‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Does Not Give The ‘Ghostbusters’ Franchise Any New Life

Courtesy: Sony Pictures

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Everybody knows that old adage, and for director Jason Reitman that could not be farther from the truth in watching Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  The thing is that in the case of this movie, which was helmed by Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman – who directed the original Ghostbusters movie back in 1984 – the adage does not apply in a good way.  That is because there is little if anything to like about this movie.  Its story is its most problematic concern and will be discussed shortly.  The general writing and acting is problematic in its own way to the movie’s presentation and will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content (or rather the lack thereof) rounds out the movie’s most prominent concerns.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife hopefully the last big screen Ghostbusters iteration for a very long time.

When Columbia Pictures released its take on the Ghostbusters franchise, audiences did indeed answer the call, but not necessarily in the way in which the studio heads had hoped.  While some audiences appreciated the movie, the overwhelming majority of audiences and critics panned the movie, and justifiably so.  Interestingly enough, the movie was helmed by Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters movie in 1984.  It (the 2016 reboot) received a score of 74% from Rotten Tomatoes (along with a 49% audience score), so one would have thought that after the movie’s general failure, studios in general would have had second thoughts about taking on the franchise yet again.  Apparently staff at Sony Pictures (and Reitman’s son Jason) did not worry too much about the movie’s response when they decided to make Ghostbusters: Afterlife happen. Sadly, this latest entry in the Ghostbusters franchise is disappointing in its own right.  That is due in large part to the story.  The story featured in this movie is itself just a reboot of the 1984 movie.  Gozer the Gozerian is back to try and take over the world again.  This after the original Ghostbusters team destroyed Gozer almost 40 years ago atop a skyscraper in New York City.  The difference is that this time, it’s not the original Ghostbusters crew taking on Gozer (though ¾ of the original team does appear in the movie’s end to help deal with the evil Sumerian God – not to give away too much).  Rather it is a new, much younger team of Ghostbusters consisting of Egon’s grandson and grand-daughter and their friends.  Trevor (Finn Wolfhard – It, Pinocchio, Stranger Things) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace – I, Tonya, Troop Zero, The Handmaid’s Tale) are Egon’s grandchildren.  They are joined by Phoebe’s friend “Podcast” (newcomer Logan Kim) and Trevor’s love interest, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor – Freaky, Selah and the Spades, Irreplaceable You) as they take on Gozer and its minions.  The very knowledge that the original Ghostbusters team defeated Gozer so many decades ago makes suspension of disbelief impossible right from this point.  This is only the tip of the iceberg, too.

It is clear in watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife that Reitman and the rest of the movie’s creative heads were doing two things here.  The first thing they were doing was just a bunch of fan service.  From the giant stack of books in Egon’s house in Summerville, to the footage from the original movie that Phoebe watches on her laptop (which is clearly blatant product placement for YouTube) to the use of another giant structure from which Gozer and its forces originate, and more, there is so much fan service happening throughout this story.  As if that is not bad enough, the creative heads’ use of young actors was clearly an attempt to satiate those (like this critic) who wanted an Extreme Ghostbusters style movie.  Instead, they gave said audiences little more than a teeny bopper flick meant to make older audiences feel nostalgic and younger, pre-teen and teen audiences interested because they thought there was some need to update the movie.  Reitman explains in the lone bonus feature in the movie’s home release of how the idea for this story came about, but it does not make the story any more bearable.  Only it makes things worse.  This will be discussed later.  Simply put, this so-called sequel really could have been so much better if those in charge had really taken more time and thought about how it could have succeeded, but sadly it did not reach that level.  Instead it ended up just being a shallow re-hashing of the original, much like so many sequels out there from so many franchises.  It is just one of the problems that mars the movie’s presentation, too.  The collective writing and acting featured throughout the movie brings out its own concerns.

The writing starts out strongly by setting the stage, explaining that Egon had lived in the house and was obviously there facing off against some kind of evil being, but failed to do so, to a point.  The thing is that from there, the story is quick to go from that to present day, introducing his family and front loading the story with so much contrivance along the way.  Gary’s (Paul Rudd – Ant Man, Ant Man and the Wasp, Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) flirting with Callie (Carrie Coon – Avengers: Infinity War, Gone Girl, The Post) from early on makes it honestly painfully clear that they would take the place of Dana (Sigourney Weaver – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Alien) and Louis (Rick Moranis – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids) as the Gatekeeper and Keymaster.  What’s more, their interactions just feel so cheesy and forced in every scene.  Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess, but regardless, it is painful to watch. 

On the same note, Gary’s lack of concern for his students, simply popping in copies of horror movies for the students to watch while he examines earthquake maps in his office simply is not believable.  Even less believable is how Phoebe just casually strolls into Gary’s office and talks about it all as the other students sit watching the movies.  The pair’s dry, so-called witty banter falls flat and not only there, but throughout the movie.  Staying on that note, that none of the students take any interest when she and Podcast bring in an old ghost trap leaves one scratching one’s head just as much.  Add in the moment in which Lucky’s dad, who happens to be the town’s police chief (played by Bokime Woodbine – Spiderman: Homecoming, Halo, Fargo) asks Phoebe, ‘Who ya gonna call?” when she declares at the jail (again, not to give away too much) that she gets a phone call is just as cheesy in its delivery and timing.  It felt like one more piece of the creative heads’ fan service for those who grew up with the original 1984 Ghostbusters.  Audiences cannot help but feel some sympathy for Woodbine, being that it fell on his shoulders, considering how little screen time he got. 

From there, Ray’s (Dan Akroyd – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) explanation of how Egon ended up in Oklahoma (which basically tells the story) is so misplaced and contrived in itself.  Had this explanation been somehow incorporated more into the movie early on instead of just going from the brief intro to the present might have helped the movie’s presentation more.  The story itself of how Egon ended up there is contrived, though.  ‘Oh, Egon went crazy ,talked about the end of the world, and that Evo Shandor built another temple in a random spot in America’s heartland’ (roughly translated from Ray’s story) just feels so outlandish.  That is especially the case considering again that Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter defeated Gozer in the original movie, so how did Gozer manage to come back?  That issue is never explained away as part of the story, either, leaving that massive plot hole wide open.  Between everything noted here and so much more, the issues with the story’s writing and the cast’s work interpreting the scripts, there is little to nothing to appreciate from those elements.  When their problems are coupled with the issues raised by the movie’s very story, the movie becomes that much less entertaining and engaging.  It still is not the last of the movie’s concerns.  The bonus content (or rather lack thereof) featured in the movie’s home release rounds out its most important items.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s home release features one bonus feature.  The feature is the standard “making of” featurette.  It presents interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, beginning with Jason Reitman discussing how the idea for the movie’s story came about.  His revelation makes clear that he never had any intent to create a story in the vein of Extreme Ghostbusters, but rather, it was always going to involve younger cast members.  To that end, at least it makes it seem like it was not just all about the dollar signs for Reitman.  However, all of the blatant product placement (YouTube, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Walmart, etc.) throughout the movie, one might think otherwise.  At the same time though, Reitman also admits that he wanted to write a story that was a “love letter” to the original movie.  In other words, he openly paid fan service through this story while also making it more youth oriented, even though the original movie was geared toward older audiences and had a certain edge.  Neither of those applied here, and that hurt the movie greatly.  So again, that led to the movie being just a rehashing of the original Ghostbusters but just more family friendly so to speak.  Hearing the comments from Reitman and company as they talk about the movie in the movie’s lone bonus feature does so much to detract from the movie’s engagement and entertainment in its own way.  When the revelations in the “making of” featurette are considered along with the shortcomings in the story and its collective writing and acting, the whole makes this latest Ghostbusters installment its own disappointing presentation.  One can only hope that seeing all of the movie’s problems, it will be a long time before the franchise will see another installment, even though the grand finale here left the door open for another movie.

Sony Pictures’ latest Ghostbusters iteration, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a disappointing new entry in the storied franchise.  It offers little if anything to like for fans of the property who have clear heads.  The story featured within is one part fan service and one part teeny bopper flick loaded with unnecessary romance subplots.  The mix makes me its own share of problems.  The writing and acting makes for its own problems, as little if any of it is believable.  The lone bonus feature that comes with the movie’s home release makes for its own share of problems, making the movie even less engaging and entertaining than it was without that item.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife a work that shows the Ghostbusters franchise needs to remain buried for the foreseeable future unless a truly good story is crafted for the next movie.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available now on digital and physical platforms.  More information on the movie is available along with all of the latest Ghostbusters news at:

Website: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/ghostbustersafterlife

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ghostbusters

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Universal Pictures’ Thompson “Bio” Is One Of Murray’s Finest Comedic Performances

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Early this past June, Shout! Factory released to audiences what can only be described as one of the single most outrageous movies that the home entertainment company has ever put out when it made available Where The Buffalo Roam. This semi-biopic focuses on the career of the infamous journalist Hunter S. Thompson. It follows Thompson (played here by comic legend Bill Murray) over the course of the 1960s and 70s, culminating with Thompson following Richard Nixon’s campaign for the presidency. That story is among the movie’s most important elements. Murray’s portrayal of Thompson is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as the story itself. The bonus interview with Thompson’s friend, screenwriter John Kaye, rounds out the movie’s most important elements. Each of the elements noted here is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make Where The Buffalo Roam one of the most intriguing cinematic offerings that Shout! Factory has ever released.

Shout! Factory’s release this past June of Universal Pictures’ Where The Buffalo Roam is one of the most significant of the home entertainment company’s releases so far this year. That is because it marked the first time that this take on Thompson’s life and career had been released up to that point. Given, it is not the first Thompson “bio” to be released — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) presents another Thompson story — but is still quite the interesting story. the story opens with Thompson writing about his adventures with then lawyer Oscar Acosta during the 1960s and 70s. The pair’s drug and alcohol-fueled adventures play out like a Cheech & Chong movie, only more out there. From getting a hotel staff involved in his own out there football game as he tries to cover the Super Bowl to basically kidnapping a young hitchhiker, leaving the young man think he’s going to be killed, to addressing a group of college students about journalism as he drinks and smokes to so much more, the adventures featured in this story are so uncomfortable and unsettling that one can’t help but watch to see just how outrageous they can become. It is one of those stories that is so rare that it absolutely must be seen to be understood and appreciated. Keeping that in mind, it proves to be a story that is unforgettable and will be talked about for years to come, proving without a doubt its importance to this movie. It is of course, only one of the movie’s most important elements. Bill Murray’s take on Thompson is just as important to discuss in examining this movie as the movie’s story.

Murray’s take on Thompson is just as outrageous to experience as the story at the center of this movie. The lack of balance in Thompson’s personality throughout the movie is at times just as unnerving as the movie’s story, but that is meant in a positive manner. Viewers never know from one moment to the next which side of Thompson is going to come out, right up to the story’s final act. Viewers are left asking at the end if Thompson had finally gotten himself in order as he joins the Nixon campaign as a reporter or was it just one more part of a bigger story. His instability as he checks into his hotel ahead of the Super Bowl and as he trades a set of media passes for a man’s hat is just as entertaining in those moments as so many others. Murray really makes Thompson such an intriguing figure from one moment to the next. On a side note, it is interesting to note that Where The Buffalo Roam made its theatrical debut only months ahead of Caddyshack, another Bill Murray hit flick. Comparing Murray’s character in each movie, one can’t help but notice the similarities in the two men. It leaves one wondering if they played into one another at least to some point. Regardless, Murray’s portrayal of Thompson in Where The Buffalo Roam is still so wildly entertaining that it alone makes the movie worth the watch. Of course it is just one more reason for audiences to take in the movie. The bonus commentary from Thompson’s friend — and the movie’s writer — John Kaye adds its own interest to the movie.

Over the course of his interview, Kaye discusses his friendship with Thompson, noting its up-and-down nature. He notes how apparently there was some trepidation from certain parties about even releasing this movie. It is obvious at some points that Kaye has some upset feelings toward Thompson while at others there is a certain amount of fondness and respect for him. He even begins to tear up in the end of his interview as he discusses Thompson’s suicide in 2005, showing even more that despite the ups and downs of his relationship with Thompson, there was obviously some love for Thompson even as outrageous as he might have been in his life. Between that and so much more discussed during his roughly 15 – 20 minute interview, Kaye offers plenty of insight into who Hunter S. Thompson was and what makes this movie about him stand out.
Keeping in mind, the value of Kaye’s interview to the whole of Where The Buffalo Roam, Murray’s on-screen work and the story at the movie’s center, the whole of those elements gives audiences plenty to appreciate about Where The Buffalo Roam, making it a must see at least one time. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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‘Car Wash’ BD Re-Issue Is A Must See For Any Classic Movie Fan

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The summer movie season is officially in swing once again, but sadly, Hollywood’s “Big Six” studios haven’t really turned out much about which audiences can be excited.  That leaves one wondering what alternatives are available.  One answer comes in the form of Shout! Factory’s recent re-issue of the classic dramedy Car Wash.  Released June 20 on Blu-ray, this 1976 flick is the polar opposite of everything in theaters today and almost everything before with few exceptions.  That is due in part to the movie’s story, one of its key elements to examine.  It will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s soundtrack is just as important to note believe it or not.  It will be discussed later.  The soundtrack is discussed at more length in the movie’s bonus material, which in itself is important to note.  Each element noted here is important in its own right to the whole of Car Wash’s presentation in its recent re-issue.  All things considered, Shout! Factory’s recent re-issue of Car Wash is a solid alternative to Hollywood’s annual lack of summer entertainment.

Shout! Factory’s recent re-issue of Universal Pictures’ classic dramedy Car Wash is an enjoyable alternative to Hollywood’s annual lack of entertaining summer fare.  That is due in part to the story at the center of the movie.  The story is relatively simple.  It follows a group of car wash employees over the course of a single day on the job. It sounds simple, and it is.  But it’s that simplicity that makes the story so interesting even with all of the different story lines.  Far too often in today’s movies, multiple story lines are the norm, and far too often, those multiple story lines mess up said movies because said movies’ writers don’t know how to balance the stories.  That wasn’t the case here.  Script writer Joel Schumacher (yes, the same one responsible for those awful Batman movies) actually did an applause worthy job in balancing each character’s story within the bigger picture of the story’s script.  That ability to balance the stories ensures audiences engagement from beginning to end.

On another level, the story’s aesthetic elements add even more to its surprising enjoyment.  It balances just as well its dramatic elements and its more comedic moments, making the story even more entertaining.  Viewers will laugh as one of the guys stuffs his friend’s sandwich with hot peppers and as George Carlin’s taxi driver looks for a woman who tried to get a free ride in his cab, trying to get his money.  What’s interesting about his performance is that one can’t help but wonder if Bill Murray might have taken Carlin’s performance as inspiration for his performance in Caddyshack.  Putting the pair’s performances side by side, one can’t ignore the similarity in the characters’ portrayals.  Getting back on track, audiences will be just as entertained in the story’s more moving moments such as when T.C. tries to woo a certain young lady and when Duane tries to rob the car wash (not to give away too much).  Between these moments and so many more, the balance of the story’s humorous and heartfelt elements makes the story even more entertaining.  Doing a comparison to certain other movies, one can’t help but compare that balance to that presented in Friday.  Stylistically, the two stories are very similar in that aspect.  Keeping that in mind, it shows potentially the long reach that this story has had.  Considering that and the balance in the story’s multiple lines, it becomes clear why Car Wash’s story is central to its presentation in more ways than one.  It is of course just one of the movie’s important elements.  Its soundtrack is an important element to note, too.

The story at the center of Car Wash is central to its presentation not just because it is the story, but because of the balance in its multiple arcs and aesthetic elements.  That balance ensures audiences’ engagement throughout the course of the classic dramedy.  Even with this in mind, it is not the movie’s only important element.  The movie’s soundtrack is just as important to note.  That’s because it isn’t just a random soundtrack.  In fact, as is discussed in the bonus material, it is actually its own part of the movie.  As is noted, the movie is actually built around its soundtrack.  The songs are deliberately placed alongside each scene in order to heighten each scene’s appropriate emotion.  Such a practice is something rare nowadays in most films.  It shows, too, with so many soundtracks just overflowing with Top 40 and rock songs.  Given, the songs included in this movie are major radio hits to this day.  But they were strategically placed, and quite well at that.  Even more interesting to note is that the movie’s title song was released before the movie even hit theaters.  That, too is noted in the movie’s bonus material, which will be discussed shortly.  Considering the deliberate, well thought out placement of the movie’s soundtrack, it goes a long way toward adding to the movie’s entertainment especially taking into account the knowledge of that intentional placement.  Keeping this in mind, it becomes fully clear why the soundtrack around which Car Wash’s story is built is just as important as the movie’s story.  It is not the last of the movie’s important elements either.  Those previously noted bonus materials round out the movie’s most important elements in its recent re-issue.

The bonus material included in Car Wash’s recent Blu-ray re-issue via Shout! Factory are important to the movie’s presentation because they, surprisingly, create the movie’s backbone.  It is through Producer Gary Stromberg’s discussions that audiences learn about the movie’s story being created around its soundtrack rather than the other way around.  His discussion also reveals the tidbit about the movie’s title song being released to radio in order to build excitement about the movie.  Audiences will be surprised to learn just how much excitement that approach built.  For those unfamiliar with the song, the discussion on the song along provides an interesting history behind the composition.  As if that isn’t enough, Stromberg reveals he was still a struggling college student when the idea for Car Wash came about.  Audiences will be surprised to learn this piece of history, considering how popular the movie has gone on to become in the now almost 41 years since it debuted—on Oct. 22, 1976.  Stromberg’s discussions on the Soul train dancers being hired to dance at the movie’s premiere, how the story was scripted, and more are just as enlightening as his other discussions, too.  Considering all of this, Stromberg’s overall discussions form a solid foundation for Car Wash in its recent re-issue.  Looking back in hindsight, it is recommended that audiences watch this discussion before taking in the movie because of the groundwork that it lays.

Stromberg’s thoughts are not the only important input presented through the movie’s bonus material in its recent re-issue. Schumacher’s own commentary throughout the movie offers its own interest.  That will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  His commentary, when coupled with that of Stromberg, creates a solid foundation for Car Wash proving finally just how important the movie’s bonus material is to its whole.  Keeping this in mind, the movie’s bonus material proves to be just as important to its presentation as its soundtrack and story in making it entertaining in its recent re-issue. Keeping all of this in mind, the movie in whole proves to be, again, a solid alternative to anything that Hollywood’s current lack of worthwhile entertainment.

Shout! Factory’s recent Car Wash re-issue is a classic that was well-deserving of being unearthed.  In a time when Hollywood’s Big Six are struggling to turn out anything truly meaningful or even memorable, its balance of heart and humor couples with its equally well-balanced story lines to make it a movie that will resonate with any true classic movie buff and that shows how far Hollywood has fallen from its former glory.  With that in mind, it is – once again – a movie that will entertain any audience looking for an alternative to Hollywood’s current fare.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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Shout! Factory Starts Releasing Maude’s Single Season Sets Next Month

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Earlier this year, Shout! Factory released CBS’ classic sitcom Maude in its entirety on DVD. Next month the leading name in home entertainment will follow-up the show’s complete series collection with the release of Maude: The Complete Second Season.

Shout! Factory will release Maude: The Complete Second Season in stores and online on Tuesday, August 11th. It will be released only on DVD and will retail for $24.97. Season Two opens with a powerful two-part episode that addresses the issue of alcoholism when Walter (played here by Bill Murray—Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, What About Bob) is accused of having a drinking problem. The problem is raised when it is revealed that Walter had been making crank calls to Maude’s mother. Upon being confronted by Maude and Carol about his problem he proceeds to get so drunk that he ruins Phillip’s birthday cake and gets into an altercation with Maude that becomes physical. The fallout from the events of the episode’s first half will move every viewer.

In another of Season Two’s key moments, Maude’s housekeeper Florida leaves the show. “Florida’s Goodbye” sees actress Esther Rolle leave the show as she would go on to star in the equally beloved sitcom Good Times shortly after her departure. It is in this episode that Florida’s husband Henry receives a job promotion leading Florida to make the decision to stay at home and be a housewife. In her denial over Florida’s departure, Maude turns down every applicant for Florida’s replacement, hoping beyond hope that Florida would return.

Audiences also see in this season Maude go through a big change of her own as she decides to get a facelift in the two-part episode “Maude’s Facelift.” This episode sees Maude decide to get a facelift after Vivian gets one. Maude’s jealousy toward Vivian for the facelift leads her to make the decision to get one herself. Of course, the end result leads to problems with Walter in the long term.

The episodes noted here are just a few examples of what audiences have to look forward to from the second season of Maude. Maude: The Complete Second Season will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, August 11th. It will retail for MSRP of $24.97. However, it can be pre-ordered online now for a discounted price of $19.97 via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/maude-season-two. Audiences can also check out Season Two’s complete episode list at the noted website. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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Hyde Park On Hudson One Of The Worst Historical Works In Years

Courtesy: Universal Studios/Focus Features

Courtesy: Universal Studios/Focus Features

Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the least enjoyable movies of 2012 and just as uninteresting now that is has been released to DVD and Blu-ray.  The problem with this attempt at a semi-biopic is the lack of balance between the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s relationship with his mistress Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley and that of the visit by King George and his wife, Queen Elizabeth.  The script attempts to tie the two storylines together.  But in that effort, writer Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell have instead crafted a story that ends up plodding along at a near snail’s pace all while not really amounting to anything by the time it ends.  The story is narrated by what is supposed to be Margaret Suckley, explaining her relationship.  Herein lies another issue with the story.  Because it is told from the vantage point of “the other woman”, there’s no way to ignore the comparison to the Madonna helmed W./E.  Just as the latter was an art film, this movie comes across the same way, eventually amounting to nothing.

The initial comparison to W./E. is only one problem with Hyde Park on Hudson.  Anyone that has any knowledge of presidential history or even the slightest interest in said history know that Roosevelt was just one of so many political figures that has been anything but faithful in their marriage.  Keeping this in mind, it makes the storyline of FDR’s relationship with his mistress–and only certain people knowing about it—all the less interesting.  Had the story been more focused and aimed perhaps at the political relationship between the British royals and the President, it might have actually had more substance about it.  But sadly, Nelson opts instead for the more dramatized side of things, going more for the intended soap opera that surrounded FDR and his mistress, again causing the story’s pacing to drag along slowly, and thus leave audiences feel robbed of their time.

For all of the negatives surrounding Hyde Park on Hudson, it does have at least one positive.  That positive would be its backdrops and associated cinematography.  The beautiful countryside backdrops of the story are beautiful.  And thanks to the expert work of the movie’s film crew, those backdrops became the real stars of the movie; even more so than lead star Bill Murray who did quite the job of portraying the late President.  Murray’s portrayal leaves one wondering if he did so well, then how much better could this script have been had Nelson and Michell come to terms on which story was more important.  But because of Hollywood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and reboots, one can only hope that should the story of Roosevelt’s “secret” ever be retold, it will star Murray again, but actually have more worth seeing.

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Forget The Franchises, Go See Moonrise Kingdom

Courtesy: American Empirical Pictures/Indian Paintbrush/Focus Features

Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most peculiar yet deepest and most heartfelt movies of 2012.  It is a niche film, meaning it isn’t for everyone.  But it is still a story worth seeing.  Moonrise Kingdom is for all essential purposes, a coming of age story.  The short and simple is that Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are surrounded by dysfunction, and through simple correspondence, they run off together.  In the process, they learn about themselves and each other.

The coming of age story has been done and then some throughout Hollywood’s history.  But this story has completely set itself apart from all the other movies in that sub-genre.  Somehow, it managed to combine themes of love and overcoming adversity in a way that doesn’t bog down the story.  Both Suzy and Sam want love.  One has parents who don’t give her the love that she needs. The other is an orphan, so all he needs is love.  Top it all off by presenting each in a setting that’s rife with dysfunction, and it makes both Suzy and Sam very sympathetic characters.  That being the case, it makes the pair’s idealistic puppy love forgiveable.  For that matter, it actually makes the pair’s “relationship” more believeable and heartwarming, albeit a little bit seemingly dysfunctional in itself.

The story behind Moonrise Kingdom is deep and heartfelt in the long run.  It’s only one part of what makes this one of the year’s most underrated movies.  The cinematography really added to the film’s enjoyment.  There was something about the shooting style in this movie that made it stand out among the masses.  One example of that shooting style comes as Sam and Suzy are attempting to cross a stream.  The shot for this scene is somewhat grainy and imperfect.  Yet that imperfection makes it a wonderful shot.  It helps the surrounding scenery really stand out.  It’s just one of so many that any student of the film art will appreciate throughout the story.

Acting and cinematography are big parts of what make a movie great.  But another part of what makes a movie great is a soundtrack.  Far too often, movies just toss in a bunch of songs here and there that are in reality little more than background noise.  But in the case of Moonrise Kingdom, the story’s soundtrack is a whole part of the movie in itself.  In listening to the soundtrack alone, one doesn’t really catch the impact that the music has on the movie.  But in watching the movie with the soundtrack, it adds so much emotion from one scene to the next.  That even includes the addition of some classic Hank Williams, Sr. songs.  Composer Benjamin Britten’s “Heroic Weather-Conditions Of the Universe” suite is beautiful in itself.  And added to the story, it makes the scenes in which it is used that much more powerful. 

So much work went into making Moonrise Kingdom.  And it shows from every angle.  The story of what brought Sam and Suzy together makes their relationship at least somewhat understandable.  That story itself has so many layers.  Somehow, they manage to interweave without getting to be too much for the story.  The movie’s scenery, cinematography and soundtrack add layers all their own to what is already an interesting story.  Do they combine to make Moonrise Kingdom one of 2012’s best?  That’s debatable.  However, one thing can be said of Moonrise Kingdom.  And that is that at a time when movie studios are churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and reboots, this movie has turned out to be one of the year’s most original and heartwarming (and slightly twisted) works.  Whether or not it’s among the year’s best is in the eye of the beholder.  But it is a breath of fresh air in a sea of franchises from studios that are too scared to take a chance on something original.

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Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack shines on its own

Courtesy: ABKCO

Classical and country are two wholly separate styles of music.  So the thought of combining the two polar opposites on one compilation is enough to make any listener do a double take.  It goes without saying that by all logic, it’s a major risk.  While the combination of the pair on the soundtrack to the new indie flick, “Moonrise Kingdom” was a risk, the end result was a sucess.

Being an indie-flick, not every person across the country will get to see the movie.  But everyone can check out the soundtrack.  It combines some of the best of Hank Williams, Sr. with equally impressive classical works from the likes of Camille Satin-Seans and Franz Schubert.  And composer Alexandre Desplat has his own works throughout the compilation, too.  His seven part ‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of The Universe’ opus tells its very own story.  Though it’s likely tied in to the plot of a big storm coming while the parents of the young lovers search for them.  Listeners don’t even have to have seen the movie to appreciate the entire work, even in its separated form.

‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of The Universe’ opens with the soft, mysterious movement, ‘A Veiled Mist.’  The name alone hints at images of the unknown. From there, the musical story builds more and more until it finally culminates in the ending gentility of the final movement, ‘After The Rain.’  This movement conjures images of the violent storm from the movie finally making its way through and then everything finally being calm once it has passed.  It’s a wonderful manner in which to tell a story. The final movement brings Desplat’s story full circle.  And just as the soundtrack opened with a young person introducing audiences to the different parts of the orchestra, so does it close.  It all combines to give audiences a total sense of fulfillment after taking the musical journey.

Not everybody who listens to this soundtrack might be a fan of classical music.  That’s fine.  It also offers some great classic country from the legend himself, Hank Williams, Sr.  The soundtrack includes his hits, ‘Kaw-Liga’, ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues’, and ‘Ramblin Man.’  And for those who have perhaps never been exposed to Williams’ work, this trio of songs is a great first introduction to one of country music’s greatest voices.

Moonsrise Kingdom is out in theaters nationwide.  It may not be in every theater in every city across the country.  But its soundtrack is available now.  Whether one is a fan of classical or classic country, both sides have something enjoyable to which they can listen.  It may even serve to introduce a whole new generation of listeners to two great musical styles without even having to take them to see the associated movie.  Keeping that in mind, the Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack is worth at least a single listen.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at 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.