurrecting the chilling plague outbreak story for a whole new generation of sci-fi and horror fans.  The noted audiences are certain to appreciate the noted story, which forms the foundation of the movie.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s latest re-issue adds even more to its presentation.  The companion booklet that is also featured with the movie’s re-issue is yet another positive touch to its overall presentation.  Each item noted here plays its own key part in the whole of The Andromeda Strain.  They certainly are not the only key elements that one can examine.  One could also examine additional items, such as the movie’s cinematography, its casting and even the work of the movie’s cast by relation.  All things considered, they make The Andromeda Strain an welcome addition to the home library of any science fiction (and more specifically Michael Crichton) fan.

Plague outbreak stories seem to be a favorite go-to for Hollywood’s major studios.  From the likes of The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Masque of the Red Death (1989) and Outbreak (1995) to the likes of And The Band Played On (1993), 12 Monkeys (1995) and The Andromeda Strain (1971) and so many others, Hollywood’s major studios seem to love stories about plagues.  To that end, it makes sense that early last month, the latter of the noted group of movies – The Andromeda Strain – would re-issue that movie.  Released June 4, it was re-issued this time on Blu-ray.  Fans of the outbreak genre, fans of Michael Crichton’s works and sci-fi fans in general have plenty to appreciate in this latest re-issue, starting with the movie’s story. The story at the center of The Andromeda Strain follows a group of scientists that is working to contain a space-borne virus brought back to Earth on a satellite that mysteriously crashed to Earth in a quiet town in the American Southwest.  As the story progresses, it is eventually discovered — not to give away too much — that the virus being aboard the satellite might not have been quite as coincidental as originally thought.  The antidote (of sorts) is eventually discovered, thanks to two lone survivors from the town – an old man and a baby.  The story in whole harkens back to the sci-fi flicks of the 1950s and 60s turned out by Universal Pictures, whose stories centered on the military’s atomic testing leading to all kinds of problems for mankind.  Again, not to give away too much, but there is a very close similarity between those stories and this work.  It is also addressed in the bonus features included in The Andromeda Strain’s bonus material.  That will be addressed a little later.  Keeping that in mind, this story will appeal to a wide range of viewers, even despite its pacing issues.

It becomes clear through everything  noted so far, that the story at the center of The Andromeda Strain builds a strong foundation for Arrow Video’s recent re-issue of the movie.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s recent re-issue strengthens that foundation even more.  That is because this re-issue features some previously presented bonus content and some new material in one setting.  Among the most notable of the new bonus content is the discussion by critic Kim Newman.  Newman discusses in his commentary, The Andromeda Strain’s place in the bigger picture of the plague/virus outbreak genre, citing the movies already cited in this review, and others.  Newman’s discussion might not seem like much  on the surface, but in the bigger picture, the roughly 10-minute presentation brings new light to the fact that said genre is in fact so expansive.  The previously presented “making off” featurette, which was featured in the movie’s 2001 re-issue, is another notable addition to this re-issue.  That is because some viewers have not previously seen this featurette while others perhaps have not seen it in a long time and forgotten what was discussed in the mini-doc.  Audiences get discussions here on topics, such as the then groundbreaking special effects used in the movie, the deliberate choice of cast members who were not at the time, well-known  and the faux bibliography featured in The Andromeda Strain and its connection to it cinematic adaptation.  That discussion, with the movie’s script writer Nelson Gidding, makes for its own share of insight and entertainment.  There are also vintage interview segments with Crichton himself featured within the “making of” documentary in which he talks about his connection between his medical education and the book.  Those discussions are expanded even more in yet another of the movie’s key features, “A Portrait of Michael Crichton.”  The late, great author talks in this presentation, about his decision to author his original novels under a fake name and why he decided on going to medical school first among other topics.  As if everything in this and the other noted featurettes is not enough, the new feature-length audio commentary will entertain and engage viewers just as much if not even more than those featurettes.  All things considered here, the bonus content – new and old alike – does just as much to keep viewers engaged and entertained as the story at the center of The Andromeda Strain.  The two elements together are just part of what makes this latest re-issue of the classic sci-fi flick such a welcome addition to audiences’ home movie libraries.  The companion booklet that is featured as yet another extra with this re-issue is notable in its own right to the movie’s whole.

The companion booklet that comes with  the latest re-issue of The Andromeda Strain adds its own touch to the movie’s presentation, as its liner notes – penned by author Peter Tonguette – discuss not only the movie’s place in the grand scheme of the cinematic universe, but also that of its director, Robert Wise.  Tonguette states in his notes, that Wise and the movie both deserve far more credit than they have been given.  He notes Wise’s work on so many b-flicks prior to helming The Andromeda Strain as a big part of the reason that Wise has never gotten the credit that he believes the director has deserved.  Additionally, Tonguette discusses Wise’s approach to the Andromeda, crediting that approach for items, such as the dialogue and effect of the cinematography.  Along with Tonguette’s brief, but concise discussion on Wise’s work on The Andromeda Strain, the companion booklet also offers a starting point for discussions on the movie within the context of a film appreciation class, clearly outlining a set series of discussion topics; topics such as the nature of the deaths in Piedmont, the President’s decision whether to drop an atomic bomb on Piedmont, and the impact of the virus’ mutation.  There are also focuses on items, such as recent real life scientific breakthroughs in comparison to the topics discussed in the movie, whether The Andromeda Strain is in fact science fiction or science fact, and Werner Von Braun’s statement decades prior about the very topic on which Crichton centered his book.  Even more interesting is that all of these discussion topics were featured in a 1971 educational guide sent to schools nationwide to help promote the movie.  That guide is still just as relevant today as it was in 1971.  To that end, it is another key addition to the companion booklet included with this latest re-issue of The Andromeda Strain.  Keeping this in mind, the vast expanse of content (and the depth thereof) within the booklet proves to be just as important to the re-issue’s presentation as the bonus content and the story itself.  When all three elements are considered together, they make The Andromeda Strain a movie that, again, sci-fi fans will appreciate just as much as fans of Michael Crichton and those of the plague/virus outbreak genre.

Arrow Video’s re-issue of Universal Pictures’ The Andromeda Strain is a strong new offering for fans of Hollywood’s plague/virus outbreak genre just as much as for fans of Michael Crichton and of science fiction in general.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story.  While maybe not the first movie of its kind when it was originally released in 1971, its story is one that still rings true for audiences to this day.  It is far more believable than most other movies within its realm.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s recent re-issue adds even more engagement and entertainment to the re-issue’s presentation.  That is because the content balances new and old for viewers of all ages.  The companion booklet that also come with the re-issue adds even more interest to the re-issue.  Each item noted in this review is important in its own way to the whole of The Andromeda Strain.  All things considered, they make this re-issue a work that is one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

 

 

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‘The Illusionist’ Maintains Its Cinematic Magic In Its New Latest Re-Issue

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Visual

MVD Entertainment Group has added 20th Century Fox’s period drama The Illusionist to its MVD Marquee collection.  The company is scheduled to re-issue the movie, which stars Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man, 12 Years A Slave), Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk, American History X, Birdman) and Jessica Biel (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, 7th Heaven, I’ll Be Home For Christmas) in its lead roles, on June 25.  The movie itself is one of the most underappreciated movies of the 1990s, and the upcoming re-issue serves to remind audiences of exactly that.  That is due in part to the movie’s story, which will be addressed shortly.  Its bonus content,  which will be addressed a little later, adds even more interest to the re-issue’s presentation.  The collective work of the movie’s cast and crew also adds to the story and will be addressed later.  When it is coupled with the movie’s story, all of the elements together show why this latest presentation of The Illusionist is more cinematic magic.

MVD Entertainment Group’s forthcoming re-issue of 20th Century Fox’s period drama The Illusionist is a positive offering for most audiences.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story — based on a short story crafted by author Steven Millhauser — is a fully-engaging and entertaining presentation that is full of magic, murder, mystery and romance.  Those elements are all expertly balanced throughout the course of the story, too.  It is set in 19th Century Vienna, Austria (but was actually filmed in The Czech Republic – this will be discussed later) and features Norton and Giamatti as Eisenheim and Inspector Uhl respectively.  Eisenheim, who was friends with the Duchess Sophie van Techen (Biel) when the pair was much younger, wants to reconnect with the Duchess.  The problem for Eisenheim is that Uhl, who is working for Crown Prince Leopold (Refus Sewell – A Knight’s Tale, Dark City, Tristan + Isolde), stands in his way.  Eisenheim and Uhl eventually develop a certain almost friendship as the story progresses while tensions between Eisenheim and Leopold increase right up to the story’s climactic conclusion.  The story’s run time is listed at 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes), but because of the pacing, feels longer than that noted time.  What’s truly interesting is that usually when pacing makes a move feel longer than it is, that is a bad thing.  In the case of this story though, it is the exact opposite.  Somehow, writer/director Neil Burger, who adapted Millhauser’s short story to the screen, managed to make the story work even despite that feel.  That is a tribute to his work.  Even with the pacing seeming slow at times, the story is still able to keep viewers engaged and entertained with ease.  The movie’s twist ending gives viewers a finale that is completely fulfilling.  That fulfillment finale, and the ability of the movie’s story to keep viewers engaged and entertained creates a strong foundation for The Illusionist and gives viewers more than enough reason to watch this movie.  As much as the movie’s story does for its presentation, its bonus content adds even more to the movie’s presentation.

The bonus content featured in MVD Entertainment Group’s forthcoming re-issue of The Illusionist is carried directly over from the movie’s most recent release, its 2007 release.  That includes not just the brief making of featurette and equally brief conversation with Biel, but also the feature-length audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger.  The commentary is listed, in this re-issue, as an audio option instead of a bonus extra, unlike the 2007 home release, as an added note, but it is still the most important of the movie’s extras.  Burger  presents a lot of information in his commentary, such as the revelation that most of the movie was recorded on site in Prague, Czech Republic and that his adaptation of the original short story The Illusionist is quite different from its literary source material.  Considering the number of differences that he addresses, it makes one want to find said story and see just how different the two stories are.  That is just some of the content revealed through Burger’s commentary. He also reveals that Norton and Biel were not the first choices for their respective roles.  Those discussions are themselves certain to generate plenty of discussion, and in turn are more proof of why Burger’s commentary should have been featured in The Illusionist’s latest re-issue.  They are certainly just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is his commentary.  As the movie progresses, he shares far more that audiences can discover for themselves.  Keeping that in mind, Burger’s bonus commentary builds on the foundation formed by the movie’s story and strengthens it that much more.  It is still not the last of the movie’s positives.  The collective work of the movie’s cast and crew couples with the story and commentary to give audiences even more to appreciate.

The work of all four of the movie’s lead cast members is worthy of applause in its own way throughout the movie.  Burger notes in the movie’s audio commentary (along with so much more already noted) that he made Eisenheim more of a sympathetic character by using Inspector Uhl more than he was in the movie’s source material.  The thing is that Norton’s abilities as an actor did not even call for more inclusion of Uhl.  Given, Norton and Giamatii were just enjoyable on-screen together as they were on their own, but Norton’s own abilities were more than enough to make his work engaging and entertaining in its own right.  His emoting during his time on stage in front of Eisenheim’s audiences is just one example of that talent.  His tears were just as believable as he reaches out for Sophie’s hand in the final act when he is on stage.  The pain that he displays translates so well, even if it is all part of his act to trick everyone.  Much the same can be said of Giamatti that is said of Norton.  When Giamatti is set alongside Sewell, he [Giamatti] shines even more while Sewell, as more of a supporting character, makes it just as easy for audiences to dislike Leopold.  Burger discusses this, too, in the commentary. Viewers will agree with his comments here, too.  What’s more, viewers will also appreciate the discussions by Burger on the amount of research that was done to make The Illusionist look just like 19th Century Vienna in terms of costumes and even buildings.  That research clearly paid off, as the resultant work of the movie’s costume and set designers created an environment that was just as believable as the work of the movie’s cast, getting back on track.  It is even noted by Burger, that Eddie Marsan (who played Eisenheim’s manager) was in his 30s when the movie was crafted, yet he looked like he was in his 50s.  That is another tribute to the work of the movie’s crew.  If one did not know what Burger revealed in the commentary, one would in fact think Marsan was in his 50s.  Getting back on the matter of the cast and crew’s work, it couples with Burger’s work on the movie’s script and his commentary, to make the movie appealing for everyone.

MVD Entertainment Group’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of 20th Century Fox’s The Illusionist is a work that will entertain any true movie buff.  That is due, as noted, in part to the movie’s story.  The story expertly balances elements of magic, murder, mystery and romance to make a whole that will keep viewers engaged from beginning to end.  That is due in part to the movie’s story, adapted by writer/director Neil Burger to the screen and to the commentary provided throughout the movie as a bonus commentary.  The work of the movie’s cast and crew adds to its enjoyment, too.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of The Illusionist.  All things considered, they show why The Illusionist is its own magical cinematic diamond in the rough.  More information on this and other titles from MVD Entertainment Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://mvdvisual.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/mvdentgroup

 

 

 

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Shout! Factory, Eleven Arts Studios Partnering To Release Another Anime Flick

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Eleven Arts Studios

Shout! Factory and Eleven Arts Studios are teaming up to bring anime fans another new release this summer.

Penguin Highway is scheduled for release on Aug. 6.  It will be released on DVD/BD combo pack and digital download. Winner of a 42nd Japan Award for Excellent Animation of the Year, the movie made its theatrical debut in April.

The movie is presented with the option to watch it in Japanese with English subtitles and separately with English dub.  The movie’s home release will also feature an interview with its director, Hiroyasu Ishida and Penguin Highway author Tomihiko Morimi as bonus content.

The movie’s story follows 4th grader Aoyama as he tries to figure out why masses of penguins have suddenly started appearing in his town.  The penguins are hundreds of miles from their natural habitat, adding to the mystery.  As he investigates the penguins’ arrival, he eventually figures out why they are there, but that revelation only leads to more questions for Aoyama and a summer-long adventure.

More information on Penguin Highway and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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No Surprise Here: ‘The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island” Is Another Relatively Enjoyable Addition to Shout! Factory’s “Boxcar Children” Cinematic Universe

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Legacy Classics

Shout! Factory and Legacy Classics are bringing the classic literary figures The Boxcar Children to Blu-ray and DVD in a brand new, Dove-approved adventure next week.  Set for release August 7, this second cinematic adaptation of the beloved children’s books is another mostly enjoyable offering from Shout! Studios and Legacy Classics Family Entertainment despite production values that again prove somewhat problematic to the movie’s presentation.  Those collective production values will be discussed a little later.  That’s because again, this production is not entirely negative.  It does boast a story that is certain to keep audiences of all ages engaged from start to end.  The bonus material included in the movie’s upcoming home release is another positive worth discussing.  It will be noted later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, and are certainly not the only items that could be discussed in examining the movie’s presentation.  One could also discuss the work of the movie’s voice cast, which includes at least two very well-known actors.  All things combined, The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island proves, unsurprisingly, to be an enjoyable new entry in Shout! Studios’ ongoing slate of stories from the beloved literary series.

The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, the latest entry in the ongoing Boxcar Children cinematic series from Shout! Studios and Legacy Classics Family Entertainment, is a mostly enjoyable addition to the series.  That is due in part to a relatively simple story that, through its simplicity, is easy for viewers of any age to follow.  This time out, the kids – Mike, Benny, Jessie and Violet – are staying on an island on which their grandfather James (voiced by veteran actor Martin Sheen – Apocalypse Now, Spawn, The West Wing) has a barn of sorts.  While they are exploring the island, the children – who are obviously orphans no more, considering that they have their grandfather – run into John Joseph (Dan Dehaan – Chronicle, The Place Beyond The Pines, The Amazing Spiderman 2).  John Joseph has been hired by Dr. Moore (J.K. Simmons – Spiderman 1 – 3, Whiplash, La La Land) to help take care of things on the island.  Early on, it is revealed that John Joseph has a secret, but it isn’t until later that said secret is ultimately revealed.  His secret won’t be given away, but it goes without saying that his secret is somewhat predictable.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it could help to continue the children’s story in the next Boxcar Children entry.  Obviously, the story has a happy ending, though one can’t help but wonder why exactly the kids were living alone on that island for the summer in the first place when they end up going back to their grandfather’s mansion in the end, which is only a boat ride away.  Story begets story, perhaps.  The obvious rebuttal there is that had they not gone to live on their own in the barn (which had no electricity), there would have been no story leading to John Joseph’s secret and revelation.  What’s more, the discovery of the Native American skeleton in the cave seems to be brushed aside.  That loose end would have been a nice side story.  Maybe it will be covered in another adventure.  Getting back on the subject at hand, even with those digressions in mind, the movie’s story is still simple enough that it will keep viewers of all ages engaged and entertained from start to end of its roughly 82-minute run time.  Of course while the story itself will keep viewers engaged, the movie’s production proves problematic in the bigger picture of the movie’s presentation.

Once again, audiences get in this movie, a presentation whose animation is on par with an old N64 video game.  In other words, while it does create a clear setting for the story, the overall look sadly leaves so much to be wanted.  If one were to compare this full-on CG animation to other CG movies currently available, the comparison to said movies would reveal an aesthetic item that makes the movie somewhat uncomfortable to watch.  In the same vein, the movie’s music, while a nice addition to the overall presentation, sometimes has a tendency to overpower the cast’s own presentations.  This happens not just once or twice, but at multiple points throughout the movie.  As minor as that may seem, it does play a big part in the movie’s presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s production, while interesting to learn about in the companion bonus features, does detract from the viewing experience.  It doesn’t make the movie unwatchable, but it does take away from the overall experience.  As much as it takes away from the movie’s presentation, the noted bonus features make up at least to a point.

The bonus material included in the movie’s presentation includes the standard behind-the-scenes featurette and some insightful pieces on the music, sound effects and sound mixing included as extras.  The behind-the-scenes featurette is highlighted by the discussions on and from the voice cast and creative heads, of course.  It also includes an interesting note from one of the movie’s creative heads about how someone close to Gertrud Chandler Warner, the author of the original Boxcar Children books directly played into the movie’s creation (and that of its predecessor).  It’s noted in this interview that there was insistence that the cinematic adaptations of the books stay true to their source material and that said insistence overpowered the thoughts of some very powerful figures.  While the movie’s animation may leave viewers wanting, at least viewers know that certain higher-ups who wanted to update the story didn’t get their way, and instead allowed the story’s adaptation here maintain the look and feel of the original story.  It’s a small victory for creative power, but a victory nonetheless.  What’s more, this discussion itself serves to show yet again the importance of bonus features to a movie.  This in itself creates its own appreciation for the movie, making up at least a little for the low quality of the movie’s animation.  It’s just one of the discussions that proves the value of the bonus features.  The discussion on the movie’s music and its creation is just as interesting as that of the discussion on the approach to the movie.  Audiences learn through this discussion that the movie’s soundtrack was created almost entirely through real instruments.  The introduction of said instruments might even be the first-ever for many audiences.  It was for this critic.  That aspect of the movie’s creation adds even more appreciation for its presentation as does the standalone discussion on the creation of the movie’s sound effects.  The discussion on the sound production and mixing is the only one that will leave viewers scratching their heads, again considering the problems with the final product.  Even with that in mind, the other noted bonus features do just enough to make up for that feature.  That’s because they show how much time and work went into making the movie aesthetically appealing.  To that end, that work – set alongside the movie’s story – does just enough to make the movie worth an occasional watch even with the movie’s production problems.

Shout! Studios’ and Legacy Classics Family Entertainment’s latest addition to the Boxcar Children cinematic universe is a relatively enjoyable offering for the whole family.  It does have its shortcomings thanks to some production problems that cannot be ignored, but its easily accessible story and its interesting bonus material do enough to make up for that problem.  In turn, they join to make The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island a movie that is unsurprisingly enjoyable for the whole family for an occasional watch.  It will be available next Tuesday, August 7 and can be pre-ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Jasper Jones’ Is One Of This Year’s Best Foreign Imports

Courtesy: Film Movement/Screen Australia

Murder mysteries and coming of age tales are among the most overly common story plots used today in literature and cinema.  From the U.S. to the U.K. to points around and between, both plots – both alone and combined – they seem to be among the most popular story types among viewers and readers alike.  Yet it seems in so many cases that between the genres, that there is little variance from one story to the next.  Luckily though, every now and then, a little variance does happen along.  Enter the Australian import Jasper Jones.  Originally released in Australia on March 2, 2017, this powerfully moving human drama made its domestic debut this past April courtesy of the independent movie studio Film Movement.  Billed as “Australia’s Stand By Me,” this deeply engrossing story can also be likened in part to To Kill A Mockingbird.  That is evident in the movie’s writing, which forms the foundation of the movie’s presentation.  It will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s on-screen work adds to the movie’s presentation, too and will keep viewers just as engaged as the movie’s central story.  It will be discussed a little later.  The bonus cast interviews put the final touch to the movie’s home presentation.  It will also be discussed later.  Each element is critical in its own way to the whole of this story.  All things considered, they make Jasper Jones a movie that fans of murder mysteries and coming-of-age flicks alike will appreciate from its home country all the way to America and points in-between.

Film Movement and Screen Australia’s gripping human drama Jasper Jones is a powerful cinematic work that crime drama and coming-of-age fans around the globe will appreciate.  That includes American audiences who maybe are looking for something different from the constant run-of-the-mill gory crime dramas that so permeate television and theaters here in this country.  That is due in no small part to its story.  Unlike so many American movies and television crime dramas, this story relies solely on writing instead of blood and gore (which is what it seems so many American crime dramas rely on today) to keep viewers engaged.  Here, audiences find a young boy named Charlie who…well…comes of age after being pulled into the mystery of a young girl’s death by a young man who the whole town dislikes.  The townspeople dislike Jasper, it would seem, purely out of some personal bias.  That bias comes into play later when the family of Charlie’s friend Jeffrey Lu is harassed by white members of the community in retaliation for Jeffrey helping his cricket team win a match.  That’s getting off topic.  Getting back on topic, Charlie is forced to keep secret what Jasper has revealed to him as the pair tries to figure out who killed the girl.  It just so happens that the girl is the sister of Charlie’s love interest, Eliza (played here by Angourie Rice – Spiderman: Homecoming, The Nice Guys, The Beguiled).  This complicates things even more until Eliza herself reveals a troubling truth about her sister’s death that puts everything on its ear, especially after the revelation of the red herring.  What’s interesting about the red herring (who won’t be revealed here) is that the inclusion of the character in question, is where the comparison to Harper Collins’ great novel To Kill A Mockingbird comes into play.  The character and its inclusion can so easily be likened to the use of Boo Radley in the novel in question.  While all of this is going on, Charlie (who honestly, in this critic’s view looks like Joshua Jackson from his time in Disney’s Mighty Ducks franchise when he was around that age) also has to deal with family issues at home.  His parents are constantly fighting, his mother is cheating on his dad (played by Dan Wyllie – The Hunter, No Activity, Muriel’s Wedding), and he is just trying to navigate it all.  One can’t deny that at times, the balance between this element and the main story does cause the movie to get bogged down in itself a little bit, but thankfully it’s not so much that it makes the movie unwatchable.  Rather, it could have perhaps been a little bit better balanced as it seems at times to bounce back and forth as part of the overall story.  Either way, this plot element and the story’s main plot still work well enough together to keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the roughly 103-minute (1-hour, 43-minute) movie.  Of course when it’s all said and done, audiences will also agree that the story overall is so powerful that one absolutely must be in a certain mindset in order to appreciate the movie’s emotional depth.  It’s not one of those stories that one can just turn on any time.  It really demands that much and that kind of emotional attention and connection in order to fully appreciate it’s depth.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is a key piece of its presentation that forms a strong foundation for its presentation.  That foundation is strengthened even more through the cast’s on-camera work.

The cast’s work on camera throughout this story is so critical to note because of the story’s emotional depth.  It is not an easy story to take in, being so deep.  That being the case, it was key for the cast to do its utmost to help illustrate that emotional depth.  Each cast member did just that, beginning with lead star Levi Miller, who plays Charlie.  Miller, who is a relative newcomer to the movie industry according to IMDB (it lists no film or TV credits to his name) is to be commended for his handling of Charlie as Charlie has to come to terms with everything going on in his life.  One of the moments in which he shows he deserves such credit is the subtle moment early on when Jeffrey (Kevin Long – another relative newcomer to the business — is asking Charlie a bunch of “would you rather” questions on the pair’s ride to school.  Charlie is clearly lost in his thoughts of what Jasper revealed to him, and it would have been so easy for Miller to go over the top in his handling of Charlie’s mentality at the moment.  Instead though, he made Charlie’s mindset fully believable as someone who has really got too much for someone of such age on his mind.  Miller’s handling of Charlie as he continues to struggle to tell Eliza what he discovered of her sister is another good example of what makes his work so endearing.  Again, it would have been so easy for him to ham up those dramatic moments, yet his subtle acting in those moments added to the story’s tension.  Even how he handled his growing frustration toward his mother, Ruth (Toni Collette – Little Miss Sunshine, The Sixth Sense, Muriel’s Wedding) shows so much talent for such a young actor.

Miller’s performance throughout the story here is definitely worthy of applause.  His isn’t the only applause-worthy performance, though.  Collette’s work as Ruth Bucktin, Charlie’s mom, cannot and should not be overlooked.  As Collette noted in the movie’s bonus interviews (the interviews will be discussed a little later), Ruth is in a place in this story in which she is trying to make sense of her life.  The thing is, Ruth trying to make sense of her life makes it so easy for viewers to hate Ruth.  From over reacting to the local death mystery (including forcing her son to do unnecessary back-breaking manual labor, which likely would have gotten her arrested today) to her cheating ways, Ruth is just a completely troubled character who has got a lot of problems.  There is just no defending her, which it would seem is what the story was aiming for.  It helped to illustrate the emotional strife that Charlie was going through and having to navigate as he also dealt with the knowledge of the girl’s death.  So kudos goes to Mrs. Collette for her portrayal of Ruth.  She really proves to be one of this story’s unsung stars.  Hers is still not the last of the notable performances included in this movie.  Aaron L. McGrath (The Code, Around The Block, Ready For This) who plays the movie’s title character, deserves his own share of attention, too.

Considering that the movie is named after Jasper, but it is never explained why everyone instantly assumes he’s responsible for the disappearance of Eliza’s sister or why he appears so little on camera, McGrath does a good job of adding his own tension to the story when he is on camera.  His best moment comes as he confronts Mad Jack and is forced to face a certain dark reality that will surprise everyone.  The way in which McGrath presents Jasper’s mix of pained emotion as he points the rifle at Mad Jack makes one really feel for Jasper.  That’s because it shows how much Jasper really cared about Eliza’s sister.  This is another one of those moments in which an actor could so easily go way too far over the top, yet McGrath didn’t.  Rather, he handled the moment expertly, pulling audiences in and holding them through the whole sequence.  It’s just one more way in which the cast’s on-camera work here is so critical to the movie’s presentation.  Each of the other cast members could just as easily be cited here, but there’s not enough time or space to pay each one the time they deserve.  Keeping that in mind, the cast’s work, as shown here, couples with the story’s writing to do plenty to keep audiences completely engaged in the story from start to end.  It still is not the last element to note in examining the movie’s whole.  The bonus cast interviews included in the movie’s home release are also of note.

Miller’s sit-down is one of the more notable of the cast interviews.  His discussion on Charlie’s relationship with his parents shows the seriousness of that element of Charlie’s personal growth.  The same can be said of his understanding of Charlie’s own growth from the beginning of the story to the end.  His appreciation for author Craig Silvey (who wrote the book on which Jasper Jones is based) shows just as much his maturity in handling his on-screen responsibilities.  One must remember in taking in these and other discussions brought up during his interview, that this is a young man who apparently had little to no screen credits coming into his role.  So to hear such frank and mature discussion shows this young man is certain to have a solid acting career if given the chance.  Director Rachel Perkins’ discussion on balancing the movie’s dark and light elements shows a real focus on that key detail.  It’s refreshing to hear such serious attention so as to not let the movie be too depressing.  Her discussions on the cast, and what made each cast member the right choice adds even more appreciation for each cast member’s work, speaking again of the cast’s work.  Her discussion on the movie’s reach and accessibility is jus as enlightening because she shows she understands the importance of properly adapting a literary work to the cinematic world.  She notes that Craig Silvey approved the script’s final draft, which clearly lifted a great burden from her.  It’s a fun, yet clearly appreciative moment that shows how serious she took getting the adaptation right.  The discussion on how the movie addresses race relations at the time at that part of the country is enlightening in its own right.  Between these discussions and others that she shares, Perkins’ discussions show yet again the importance of the movie’s bonus interviews.  They really add their own strength to the overall foundation of the movie’s presentation.  That is shown through the other noted interviews and those not directly noted.  When all of the interviews are considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work throughout, the end result is a work that drama fans – not just crime drama fans – the world over will appreciate.

Jasper Jones might not be one of the best-known human/crime dramas to be released in recent years.  Yet, it is a human/crime drama that clearly deserves more attention than it has already gotten.  That is because it has so much to offer fans of both genres beginning with its gripping story.  The story follows its young protagonist as he has to navigate the waters of keeping a dark secret while also dealing with what is a difficult home life.  Yes, it does get a little bogged down at time, but not to the point that it makes one want to skip through any scenes.  That’s a tribute to those charged with adapting the original literary work to the screen.  The cast’s work adds to the story, giving audiences just as much to appreciate, as has been noted.  The bonus interviews included in the movie’s home release strengthen the movie’s foundation even more, and in turn, show once more the importance of bonus material to any movie, domestic or otherwise.  When all three elements are jointly considered, they present Jasper Jones as one of this year’s best unknown foreign import flicks.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.filmmovement.com

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