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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Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Before And After A Solid Crime Drama

Courtesy: Hollywood Pictures/Caravan Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

Before and After is not as terrible a story as some critics would have audiences believe.  Anyone that watches television newsmagazines such as Dateline, 20/20, 48 Hours, and the ilk will see that the story behind this movie is not as outrageous as it seems.  Nor are the reactions of the community surrounding Carolyn and Ben Ryan when it’s announced that their son Jacob (Edward Furlong) is a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Martha.  While this nation’s justice system says that a person is innocent until proven guilty, the townspeople in the Ryans’ community show the same reaction that people in the real world instantly show concerning any crime case that’s spread across the various news agencies.

While Liam Neeson has rarely had very good acting roles, this is one time when he is actually at least somewhat convincing.  And as always, veteran Meryl Streep impresses as the distraught mother trying to come to terms with and make sense of everything when her family’s world is turned upside down.  Alfred Molina shines, too, in the role of shyster lawyer Panos Demeris.  Audiences will love to hate him when he tells Carolyn that Jacob is his client.  And he will defend Jacob, even if it means throwing Carolyn under the bus.

The reaction of the townspeople around the Ryans’ is entirely believable.  One look at the news each night shows just how fast people are to judge, rather than sit and wait for the facts to come out about a case.  They instantly take it on themselves to be judge, jury and executioner, when they don’t have the full story.  And their reactions to Jacob’s family are just as believable.  Despite doing what he did, it makes Ben that much more of a sympathetic character to audiences.  He wasn’t thinking in doing what he did.  He wanted only to protect his son. 

That relationship between Ben and Jacob was the true heart of this movie.  While the main story was a crime drama, audiences learn that a fight between the two is what led up to the alleged murder.  Ultimately, the father-son relationship leads to an ending that is bittersweet at best.  But considering everything that Jacob and his family endured thanks to Martha’s death, it’s understandable that the story would end how it did.  That ending won’t be given away.  But it will leave any true movie lover moved as the last scene fades to credits.

Before and After is not a terrible movie by any means.  Is it the most memorable movie ever made in the crime drama genre?  No.  But it is still a movie that’s worth at least one watch.  Odds are that it was unappreciated by so many critics was that it was based so much in reality, rather than being just another over sensationalistic oversexed crime drama/thriller.  It’s a movie that any fan of more realistic crime dramas will enjoy.

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