Mercury Studios’ Marvin Gaye Live Re-Issue Is A Mostly Successful Presentation

Courtesy: Mercury Studios

This Friday, Mercury Studios will re-issue Marvin Gaye’s previously released live recording, Greatest Hits Live in ’76 on CD.  Originally released in 2007 on DVD, the 23-song presentation is a welcome presentation for anyone who does not already own the recording’s aforementioned DVD presentation.  That is due in large part to its featured songs, which will be discussed shortly.  While the songs that make up the recording’s body are clearly of note in a positive way, the recording is not perfect in its new forthcoming presentation on CD.  That is because of its lack of any liner notes.  This will be discussed a little later.  The recording’s production works with the songs to make for more engagement and entertainment and will be discussed later, too.  When it is considered along with the songs, those two elements make the recording a presentation that Marvin Gaye fans and R&B fans in general will find positive.

Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76, Mercury Studios’ forthcoming re-issue of the same recording originally released by the label – then known as Eagle Rock Entertainment – in 2007 on DVD, is a mostly positive companion piece to that recording.  The engagement and entertainment that the recording offers audiences comes in large part through its featured songs.  Totaling 23 in all, the songs present a rich cross section of Gaye’s catalog up to that point, reaching as far back as his sophomore 1963 album, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow and as far into his catalog as his 1976 album, I Want You.  While so many people know Gaye primarily for his hit slow jam serenade, ‘Let’s Get It On,’ he also produced some more socially conscious content, such as the timeless classic ‘What’s Going On?’  Both those songs are here and were originally featured in two separate albums released by Gaye, Let’s Get It On (1973) and What’s Going On (1971).  Also featured in this set is the equally iconic song of determination, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ which Gaye released way back in 1967 in his album, United.  Lots of people know Diana Ross’ take of the song, which was actually composed by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson in 1966, and Gaye then first made it a hit not long after its composition.  At the time of the songs’ performances and recordings, only two of Gaye’s original albums – That’s The Way Love Is (1970), his 1961 debut record, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye — and one tribute album – A Tribute to the Great Nat “King” Cole – were not represented in this collection.  To that end, again, what audiences get in these songs are a relatively rich representation of Gaye’s catalog.  This is something that is certain to appeal to so many audiences.

While the songs that make up the collection’s body are unquestionably important in the best way possible to Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76, knowing when and where the songs were recording is impossible to know is impossible.  That is because this new CD re-issue of the recording lacks any liner notes at all.  That is at least the case with the review copy received by this critic.  Hopefully consumer copies do not suffer from this issue, too.  If they do, however, then that definitely will detract from the overall engagement and entertainment because it means audiences do not get that background on the songs.  It means no stories on the performances or any other notable anecdotes and pieces of history that might otherwise enrich the listening experience even more for audiences.  While the lack of any history on the performances featured here is undeniably problematic for the recording’s presentation, it is not enough to doom the recording.  To that end, there is one more positive to examine here.  That positive is the overall production presented here. 

The production featured in these songs makes the listening experience so immersive.  There is something about the quality of the sound that really makes audiences feel like they are right there in the concert hall(s), taking in the performances with everyone else.  At times, given, Gaye’s vocals do get a little washed out against the instrumentations, but for the most part, what audiences get is a positive concert experience thanks to the positive general effect generated through the production.  When this is considered along with the positive of the songs that make up the recording’s body, the whole makes this recording still well worth owning among Marvin Gaye fans and R&B fans alike. 

Mercury Studios’ forthcoming CD re-issue of Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76 is a largely successful presentation from the label’s previous 2007 DVD presentation.  Its success comes in large part through its featured songs.  The songs featured here represent such a rich portion of Gaye’s catalog up to that point, omitting only two of his original studio recordings.  While the songs are clearly and collectively a positive to the recording, the seeming lack of any background on the performances’ histories detracts from the engagement and entertainment guaranteed through the songs themselves.  It would have been nice to have at least some background, knowing whether the songs were all from one concert or multiple performances, and if so when and where they were recorded, as well as any other background on Gaye’s rising star through that portion of his career.  The lack of that background is problematic but not enough to doom the recording.  To that end, the positive general effect of the recording’s production works with the songs to make up for that issue of the lack of liner notes.  That is because of the general effect that is guaranteed through the performances.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered they make the recording a presentation that Marvin Gaye fans and R&B fans in general will find mostly enjoyable.

Marvin Gaye: Greatest Hits Live in ’76 is scheduled for release Friday through Mercury Studios.  More information on this and other titles from Mercury Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://mercurystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/MercuryStudiosCo

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/mercurystudios

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘Voodoo Macbeth’ Is Worth Watching Despite Concerns Of Content, Rating

Courtesy: Lightyear Entertainment

Movies based on actual events are big business for the cinematic world.  Hollywood’s major studios have made increasing use of said stories throughout their collective history while independent studios have, thankfully, been far less reliant on the genre, though there have been some independent studios that have turned out their own fare, much to the same result of the major studios’ offerings.  The result in question is movies that are otherwise forgettable because of their blend of history and overpowering fictional embellishments.  Now independent studio Lightyear Entertainment has become just the latest studio to join that mass of studios big and small alike that have fallen back on what is really an overblown genre with the recent release of its new movie, Voodoo MacBeth.  Set for release Tuesday, the movie centers on the history of famed media figure Orson Welles’ work with the famed Harlem Negro Theater Unit on its 1936 stage presentation of Shakespeare’s timeless drama, Macbeth.  The independent period drama that is based on actual events is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.  One reason it proves itself worth that one chance is its writing.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the writing is largely a positive and will keep audiences mostly engaged and entertained, the writing also includes a significant amount of foul language and some material that some might find questionable, yet the movie has no rating.  This is a negative that needs to be addressed.  The bonus commentary that accompanies the movie is one more positive worth noting, considering that the one negative is not enough to doom the movie.  This will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to this movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Voodoo Macbeth far from being as timeless as Shakespeare’s original, but still worth watching at least once.

Voodoo Macbeth is an intriguing presentation from independent movie studio Lightyear Entertainment.  It is another movie that is worth watching at least once but really does little to help make the case for the historical drama genre.  One thing that it does have going for it is its writing.  The writing encompasses not only Welles’ own story but the bigger story of how the now famed 1936 performance of Macbeth by the Harlem Negro Theater Unit came to happen.  The story of Welles’ personal relationship with his wife, Virginia plays into the bigger picture, but thankfully never overpowers the central story.  There is also the story of the theater troupe’s members and their own personal stories added to the mix. As with Welles’ personal story, their stories don’t take overpower the central story, either.  Along the way, the movie’s writing staff made sure to include the role of racism even there in Harlem at the time to help progress the bigger story of the collective’s drive to put on the play.  Considering how much went into the overall story, it would have been so easy for the writers to let the story get bogged down in itself, but thankfully it didn’t.  That allowed the pacing and story in general to remain fluid.  As a result, audiences are ensured their engagement and entertainment throughout the story.

While the writing that went into Voodoo Macbeth ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment throughout its nearly two hour run time, the writing also includes a lot of foul language and content that some might find questionable, even considering its use in the bigger context of the story.  This is important to note because according to the movie’s case, it has no rating (IE PG, PG-13, R).  What’s more, there is not even any indication anywhere on the case of said content.  Some of that content includes references to homosexuality, which some audiences might find troubling.  At one point, two of the male cast members kiss each other, and at another one of the men in question attends a gay club, so that is content that again is understandable for its use in the context of the story but may cause some audiences to be uncomfortable.  All of this in mind, it is somewhat disconcerting that the movie got away with getting through without a rating.  Whether that is just because it is an independent movie or because it simply slipped through the cracks is anyone’s guess, but audiences need to be aware of all of this.  It is not enough to doom the movie but is definitely still of concern.

Keeping in mind that the movie’s lack of a rating and any mention of its content is absent anywhere herein is not enough to doom the movie, there is at least one more positive to note.  That positive is the movie’s bonus feature-length audio commentary.  The commentary is provided by the collective of cast members Jewell Wilson Bridges and Inger Tudor, producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, writer Erica Sutherlin, and director Zoe Salnawe.  If that seems like a lot of people, that is because it is.  As is revealed in the commentary early on, there were 10 directors alone for this movie.  There were a whole lot of people involved in the writing, too.  Salnave even notes in her comments that there were so many creative heads behind the scenes that a lot of attention had to be paid to the writing to ensure the story did not get bogged down in itself.  Thankfully that didn’t happen, even with so many hands in the proverbial pot.  Audiences also learn through the commentary the nearly two hour run time was the goal for all involved.  While no one said anything outright, it would seem that the statement in question was a reference to how so many movies out there today have become so long; upwards of three and even four hours.  On a funnier note, one of the group mentions what is known as the “Macbeth Curse” or the “Scottish Curse.”  The mention comes as the group discusses a power outage happening during the movie’s 25-day filming span and wonders if the curse played into it.  For those who might not be aware of what the curse is, there is a belief in theater that speaking the name Macbeth inside a theater other than in the script, leads to disaster.  Allegedly the so-called curse stems from Shakespeare using an actual incantation in the play Macbeth during the scene involving the witches, and it just so happened that some witches were watching one production of the play.  They got so angry at the presentation that they put a curse on every presentation of the play from that point on.  Whether that is true is anyone’s guess.  Though, considering the one major issue from which this movie suffers shows that maybe there is something to the curse after all.  Along with the lighthearted discussion on the curse, there was also a lot of in-depth discussion on the cast’s work on camera and trying to make the movie look believable in terms of its sets and costumes.  Those who are interested in this aspect of period flicks will appreciate these talks.  All of this in mind along with everything else discussed in the bonus content, it makes the audio commentary a strong companion to the movie.  When the positive of the commentary is considered along with the positive of the writing, the two elements make Voodoo Macbeth worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.

Voodoo Macbeth, Lightyear Entertainment’s new historical drama, is an intriguing presentation from the independent movie studio.  It does little to break any new ground in the bigger picture of the genre, but is still worth watching at least once.  That is due in part to the movie’s writing.  The writing does an admirable job of interweaving so many story lines into the bigger picture that is the movie’s central plot.  While the writing deserves at least some applause, there is content in the writing that makes the movie deserving of a PG-13 rating at the very least and an R at the most.  The thing is that there is no rating here and no indication of any of the content anywhere on the movie’s case.  This is problematic, as audiences need to know this kind of information and aren’t informed.  Knowing this is not enough to doom the movie, its bonus audio commentary adds to the overall appeal.  That is because of the background that it adds to the presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Voodoo Macbeth an intriguing addition to this year’s field of new independent movies that is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.

Voodoo Macbeth is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. Its run time is 108 minutes (one hour 48 minutes). The movie will retail for msrp of $24.95 on Blu-ray, $19.95 on DVD, and $12.95 on digital platforms. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

More information on this and other titles from Lightyear Entertainment is available at:

Websitehttps://lightyear.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/lightyearent

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/LightyearEnt

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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Mercury Studios’ Ella Fitzgerald Montreux Show Re-Issue IsThe First Of 2023’s Top New Live CDs

Courtesy: Mercury Studios

Ella Fitzgerald is one of the most important, iconic figures in the jazz community.  That goes without saying.  The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the most iconic music festivals for the music community.  So when Fitzgerald made her debut performance at the festival in what would have been only its third year in existence in 1969, the coming together of the two sides made perfect sense.  It was one of so many concerts that would help the festival go on to become one of the world’s premiered music festivals, too.  More than 30 years after that performance, in 2005, Fitzgerald’s fans and jazz fans in general finally got to experience it for the first time in full through a DVD presentation of her concert.  Released through Mercury Studios (then Eagle Rock Entertainment), it marked the first time ever that the 66-minute concert had seen the light of day in a full, official release.  Now more than 15 years after its release, the iconic concert will get new life in a new re-issue on CD and vinyl Friday through Mercury Studios.  The primary highlight comes in the form of its liner notes.  They will be discussed shortly.  The set list featured in the recording is its own highlight and will be discussed a little later.  The concert’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the whole of the recording.  All things considered they make Mercury Studios’ new forthcoming re-issue of Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Montreux 1969 one of this year’s top new live CDs.

Mercury Studios’ forthcoming re-issue of Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Montreux 1969 is a presentation that Fitzgerald fans and jazz aficionados in general will find fully engaging and entertaining in its latest presentation on CD and vinyl.  Its appeal comes in part through its liner notes.  The liner notes, penned by writer Peter Gamble, fill a page and a half inside the booklet that accompanies the recording in its CD pressings.  Originally penned by Gamble in 2004 – meaning it is likely these liner notes were included in the concert’s 2005 DVD release. Anyone who has that release is welcome to inform this critic further on this matter – the notes point out that Fitzgerald performed at Montreux at least half a dozen times over her career and that when she made her debut at the festival in 1969, she was already a household name   in her own right around the world.  This is important to note because it really further serves to show why the pairing of Fitzgerald and the festival was a common sense move. This especially as Gamble points out early in the liner notes that in their fancy, so many jazz festivals needed big names for success because jazz was considered to have a “minority appeal” as a genre.  In other words, jazz was not the most popular music at the time.  There is no racial connotation here.

Understanding jazz festivals’ need for big names in order to be successful, audiences are immediately led at this point to wonder why it took three years for Montreux’s organizers to get Fitzgerald on board, considering her already established global notoriety.  That discussion in itself further shows the importance of the recording’s liner notes.

Gamble further points out in his notes, the set list that Fitzgerald performed at her debut Montreux performance was composed of songs taken from her then latest compilation record, Sunshine of Your Love, which included a take of the Cream classic by the same name.  He points out in the notes, the record’s overall presentation surprised many of her established audiences, and not necessarily in a good way.  That is because it mixed so much pop influence with her more well-known jazz leanings.  It took her in a decidedly new direction.  Gamble notes that Fitzgerald and her fellow musicians taking the majority of the record for the set list also surprised audiences at the festival because those audiences also were expecting the jazz standards she had made so popular early in her career.  This builds even more on the discussion on her performance and why organizers had waited as long as they had to bring her on board.  Perhaps had they brought her on earlier, those standards would have been more prominent, but that is now a story for another time.  Either way, it further shows the importance of the record’s liner notes.

Noting the set list featured here, it clearly was controversial at the time.  Looking at the set list in the bigger picture of the presentation here, the set list is important because it is the full set list featured in the concert’s 2005 DVD presentation.  What’s more it is the same concert presented in the same order as that in the 2005 DVD release.  In other words, regardless of whether audiences already own that DVD presentation, they are getting the same set list in both platform’s presentation.  That means having the full historical/musical document even in this case.  Knowing that there are concerts out there whose track listings do in fact vary from one source to another, it makes this aspect of the recording all the more important.

Keeping in mind the importance of the set list featured here and the liner notes that accompany the recording, audiences clearly have plenty to appreciate from this record.  They are just part of what makes the record as engaging and entertaining as it is.  The production puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  The balance of Fitzgerald’s vocals and the performance of her accompanying musicians is expert.  That is especially as the collective makes its way through ‘Sunshine of Your Love.’  Fitzgerald almost sounds like Janis Joplin with her gritty vocal delivery here.  That delivery cuts through so clearly even as her fellow performers get increasingly energetic through the song.  No one performer overpowers the others at any point here.  On the exact opposite end, the production shines through just as much in the more subtle song, ‘A Place For Lovers.’  The subtle swing in the song is captured just as well both from Fitzgerald and pianist Tommy Flanagan.  The airy-ness of the venue brings out the richness of Fitzgerald’s performance here, too, again, thanks to the production.  Her vocals (and her companions’ performances) ring through the venue so clearly, virtually encompassing listeners in the concert as they close their eyes and take in the concert.  On yet another note, the group’s performance of ‘Well Alright Okay You Win’ further shows the impact of the concert’s positive production, really capturing the swing from the collective.  The way in which drummer Ed Thigpen’s snare drum cuts through as it keeps the beat and the power in Fitzgerald’s delivery comes through so clearly.  Flanagan’s performance on the piano gets just as much attention, again, thanks to the production.  The balance of each part continues to show the role that the production plays in this recording and is just one more example of its importance.  When the positive impact of the production is considered alongside the positives of the set list and the liner notes, the whole here becomes an early contender for a spot among this year’s top new live CDs.

Mercury Studios’ new, forthcoming CD and vinyl presentation of Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Montreux 1969 is not its first release, but it is one of the first great live CD recordings planned for release this year.  Its appeal comes in part through its featured liner notes.  Whether the liner notes featured here are also included in the concert’s 2005 DVD release is something those with the DVD will know.  Either way, they present an interesting background on the concert that is certain to generate plenty of discussion.  The set list featured in the recording is just as important here as the recording’s liner notes.  That is because it is the exact same set list in the exact same order as that featured in the recording’s 2005 DVD presentation.  It means audiences get the exact same concert here as that featured in the noted DVD presentation.  No one is being left out, in other words.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements.  That is because it makes audiences feel like they are right there in the venue, taking in the concert, what with the expert balance in the sound quality.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered they make Mercury Studios’ new re-issue of Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Montreux 1969 the first of this year’s great new live CDs.

Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Montreux 1969 is scheduled for release Friday through Mercury Studios.  More information on this and other titles from Mercury Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://mercurystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/MercuryStudiosCo

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/mercurystudios

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Lightyear Entertainment To Release New Historical Drama This Month

Courtesy: Lightyear Entertainment

Movies based on actual events are and have been big business for the movie industry for decades, and now Lightyear Entertainment will release a new movie based on a key period in Orson Welles’ life later this month.

Voodoo Macbeth is scheduled for release Jan. 17 through Lightyear Entertainment. The movie focuses on Welles’ work with the Harlem Negro Theater Unit on its 1936 presentation of Shakespeare’s timeless drama, Macbeth. The group’s rendition of the play moved the setting from Scotland to Haiti and used Caribbean voodoo in place of witchcraft used in the original play.

The group’s performance of the play was not without controversy. Politicians called the play subversive. Residents of Harlem called the play exploitative and protested the play. Despite the controversy that swirled around it, the play ended up being successful, playing for 10 weeks at the Lafayette Theater before touring nationwide.

Welles was quoted in a 1982 interview as saying of his work with the troupe, “By all odds, my great success in my life was that play, because the opening night there were five blocks in which all traffic was stopped. You couldn’t get near the theater in Harlem. Everybody who was anybody in the black or white world was there, and the play ended there were so many curtain calls that they finally left the curtain open, and the audience came up on the stage to congratulate the actors. That was magical.”

A feature-length audio commentary with cast members Jewell Wilson Bridges and Inger Tudor, producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, script writer Erica Sutherlin, and director Zoe Salnave serves as the movie’s primary bonus content. Actual 1936 footage of the original play from the National Archives and Records Administration is also included as a bonus.

Voodoo Macbeth will release on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. Its run time is 108 minutes (one hour 48 minutes). The movie will retail for msrp of $24.95 on Blu-ray, $19.95 on DVD, and $12.95 on digital platforms. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

More information on this and other titles from Lightyear Entertainment is available at:

Website: https://lightyear.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lightyearent

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LightyearEnt

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

mpi Media Group To Release New Gerry Anderson Documentary Next Week

Courtesy: mpi Media Group

Gerry Anderson is one of the most well-known figures in the modern history of television and next week, mpi Media Group will release a new documentary about Anderson’s life and work in the form of Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted.

The new documentary is scheduled for release Jan. 10 on DVD.  The documentary was created with the permission from officials running his estate.  His story is told through interviews with Anderson’s family, friends and colleagues. 

The documentary follows Anderson’s upbringing in a household that featured a Jewish father and anti-Semitic father and how he came to create so many beloved series, such as Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Space: 1999 and Stingray over the course of a 92-minute run time.

Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted will retail for MSRP of $24.98.

More information on this and other titles from mpi Media Group is available at:

Websitehttps://mpihomevideo

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/mpimediagrp

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Story Pacing, Bonus Content Are The Only Saving Graces For Walt Disney Studios Animation’s Latest CG Feature, ‘Strange World’

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Animation

The new year has barely begun, but even with that being the case, Walt Disney Studios has already announced its first new home release for 2023.  The company announced late last month it will release its latest CG feature, Strange World Feb. 14 on DVD and Blu-ray.  The movie is the first full CG feature (and first full theatrical CG feature) from the company’s animations branch since the release of Encanto in November 2021.  The company partnered with Bardel Entertainment in December 2021 for the CG adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, so technically, while it is a CG movie (which was released exclusively through Disney’s streaming service, Disney+), it is not a solo release from Disney.  That movie has yet to see a home release date, too.  Strange World does little if anything to improve the track record for Disney’s animation unit, considering the fact that Encanto was so forgettable.  Strange World suffers largely because of its story, which will be discussed a little later.  The story’s pacing is the movie’s main saving grace.  It will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s bonus content is also of note to the positive.  It will be discussed later, too.  When it and the pacing are considered together, they make Strange World worth watching once, but sadly no more than that one time.

Walt Disney Studios Animation’s latest new CG offering Strange World is a disappointing new presentation from the animation arm of Walt Disney Studios.  Much like its most recent predecessor, Encanto, it offers audiences little to make it memorable, other than maybe the fact that it is not a musical.  One of the only other positives to this movie is the pacing of its story.  From beginning to end of its roughly 90-minute run time, the story wastes little time getting things moving.  That is proven right from the movie’s outset, which is a brief back story on the Cade family (the movie’s central stars).  In that introduction, it is revealed that the elder member of the Clade family, Jaeger (Dennis Quaid – Innerspace, The Day After Tomorrow, Frquency) essentially abandoned his family while on a mission in the mountains of the family’s homeland, Avalonia.  Of course, there is more to that story that is revealed as the story progresses.  Not to give away too much, but it is ironic (or maybe not) that Quaid has also worked on Innerspace and The Day After Tomorrow considering the content in this movie’s story, not to give away too much.  Getting back on track, that initial opening setup is very brief, but makes sense as soon as the story fast forwards more than 20 years in the future.  The story that follows is set up very quickly and in clear fashion.  From there, the adventure into the “subterranean” world of Avalonia moves steadily right up to its final act and resolution.  Even the moments in which Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal – Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler) and Jaeger have to come to terms with their relationship do not manage to slow the movie down too much.  That is a good thing, too, considering how that secondary story of the father and son’s relationship (and Searcher’s own relationship with his son, Cade (Jabouki Young-White – Rough Night, Set It Up, C’mon C’mon)) plays into the bigger story.  That secondary story actually weaves seamlessly into the overall story, allowing for the story to not get bogged down in itself and in turn keep moving fluidly from beginning to end.

As much as the pacing of Strange World’s story does for its appeal, the overall story presented herein detracts greatly from that appeal.  That is because in hindsight, the story is really anything but original.  Not to give away too much for those who have yet to watch it, but this movie proves ultimately to be little more than a reimagining of 20th Century Fox’s timeless 1977 science fiction classic, Fantastic Voyage.  That is recognized when Ethan Clade (Young-White) finally realizes the reality of where the family really is in its journey.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s writing team is to be commended at least to a point, in keeping that realization a surprise not only for the Clade family but also for audiences in the process.  Again though, the realization almost immediately lends itself to comparison to Fantastic Voyage and in turn reduces that engagement and entertainment.

This is just one of the problematic aspects of the story.  The preachy message about finding a renewable source of energy through the setup of pando’s problematic nature is clearly an allegory of how we as humans must find an alternative to fossil fuels.  Yes, we need to get off of fossil fuels, and those efforts to find something else are already there.  To that end, audiences do not need this message continually shoved down their throats.  The purpose of movies is supposed to be an escape everything, not to have preachy messages and agendas pushed.

As if all of this is not problem enough, — again not to give away too much – the ultimate final revelation at the story’s end makes a direct reference to the idiot theory by so many that Earth is flat.  Of course, a flat earth is not shown, but a round one, yet to even suggest we are living on something else that is living – an actual living organism – is laughable and leaves one wondering why this was even incorporated into the movie, unless some nutjob flat earther was part of the writing team.

This still is not the end of the issues posed by the story.  The whole matter of the father and son dynamic between Jaeger, Searcher, and Ethan (Ethan is gay, by the way, and that is shamelessly right out in front of audience, so some parents might want to be aware of this) thankfully does not overwhelm the bigger story of the family’s journey through Avalonia’s “subterranean” world.  At the same time though, it doesn’t really add much, if anything, to the story.  The whole thing of each son trying to make his own path and identity despite his father’s own history is preachy in its own right, and nothing new to the movie industry, too.  Thankfully though, this subplot thankfully does not manage to overpower the overall story even as it doesn’t help the story, either.

Looking back at all of this, there are lots of problems with the story at the center of Strange World.  From its overall lack of originality to its preachy nature, it is just anything but memorable.  It is at least engaging for the one watch.  To that end, the multiple problems featured in this movie’s story are not enough to completely doom Strange World, and leave room for one more positive, that being the movie’s bonus content.

The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release is at least somewhat enjoyable, even despite some preachiness from Young-White in the “Strange Science” bonus feature.  He goes off about the need to care more for the planet, etc. in the end of the 13-minute bonus, which features the movie’s creative heads talking about the story and the work that went into its creation.  The very brief creature feature at least offers some entertainment as it gives names to each of the creatures encountered throughout the Cades’ journey.  The 23-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette is for lack of better wording, the standard “making of” featurette that comes with so many movies, regardless of studio.  Audiences learn how much time and work went into the CG that made the movie, with so much detail given from one subtopic to another.  It and the other bonuses are collectively all that really makes the overall viewing experience here worthwhile, that is other than the pacing of the story.  To that end, the pacing of Strange World’s story and the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release are its saving graces.  Without them, this movie would not be worth watching even once.

Strange World, the latest CG feature from Walt Disney Studios Animation, is sadly another disappointing offering from the animation arm of Walt Disney Studios.  Its story is anything but original, though at least the execution thereof makes for some appeal.  The story’s pacing works to help with that execution, thankfully.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its coming home release is also of note, though not very much.  Keeping all of this in mind, Strange World proves ultimately to be another forgettable offering from Walt Disney Studios Animation.

Strange World is available now digitally.  It is scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 14.

More information on this and other movies from Walt Disney Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/disneystudios

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Audiences Of All Ages Had Lots Worth Watching On TV And Streaming in 2022

Courtesy: PBS Distribution

Hollywood’s major movie studios offered audiences little to enjoy this year both in regard to theatrical and streaming content.  This year’s crop of new cinematic presentations has just been more of the same prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on actual events and books.  The last of those categories – the movies based on actual events and books – change so much from the source material that they are really that unworthy of watching and always have been.  Anyone that wants the real stories behind those movies based on actual events would do better watching PBS’ American Experience and American Masters series.

Speaking of PBS, PBs is also known for importing shows from overseas that really are so much better than even what major American networks have to offer, as in the case of Endeavour and the surprisingly enjoyable rebooted series, All Creatures Great & Small.  Both those series saw their latest seasons released to DVD and BD this year, and those seasons are included in this year’s list of the year’s top new DVD/BD box sets for grown-ups.  Also on this year’s list is the recently released full series release of Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series.  DC also had a number of notable home releases this year from series, such as Doom Patrol, The Flash, and Lois & Superman, all of which also made it onto this year’s list.

As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this one features the year’s top 10 titles in the given category and five honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 titles.  From dramas to comedies to action and more, this year’s collection of new box sets for grown-up audiences offers so much enjoyment and engagement.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2022 Top 10 New DVD/BD Box Sets For Grown-Ups.

PHIL’S PICKS 2022 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BLU-RAY BOX SETS FOR GROWN-UPS

  1. All Creatures Great & Small: Season 2
  2. Endeavour: Season 8
  3. Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series
  4. Abbott Elementary: Season 1
  5. Star Trek Discovery: Season 4
  6. The Flash: Season 8
  7. Lois & Superman: Season 2
  8. Doom Patrol: Season 3
  9. The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection
  10. Peacemaker: The Complete First Season
  11. Spiderman: Far From Home/Homecoming/No Way Home
  12. James Bond: Daniel Craig 5-Film Collection
  13. Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 2
  14. Halo: Season 1
  15. Titans: Season 3

Grown-ups were not the only audiences who received lots of enjoyable offerings this year in regard to home releases.  Families in general also had lots to like this year in the way of home releases.  Only 10 titles made Phil’s Picks list this year, instead of 10, just because there were not enough new family releases for families.  This year’s field of notable family releases includes the 2022 World Series Collector’s Edition set, The Batman: The Complete Series, and even the complete series run of Ed, Edd, & Eddy.  That Seaquest DSV set is technically family friendly, too, in comparison to so many action shows out there today.  Keeping all of that in mind, here is the list of this year’s top new Family Friendly DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS 2022 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY FRIENDLY DVD/BD BOX SETS

  1. The Batman: The Complete Series
  2. The Proud Family Original Series: Anniversary Edition
  3. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: Kindness Collection
  4. World Series 2022: Collector’s Edition
  5. Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series
  6. Ed, Edd & Eddy: The Complete Series
  7. Rugrats: Season 1, Volume 1
  8. Kamp Koral: Season 1, Volume 1
  9. The Patrick Star Show: Season 1, Volume 1
  10. Scooby Doo & Guess Who: The Complete Second Season

That is it for this year.  Work is already underway for new titles being released in 2023.  The second season of the Rugrats reboot is due out in March, for instance.  Strange New Worlds: Season 1 is due out around the same time.  Lots of new music, movie, and TV reviews are coming as 2022 gives way to 2023, so stay tuned!

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com

‘Halo: Season 1’ Is Not The Best Start For The Video Game-Based Show

Courtesy: Paramount+/Showtime

Early this spring, Showtime and Paramount+ brought Microsoft’s beloved video game Halo to audiences in a brand new streaming series by the same name.  Audiences who don’t stream finally got the chance to see the brand new series for themselves last month when its debut season was released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD platforms.  The series’ debut season is an intriguing first impression that while not perfect, is worth watching at least once, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the Halo video game franchise.  The success of the series’ debut season comes in large part through its special effects, which will be addressed shortly.  They give audiences at least some reason to give the series a chance.  While they are an impressive part of the series’ opening act (of sorts), the story at the center of Season 1 is not as strong.  This will be discussed at more length a little later.  It is not enough to doom Season 1.  To that end, there is at least one more positive to note in this season’s presentation.  It comes in the form of the bonus content that accompanies the debut season’s home release, which will also be examined later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered the first season of Halo is not perfect but is still worth watching at least once.

The debut season of Showtime and Paramount+’s Halo streaming series is an interesting first outing for the show, which was adapted from the highly popular Microsoft xBox video game franchise.  The show’s success comes in large part through its special effects.  The balance of the live action and CG elements throughout the series creates a welcome general effect for the presentation.  It is clear when those CG elements are used and when actual sets are used, such as in the asteroid field used by Soren (Bokeem Woodbine – Fargo, Queen & Slim, Spiderman: Homecoming) and the other pirates as their home.  The sets are live action, but the moments when the “cars” travel the wires between the asteroids are clearly CG.  The balance of those moments conjures thoughts (at least to this critic) to the way in which the CG and live action were balanced way back in the 90s in Babylon 5.  That is mean in the most complimentary fashion.  The battle scenes in which audiences watch Master Chief, Kai, Riz and Vannak battle the Covenant monsters were clearly lifted right from the Halo video game.  That is obvious in the heads up displays that are shown as the group shoots the alien beings, and just as much in the fight sequences themselves.  The thing of it is that even as obvious as those incorporations are, knowing they are lifted from the video game makes them bearable.

On yet another note, the prosthetics used to create the Covenant Prophets is another great special effects element used here.  Audiences learn through the bonus content (which will be discussed later), the Prophets are real…or rather, they are real in the fact that they were created through the use of prosthetics by a company called 343 Industries.  The work that went into bringing them to life on screen is so wonderfully comparable to the work of the Jim Henson Creature Shop, which has crafted creates for another well-known sci-fi series, Farscape.  The similarity in style will appeal to fans of both series.  This is just one more of so many ways in which the special effects used here prove to be the most notable positive of the series’ debut season.

While the special effects used in the lead season of Halo are unquestionably impressive, the show’s story is sadly somewhat less impressive.  The story follows as such: John — Master Chief – (Pablo Schreiber — Orange is the New Black, Skyscraper, 13 Hours)  is the ultimate military soldier.  However, after a mission to a colony that comes under attack by the Covenant aliens, something starts to change in him when he touches an artifact found on the planet where the colony is established.  The more John touches the artifact, the more he comes to learn a dark secret about his past that involves the military organization known as UNSC and the not so honorable scientist, Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone – The Truman Show, Solaris, Ronin) who works with the military organization. Eventually, John learns the full truth of who he is and what happened that led him to fight for the UNSC.  Some audiences may think this whole setup is original, but the reality is that it is anything but.  Those familiar with the history of cinema (and television) will immediately find a very close similarity to the setup for Orion Pictures’ 1987 action flick Robocop here.  That is because Officer Murphy (Peter Weller – Robocop 2, The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across The 8th Dimension, Naked Lunch) saw something very similar happen to him in that movie.  When Murphy is gunned down by a group of evil drug runners, he is “brought back to life” by OCP when he is turned into a cyborg cop.  When he starts to remember his past, things start to change for him just like things changed for John as both figures start their own journey of rediscovery and growth.  As John learns the truth of what Halsey and the UNSC did to him, he still has to face down the beings from The Covenant and prevent them from using a device that could potentially wipe out all life in the universe.  How many times in science fiction history has a story’s protagonist had to stop evil beings from using some all powerful device to wipe out all life in the universe?  Again, this is nothing new.  To that end, the story becomes even less engaging.  That is because it is really the same story put against a different (albeit very familiar style) backdrop.

The secondary story involving Kwan Ha is just as much of a problem.  That is because her story really ultimately does not entwine with John’s central story, as much as the writers tried to make the two stories work together.  Ha (Yerin Ha – Reef Break, Sissy, Troppo) wants to avenge the death of her father, Jin Ha (Jeong-hwan Kong – Rampant, Designated Survivor: 60 Days, Jeon Woochi). The thing is that even though Jin Ha died at the hands on the Covenant, her attention is more on a separate figure named Vinsher Grath (Burn Gorman – The Expanse, Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Dark Knight Rises).  Grath is an evil overlord of sorts who runs things on the planet where Kwan Ha and her people’s colony was established.  In other words, her story is fully secondary.  There really is no connection whatsoever to John’s story.  What’s more, she never even plays a part in the final outcome of Season 1’s primary story.  It just leaves one wondering why her story was there, other than just to help set up the primary story and nothing more.  Again, keeping this in mind, the overall story in this season of Halo simply proves anything but positive.  Yes, it is worth watching at least once, but really offers nothing outstanding or extraordinary.

Add in the story of yet another sub-story, that of Makee (Charlie Murphy – Happy Valley, Peaky Blinders, The Last Kingdom) and the story becomes even more problematic.  That is because her anti-hero style story is so formulaic in itself.  She starts out as a member of the Covenant, who ends up making “the ultimate sacrifice” by the season’s end because of an eventual revelation about herself and The Covenant.  It is yet another element that has been used and re-used way to often throughout the history of television and movies.  To that end its use here is anything but original.  When this additional story line is added to Kwan Ha’s secondary story and the primary story involving John’s own self-revelation, the whole proves just the same as ever.  So again, the story does little to add anything spectacular to this season.  It does not doom the season but doesn’t add much of anything to the season either.

Knowing Season 1’s overall story does not doom the season’s presentation, there is at least one more positive to note.  That is the season’s bonus content.  The bonus content is contained largely on the season’s fifth disc.  It consists of extras, such as examinations of the show’s costumes, sets, weapons, etc. The feature that examines the Covenant, as noted before, is one of the most notable.  It would have been so easy for the show’s creative forces to just have the Prophets be CG creations, but they didn’t go that route. Rather, they actually took the time to make the Prophets real characters.  It makes for so much appreciation for the work that went into bringing them to life.  The examination of the sets, weapons and costumes are just as enjoyable because audiences see the amount of time and work that went into making everything as believable as possible on screen.  It shows that a lot of effort and time went into paying tribute to fans of the original video game, even if only in terms of the general effect.  To that end, the bonus content that is presentation in Halo Season 1 makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment, as do the special effects. When the two elements are joined, they make up at least to a point for the failing of the season’s collective writing.  Keeping that in mind, it makes this premiere season worth watching at least once.

The debut season of Showtime and Paramount+’s Halo streaming series is a presentation that does not fully live up to expectations.  That is regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the video game franchise on which the show is based.  It is not a total loss, though.  The show’s special effects give audiences reason enough to take in the show and watch at least once.  That is due to the balance of the live action and CG elements.  The overall story, what with its three story lines (technically four if one count’s Soren’s own story), is anything but original.  The interweaving arcs are examples of writing that has been used time and again in dramas and action presentations alike.  They are stories that have been done time and again, just against a new backdrop.  While the overall writing is anything but original, it is not enough to doom the season’s presentation.  That leaves at least one more positive to be noted in the form of the bonus content that comes with Season 1.  The bonus content overall shows the amount of time and work that went into making Season 1’s general effect positive and believable.  The extensive episode discussions that accompany each of the season’s nine total episodes add even more to that appreciation.  When the overall bonus content is joined with the positive of the special effects, the whole makes this season worth watching at least once.

Halo: Season 1 is available now.  More information on this and other series streaming on Paramount+ is available at:

Website: https://paramountplus.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paramountplus

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paramountplus

More information on this and other series on Showtime is available at:

Website: https://showtime.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/showtime

Twitter: https://twitter.com/showtime

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com

Journey’s Latest Live Recording Will Appeal Primarily To Its Most Devoted Fans

Courtesy: Frontiers Music s.r.l.

Veteran rock band Journey has been in the headlines quite a bit in the past few years or so, both for good and not so good reasons. From legal issues to a new album this year, the band has kept music reporters quite busy. On Friday, the band gave those reporters even more to stay busy with the release of its latest live recording, Live in Concert at Lollapalooza. The band’s fourth live recording and first since 2019’s dual release, Escape and Frontiers Live in Japan, this new offering’s set list focuses very heavily on Escape. This will be discussed shortly. The band’s performance of the set list makes for its own interest and will be examined a little later. The overall production that went into the recording, which is available on separate DVD/CD, CD, and Blu-ray platforms, is also a positive worth noting. It will also be examined later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered the collective items noted here make the recording an interesting late year addition to this year’s field of new live recordings.

Live in Concert at Lollapalooza, the latest live recording from Journey is an interesting new offering from the veteran rock band. The recording’s interest comes in part through its set list. Spanning 20 songs, (technically it features 17 songs minus the instrumental interludes), the set list is very limited in its overall reach. It reaches as far back as the band’s 19878 album, Infinity and as recent as the band’s 1986 album Raised on Radio. Considering that the band’s catalog spans 15 albums from 1975 all the way up to this year’s latest release, Freedom, that makes for a very directed set list. What’s more, as noted, the set list leans very heavily on the band’s 1981 album Escape, with a total of six songs being lifted from that album for the set list. Infinity (1978) gets the next highest number of nods at just three songs. Evolution (1979) gets two nods. There are also songs featured in a pair of movie soundtracks, and both of those soundtracks were from movies released in the 80s. Simply put, the soundtrack is essentially a collection of the sings that really helped Journey rise to fame in its heyday. To that end, it is an element that will appeal to the band’s most devoted audiences since it is not exactly what one would consider career-spanning. It is not enough to doom the recording, though. The band’s performance of the set list is of its own applause.

The Band’s performance of the set list is of note because it shows the band putting in its best effort in each song. For a band that first rose to fame more than 40 years ago, the energy from this current lineup is full on from beginning to end. Front man Arnel Pineda keeps the lighting staff and photogs on their toes as he makes his way back and forth across the stage while guitarist Neal Schon keeps the audience engaged through his expert work on his instrument. Even in a calmer moment, such as in ‘Faithfully,’ the band in whole keeps the audience fully engaged, their hands waving in the air as they sing along. It shows the simple approach that the band has taken all these years still works whether in the more high energy moments or the more reserved ballads. Overall, the band’s performance here is everything that audiences have come to expect from Journey. To that end, the group’s performance of the set list is certain to appeal to the noted most devoted Journey fans.

The production that went into Live in Concert at Lollapalooza does well to capture the expert nature of the band’s performance at what is one of the most famous festival concert events in America. The edits, the sound, and the general cinematography to give those devoted fans something to enjoy, too. It puts audiences at home right there on stage and in the crowd with the rest of the fans who were there in person thanks to the positive overall general effect that the production generates. Considering this alongside the band’s performance, those noted audiences who are among the band’s most devoted will find even more reason to take in the concert recording.

Live in Concert at Lollapalooza, the latest live recording from Journey, is a presentation that is certain to appeal to the band’s most devoted audiences. That is due in large part to the concert recording’s set list. The set list is very limited in its reach, focusing more on its most well-known singles than on its overall catalog. The band’s performance of those singles will appeal plenty to the noted audiences because the band clearly puts in its full effort in each performance. The recording’s overall production creates a positive general effect that will appeal to those audiences in its own right, too. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the recording’s presentation. All things considered they make Live in Concert at Lollapalooza a presentation that is an intriguing late year addition to this year’s field of new live recordings.

Live in Concert at Lollapalooza is available now through Frontiers Music s.r.l. More information on the recording is available along with all of Journey’s latest news at:

Website: https://journeymusic.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/journey

Twitter: https://twitter.com/journeyofficial

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Moonwatcher Films’ Indie Flick, ‘5-25-77’ Is A Surprisingly Enjoyable Based On Actual Events Presentation

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

With 2022 officially in its waning days, it is safe to say that Hollywood’s major studios have struggled to release very much in the way of substantive content. This year has largely been just another filled with prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on books and actual events. However, it looks like with the year finally winding down, maybe just maybe something positive might be finally here thanks to the premiere of Amblin Entertainment’s new drama, The Fablemans. Directed by none other than Steve Spielberg, the movie is a love letter to classic cinema and its role in a person’s own development. Whether it lives up to the hype is yet to be seen since it only premiered today. It is hardly the only movie of its sort. As a matter of fact, independent studio Moonwatcher Films’ brand new movie, 5-25-77 is its own unique story of the role of cinema in a young man’s personal growth. Released to DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, the movie is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation that will move audiences to plenty of laughs and tears. That is due in large part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The bonus feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie adds to the movie’s appeal. It will be examined a little later. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of the movie’s positives and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered they make this movie a refreshing alternative to everything churned out by Hollywood’s major studios so far this year and one more of the year’s top new independent movies.

5-25-77, the newest independent movie from independent studio Moonwatcher Films, is a surprisingly enjoyable addition to this year’s field of new independent movies. What’s more it is also a welcome alternative to all of the content being churned out by Hollywood’s major movie studios, what with all of the prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on books and movies that they have continued to churn on this year. The movie’s appeal comes in large part through its story. The story here is simple: It is a coming-of-age story of sorts that follows the personal growth and development of writer/director/actor Patrick Read Johnson, during his teenage years. The story starts in 1968, when Patrick, as a young boy, is taken to the theater by his parents to see the timeless science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is clear in that opening scene that is where his love of cinema started. From there, he decides to start making his own movies with his own models and friends as the casts. As the story progresses over the course of the movie’s two hour, 13 minute run time, viewers see Patrick grow from a clumsy, goofy young man with stars in his eyes to a more thoughtful, mature young adult. What is really interesting in the overall story is that there is actually so much more depth than audiences realize at first. This is revealed late in the story as one of Patrick’s friends psychoanalyzes him as they and Bill wait outside the hospital for another of the friends, Robin. Patrick’s friend gets him to finally reveal the real reason for his drive to make movies. That revelation will be left for audiences to discover for themselves, but suffice it to say that the revelation in question will lead many viewers to want to go back and watch the movie again. When they do, they will catch something very important that they likely overlooked to begin with early on in the story. The subtlety of that element’s incorporation into the story gives the story so much more depth in the bigger picture.

Another aspect of Patrick’s growth comes through the story of Patrick’s relationship with Linda. The puppy love that he exhibits with Linda is a situation to which so many audiences can relate even today. That is because everyone has felt that infatuation (which is what he was really feeling) at one point or more in their young lives. Patrick’s eventual revelation of the situation involving Linda and Tony is just as pivotal to the story of his development. That is because it is really the final breaking point of sorts for him. The revelation that he makes is the catalyst to him finally making the most important decision of his life at that point. The way in which Johnson weaved this story in with the story of the impact of his childhood on his young adult life makes the overall story so rich and engaging. At times, audiences will be drawn to so much laughter. At others, they will be led to some tears as they watch Johnson’s growth. As a result of the engagement and entertainment that the story generates, audiences will agree that it forms a strong foundation for the movie’s presentation.

The story gains even more traction as audiences go back and watch the movie with its bonus feature-length commentary. The commentary is provided by Johnson and fellow well-known cinema figure, Seth Gaven, founder of the A.V. Squad and editor of the 1990 family friendly sci-fi flick, Spaced Invaders. The background that the duo provides is what adds to that depth. For instance, audiences learn through the commentary that unlike so many movies that are based on actual events, most of what is portrayed in this movie actually happened, including Robin putting her own fist in her mouth and getting it stuck. Yes, audiences will most definitely be left to learn more about that one on their own. On another level, Johnson reveals that the cost of one portion of the movie was roughly $100,000. In other words, the overall cost to make the movie was likely very low. This is important to note because even being a low budget movie, the overall presentation proves to be so engaging and entertaining. There are no special effects or any big budget items anywhere in the movie. As a matter of fact, Johnson and Gaven go into a discussion on that simplicity and tie that into a discussion on the overuse of special effects in the current era of movie making. As if all of this is not enough, Johnson, who appears in the movie as his father, also goes into a brief discussion about his relationship with his father, which again does play its own subtle but pivotal part in the bigger story. His discussion on this topic makes for even more appreciation for the overall story and is just one more of so many interesting anecdotes that Johnson and Gaven share throughout the movie’s commentary. When all of the noted discussions are considered along with the rest of the commentary included in the audio track, the whole makes the whole of the commentary truly a bonus in every sense of the word and even more reason to take in this movie.

The commentary that accompanies the movie is not the last of the items that make 5-25-77 worth watching. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of its elements. Backing up a little bit, the cast’s work is also discussed in the audio commentary. Johnson reveals in the commentary that the real life Bill and Robin both play small parts in the movie. Bill takes on the role of the theater manager while the real life Robin only gets a brief appearance at a nurse at the hospital. John Francis Daley (Spiderman: Homecoming, Bones, Vacation) takes on the role of Johnson, and does such an entertaining job in his performance. The goofy smile that he gives any time a girl even looks at him is so laugh-inspiring. His dedication to bringing his own movies to life and the awe that he exhibits as young Patrick is introduced to a young Steven Spielberg and just as young George Lucas (as he creates Star Wars) is certain to move audiences. That is because viewers can fully appreciate the stars that are in Patrick’s eyes and the impact that the experience had on him. It is a performance that is fully believable.

Just as impressive is Steve Coulter’s performance of Bill. Coulter (Coasting, Fate Twisted Simply, Please Wait To Be Seated) is a wonderful foil to Daley. He does so well trying to keep Patrick as grounded as possible throughout the story, even as Patrick just keeps letting everything get to him. For lack of better wording he is the straight man to Daley’s more energetic lead who is so deserving of his own praise because of just how he portrays Bill’s more level-headed and realistic approach to everything. His dedication to his friend even as Patrick changes so dramatically is admirable to say the least and it makes for its own share of applause.

One more noteworthy performance come from Collen Camp (Clue, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Sliver) who plays the part of Patrick’s mother. Those moments throughout the movie when she comes into Patrick’s room, calling his name out of frustration are so hilarious. Every viewer will relate to those moments, as everyone has had that happen on one end or the other. At the same time, that moment when she realizes that Patrick has given up his dream of becoming a movie maker just so that he could make Linda happy, the compassion that comes into her eyes is so moving even in its simplicity and subtlety. Her determination to help Patrick get to Hollywood, and the little song and dance moment that follows is such a wonderfully moving and lighthearted scene. It will inspire tears and laughter all at once, as will her reaction in the story’s finale when Patrick finally makes that final decision to take a big step. Again that moment will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see the movie. That aside, Camp’s performance is engaging and entertaining in its own right. She brings so much emotional depth to the movie in the moments when she is on screen in all of the best ways. When her performance is considered along with the other performances noted here and with the rest of the cast’s work, the whole makes clear, the overall importance of the cast’s work to the movie’s presentation. When the impact of the cast’s work is considered alongside the depth of the movie’s story and the depth that the audio commentary adds to the story, the whole makes 5-25-77 a movie based on actual events that is surprisingly worth watching.

5-25-77, the newest cinematic offering from independent movie studio Moonwatcher Films, is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation. That is due in part to the story at the center of the movie. The movie’s story is a coming of age story that while yes, it is based on actual events, proves to be anything but the overblown, overly embellished movies that are its counterparts from Hollywood’s major studio counterparts. The feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie in its new home release adds even more appreciation for the story. That is because it reveals at least in part just how much of the story actually did happen. It also presents a number of other intriguing anecdotes that will keep audiences engaged. The cast’s work throughout the movie makes for its own interest, too. That is because each cast member’s performance is that believable. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of 5-25-77‘s presentation. All things considered they make this movie one more of the year’s top new independent movies.

5-25-77 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray through MVD Entertainment Group. More information on this and other titles from The Film Detective is available at:

Websitehttps://thefilmdetective.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/filmdetective

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/FilmDetective

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://philspicks.wordpress.com