Acting, Production Save ‘Monster Trucks’ From Being A Monster Failure

Courtesy: Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s latest effort at a family friendly action flick, Monster Trucks is a work that while not a monster failure, is anything but a monster success.  Originally released in theaters this past January, it was just recently released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 11.  It fails to run on all eight cylinders in part because of its story, which suffers from some major writing issues.  While the story does suffer from some undeniable issues, it isn’t a total loss.  That is thanks to the work of the movie’s cast.  This will be discussed later.  The movie’s balance of special effects and live action elements is another notable element worth discussing.  Together with the work of the movie’s cast (which clearly is not a group of teenagers, save perhaps for one cast member), the two elements are just enough to keep Monster Trucks’ engine running, albeit not on all cylinders.

Paramount and Nickelodeon Films’ new high-octane family action flick Monster Trucks is an entertaining watch.  However, it is a movie that clearly does not run on all eight cylinders.  That is due in large part to a story that is marred by a plot hole *ahem* large enough to drive a truck through and a story that is anything but original in its setup.  The plot follows high school student Tripp as he fights to save a friendly mutant half shark/half octopus from the clutches of an evil oil drilling company and get it back home.  The problem with this story is that he does this while driving a late-model truck that normally would be a gas guzzler.  The movie’s defenders might try to argue that putting the creature in place of the truck’s engine was a subtle way to argue in favor of alternative energy.  Odds are though, that the movie’s writing team did not exactly have that message in mind when they came up with the movie’s script.  Odds are they didn’t even begin to think about this plot hole at all and just thought it would make for a good way to bring in young audiences because it had monsters and trucks.  That is just one of the problems from which this movie’s story suffers.  It also suffers from a setup that is anything but original.

The setup for this movie’s story sees a young person (or at least what is supposed to be a young person—obviously played by someone who is not a teenager in this case) saving a harmless creature from an evil heartless corporation.  In case that doesn’t sound familiar to anyone out there, similar story lines have been put forth in E.T., Free Willy, Pete’s Dragon, Super 8, and so many other movies.  Given the plots are not mirror images.  They are close enough though, that the comparisons are undeniable.  Considering this and the problem posed by the movie’s massive plot hole, the movie’s story is a major problem for its overall presentation.  Even with the problems posed by its plot hole and its setup, the movie is not a total loss.  It just takes a big hit.  The work of the movie’s cast is a saving grace in examining its overall presentation.

Monster Trucks’ cast is obviously supposed to be made up of characters who are teenagers.  However, it is clear in watching this movie that save for maybe one of the supporting cast, none of the other young cast members are teenagers.  On the surface that seems like a bad thing.  However on a deeper level, it may account for why each cast member’s performance is, while slightly over-the-top, at least entertaining to a point.  None of the performances necessarily pulls audiences into the movie or is award-winning by any means.  It is however entertaining enough that collectively, it is just enough to keep audiences watching through to the movie’s finale.  Case in point, lead star Lucas Till’s interaction with his CG-rendered co-star.  Till is to be applauded for the exemplary job he does of imagining the shark/octopus hybrid is actually in the scene alongside him.  That is exhibited in happier and more high-energy moments.  Co-star Thomas Lennon (Reno 9-1-1, Night at the Museum 1 & 2) is just as entertaining when he is on camera as geologist Jim Dowd.  Audiences will find themselves rooting for Dowd thanks to Lennon’s performance of the reluctant oil company employee who turns out to not be so bad (not to give away too much).  Lennon shows through each moment on camera that he understands Dowd is a supporting character and still makes the most of each moment without taking over said scenes.  His is just one more way in which the cast’s performance proves to be so important to the movie’s overall presentation.  If not for their work (and that of the rest of the cast), the movie’s plot hole and equally problematic setup would be unbearable and would otherwise not make the movie worth watching even for five minutes.  The cast’s work on camera, while important is not the movie’s only important element.  The balance of the movie’s special effects and live action elements rounds out its most important elements.

The balance of live action and computer generated effects used throughout Monster Trucks is the last of its most important elements.  As with the work of the movie’s cast, the lack of this element would make the movie’s story even more unbearable, and in turn, the movie overall even less worth the watch.  The CG is limited to Tripp’s subterranean pal and its family (or at least they seem like family) members.  Audiences will be impressed by this minimalism and the effect of said minimalism on the movie’s look.  In a weird way that expert balance actually serves to add to audiences’ ability to suspend their disbelief.  That leads to even more ease in watching the movie.  When the work put into making the movie look believable is set alongside the work of the movie’s cast, the two elements do just enough to keep the movie’s batteries charged along with those of its audiences.  Keeping that in mind, Monster Trucks proves to be an entertaining watch even though it proves to be a movie on which hopefully future models will improve.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s high-speed family flick Monster Trucks is a work that would benefit greatly from a tune-up.  That is the case even taking into consideration the positives of the cast’s work and that of those responsible for balancing its CG and live action elements.  The movie’s story keeps it from running on all eight cylinders.  That is because of its massive plot hole and the unoriginal setup exhibited in its setup.  Even with the problems posed through its negatives, its positives are, thankfully, just enough to keep its batteries (and audiences’ batteries) charged from start to finish.  In other words, it proves to be another movie that is fun but ultimately forgettable.  More information on Monster Trucks is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.MonsterTrucksMovie.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MonsterTrucks

 

 

 

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‘Live From Lincoln Center: Carousel’ Available Now

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Seeing a musical on stage is a special experience.  Seeing it at a venue such as the famed Lincoln Center is an even more special experience.  Now thanks to Public Media Distribution audiences can enjoy both experiences from the comfort of their own homes with the release of Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel.

Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel was released Feb 28 on DVD.  The performance, originally recorded in the Avery Fisher Hall at the famed arts center in March 2013, features music from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and performances by Kelli O’Hara (Sex and the City 2, Peter Pan Live, The Accidental Wolf), Shuler Hensley (Van Helsing, The Legend of Zorro, After Life), John Cullum (Northern Exposure, The Middle, ER) and others.

The 2013 performance presented in PBS’ new release is not the first time that the musical has been staged at the Lincoln Theater.  It has also been presented at the famed facility in 1994 and won five Tony ® Awards for that run including Best Musical Revival and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Audra McDonald.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, based on Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play Liliom, has been called “the best musical of the 20th Century” by Time magazine.  It moves Molnar’s original story from Europe to the Maine coastline as it follows the tragic love story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and mill worker Julie Jordan.  The story includes such memorable songs as ‘If I Loved You,’ ‘June Is Bustin’ Out All Over’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’

Ever since it made its Broadway debut in 1945, Carousel has been adapted countless times across America and the world.  It has even been translated into a big-screen feature that debuted in American theaters on Feb. 16, 1956.  It is currently in Paris by Britain’s Opera North.

Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered via PBS’ online store for $19.99.  More information on this and other episodes of Live from Lincoln Center is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.livefromlincolncenter.org

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/LincolnCenter

 

 

 

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‘Rogue One’ Shows Star Wars Fans Should Be Concerned About Franchise’s Direction Under Disney

Courtesy: Disney/Lucasfilm

Disney and Lucasfilm’s latest dive into the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not the worst of the franchise’s efforts to be released to date.  At the same time, it is hardly the franchise’s best effort, too.  That is because the movie, which had been so highly anticipated by audiences and critics alike, has proven to have more problems than positives.  The problems in question begin with story at the center of the movie.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story poses some problems that cannot be ignored, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of at least some applause.  Next to the movie’s soundtrack, led by legendary composer John Williams, it is the movie’s only other saving grace.  Keeping this in mind, one more key critical point must be addressed here in the form of the movie’s pacing.  This will be discussed later.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reason for any true Star Wars devotee to be concerned about Disney’s direction with this franchise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was touted by many as the franchise’s best entry to date.  Sadly though, a thorough investigation of the movie’s overall presentation reveals it in fact has just as many problems as positives.  The most obvious of the problems presented within this movie is its story.  More specifically speaking, the story’s setup is its real problem.  The story’s setup focuses on a young female with a checkered past leading a group of rebels to find the plans to the Death Star.  Along the way, an Imperial pilot turned…well…rogue (enhancing the movie’s title even more) helps Jyn and company in their efforts.  If that sounds familiar at all to anyone, it should.  A very similar plot was used for Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ story.  Given the female lead’s circumstances are different in the two stories as are the overall stories.  That does serve to save this movie’s story albeit only slightly.  However, there is no getting around the blatant similarities in the movies’ setups.  Taking that into consideration one can’t help but see there is clearly a lack of effort in regards to the story’s setup; a lack of effort that so many audiences apparently refuse to see.

The setup that is used in Rogue One’s story is an item that cannot be ignored in examining this movie’s overall presentation.  That is especially the case since the movies’ writing teams were separate from one another.  While the story’s setup is clearly a problematic issue, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of its own share of applause.  That is because it exhibits an obvious (and applause worthy) attempt to throw back to the stylistic approach of the franchise’s original trilogy. From the costumes to the scene transitions, it is clear that those behind the lens wanted to pay tribute to the original trilogy and those who grew up with those movies.  That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that makes the movie’s stylistic approach so impressive.  The final climactic battle scenes throw back to the franchise’s originally movies in their own right, too.  That is exhibited as the X-Wings fly around the imperial attach vehicles and take them out and as the rebels on the ground fight imperial troops on foot.  Of course some of the scene’s bigger, over-the-top moments throw back to similar scenes from so many WWII-era flicks.  This takes away from the moment’s seriousness to a certain point.  That, however, is a minor issue at most.  Overall, the stylistic approach taken to this Star Wars story must be applauded. It shows an effort to bring back the look and feel of the franchise’s original installments while also pointing toward the franchise’s future.  Hopefully that balance (which was visibly missing from The Force Awakens) will be more visible in the franchise’s next effort.

The stylistic approach of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the movie’s one saving grace.  It shows a valid attempt to pay homage to the Star Wars franchise’s past and fans while also pointing to the franchise’s future.  It does so in a balanced fashion, too.  Sadly though, it is the only element that makes sitting through this 2-hour, 5-minute movie worth the effort.  Speaking of the movie’s run time, that run time feels far longer than it actually is.  That is due to the pacing established in the movie’s story.  As noted, the movie runs just over two hours.  The majority of that time—about 1 hour, 20-minutes—is spent building up to the eventual attack on the imperial facility containing the death star plans.  On the positive side, it doesn’t waste too much of that time setting up Jyn’s story.  It just spends most of that time sending her here, there and everywhere as she tries to find out her father’s message and then convince the rebels to go after the plans.  Things move just as slowly as ever in the story’s final act after Jyn convinces Cassian and company to join the cause.  Jyn and Cassian’s attempt to reach the plans, and the outcome thereof, seems to drag on almost endlessly especially as the battle outside the facility rages.  Even after Jyn and Cassian finally get the plans (the climax), things don’t pick up much, leaving observant audiences scratching their heads, wondering when and if the story will finally end.  It was as if the movie’s writing team couldn’t just leave well-enough alone.  That continued slow boil right up to the movie’s way-over-the-top and overly cheesy final scene makes one wonder how one kept from fast forwarding through the movie well before then. When these pacing issues are taken into consideration with the obviously problematic setup to the movie’s story, they take greatly detract from the movie’s overall presentation.  They take away so much from this movie that the movie’s stylistic approach becomes the only reason to give it a chance.  All things considered, there is so much negative to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that true Star Wars devotees should be very concerned about the direction that Disney is potentially forcing Lucasfilm to take with their favorite franchise.

True Star Wars devotees should be genuinely concerned about the direction that their favorite franchise could potentially be taking after watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Though its stylistic approach throws back to the franchise’s original trilogy, its pacing and the undeniably unoriginal setup to the movie’s story do plenty to take away from the movie’s overall viewing experience.  The story’s pacing makes its run time, which barely tops two hours feel far longer.  The story’s setup is a near mirror image to the setup used in The Force Awakens.  Keeping all of this in mind, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proves to be a story worth one watch, but honestly not much more.  More information on this and other entries in the Star Wars universe is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars

 

 

 

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‘The People vs. Fritz Bauer’ Deserves A Positive Verdict

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Late this past January, independent movie studio Cohen Media Group released the German import The People vs. Fritz Bauer on DVD and Blu-ray.  The movie, which was originally released by Zero One Film internationally in 2015, was released domestically on DVD and Blu-ray this past January courtesy of Cohen Media Group. On the surface, this movie is just another entry into an already overly crowded field of movies based on actual events.  This includes both the mainstream and independent realm.  Even with that in mind, it actually stands out in that field.  That is due in part to the story at the center of this movie.  This will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story.  It will be discussed later.  The movie’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this movie based on actual events a work that deserves a positive verdict from true cinephiles everywhere.

Cohen Media Group’s recent domestic home release of The People vs. Fritz Bauer is a presentation that deserves a positive verdict from true cinephiles everywhere.  That is due in part to the story at the center of this work.  The story is based on actual events, as already noted.  It also is hardly the first movie to ever be raised from the era of WWII.  So that leaves the question what set it apart from other works of its ilk.  The answer is that it presents a part of Fritz Bauer’s life—his more personal, private life—that few movies have ever told.  This is explained in the movie’s bonus making of featurette, and will be discussed later.  It is only one part of what makes the story stand out, too.  Audiences will note that this story doesn’t have the overly melodramatic mood established in its American counterparts that have been churned out ever since Hollywood’s golden age.  Yes, even those movies are suspect for their level of melodrama.  That is not to say that this movie doesn’t have its own level of melodrama.  But it is nowhere near the level included in so many American movies centered on WWII.  Now whether or not it overly embellishes Bauer’s efforts to capture Eichmann this critic is ashamed to say is unknown.  Odds are though, there likely is some over embellishment.  That is just the norm of movies based on actual events.  One can only hope that writer/director Lars Kraume and co-writer Olivier Guez didn’t let that embellishment become too prevalent.  That aside, the deep examination of Bauer’s personal life and his drive to capture Eichmann is reason enough for audiences to watch this German-language movie.  It is just one of the reasons that cinephiles should see this imported WWII story.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as the story in examining its overall presentation.

The story at the center of The People vs. Fritz Bauer is in itself plenty of reason for true cinephiles to watch this imported WWII-centered movie.  It is just one of the reasons that it is worth the watch.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as worth mentioning as the movie’s story.  Burghart KlauBner leads the way in every sense of the phrase as the movie’s title character. His portrayal of Bauer will keep audiences rapt throughout the course of the story’s nearly two-hour run time.  That is proven in his interactions with co-star Ronald Zehrfeld and even in his solo time on screen.  From the pair’s more lighthearted moments to the more tense times, Klaubner and Zherfeld’s interactions in themselves will keep audiences engaged from beginning to end.  KlauBner’s handling of Bauer’s fear when he is being harassed by unseen Nazi sympathizers is just as impressive. He makes the tension in those scenes fully believable.  This makes those moments just as impressive as his moments on screen with Zehrfeld.  The end result of KlauBner’s work in his solo and split scenes proves why his performance overall is just as important to note in examining this movie as its story.  Of course Zehrfeld’s performance, while far less prominent, is still impressive in its own right.  He will keep audiences just as engaged as KlauBner as he struggles with his own personal demons, which will not be revealed here.  Keeping all of this in mind, KlauBner and Zehrfeld’s performance show throughout the movie why their work is just as important to this movie’s presentation as that of the movie’s writing team.  It still is not the last element worth noting in examining the movie’s presentation.  The bonus material included with the movie in its home release is just as important to note as the already noted elements.

The work of The People vs. Fritz Bauer’s writing team and that of its main cast are both key elements to discuss in examining the movie’s overall presentation.  That is because of the depth that each element adds to the movie’s overall presentation.  They are not its only important elements.  The bonus material that is included with the movie in its recent domestic home release is just as important to note as the previously discussed elements.  The bonus “making of” featurette is an important extra because it provides a certain back story to the movie that adds to audiences’ appreciation of the story.  That is because it explains this side of Bauer’s story has rarely if ever been told.  The deleted scenes add even more depth because they, like so many movies both mainstream and indie, show how much was gained and lost through each one.  Some scenes, in this critic’s view, should have been kept.  Others meanwhile were justifiably left out.  The whole of those scenes joins with the bonus “making of” featurette to make the movie even more surprisingly entertaining.  When the movie’s bonus commentary is set alongside those elements, all three bonuses combine to put the finishing touch on the movie’s presentation.  That is not to say that the movie’s cinematography, shooting locations, and costume and makeup staff are not to be commended.  They deserve their own mentions, too.  They are worth noting in discussions about the movie’s aesthetic value.  When that discussion is joined with the already noted discussions, the whole of those discussions shows why this German imported WWII story deserves a positive verdict.

Cohen Media Group’s domestic home release of The People vs. Fritz Bauer is a presentation that fully deserves a positive verdict from cinephiles and critics alike.  That is due to its story, which despite being another work based on actual events, doesn’t allow itself to become the overly melodramatic events that so many of its counterparts past and present have proven to be.  It also presents a side of Bauer’s story that has rarely, if ever, been told. The work of the movie’s main cast plays into the movie’s presentation just as much as that of the movie’s writing team.  The extensive bonus material included with the movie’s recent domestic home release rounds out its most important elements, but is hardly its last element worth noting.  Those behind the lens, the costumes and makeup and even shooting location choices are deserving of credit, too.  Each element is clearly important in its own right to the movie’s whole.  All things considered, The People vs. Fritz Bauer proves to be a work that, once more, fully deserves a positive verdict from critic and cinephiles alike.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cohenmedia.net

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup

 

 

 

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Magnolia Pictures’ ‘Little Men’ Is A Big Little Indie Flick

Courtesy: Magnolia Pictures

A little more than three months have passed since Magnolia Pictures released its heartfelt indie flick Little Men.  The nearly 90-minute movie is a heartfelt work that will appeal to diehard indie flick fans and to the genre’s more casual consumers.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  This will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s editing is just as important to examine as its story in analyzing its overall presentation.  It will be discussed later.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out is most important elements.  It is directly connected to the bonus “Making of” featurette that is included in the movie’s extras.  They will be discussed later, too.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, Little Men proves in the end that sometimes, big things truly do come in small packages and that indie flicks can be just as entertaining as any big screen blockbuster.

Magnolia Pictures’ recently released drama Little Men was one of last year’s top new independent releases.  It is proof that sometimes indie flicks can be just as entertaining as their more well-known counterparts.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story at the center of this movie follows the budding friendship between Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri—Spiderman: Homecoming, The Dark Tower) as their parents bicker over the rent being paid by Tony’s mother.  The boys’ friendship drives home the oft used message that sometimes kids are more grown up than their adult counterparts.  What’s interesting here is that as easy as it would have been for writer/director Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias to go over the top with the drama, they didn’t let it go that over-the-top route.  If this movie had been accepted by one of Hollywood’s “Big Six,” there’s no doubt it would have been turned into some overly dramatic, unnecessarily heart wrenching piece that would have quickly become forgotten weeks after its release.  Thankfully that didn’t happen here.  Instead, Sachs and Zacharias expertly controlled the story’s dramatic elements from start to finish.  The end result is a story that is powerful in its simplicity, and that as a result, is entertaining and engaging from start to finish.  It is just part of what makes this movie so impressive.  The movie’s editing is just as important to discuss as its story.

The editing within Little Men is just as important to discuss in analyzing its presentation as the story itself.  That is because it keeps the movie’s pacing solid throughout the course of its 85-minute run time.  Audiences will note that the story is told through a series of segments that are short yet tell just enough of the story within each to keep audiences engaged.  It’s like watching a play on screen without the feel of a play.  Go figure, star Greg Kinear (Little Miss Sunshine, Ghost Town, As Good As It Gets) plays a hard on his luck thespian.  Whether or not that connection was intentional is anyone’s guess as it isn’t discussed in the movie’s bonus material.  Regardless, it can be said that the short yet concise scenes crafted through the movie’s editing are handled expertly.  When that attention to detail is coupled with the movie’s fully believable story, the two elements show even more why this movie stands out and why it is well worth the watch.  They are not its only important elements, either.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements.

The story at the center of Little Men and its editing are both key pieces of this surprisingly enjoyable indie flick’s overall presentation.  They work both by themselves and collectively to make this movie a surprisingly enjoyable offering from Magnolia Pictures.  They are not its only key elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is important to examine, too.  The cast’s work on camera is so important to note because of the subtlety in each cast member’s work.  It has already been noted that rather than let this movie’s story get out of control with its dramatic elements, its writers tamp down that drama.  The cast follows suit, opting for the same subtlety in its acting.  A key example comes as Jake and Tony agree to their vow of silence against their parents.  This would have been a moment for any big screen actor (and writer) to go overboard.  That didn’t happen here.  Again, that didn’t happen here, though.  The simple fashion in which the boys agreed to the vow felt so natural that it makes one believe that it is something one would see in an everyday setting.  Brian (Kinear) and Leonor’s (Paulina Garcia)’s discussions on the rent are also examples of the importance of the cast’s work to the movie’s presentation.  It would have been just as easy for the pair to go over the top as Taplitz and Barbieri when they took their vow of silence.  Yet, they didn’t go over the top either.  The simple subtle work on the part of both actors makes both performances just as believable as those presented by the actors’ younger counterparts and those of the rest of the cast.  All things considered in terms of the cast’s work, this element puts the finishing touch on a presentation that was already worth watching to begin with.  The discussions on the cast’s work in the movie’s bonus “making of featurette” explains why the subtleties in the cast’s work are so believable.  It is the very last positive touch on a work that true cinephiles will appreciate.  When it is joined with the cast’s work, that of the movie’s editing team of Mollie Goldstein and Affonso Goncalves, and the work of the movie’s writing team, the whole of this little indie flick that could proves to be a work that proves big things can and do often come in “little” packages.

Magnolia Pictures’ indie human drama Little Men is proof that sometimes indie flicks can be just as entertaining as their more well-known counterparts if not more so.  It mixes a simple, believable story with expert editing and wholly believable and engaging acting for a presentation that was one of last year’s top new independent movies.  It can be purchased online now here.  More information on Little Men and other titles from Magnolia Pictures is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.magnoliapictures.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/magnoliapics

 

 

 

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‘Ali & Nino’ Is A Rare Miss For IFC Films, mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

War flicks and romance movies are two of the most popular genres in the cinematic realm. The two genres have been combined more than once both in theaters and on the small screen.  In some of those cases, the result has been a success (Casablanca, The Sun Also Rises, From Here To Eternity).  In other cases, the result isn’t so positive (Pearl Harbor, Flyboys).  Late last month IFC Films and mpi media group released a new wartime romantic drama titled Ali & Nino that despite beautiful shooting locations and cinematography, fits into the latter of the two noted categories.  That is because this nearly two-hour movie suffers from a story line that is not exactly original.  This will be discussed shortly.  The story’s pacing is even more problematic as it leads the movie, which comes in at approximately an hour and forty-one minutes, feel far longer.  Luckily though, the previously noted cinematography and the movie’s shooting locations combine to save this presentation and make the movie worth at least one watch.

Ali & Nino is hardly the first time that any studio major or independent has ever released a romantic drama that is set against a wartime era.  As already noted, this latest addition to that field is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.  That is due in part to its story line.  The movie’s story line is anything but original.  It is a Romeo & Juliet style story that sees a man and woman from two totally different backgrounds (Ali is Muslim and Nino is Christian) falling in love and getting married all while facing the perils of World War I and the Bolsheviks.  Not to give away too much here, but it doesn’t have a happy ending despite thousands of miles separating the young star-crossed lovers more than once throughout the story.  This creates, in itself, its own share of problems.  Audiences know that the couple will be reunited each time it is separated.  What’s more, when Ali tells Nino in the story’s final act that he is staying behind the help fight the Bolsheviks, one doesn’t need to be a genius to know the predicted outcome.  Considering all of this, the movie’s story does somehow manage to keep audiences engaged, albeit tenuously because of its pacing, which will be discussed later. Before touching on that problem, it is only fair to also discuss the movie’s saving grace—its collective cinematography and its shooting locations.

The shooting locations used in filming Ali & Nino and its cinematography are by themselves and collectively its most important elements.  If not for these inter-related elements this otherwise formulaic wartime romance would be just another forgettable run-of-the-mill wartime romance.  Audiences will be awed at the wide, sweeping shots of Azerbaijan’s Caucasus Mountains and the streets of Turkey that were used to set the movie’s scenes.  The aerial shots of the mountains as Ali is being led to safety are stunning thanks to the contrast of the white caps of the mountains to the gravel road used to take him to his safe haven.  The city settings, which were likely filmed in Turkey, are used for just as many scenes and are just as impressive as the mountain scenes.  That includes the peaceful scenes and the battle scenes.  The angles that are used within each scene will keep audiences rapt with awe.  If not for the power of that work behind the cameras, the story’s pacing within each scene would be completely unbearable.

Ali & Nino’s pacing is bearable.  However, is should be noted that it is bearable only because of the power of the movie’s cinematography and related shooting locations.  The movie’s run time is listed at an hour and forty-one minutes.  However, its pacing makes it feel like it runs well over the two hour mark.  The movie’s pacing is so problematic that audiences will find themselves begin to feel restless no less than an hour into the movie.  It seems the pacing is so problematic because the story spends so much time keeping its main characters separated and having them worry about how to re-unite.  When they do, the story sees them spending more time in bed together than anything else.  In other words, there really is no real substance to this story.  That lack of substance combines with the story’s lack of originality to make it a work that is worth watching only for the work put in behind the cameras than in front of them.  Other than those related elements, Ali & Nino gives audiences little other reason to watch this movie.

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Simple Minds, Eagle Rock Partner For New Live Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Simple Minds has a simple message for its fans—the band has a new live recording on the way.

The band, which rose to fame in the 1980s on the heels of its hit song ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me),’ will release its new live recording Acoustic in Concert on June 16 via Eagle Rock Entertainment.  It will be released in stores and online on DVD/CD combo pack and online via digital outlets.

Acoustic in Concert is the follow-up to the band’s 2016 album Acoustic. Recorded in November 2016 on BBC Radio 2’s In Concert” series, Acoustic In Concert features the band’s biggest hit and other fan favorites including ‘Alive and Kicking,’ ‘Glittering Prize,’ ‘Waterfront,’ ‘Promised You A Miracle,’ ‘Sanctify Yourself,’ ‘See The Lights’ and others.  The concert’s complete set list is noted below.

TRACK LISTING

1) New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

2) See The Lights

3) Glittering Prize

4) Stand By Love

5) Waterfront

6) Andy Warhol

7) Chelsea Girl

8) Someone Somewhere In Summertime

9) Dancing Barefoot

10) Speed Your Love To Me

11) Promised You A Miracle

12) Don’t You (Forget About Me)

13) Sanctify Yourself

14) Long Black Train

15) Alive And Kicking

16) Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)

Acoustic In Concert will be released June 16.  It will retail for MSRP of $19.98.  More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

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