2015’s First Family Film Is Also One Of Its Least Enjoyable Films

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Anchor Bay Entertainment is one of the biggest and most influential independent studios in the entertainment world today.  It is the driving force behind no fewer than three of AMC’s biggest series, one of which—The Walking Dead—is one of the biggest series on television today.  Its role in the Starz network has also led to the success of series such as Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons, and Blunt Talk.  It is also at least partially behind some of the biggest independent movies to come along in recent years.  Those movies include the likes of Henry Poole Is Here, Unfinished Song, and Shanghai Calling just to name a few.  For all of the impressive marks on the studio’s resume, it proved earlier this year with its new big screen adaptation of author Michael Bond’s Paddington books that it is not infallible.  While the movie is a fun little flick for the whole family it is hardly one of 2015’s most memorable movies.  That is thanks in large part to its unoriginal script, which can easily be compared to the equally forgettable 1992 canine-centered movie Beethoven.  Both movies’ scripts are so similar that it is impossible say that this work has any real originality.  This is even despite Paddington sticking to its source material.  As troubling as this is to the whole of Paddington, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a total loss just from this one element.  In the story’s defense, actress Nicole Kidman is to be commended for her work as the villainous taxidermist Millicent.  The movie’s makeup and costume departments are both just as much to applaud for their work in making Kidman into Millicent.  It is thanks to their work that she is nearly unrecognizable.  Sadly their work and that of Kidman herself are the only real shining gems of Paddington.  The special effects used to bring Paddington to life are nothing new.  They can easily be compared to the work of those behind Yogi Bear and so many other CG/live action hybrid flicks before it.  And as beautiful as the story’s backdrop is even it can’t save the movie.  That is even when it is set alongside the movie’s only other positives.  That being the case, the sad reality of Paddington is that even as entertaining as it is for the whole family, it is largely one of this year’s most forgettable theatrical releases.

Paddington was one of the most anticipated family movies of 2015 ahead of its release early this year.  Sadly the hype and anticipation over this new big screen release proved to be all for naught.  That is because it proved in the end to be in fact one of the year’s least memorable movies.  The main reason that it proved to be such an unforgettable work is its script.  In watching this movie, there is no denying its blatant similarities to the 1992 family flick Beethoven.  It’s almost as if the movie’s writing team of Paul King and Hamish McColl took Beethoven’s script and tweaked it to meet the needs of this story.  For all intents and purposes, Paddington was an orphan much like Beethoven when he [Paddington] was taken in by the Brown family.  Sure, Paddington wasn’t adopted from a pet store.  But it can be argued in regards to the character development exhibited through the story’s progression that he does in fact become “adopted” more or less.  It’s just a different scenario.  As the story progress, audiences see Paddington pursued by Kidman’s villainous Millicent only to ultimately meet a rather hilarious end just as Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones—The Love Bug, Clear and Present Danger, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes) does in Beethoven.  For the sake of those that have not seen either movie, neither character’s fate will be revealed here.  Getting back on the subject, it can be easily seen in putting the two scripts side-by-side just how similar the pair is to one another.  That being the case, it is difficult to take Paddington with much seriousness or even respect being that this is the case.

If the similarities between the two movie’s scripts aren’t enough to convince audiences of just how unforgettable Paddington proves to be, a comparison of some of the movie’s characters might help convince viewers.  We will start with a comparison of the stories’ father figures.  Charles Grodin’s George Newton character from Beethoven has been almost identically replicated in Paddington in the form of Hugh Bonneville’s Henry Brown.  That replication is right down to his original, gruff reluctance to take in Paddington when the Browns first meet Paddington.  George Newton was much the same way with Beethoven in that movie.  Young Judy Brown (Madeline Harris—The White Queen, Being Human, Man Down) is a near mirror image of Beethoven’s Ryce Newton (Nicholle Tom—The Nanny, Justice League, Beverly Hills, 90210).  Both actresses portrayed the moody daughter figure in their respective roles.  And just as Sarah Rose Karr’s (Kindergarten Cop, Father of the Bride, Beethoven’s 2nd) Emily was Beethoven’s best friend in that movie so is Jonathan Brown’s (Samuel Joslin—The Impossible) relationship with Paddington much that same in this movie.  Taking into consideration the overall lack of originality in regards to both the movie’s script and its characters (and their growth over the course of the movie’s progression), it should be clear as to why it is so difficult to call this movie anything more than perhaps a one-time watch at best.

The issues with Paddington’s script both in regards to its story and its characters and their development do plenty to keep the movie from being anything that families will remember for years to come.  For all of its problems Paddington is not a total loss.  It does have some positives.  One of those few, rare positives is the work of actress Nicole Kidman as the evil taxidermist Millicent.  Millicent takes the character established by Dean Jones in Beethoven and steps up that role even more.  What that means to say is that she really is believable in her delusions.  Yet at the same time there’s a certain comic element about Millicent that Kidman brings out on camera that audiences will love just as much.  The combination of those two elements together makes Kidman the real star of the movie interestingly enough.  It makes a person want to see the movie if only for her performance.  On a related note, those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and attire are worthy of their own credit.  That is the movie’s only other real, noticeable positive.

Nicole Kidman may have played the role of the villain in Anchor Bay’s new CG/live-action hybrid adaptation of Paddington.  But even playing the villain, she was the real shining gem of this otherwise forgettable flick.  That is because the movie’s script—both in regards to its story and characters and their development—is anything but original or even memorable.  Luckily she isn’t the only bright element of this movie.  Those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and costume are also to be commended.  That is because collectively, they made her nearly unrecognizable.  If viewers were to see her on screen in this movie without knowing it was her ahead of time, they would not have known at all that it was her.  That is unless they were to have sat through the movie’s credits or researched the character online via a website such as imdb.com, or other similar sites.  From her hairdo (was that a wig or not?) to her costumes to even minute details such as her overall makeup, those responsible for bringing Millicent to life on screen (at least in terms of her look) are to be highly commended for their work.  Maybe that is why Kidman did so well in her portrayal.  She felt that said individuals had done such an impressive job in their charge that she felt that comfortable in her own acting.  That could well be just this critic’s own take of course.  But it is still something worth considering.  Regardless, it is safe to say that the work of those individuals along with Kidman’s own work are the only real elements of Paddington worth watching.  The movie’s script in every one of its aspects really does nothing to make the movie memorable.  That being the case, it is safe to say that while Paddington is not this year’s worst movie—that dishonor currently sits between Marvel’s new Avengers movie and Universal’s new Despicable Me spinoff Minions—it definitely is hardly one of the year’s best new big screen features.

It’s sad to say that Anchor Bay’s attempt to bring author Michael Bond’s beloved furry friend to life on the big screen.  That’s especially the case because its debut early this year marked the first time ever that Bond’s character had been adapted to the big screen.  Sure there was a TV show some decades ago.  But up until this year, no studio had had the gumption to adapt it for a big screen feature.  For that reason alone, Anchor Bay deserves at least some credit for having the bravery to give it a chance.  One can only hope that considering its weak, unoriginal script juxtaposed by the otherwise impressive work of actress Nicole Kidman and those charged with helping bring Kidman’s character to life, that the movie’s now rumored sequel will fare better.  That is because while this movie is not the year’s worst new theatrical offering, it is definitely not one of the year’s best either.  Here’s to hoping, Paddington.  Here’s to hoping.  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.

Anchor Bay To Release New Psychological Thriller

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the new indie-horror flick In Fear this Spring.  The movie, starring Iain de Caestecker (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures), and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), it is the feature film debut for writer/director Jeremy Lovering.  In Fear has already made waves at international film festivals in nine countries including: Toronto After Dark (Canada), the Rosebud Entertainment Fantasy Festival (Germany), Fancine – Festival de Cine Fantastico (Spain), and the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (South Korea).

In Fear follow’s the plight of a young couple being tracked in their car by an unseen predator.  The couple is trapped in its car as it travels a number of country roads in an attempt to escape its seemingly invisible assailant.  The couple’s car is its only protection.  The story combines the fear of the dark and of the unknown.  It will be available March 11th on Blu-ray, DVD and Video on Demand.  The Blu-ray presentation will be available for SRP of $29.99.  The DVD will be available for SRP of $24.98.

More information on In Fear and other films from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay.  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.

Butter Is One Of 2012’s Best Comedies

Courtesy: The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay’s new movie, Butter, is one of the funniest movies of 2012.  This twisted and quirky dramedy is unlike anything out there both in the mainstream and even indie universe.  It’s twisted, yes.  But it also has just enough heart to touch audiences and make them laugh at the same time.  Add in a nice paced story, and the movie’s ninety-one minute run time passes by before audiences even realize it.

The story behind Butter centers on Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner—ABC’s Alias) and ten-year old Destiny (Yara Shahidi).  The pair end up facing off against one another at the Iowa State Fair butter carving championship as a result of Laura’s Husband Bob (Ty Burrell—ABC’s Modern Family) being asked to step down from the annual local butter carving contest as he had won too many years.  Things only get worse when Laura discovers that Bob had been having an affair with a stripper named Brooke (Olivia Wilde).  When Brooke enters the contest and loses, leaving only Destiny to face Laura, Laura’s determination to win gets way out of hand, leading to the story’s twisted comedy.  Garner is absolutely hilarious in her role as the overzealous wife of the former state butter carving champion.  She is reminiscent of Mandy Moore in Saved.  Her vindictive nature is so over the top that audiences won’t be able to control their laughter.

In contrast to Laura Pickler, Destiny will not only make people laugh but also will tug at audiences’ heart strings.  Her attitude will make people root for her and laugh all at the same time.  Seeing her put up against Laura’s overzealous, holier-than-thou personality makes Destiny that much more of a sympathetic character.  She’s so innocent yet also edgy in her own right.  Although she is an orphan, she hasn’t let being sent from home to home define who she is.  She is still very much a confident, strong-willed young woman, yet she is still the exact opposite of Laura Pickler.  That total contrast of personalities makes both the comic and dramatic moments enjoyable.

Writer Jason A. Micallef did an impressive job balancing the twisted, quirky comedy with the story’s more emotional moments without going too emotional.  That balance helped to make the story’s ninety-one minute run time pass by with so much ease.  The pacing was perfect, too, to add in to that.  Not one moment in this story felt like it dragged.  And that the A-list supporting cast didn’t overpower Garner or Shahidi, either.  It would have been so easy for director Jim Field Smith to let the supporting cast carry the movie, being A-listers.  But paired together, Shahidi and Garner carried the movie effortlessly on their backs.  Fellow veterans Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone, and Rob Corddry obviously understood this, sticking to their supporting roles, and thus making the movie that much more of a joy.

So much went in to making Butter the surprisingly enjoyable story that it is.  From the writing of Jason A. Micallef to the direction of Jim Field Smith to the balanced acting of the top name cast, everything came together to make this story another of the year’s best indie flicks.  It’s one more movie that proves to audiences independent films can be and are in many cases, just as enjoyable as major motion pictures released by the industry’s biggest studios.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Crime Drama Fans Will Love Lawless

Courtesy: The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Shia LaBeouf’s new starring vehicle, Lawless, is a good movie for any fan of the crime drama genre of movies.  This gritty, violent movie follows the story of the infamous Bondurant brothers.  The brothers were known throughout Franklin County, Virginia during the prohibition era.  Knowing this, it’s tough to not make a quick comparison to the likes of The Untouchables.  And while knowing that it’s another period piece that takes place during the Prohibition era, it would also be wrong to compare it to The Untouchables.  It really is its own movie.  It shows a completely different side of life in the Prohibition era.  The story itself is compelling.  And it’s nice to see lead star Shia LaBeouf starring in a less typecast role this time out instead of running around screaming nonstop.  He actually is convincing in the role of Jack Bondurant.  This dramatic turn is a nice change of pace for him.

Shia LaBeouf’s take on Jack Bondurant is one part of Lawless’ success.  The movie’s cinematography and backdrop make for another pair of high points here.  The manner in which the movie was shot does an especially impressive job of capturing the intensity of the gunfights between the Bondurant brothers and their rivals.  And the way Virginia’s countryside was captured helped to make the story’s period setting that much more believable.  Speaking of that setting, everyone behind the cameras should be commended for making the story believable.  From the characters’ attire to the vehicles to minutiae such as the coca-cola signs and markings of the nation’s racial divide on the buildings helps to establish that all important suspension of disbelief.

For all the positives that Lawless offers, there is one blaring downside to this movie.  It’s a problem that so many writers face in trying to make a good story.  That problem is pacing.  As impressive as the story is thanks to all of the work that went into bringing it to life, its pacing is problematic to say the least.  Considering that the movie runs just shy of two hours, it feels as if it took forever for the entire thing to unravel.  It’s almost as if writer Nick Cave wasn’t sure where to take the story as he attempted to adapt it from Matt Bondurant’s original book about his family.  Ironically, it’s Bondurant’s own words in the bonus feature, “The True Story of the Wettest County in The World” that helps to make up for that slow pacing.  And that bonus feature brings up another interesting point about this movie.  That point is that this is one more home release in which the movie’s bonus features help to make the movie, too, rather than break it.

The bonus features in the home release of Lawless are rare.  Typically, a home release’s bonus features can be saved for viewing after the movie.  But this is one of those rare times when they should be viewed first.  To go into the movie without some understanding of its background will undoubtedly change how one views the story presented here.  Among the most important of those features is “The True Story of the Wettest County in The World.”  Matt Bondurant, who is a direct descendant of the original Bondurant brothers helps tell the brothers’ story along with those behind the cameras.  The comparison of the original story to that of the movie actually helps make the story’s pacing more bearable, and thus makes the movie more watchable.  Add in the director’s commentary both on the Blu-ray and DVD feature included in the set, and any crime drama fan has on their hands a movie that’s worth at least one watch.

Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Anchor Bay’s Newest Home Release

Courtesy: Anchor Bay

Anchor Bay’s newest straight to DVD and Blu-ray flick, Maximum Conviction is a good turn off your brain action flick.  It’s very much in the same vein as most of Steven Seagal’s other movies.  Add in retired WWF/WWE Superstar-turned-actor Steve Austin and the movie’s target audiences get more than their share of butt kicking, bullets flying, bloodshed, F-bombs and every other mandatory action movie standard ever crafted.The story behind Maximum Conviction is pretty simple.  Steele (yes that’s really his character’s name) and Manning (played respectively by Seagal and Austin) are a pair of former Special Forces soldiers turned private security contractors.  Because of their experience and expertise, they’ve been enrolled to help decommission a “top secret” military prison in Oregon.  There’s just one problem.  It’s revealed early on that Steele has shut down vital portions of the prison’s security before the prisoners have been removed.  It’s not quite explained why Steele has done this.  But thanks to this move, this is where the action starts.  A pair of high priority female inmates are being kept in the prison.  Being that much of the prison’s security has already been taken down, a group of mercenaries has gotten into the prison and intends to get the inmates.  When one of the prison’s guards goes on break and leaves his station empty and password access field open, it allows the action to really start.

Courtesy: Anchor Bay

The mercenaries do have a motivation toward getting at least one of the women.  But audiences have to sit through well over half of the story to finally find out exactly why.  By the time audiences find out why, the story has a little over half an hour left.  That last half hour is spent primarily with Austin and Seagal trying to rescue the young woman from someone who turns out to be working with the mercenaries.  What’s more, audiences have to wait until the movie’s final minutes to actually find out who is really behind everything.  The problem is that this should have been revealed far earlier in the story.  To the story’s defense though, at least it does keep the action moving.  There’s no lag at any point throughout the movie.  For those audiences at whom this movie is targeted, that’s a good thing.  In general it makes the movie worth at least one watch for any action movie fan.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.



Lake Effects Is Sweet Home Alabama’s Dramatic Twin

Courtesy: Anchor Bay

Lake Effects is a touching, heartwarming movie that is a good watch FOR any family.  Anybody that liked Reese Witherspoon’s 2002 movie, Sweet Home Alabama will likely enjoy this movie, too.  While the two movies’ budgets may have been far different, the stories are very similar.  And as similar as they are, the general plots are different, at least.

Lake Effects is very similar to Sweet Home Alabama in its general story.  What separates the prior from the latter is that unlike Witherspoon’s character of Melanie, Sara (Scottie Thompson) didn’t leave her hometown to run away from her husband.  In the case of Lake Effects, Sara left simply to break out on her own and experience the big city life.  She does just that, becoming a lawyer at a major L.A. law firm.  When her father unexpectedly dies, she is forced to return to the small town in which she grew up, and handle her father’s estate.  At first though, she doesn’t even want to deal with the estate.  It’s her sister, Lily, who convinces her to stay and help deal with the estate.  This is where Lake Effects becomes even more similar to Sweet Home Alabama.  As a result of staying in her old home town, Sara rediscovers her roots and even falls for an old sweetheart.  Again, there is a pretty big similarity there between the two films.

That similarity between the movies is also where another separation occurs.  In the process of regaining her small town roots, Sara discovers a secret about her lake front community that becomes a center of conflict, which becomes her real biggest case, rather than the one she had to leave behind when she went back home for her father’s funeral.  It also leads to the romance subplot that has its own similarities to the one in Sweet Home Alabama.

It would be wrong to look at Lake Effects and call it original.  There is no denying that it ripped off Sweet Home Alabama in a number of ways.  For that matter, Jane Seymour’s attempt at a southern accent is anything but believable.  For all the negatives, there’s no denying that for its intended female audiences, Lake Effect is a good movie for therapy.  It reminds its audiences of the importance of family and of the little things in life.  It serves as a reminder to never forget one’s roots.  For that, it’s a movie that’s worth at least one watch.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.