Visual Effects, Bonus Content Are The Saving Graces For ‘Eternals’ In Its New Home Release

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel’s latest addition to the MCU official made it first home premiere this week in the form of the digital release of Eternals.  The movie is set for physical release Feb. 15.  Running more than two and a half hours, this new addition to the MCU is an interesting presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due to its visual effects, which will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s story, while interesting, is also very problematic.  This will be discussed more a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its digital and physical release works with the movie’s visual effects to make it a little more worth watching.  They will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Eternals imperfect, but still worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ newest movie, Eternals, is an intriguing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once now that it has made its way home through digital release.  The movie’s visual effects are the most prominent reason for its limited appeal.  The visual effects have taken the work that those at Marvel Studios have done throughout the company’s history and stepped it up even more.  Seeing the effects used to make Makkari the shockingly fast speedster that she is a prime example of that improved visual technology.  The CGI that was used to make it look like she was making her way through the fight scenes was minimalist in its approach, and because of that, there is something about it that makes it look so clean and believable.  The work used to make Ikaris the Superman-esque figure that he is, is just as impressive.  Again, there is a minimalist approach used to make the lasers shoot from his eyes that makes those moments so entertaining in their own right.  On another note, the work that was used to create the scenes in which Arishem discusses the Eternals’ role on Earth with Sersi is impressive in its own right.  The contrast of Arishem’s massive size to that of Sersi is so clear, and it makes the comparison so powerful in its own right.  Between all of that and the on-site shooting, the overall visual effects used throughout the movie make Eternals at least a treat for the eyes.  Sadly, where the visuals do so well, the movie’s story detracts from the viewing experience to a point.

The story featured in Eternals is important to note because of its inability to balance everything going on in terms of the themes and the general story.  The story is essentially a nearly three-hour rumination on the meaning of life and our purpose on this planet.  Along the way, there is a completely contrived love story element in the story’s finale, which will also not be given away here.  Along the way, the story goes back and forth in time, between early human history and present day as the Eternals reunite.  The whole back story and team rebuilding takes up the first roughly 90 minutes of the movie.  Yes, there is that much buildup before audiences finally get anything of substance.  That the story does go back and forth, even those who fully immerse themselves in the story will find themselves getting lost along the way.  Keeping this in mind with the realization of the story’s overarching philosophical and theological ruminations, and what audiences get here is a work that does little to keep audiences engaged.  Add in the story’s contrived finale, and the story becomes even more problematic.  As if that is not enough, when the one unnamed Deviant realizes what is really going on, one cannot help but wonder why it wanted to kill the Eternals rather than take the time to find out if maybe they were on the same page.  Maybe that could have led to a more classic story of the protagonists and antagonists teaming up to stop the greater evil.  It is all just so troubling, along with the realization that the story never explains away why Thena has her psychotic moments, that the story really just gives audiences little if anything to appreciate.  Perhaps the reason for all of the problems is that the story’s writers took from so many different eras of Eternals comics for the featured story.  This is part of the discussion in the movie’s “making of” featurette.

The “making of” featurette, as noted, reveals that the writers lifted not only from Jack Kirby’s early Eternals series, but also from other more modern runs, including that of famed Sandman creator, Neil Gaiman.  If the writers had just focused on one story from one era, maybe it would have all worked better.  Only time will tell.  Viewers also learn through the “making of” featurette, the intentional focus on diversity in the cast and how it plays into representation for viewers.  This discussion adds a little appreciation for the movie, but only a little. 

In regards to the deleted scenes, they are crucial in their own way to the movie’s presentation.  That is because in watching through the deleted scenes, audiences will agree that most of the scenes in question do not fit into the final cut.  Only one scene, titled “Nostalgia” really maybe should have stayed in the movie.  The scene finds Sprite and Makkari talking about whether humans deserve to be saved.  There had to have been a place in which it would have fit into the story, especially being so brief.  The other scenes though, clearly did not fit anywhere into the movie.  To that end, it shows the importance of this bonus featured.

The bonus gag reel is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  It does not really add to or detract from the overall presentation in any big way, but it is still entertaining.  That is because it kind of shows that things don’t always go right.  Seeing the cast, attached to wires, dancing around aimlessly as they wait for takes to start will make for plenty of laughs, for instance.  Seeing Angelina Jolie trying and failing to grab an orange with her “spear” is funny because it shows what she had to work with to pretend to grab it.

For those who appreciate production, the feature length audio commentary focuses a lot on the movie’s production, rounding out the bonus content.  When it is considered along with the rest of the movie’s bonus content, the whole becomes that clear in its importance to the movie’s presentation.  Together with the movie’s visual effects, these two elements make up for the problems posed by the story at least to a point and make the movie worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ Eternals is an interesting presentation that will find the majority of its appeal among the most devoted Marvel Comics fans.  More casual audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once, but not really more than that.  Its appeal comes largely from its visual effects.  The visuals effects take the company’s special effects work up another step once more from what it has already offered audiences.  The movie’s story proves somewhat problematic to more casual audiences.  That is because it is really all over the place from beginning to end.  Its movement back and forth in time as it progresses and its philosophical and theological musings throughout make for so many problems.  The less than believable finale puts the final nail in the coffin.  That moment just is not believable, considering everything else that happens in the story.  It just seems so contrived.  The bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release works with its visual effects to give audiences at least a little more reason to take in the movie.  All things considered, this movie proves to be a presentation that is neither the best nor the worst of Marvel’s MCU entries to date.

Eternals is available now on digital.  It is scheduled to release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 15. More information on the home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Websitehttps://marvel.com/movies/eternals

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/officialeternals

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Hiddleston Shines In Magnet Releasing’s New Drama ‘High Rise’

Courtesy: Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Pictures

Courtesy: Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Pictures

Tom Hiddleston has made quite the name for himself in recent years, starring as Loki, the evil brother of Thor is Marvel’s Avengers movies (including the standalone Thor movies).  He has also been one of the key names tossed around to potentially replace Daniel Craig as the next James Bond. That could actually be a good choice in the eyes of this critic.  While Hiddleston has some major movies under his belt and possibly on the horizon they aren’t his only credits.  Earlier this year Hiddleston also starred in independent studio Magnet Releasing’s new art flick High Rise.  This movie is a huge departure for Hiddleston from his previous offerings.  Considering this, his acting in this movie is clearly worth noting.  Even as impressive as Hiddleston’s acting (and that of his cast mates) is in High Rise, the movie is far from perfect.  The movie’s story proves to be a matter that is certain to divide audiences.  That will be discussed shortly.  Its  pacing is just as problematic especially considering the movie’s two-hour run time.  There is no ignoring this issue.  All things considered High Rise is not a movie for everyone, including Tom Hiddleston’s fans.  But it is worth at least one watch for those who are able to sit through the whole thing.

Tom Hiddleston’s new indie art flick High Rise is a huge departure for the Avengers star. That is due in large part to the movie’s story and its leader character, Dr. Laing.  Hiddleston’s work (and that of his cast mates) is certain to unite audiences in agreement of his talents.  Hiddleston completely embraces Dr. Laing’s personality throughout the movie.  As Dr. Laing tries to navigate the intricacies of the building’s clearly defined social structure the stresses of making that effort becomes increasingly clear. And Hiddleston handles the growing stress on Laing with the fullest expertise.  Even as the building’s social structure collapses around him, He keeps Laing completely calm even though it is clear that he is being emotionally and psychologically impacted by it all.  Hiddleston’s cast mate Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, The Raven, Dracula Untold) is just as impressive as Wilder.  He is the perfect contradiction to Laing thanks to his…well…wild personality.  Evans is perfect in the role, really showing clearly how easily the separation of classes and resources can create a negative scenario.  Jeremy Irons is just as impressive as Royal, too.  One could go on pointing out the positives presented by the rest of the cast.  Needless to say, the combined efforts of all involved make the cast’s work one of this movie’s rare bright spots.  As much as Hiddleston’s work (and that of his cast mates) does to make High Rise worth the watch, the movie’s pacing sadly offsets it.

Tom Hiddleston’s work as Dr. Laing in High Rise is undeniably the movie’s most important positive.  The same can be said of his cast mates’ work on camera, too.  As important as it proves to be in making the movie worth at least one watch, it can’t be said that the movie is perfect.  That is due to the movie’s pacing.  The movie clocks in at roughly two hours.  Thanks to the story’s pacing, that run time feels far longer.  Whether screenwriter Amy Jump directly adapted J.G. Ballard’s original novel or not, the movie’s pacing is still extremely problematic.  It seems like the breakdown of the building’s social structure just takes far longer than it should.  Even when it does finally happen, it feels as if the consequences of that breakdown take just as long.  Considering this, some audiences might find themselves fast forwarding through certain points.  That clearly exhibits why the movie’s pacing is so problematic.  Even as problematic as it is, it doesn’t make the movie completely unwatchable.  The movie’s central story and the approach to the story couples with the work of the movie’s cast to, again, make the movie worth at least one watch.

Tom Hiddleston’s new indie drama High Rise is not a perfect movie.  That is evidenced through the movie’s problematic pacing.  As problematic as the movie’s pacing proves to be, it is not enough to make the movie unwatchable.  The work of the movie’s cast makes the movie worth at least one watch.  The same can be said of the movie’s story and the approach taken to the story.  The movie’s story is an over the top artsy commentary on capitalism gone awry and the consequences of  trying to control social classes.  It is definitely an original approach to such commentary.  There is no denying that.  But the fact of the matter is that said approach is so over the top that it will, in itself, likely turn off any number of viewers.  That aside, it is still a story worth seeing at least once.  Viewers should be warned that there is an extreme amount of sex and violence throughout the course of the two-hour movie and a healthy amount of nudity, too.  So it definitely earned its “R” rating and then some.  Even with this in mind, and the fact that the story will divide audiences, it is still serves to help the movie stand on solid ground, if not high ground.

High Rise, Magnet Releasing’s new offering starring superstar Tom Hiddleston, is not a movie for everyone.  It is unquestionably an art film, and a total departure for Hiddleston.  That being the case, it was a huge risk for Hiddleston.  For his sake, it was a risk worth taking.  That is because his work on camera and that of his cast mates saves the movie even with its problematic pacing and divisive story.  It might not go on to become one of Hiddleston’s most well-known works.  But it is worth at least one watch.  It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Magnet Releasing is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.magnetreleasing.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/magnetreleasing

 

 

 

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Iron Man Season 2.5 Offers Even More Action For Fans

Courtesy: Gaiam/Vivendi/Marvel

Iron Man is one of the biggest stars of the comic book world right now thanks to his two most recent solo movies and the brand new Avengers ensemble movie from Marvel.  He’s just as big on the small screen as he is on the small screen, too, thanks to Marvel’s “Iron Man:  Armored Adventures.”  This series, which currently airs on Nicktoons, is a big hit with teen audiences.  That’s because the series focuses on a teen-aged Tony Stark.  He and his fellow young co-stars have to face off against an equally aged Justin Hammer among so many other foes.  Next week, audiences and fans of this CG-based series will be able to watch the second half of the show’s second season any time they want as “Iron Man:  Armored Adventures Season Two Part Two” will be available in stores and online.

“Iron Man:  Armored Adventures Season Two Part Two” finishes off the second season of this hit teen-centric super powered show.  This time out, Tony meets what is almost his match in “Titanium vs. Iron.”  Also, the young Tony meets fellow future Avengers Hawkeye and Black Widow in “The Hawk and The Spider.”  And in one of the season’s most interesting episodes, Tony learns a valuable lesson about having to balance his responsibilities as Iron Man with those of Tony Stark, student, in “All The Best People Are Mad.”  These are just half of the six new episodes included in the new single disc compilation that the show’s fans will enjoy.

Season Two Part Two opens with Tony Stark’s foe, Justin Hammer getting ready to reveal his new armor suit to the military thanks to designs that he stole from Tony.  When Hammer opens the capsule that would have held the suit, he and the others are surprised to see nothing there, setting off Justin.  It’s revealed that the suit has disappeared (along with many of the stolen designs) thanks to Tony.  Just one problem, Tony is eventually discovered as he is trying to delete the design for Hammer’s Titanium Man suit.  That suit comes in to play later when Tony has to face it, not knowing it’s really Hammer in the suit.  Tony and War machine are nearly defeated by Titanium Man.  But thanks to a little help from Pepper, another suit is sent, allowing Tony to defeat Titanium Man.  What happens along the way in this episode is left for viewers to find out for themselves.

Hammer’s not the only problem that Tony has to face in the second half of Season Two.  Tony meets two of his future fellow Avengers in “The Hawk and The Spider.”  When Tony is trying to get his hands on a UI chip that Obadiah Stain has, it’s abruptly stolen from him by Hawkeye, with the help of Black Widow.  Even after they get the chip from Tony, things don’t go too well for them, either.  Hammer comes after them in his Titanium Man suit, and steals the chip from them, forcing Tony, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to team up in order to defeat Hammer.  The end result leaves the door wide open for another encounter later on with both characters.  But to find out what that result is, again, audiences will have to see for themselves.

Fans who have watched Iron Man:  Armored Adventures know that as a teenager, Tony Stark has to face the trials and tribulations not only of facing evil villains, but also of high school.  And in “All The Best People Are Mad”, Tony’s late nights catch up with him when an evil teenage genius (who just happens to be a former classmate of Tony) captures him and his friends in what can only be described as something of an homage to the Saw movie franchise.  Tony is forced to answer a series of questions related to his classes in order to save his friends.  On another angle, this is a good episode in that it also promotes the importance of education in a young person’s life.  Sure it may not be a life or death situation.  But education is still important in every person’s life.  This is just a creative way to sort of illustrate that.  All involved with this episode’s creation are to be commended for including that note without being preachy about it.

Tony faces a lot of challenges as Iron Man, as evidenced here.  Of course, there are even more adventures for audiences to check out for themselves.  This single disc collection of episodes will be available next Tuesday, September 25th

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New PBS DVD Shows The Importance Of Knowing One’s History

Courtesy: PBS/Inkwell Films/Kundhart McGee Productions/Ark Media/WNET Thirteen

America is a melting pot.  Its history is made up of the stories from the immigrants who settled here from its earliest days.  Sadly, many of those stories have been lost because we as a nation have forgotten our roots.  We have forgotten from where we came.  Now thanks to PBS, a new special has been released that will hopefully re-ignite the fire among Americans to learn their family roots. 

“Finding Your Roots”, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a ten part special spread across three discs.  Gates interviews many of this great nation’s most famous names, discussing their family roots with them.  The famous names come from the world of music, acting, politics, and more.  One of Gates’ most interesting interviews comes in the segment featuring musicians and friends Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis.  Another was his interview with actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  And one of the most interesting cross sections shown in this ten-part special comes in his interviews with Doctor Sanjay Gupta, comedian Margaret Cho, and famed personality Martha Stewart.  They, along with the other unmentioned interviews, make this special one of PBS’ best to date.

“Finding Your Roots” starts with gates interviewing musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis.  Starting the mini-series with this pair of interviews is more than just an interview with a pair of famous musicians.  What gates and those behind the camera intended to do with this segment was to try and bridge the racial gaps of our nation.  The connection between Connick and Marsalis shows that while people may have different color skin, that’s all that really separates us.  Connick admits in his interview that he wanted to be black.  He says that he dressed and acted the part.  What’s really interesting about this is the discovery that one of his ancestors, James Connick, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  On the good side, it should be noted that James Connick  did not fight for slavery.  He fought solely for economic reasons.  He wasn’t even a slave owner.  He was just trying to support his family.  Apparently, Harry didn’t know this.  But it raises what becomes a very interesting trend that viewers will see as the special moves to other notables.

Just as Harry Connick, Jr.’s roots proved to be rather interesting, so did those of Branford Marsalis.  Interviews with Branford’s famed father Ellis Marsalis, reveals that Branford may have actually gotten his musical abilities not so much from his father, but from his mother.  Or rather, he got his talent from her side of the family.  What’s more, it’s also revealed that one of his ancestors was actually the result of a relationship between a white man and black woman.  This brings this very first pair of interviews full circle.  Gates tells audiences that despite the popular belief, far fewer African American males were born of Native American blood than believed.  Many more will find that they have deeper African American and European roots than Native American.  What it seems that Gates is getting at in this first segment is that while the color of our skin is different, blacks and whites may be far more closely related than we think.  We need only take the time to look back and find our roots.

Gates’ interviews with Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis are both entertaining and very insightful.  They’re just one part of what makes “Finding Your Roots” so impressive.  Another interesting pair of figures interviewed for the special is Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  It’s revealed that both are descended from Jewish ancestry.  What’s more, Gyllenhaal’s Jewish ancestry is one hundred percent pure Jewish.  She admits in her interview some interesting facts that reveal ancestry and genetics play directly hand in hand.  Again, viewers will see this pop up a lot throughout all ten parts of the mini-series.  What’s really interesting to learn about Maggie Gyllenhaal is that apparently she’s descended from nobility.  It’s revealed through investigations and Gates’ interview with her, that Maggie Gyllenhaal is actually descended from King Henry I.  And somewhere along the line, she’s also linked to both George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, as well as Shirley Temple, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  She showed that she had no clue about any of these links, and just how amazed she was by all of it.

Robert Downey, Jr., on the other hand, had much different roots.  He and Gyllenhaal both are children of film makers.  And like Gyllenhaal, he too has Jewish roots.  It’s also revealed that he has Swiss roots.  Unlike Gyllenhaal’s roots, though, he can’t claim connection to any real famous historical figures.  Ironically enough, he himself has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood throughout his career.

Musicians and actors were only a tiny portion of the whole that makes up “Finding Your Roots.”  Gates also interviewed Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho and Martha Stewart.  This feature offers perhaps some of the most interesting material in the series.  These segments reveal to both the celebrities in question and to viewers some rather unexpected and surprising information.  One of the most interesting pieces of information is that Martha Stewart has links back to the Mongols.  She laughs in discovering this as she admitted to Gates that her dog is actually named Genghis Khan.  What’s more, many of her ancestors also had professions that involved much of what she does today.  As noted in previous segments, it seems yet again that there is at least some link between one’s ancestry and one’s own personal genetic makeup.  Maggie Gyllenhaal admitted her pleasant surprise at her link to her Jewish ancestry due to her own recent personal choices before her interview.  Branford Marsalis’ parents told Gates that he got his musical abilities from his mother’s side of the family.  That link is explained in the connection to specific well known acts from the rich history of music. 

The roots discovered in conversations with Martha Stewart are the revelations of Margaret Cho’s family.  Her interview reveals that one of her distant ancestors was a very well respected member of his community.  What’s most interesting in her discussions is that members of her family are not actually Korean.  They came from other regions of Asia.  She shows her surprise, laughing about it.  She tells Gates that this was a surprising revelation, being that her parents always claimed such national pride for Korea.  This discovery is made through genetic testing.

Sanjay Gupta’s interview was one of the most moving of the entire mini-series.  Gupta shows just how amazed he is by all of the information discovered through the research done for his interviewed.  At one point, he even begins to tear up.  That single moment is perhaps the defining moment of this entire special.  The emotion that he shows is the entire point of the presentation.  So few Americans are aware of their families’ histories.  It doesn’t matter if someone is related down the line to this famous person or that, or if they are simply related to some random person.  It’s that discovery of one’s past is the most important.  It can make all the difference in a person’s life.  It adds that much more to the nation’s already rich history as a whole.

Gates’ interviews with members of the entertainment community reveal some very interesting notes about them.  It also reminds viewers that they might be just as interested if they take the time to do some research into their own family roots.  There’s no telling what viewers might find if they take that time.  “Finding Your Roots” is proof of that.  “Finding Your Roots” is available on DVD now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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