‘The Ultimate Legacy’ Does Little For The Legacy Of ReelWorks’ “Ultimate” Franchise

Courtesy: Cinedigm/ReelWorks Studios

Courtesy: Cinedigm/ReelWorks Studios

Evangelical movie studio ReelWorks Studios will release the latest installment in its ongoing “Ultimate” franchise on Tuesday when it releases The Ultimate Legacy.  The franchise’s third installment, it is enjoyable, but hardly perfect.  That is not to say that it is a total loss, but this critic would be lying to say that it is one of the year’s best new cinematic offerings independent or otherwise.  One of the key elements that keeps this latest installment in the “Ultimate” franchise afloat is the work of the movie’s cast.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the cast’s work is laudable, its story is sadly not so laudable.  That is hugely important to note, and will be discussed later.  Of course whereas the movie takes a big hit due to its story, the movie’s cinematography makes up for that hit if only slightly.  When the cinematography is coupled with the cast’s work on camera, they luckily do just enough to make up for the movie’s story, which is anything but original.  Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, The Ultimate Gift proves to be anything but the ultimate cinematic triumph.

ReelWorks’ latest installment in its “Ultimate” movie franchise is enjoyable, but is hardly an ultimate cinematic offering.  Luckily for its parent studio though, it is not a total loss.  It does have some saving graces, one of which is its cinematography.  The movie, shot at least partially in La Grange, Kentucky, will impress audiences if only for the work of its cast.  Viewers will be surprised to learn that the supporting cast is more deserving of credit than the lead cast in this movie.  The most notable of the support cast are Torry Martin and Doug Jones.  The pair plays two of Anderson House’s staff, and while they are not on camera at all times, their time on camera is successful.

Audiences will love watching Martin (The Matchbreaker, The Errs of Birdie Hollow, Adrift) as the innocent, nerdy housekeeper Oscar.  Martin makes Oscar such a loveable character through his portrayal.  His comic timing is spot on as he stumbles over what to call Joey, and as he runs to save the day after Joey accidentally hits a water line while developing the memorial garden.  Even in a more serious moment such as when Oscar and Hawthorne (Jones) reveal a long-held secret to Joey, Martin impresses.  As enjoyable as he is to watch, one can only hope that he will get more opportunities to shine in bigger movies and sooner rather than later at that.

Jones’ (Star Trek Discovery, Hellboy, Hellboy II) portrayal as Hawthorne is just as enjoyable Martin’s take on Oscar.  Just like with Martin, Jones’ time on screen is limited.  But he shines just as much.  Those who are familiar with Disney Junior’s animated series Sofia The First will be able to instantly compare Jones’ portrayal to Tim Gunn’s portrayal of Sofia’s butler Baileywick.  The difference is that Hawthorne barely has any speaking lines in this movie.  Even with that being the case, Jones still impresses when he does speak.  He impresses just as much when his acting is done more through emoting than speaking.  Jones gets even those moments right, and whether those moments come when he’s alone or he is alongside Martin, he shows exactly why he is deserving of credit.  When Jones and Martin work alongside, the pair shows fully that they are the real stars of this movie and collectively one of the only shining stars in this otherwise forgettable evangelical flick.

While Jones’ and Martin’s work is a laudable piece of The Ultimate Legacy’s overall presentation, the movie is anything but perfect.  The movie’s story weighs it down and while it has some funny moments, it is otherwise unoriginal and forgettable.  The movie’s story is a blatant rehashing of the “Ultimate” franchise’s first two movies and just as much of a ripoff of Fireproof.  That is right down to the book that holds Sally Mae’s original will and the 12 Gifts that Joey has to work on in order to earn his inheritance.  Just as with the franchise’s first two films and with Fireproof, the story’s main character has to go through a certain process in order to obtain enlightenment (so to speak) and his ultimate reward.  That process includes self sacrifice (again just like with the aforementioned movies) and tithing in a manner of speaking.  What’s more, Joey doesn’t necessarily go through any major transformation in the story.  The fact that he gave charity early on in the movie made him little more than the bad boy with a heart of gold.  That in itself is hardly original in the bigger picture of the entertainment world.  Considering the fact that he never really went through any major transformation, it almost completely negates any reason to watch the movie.  Luckily, these issues with the movie’s story (it’s writing in the bigger picture) aren’t enough to make the movie completely unwatchable.  Its cinematography does its share to make it worth at least one watch, just as with the work of the movie’s cast.

The story at the center of The Ultimate Legacy does more of a disservice to the movie than a service.  Joey doesn’t necessarily go through any earthshaking transformation when one truly examines the story closely.  The process that Joey has to go through is nothing new both to the movie’s franchise, and is also a reworking of the story presented in Fireproof.  For all of the problems that the story poses, those problems are offset by the movie’s cinematography.  Viewers will be especially impressed by the soaring aerial shots of Hamilton House’s vast property and the countryside shots as Joey helps an elderly woman on her way to his grandmother’s funeral.

The movie’s various interior shots offer audiences just as much to applaud as its exterior shots.  One case comes as Sally’s lawyers watch Joey at work on the memorial garden from inside the mansion’s dining room.  The wide shot of the room and the contrast of the grounds from the inside exquisitely captures the details not just of the room but of the setting in whole.  The shots captured in the mansion’s library and barn are just as impressive in their own right, and are hardly the only footage worth noting.  Between the various impressive interior shots and exterior shots presented throughout the movie’s 99-minute run time, its cinematography paints quite a laudable picture; a picture that makes the movie worth at least one watch if only for that one factor. That is made clearer when one takes into consideration the work of supporting cast members Doug Jones and Torry Martin.  When their work is joined with the work of the movie’s camera crew, the end result is a movie that is worth at least one watch even though it is anything but ultimate.

The Ultimate Legacy is a work that is anything but ultimate.  Its story does little more than rehash the story used in the franchise’s previous installments.  It also uses a very similar story presented in Sherwood Films’ movie Fireproof.  That in itself does more harm than good to the movie.  Even as much damage as it does to the movie’s value, the work of the movie’s support cast and its camera crew does just enough to make it worth at least one watch.  Considering all of this, The Ultimate Legacy does little for the legacy of ReelWorks’ “Ultimate” franchise.  It still remains a movie that while anything but ultimate, is worth at least one watch.  It will be available Tuesday in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from ReelWorks Studios is available online at http://www.reelworks.net.

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Secular, Non-Secular Audiences Alike Will Enjoy ‘In-Lawfully Yours’

Courtesy: Cinedigm/Regent Pictures

Courtesy: Cinedigm/Regent Pictures

Boy who is the total opposite of girl finds girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back in the end.  This formula has been used as the basis for every romantic comedy and dramedy that has ever been crafted, going all the way back to Hollywood’s silver age.  It has even been used for any number of romantic dramas, too with very little variance from its use in rom-coms and romantic dramedies.  So if there is little to no variance in that formula from one movie to the next, one is left to wonder why anyone would even begin to give any romantic flick a chance?  The only answer that this critic can possibly come up with is the story in which that formula is incorporated.  In the case of Cinedigm’s new romantic drama In-Lawfully Yours the story that is connected to that formula makes the movie worth at least one watch.  It is just one of the most notable of the elements that makes the movie worth the chance.  The messages that are contained within the story are just as important to note as the story itself here.  Last but not least of note in the movie’s presentation is its pacing.  It rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.  It goes without saying that each element is important in its own way to the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, In-Lawfully Yours proves to be a movie that despite being just as formulaic as any other romance flick past and present, it is still worth at least one watch by fans of said genre.

Cinedigm’s new romantic drama In-Lawfully Yours is nothing new to the realm of romance flicks.  The formula that has been the center of every rom-com, romantic drama, and romantic dramedy throughout history is just as prevalent here as it has been in every other romance flick that has come before.  Keeping that in mind, the one thing that sets the movie apart from its counterparts is its story.  It is the most important of the movie’s elements.  In the case of this religiously-based romantic drama the story is centered on two in-laws—Jesse and Ben (who are brother-in-law and sister-in-law)—who meet after Jesse (Chelsey Crisp—Fresh Off The Boat, The Joe Schmo Show, New Girl) files for divorce from her cheating husband Chaz (Philip Boyd—The Haves and Have Nots, The Young and the Restless, Saving Grace).  Jesse ends up falling for Ben (Joe Williamson—Grey’s Anatomy, Looking, Mad Men).  And as the formula goes, the two are polar opposites.  In the case of this story, Ben is a minister and Jesse is not exactly the most devoted Christian.  When Chaz finds out that the pair is falling for each other, he turns vindictive and tries to make the people of Bethel Cove hate her by convincing diner owner Daphe (Erin Muroski—Henry Danger, Burning Love) that Jesse cheated on him.  She ends up spreading vicious rumors about Jesse, leading to the hate.  Of course the story has a happy ending.  Viewers can likely figure out what happens, again considering the oft-used formula for romantic flicks.  Of course figuring that while Jesse an Ben are not directly related, the fact that they are brother-in-law and sister-in-law does kind of make things a little bit uncomfortable when one really thinks about it.  The pair is only related through marriage to Naomi’s (Marilu Henner—Taxi, Evening Shade, L.A. Story) children—Ben married Naomi’s daughter and Jesse married Naomi’s son—the fact that two “family members” of sorts fall for each other is a little bit weird.  That is at least the case to this critic.  That aside, the story is still worth at least one watch since it is different from at least some of its counterparts.  The movie’s story is just one of the movie’s elements that makes it worth at least one watch.  The messages that are incorporated into the story are just as important to note in its presentation as the story itself.

The story at the center of In-Lawfully Yours is in itself reason enough for fans of romance flicks to see this movie at least once.  That is because while it uses an all too familiar formula for its setup, the story that is crafted around that formula is not as familiar as that used in its counterparts.  Keeping this in mind, the movie’s story is just one of the most important of the movie’s elements.  The messages that are incorporated into the movie are just as important to note as its story.  It should be noted here that Cinedigm partnered with independent Christian movie studio Regent Pictures for the movie’s creation.  That is why the movie also boasts the messages in question.  One of the most notable of those messages centers on the issue of churches becoming more exclusive and snobbish than inclusive and free-thinking.  The message is sent through the use of Doris’ (Kate Sanford—A Year and Change, Beautifully Departed, Paranormal) constant meddling and attempts to control how Ben runs the church’s service.  This is so important to note because sadly, there is a Doris in most churches out there today if not every church.  This is someone who is completely stuck in her or her own ways and wants to control everyone and everything regardless of the long-term costs of their short-sighted actions.  The other message presented within the story is that of welcoming open thought and discussion about religion and the bible in whole.  It works directly with the previously noted message about churches needing to be more welcoming.  Far too few churches and their members today encourage any kind of discussion on biblical interpretation other than what they want to hear.  It is really a concerning issue when one really thinks about it and one that is certain to be a starting point in any church group’s discussions on church reform just as the message about churches’ openness is, too. Kate Sanford,

The messages that are incorporated into In-Lawfully Yours’ story are just the tip of the iceberg in discussing their importance.  The manner in which they are presented is just as important to point out as the messages alone.  Unlike the movies turned out by Sherwood Pictures (another religious-based film studio) Regent Studios opted to not be so preachy in presenting its religious messages.  Rather it incorporated them surprisingly smoothly into the movie’s story.  They are obvious in their presence.  There is no denying that.  At no point, though does their use leave viewers feel like they are being preached at.  Considering that, it is a breath of fresh air in the realm of religiously-based movies and is still not the only important element to be examined in looking at the movie’s overall presentation.  The movies pacing is just as important to note as its story and its messages.

The story at the center of In-Lawfully Yours and its associated messages are both clearly important pieces of the movie’s overall presentation.  That is because they stand out both in their presentation and how they are presented.  While both elements are clearly important in their own part to the movies presentation, they are not its only key elements.  The movie’s pacing is just as important to note as the story and its associated messages.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under an hour and a half.  It clocks in at 86 minutes to be exact.  Considering that relatively short time, there was a lot of story to tell.  Somehow, the team of writer/director Robert Kirbyson and Sean Gaffney manages to make the most of that time, not moving too fast or too slow.  The initial setup involving Ben and Jesse’s romance takes only the first twenty minutes or so of that nearly ninety-minute run time.  In most romance flicks, the boy meets girl portion of the formula takes slightly longer.  But in the case of this movie, even jumping into the first part of the formula so soon still manages to work.  That’s even with a little bit of a plot hole involving why Ben was following Jesse in his truck.  Since the setup takes so little time, that offers more time for story development and for the movie’s messages to be presented, eventually building to the shorter boy loses girl and gets her back segments of the formula.  Keeping all of this in mind, the movie’s pacing over the course of its 86-minute run time is laudable in its own right.  It is just stable enough that viewers are able to keep up with everything happening within each of the story’s segments.  The result of that ability to follow the story leads the movie full circle.  It leads to the appreciation of the fact that the movie’s story is a new take on a standard formula.  It also leads to an appreciation for the religious messages presented within the story and the manner in which they are presented.  All things considered, the elements noted here make In-Lawfully Yours a romantic flick that fans of the genre will appreciate just as much as the movie’s intended church-based audiences.

Regent Pictures’ and Cinedigm’s new romance flick In-Lawfully Yours is a work that both secular and non-secular audiences alike will appreciate and will agree is worth at least one watch.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story takes a slightly new take on what is a standard formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back in the end.  The religious-themed messages that are incorporated into the movie and the manner in which they are presented add even more reason for audiences to see the movie, even if only once.  That is because both are the polar opposite of the approach used by Sherwood Pictures.  The movie’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.  Thanks to the movie’s pacing, audiences will have an easy time following the story and identifying its associated messages.  In turn, audiences will agree that all three elements are equally important to In-Lawfully Yours.  Altogether, they make In-Lawfully Yours a movie that, again, both secular and non-secular audiences alike will appreciate even with just one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cinedigmentertainment.com

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

 

 

 

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Joseph And Mary Is An Interesting New Look At Jesus’ Early Life

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Earlier this month Cinedigm released its new biblically-based movie Joseph and Mary to retail and online outlets around the country.  The independent studio’s new offering is an interesting new presentation.  That is due in part to its story.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the story makes the movie worth at least one watch by Christian audiences, it is not a perfect presentation.  It does suffer from some casting issues that cannot be ignored.  That will be discussed later.  As much as the movie’s casting takes away from its presentation its production values make up at least somewhat for that one negative.  The combination of that positive couples with the movie’s central story to make the movie worth at least one watch even with its one glaring con.

Cinedigm’s new biblically based movie Joseph and Mary is an interesting new cinematic offering from the Los Angeles-based independent movie studio.  It is not the worst biblically based movie to ever be released, nor the best.  For all intents and purposes it is somewhere in the middle, a movie that for Christian viewers, is worth at least one viewing.  That is due in large part to the movie’s story.  One could argue that it is an in-between of sorts that connects The Greatest Story Ever Told and the many variants of The Nativity Story.  It tells the story of Jesus’ birth in the manger.  But it does more than that.  It also tells the story of Elijah, a rabbi who ends up caring for Aaron’s wife Rebekah after Aaron is killed by a tax collector.  The troubles don’t end for Elijah there.  Rebekah and Elijah end up losing not one but two sons as a result of orders by King Herod.  There should be a slight digression for a moment here.  Aaron’s murder and the scene involving the killing of the first-born sons are both very violent even for an independent movie.  So audiences should use their discretion in screening this movie.  There is also a somewhat intense scene in which Rebekah has to fight off the man who killed her children.  This scene could easily be considered a bit intense for some younger viewers, too.  More simply put the overall content presented within the movie’s story might not be suitable for all viewers.  Keeping this in mind, the movie is perhaps aimed less at younger viewers and more so at older audiences.  Now getting back on the subject at hand, all of the troubles faced by Elijah force him to make a very difficult choice.  That choice is between forgiving Herod and the others or exacting revenge.  Of course it is through Jesus’ own insight (even as a boy) that Elijah makes his ultimate decision.  It is obvious what that choice is.  Keeping this in mind, the central message of forgiveness that Jesus taught in the bible is just as prevalent here, too.  There is also an interesting addition to the story as it presents Josephs fate, which is not exactly a happy fate, either.  It is one more way in which the movie’s story stands out from so many other biblically based presentations.  To that end, Joseph and Mary, as misleading as its title proves to be, is still a story that truly devout Christian audiences will want to see (since it really focuses more on Elijah and Rebekah than on Joseph and Mary) at least once if no more.  While Joseph and Mary’s story makes it worth at least one watch, it is not the movie’s only interesting element.  The movie’s casting should also be examined but not for a good reason.

The story at the center of Joseph and Mary is an interesting part of the movie’s overall presentation.  It is one of the lesser-told of the bible’s many stories either orally or on screen.  To that end, it makes the movie at least one watch.  For all that the story does for this movie, it is not the movie’s only notable elements.  The movie’s casting is just as notable, but not for a good reason.  Others have noted, just as this critic will, that the movie’s cast is quite noticeably whitewashed.  Joseph and Mary are played by Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, God’s Not Dead, Andromeda) and Lara Jean Chorostecki (Hannibal, Camelot, Dan For Mayor) respectively.  Elijah and Rebekah are played by Steven McCarthy (Eye of the Beholder, The Skulls, The Crossing) and Katie Boland (The Master, Daydream Nation, Some Things That Stay).  Boland and McCarthy are both Canadian as is Chorostecki.  Sorbo, according to his bio on IMDB, is from Minnesota.  Even Sean Bell, who plays Tiberius, is from Canada.  Lawrence Bayne (Highlander: The Animated Series, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, Dog Pound) plays Herod.  He is, yes, also Canadian.  Not even  young Jesus actor Lucius Hoyos (Bark Ranger, The Colony, What If) has any Middle Eastern roots.  Simply put it would have been nice to have seen actors of at least some Middle Eastern descent fill the movie’s key roles versus a full-on white cast.  Making matters worse is that in a number of cases, the actors more than likely were not entirely at an age that (if one wants to use the story’s source material properly) would line up with their seeming ages in the bible.  That makes the movie’s casting more of an issue within the bigger picture of the movie.  To its defense though, it is not the only movie to ever face this issue.  Most recently Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) came under fire for its mis-casting.  And if one really wants to get specific, the cast of The Ten Commandments (1956) was completely improper, too as have been so many movies’ casts.  Considering this, there is no denying that the movie’s cast detracts from its overall presentation.  But taking the cast into consideration against other miscast movies, one can’t take too many points from the movie.  On that note, the movie’s casting is its only real negative.  So as much as it might take away from the movie, it doesn’t completely cancel out the movie’s positives, one more of which is its production values.

The issues with Joseph and Mary’s castings are undeniable in regards to the movie’s presentation.  It would have been nice to see the movie use actors with at least some Middle Eastern roots, even if said actors were not major name actors.  But keeping in mind that it is not the only movie to ever face this issue on cannot completely ignore the movie.  Considering this, the movie’s story couples with its other positive, its production values, to outweigh that negative and, again, make the movie worth at least one watch.  It is obvious in watching the movie that its production budget wasn’t very big.  The sets look exactly like something that one would expect from an independent Christian film.  In all honesty they give the movie the look of something that was produced by a church group without any major financial backing.  Yet even with that look, its equally novice  shooting style,  and special effects the movie’s presentation becomes even more worth the watch.  It shows that those behind the production didn’t try to make it look like perhaps Exodus: Gods and Kings, Noah, or other similar movies.  Rather, it honestly conjures thoughts of The Ten Commandments thanks to its look.  Believe it or not this is a good thing for the movie.  That look lets audiences know that the movie’s cast and crew just wanted it to be what it was, not one of those overblown mega-blockbusters from Hollywood that hardly tries to stay true to its source material.  It makes the movie that much more worth the watch.  When that natural look (including its shooting style and special effects) is coupled with the movie’s story, the two elements outweigh the movie’s one glaring negative and prove once more why it is worth at least one watch.  They are not enough to make the movie memorable.  One would be lying if one said it is.  But they are enough to make the movie worth, again, at least one chance.

Joseph and Mary, Cinedigm’s new biblically based movie is not the genre’s worst offering nor is it the genre’s best.  It is a movie that while hardly perfect, is still worth at least one watch.  It should be noted, though that considering the movie’s content, it is not a movie aimed at younger audiences, even being biblically based.  Audiences should take this immediately into consideration before watching it.  It story is one that has been very rarely adapted to literary or even cinematic form.  That in itself makes it worth at least one chance.  Its casting is problematic.  There is no denying this.  But it is not the only movie that is guilty of “whitewashing.”  To that end, one cannot take away too many points from its overall presentation.  That is especially the case considering its production values.  Its sets, shooting style, and special effects look like they were done by a church group rather than a studio with any financial backing.  Believe it or not this is actually a good thing.  It sets the movie apart from its counterparts churned out by Hollywood’s major studios (E.g. Exodus: Gods and Kings, Noah) an in a good way.  It makes the movie more endearing for lack of better wording.  When this is considered with the movie’s story and even its problematic casting, it still leaves the movie worth at least one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cinedigm.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cinedigm

 

 

 

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Cinedigm To Release New Rom-Com This Summer

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Cinedigm has a new rom-com offering on the way this summer.

Cinedigm will release its new indie rom-com In-Lawfully Yours on Tuesday, September 6th.  The movie stars Chelsey Crisp (Fresh Off The Boat, the Joe Schmo Show, Reconciliation), Corbin Bernsen (Psych, L.A. Law, General Hospital), Joe Williamson (Grey’s Anatomy, Fortress, Looking), Philip Boyd (Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have-Nots, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives), and Marilu Henner (Taxi, Evening Shade, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).  The story, written by Regent University professor Sean Gaffney, is presented in partnership with Regents University and Home Theater Films.  Nearly eighty students from Regent University worked on the movie.  It is a familiar story of finding love in all of the most unexpected places.  This time lead star Crisp plays Jesse, a young woman who has just gone through an unpleasant divorce after her husband Chaz (Boyd) cheated on her.  At the same time as having to deal with the divorce Jesse is also helping her recently widowed mother-in-law Naomi (Henner) pack up her home in the small town of Bethel Cove.  While there, Jesse meets the town pastor Ben (Williamson) and the pair falls in love.  There’s just one problem.  Ben is the brother-in-law of Jesse’s now ex-husband.  When Chaz finds out about the pair’s illicit relationship, he rallies the townspeople behind him and ends up getting Ben fired.  This leads Jesse to leave town to try and make peace with the situation.  The problem is that she can’t stop thinking about Ben.  The result is a story that every young couple will want to watch together.

In-Lawfully Yours will be available on DVD and Digital HD on Tuesday, September 6th.  It will retail for MSRP of $14.93.  More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.cinedigmentertainment.com

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

 

 

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.

Hero Quest Is A Family Friendly Flick Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/New Video

Courtesy: Cinedigm/New Video

On Tuesday, March 29th Cinedigm will release its new family friendly CG feature Hero Quest in stores and online.  The movie, which clocks in at just under the ninety-minute mark (and is Dove-approved) will be available exclusively on DVD.  The movie’s fantasy/coming-of-age story is hardly anything new to the literary or cinematic world.  But it does not detract from the story.  Co-writers Max Fadeev, Gegory Poirier (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride), and Alexander Krisyakov crafted a story—which is based on Fadeev’s book Savva: Heart of a Warrior—that will entertain the whole family.  The story contained within the movie’s script is the central reason for its success.  It gives its own take on the fantasy/coming-of-age plot used in a number of other similar movies.  The work of the movie’s all-star voice cast is to be noted, too.  While the cast is known for working much bigger pictures, its collective work here is just as professional as in those movies.  Last but hardly least of note is the movie’s CG-based animation.  It rounds out the movie’s presentation.  Each element is important in its own right to Hero Quest’s overall presentation.  Altogether they make Hero Quest a family friendly movie that is worth at least one watch.

Cinedigm’s new family friendly CG-based movie Hero Quest is hardly the first movie of its kind.  Its fantasy/coming-of-age story is one that has been churned out by any number of studios.  This includes Hollywood ’s “Big Six” studios (Disney, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount , and Universal) and the many independent studios out there.  Even with the general plot having been presented in previous movies from said studios, it does not detract (at least too much) from the story presented here. The story in question involves ten-year old Savva’s journey to find a magician who he is told will introduce him to a warrior that will help him free his village from a group of evil coyote-looking creatures. Interestingly enough one of the coyotes looks somewhat like Dennis Hopper in Waterworld. That is just this critic’s own take on its look. Getting back on the topic, the story comes across in an almost Wizard of Oz style format. That can be argued as Savva doesn’t face his journey alone. Along the way, he meets a shape-shifting white wolf, a Baron who has been cursed by a witch and his mosquito “companion”, a cowardly monkey/rabbit looking creature named Puffy—Savva even tries to figure out what exactly Puffy is at one point—and a Creole-speaking native princess that resembles one of the ancient indigenous people of Latin America. It’s quite the interesting group of misfits. And each member of the group is headed to see the magician for its own reason. Again, this is very much like The Wizard of Oz. And where that movie had Dorothy and company face off against an evil witch in route to meeting the wizard, Fadeev and Poirier’s story sees Savva and his friends facing off against a three-headed (yes, three-headed) monkey queen voiced by Whoopi Goldberg that doesn’t want the group to reach its goal. So again, the similarities are there. However, even with the similarities so clear, Hero Quest still stands on its own merits. Those merits include the story’s pacing and its ability to seamlessly tie its secondary story lines into its primary story among others. All things considered the general writing behind Hero Quest’s script proves in its own right to be an important part of the movie’s presentation. This is the case even with the movie’s similarities to The Wizard of Oz and other hybrid fantasy/coming-of-age stories. It’s not even covering the whole of the movie’s writing. There are other aspects such as the subtle Christian message presented in one single scene and the references to other movies within its genre. It is collectively just one part of what makes this indie family flick worth the watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as worth noting as the movie’s writing.

The writing behind Hero Quest is in itself an important part of the movie’s overall presentation. Even with the similarities to The Wizard of Oz and certain other family friendly flicks past and present, the script still stands on its own merits, making it worth at least one watch. As important as the script and its writing is to the movie’s presentation it is just one part of what makes the movie worth at least one watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as notable to its presentation as its writing. It should be known that the cast, which includes the likes of Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall, Basic Instinct), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Goodfellas), Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The View, Captain Planet and the Planeteers), Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Curious George), Milla Jovavich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil 1 – 6, Ultraviolet), and a number of others is just as important to the movie as its writing. It should be noted here that the cast is not the movie’s original voice cast. That is because the movie originally premiered overseas. This is just the movie’s American voice cast. That aside, the American voice cast deserves its due credit. For starters, Goldberg is spot on as the three-headed Mama Zho Zi. Her portrayal of the maniacal monkey is so entertaining because of just how she handled each head’s personality. Between one head’s airheaded personality, another’s vain personality, and the third’s more level-headed yet diabolical personality, Goldberg handled each one with the fullest expertise. Her ability to balance all three polar opposites is impressive to say the least. Never once does she go over the top in her portrayal. What’s more, the fact that she took over the role from another actor and did so as well as she did says even more of her work. She’s just one of the voice actors whose work should be noted here. Lead star Milla Jovavich is just as notable as the voice of Savva. Considering that Savva is only ten years old, it would have been easy to overplay his determination to reach the magician and his reactions to various situations presented to him throughout his journey. But Jovavich is just as impressive in how she handled the role. One example of her ability to handle the role comes as Angee’s (voiced by Will Chase—Nashville, Rescue Me, One Life To Live) real identity is revealed. It would have been so easy to overact in the moment, tears and all flowing as Savva finds out Angee’s secret. But Jovavich handled the moment quite well. She caught Savva’s shock and feeling of betrayal in the moment very well. In the same vein Savva’s eventual feeling toward Angee at the story’s end is just as impressive. Once again she doesn’t ham it up where she easily could have done so. But she gets the moment just right, thus making audiences feel for Savva and feel even happier for him at the outcome. It’s just another way in which the voice cast’s work proves to be so integral to the movie in its presentation to American audiences. Sharon Stone’s take on Puffy the monkey/rabbit hybrid is just as entertaining. Some might even dispute this but hers is a portrayal that stands out among her cast mates. Maybe it’s just because Puffy is for all intents and purposes the story’s comic relief. But even as that comic character, Stone generates her own share of laughs. One of her brightest moments comes as Puffy is mistaken for a god by Shaman Shi-Sha’s people. The rain dance that Puffy does to try to prove his/her (Puffys’ gender is never really revealed in the story) status will put a smile on any viewer’s face and more than just one laugh from every viewer’s lips. Puffy’s constant fainting spells at the first sign of danger are just as funny for viewers. That is because it doesn’t take long for them to become a running gag. The way in which Stone handled those moments is just as entertaining. Yet again it’s one more way in which the work of the movie’s American voice cast proves integral to the movie’s presentation. The rest of the cast can be cited just as easily for its work, too. Regardless of which cast member(s) is/are cited the result proves the same. Each member of the case proves equally entertaining in his or her own fashion. Their work and that of the script’s scribes strengthens the movie even more making for even more reason for families to see the movie at least once. Even with this in mind there is still one more important element to note of this movie. That final element is the movie’s CG-based “animation.”

The work of Hero Quest’s writers and that of its American voice cast collectively give the movie plenty of reason to watch the indie family flick at least once. That is because of the attention paid to each role by the actors and to the script on both a micro and macro scale. While both elements exhibit their own importance to Hero Quest’s overall presentation, they are not the movie’s only notable elements. The movie’s CG-based “animation” is just as important in its own right to the movie’s presentation. The “animation” in question gives the movie in whole the look of something lifted right from a video game. The catch is that it looks like something taken from a modern video game on the PS4, X-box or other system more so than an older PC-style game. In other words even as much as it looks more like a video game than anything churned out by say Pixar, Dreamworks, or other studios, looking like a modern video game could actually be considered a good thing. That is because to a certain extent it could be argued that thanks to having that look it establishes its own stylistic identity separate from the movies turned out by those other, more well-known studios. It also doesn’t look like something that was just tossed together in slapdash fashion. Believe it or not there are CG-based features out there that look that bad. And they don’t come just from indie studios, either. Keeping this in mind Hero Quest’s look may not stand out entirely. But in comparison to other CG-based features it plays its own part in the whole of the movie. Together with the work of the movie’s American voice cast and that of the movie’s writers all three elements come together to make Hero Quest an animated indie family flick that is worth at least one watch.

Indie movie studio Cinedigm’s new CG-based family flick Hero Quest is not the first movie of its kind to be turned out by movie studios at any level. Its fantasy/coming-of-age plot line has been used before in other movies at every level. And there is no denying its similarity to The Wizard of Oz when one closely examines its story line. Even considering all of this it still does not detract from the movie’s script. That is because of the changes made to the script to make it stand out at least somewhat from those movies. The work of the movie’s American voice cast serves as its anchor. Between the expertise of stars Milla Jovavich, Jim Cummings, and Sharon Stone (among others), the movie’s American voice cast will keep audiences of all ages entertained. The movie’s video game style animation plays into its presentation, too. It stands out from the CG-based stories turned out by Pixar and Dreamworks just as much as it stands out from the slapdash pieces released by other studios both big and small. It rounds out the ways in which Hero Quest stands out in this year’s field of family friendly fare. Together with the previously noted elements all three make this presentation one that is worth at least one watch. It will be available next Tuesday, March 29th. More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.newvideo.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cinedigm

 

 

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Cinedigm’s New Action Spoof Is A Great Escape For Anyone Wanting A Good Laugh

Courtesy:  Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Indie movie studio Cinedigm’s new action spoof Tooken is dirty.  It is raunchy.  And it is also hilarious.  The spoof of actor Liam Neeson’s Taken trilogy is so dirty and raunchy in fact that it’s a surprise that it earned an “R” rating instead of an “NC-17.”  That aside it is still a laugh riot that viewers won’t be able to help but watch.  That is thanks in large part to its completely nonsensical story that is very much in the vein of the Wayans Brothers’ Scary Movie and Haunted House franchises.  The only difference between those movies and this one is that writer/director John Asher and co-writer Cameron Van Hoy have taken the comic element established in the Wayans brothers’ spoofs and knocked down the wall established by those movies.  Whereas the Wayans brothers at least showed some restrain, this movie pulls zero punches and will leave audiences laughing so hard that they cry all while asking themselves why in the world they are watching the movie.  Of course as important as this element is to the whole of Tooken it would be nothing without the work of the movie’s cast.  Lead actor Lee Tergesen (Monster, Wayne’s World, Oz) does an impressive job of channeling legendary comic actor Leslie Neilsen here.  Last and hardly least worth noting of this indie spoof is it’s the very fact that it is not a big budget movie even being a spoof.  Being a proud, low-budget presentation, there’s something special about it.  It just makes it that much more enjoyable.  And together with both the movie’s story and the work of its cast it solidifies the movie as one that anyone wanting a good laugh.

Cinedigm’s new spoof flick Tooken is hands down one of the funniest movies that audiences will see this year.  It is also the year’s bawdiest and raunchiest comedies that audiences will see this year.  It is so bawdy and raunchy in fact that it is a surprise that it received an “R” rating versus an “NC-17” by the MPAA.  That aside it is still a laugh riot that viewers won’t be able to help but watch.  The comic element of the movie and the movie’s story together make up the central reason that audiences won’t be able to help but watch.  The movie sees retired CIA agent Bryan Millers (Lee Tergesen–(Monster, Wayne’s World, Oz) trying to make a life for himself in retirement.  He is divorced and working as a rent-a-cop, dreaming of his days on “the force.”   And he is trying to stay connected to his teenage daughter Kim at the same time, which is essentially what leads to the story’s plot (if one even wants to call it a plot).  In trying to connect with Kim (played here by actress Laura-Leigh—We’re The Millers, The Client List, The Ward) Bryan finds himself getting caught up in a completely bizarre plot by an evil mastermind named Brownfinger (yes, Brownfinger).  Brownfinger is played by famed comedienne Margaret Cho (Drop Dead Diva, Face/Off, Notorious C.H.O.).  Brownfinger’s completely bizarre plan involves dogs and explosives.  Yes, truth is stranger than reality.  And it is definitely strange in this case.  Interestingly enough, writer/director John Asher and co-writer Cameron Van Hoy actually has Bryan break down the fourth wall to a point, going so far as to point out himself the absolutely ludicrous nature of Brownfinger’s plan, essentially pointing out what every viewer is likely thinking, too.  That adds even more enjoyment to the whole of the story and points out a related topic that makes the story just as worth the watch as the story itself.  The element in question is the script’s comic element.

The comic element of Tooken is not entirely new to those audiences that are familiar with the Wayans Brothers’ Scary Movie and Haunted House franchises.  It is a brand of comedy that throws back to the likes of Leslie Neilsen’s Naked Gun franchise with its mix of slapstick comedy and sometimes irreverent humor.  What sets the Naged Gun franchise and those of the Wayans Brothers from this spoof is that where their writers exhibited a certain amount of restraint, Asher and Van Hoy exhibit absolutely none, right up to the end, at which the movie borders on something akin to a hardcore porn flick, believe it or not.  It’s still debatable if that is good or bad.  Regardless, the lengths to which Asher and Van Hoy go in delivering the story’s comic element does pay homage to its predecessors while establishing its own brand of comic mayhem, thus making both this element and the movie’s script in whole a solid foundation for those that want a good laugh.

The script crafted for Tooken and its comic elements offer audiences looking for a good laugh plenty of reason to watch this movie even with its ability to disturb some viewers at random points.  Having laid a solid foundation for audiences, the work of the movie’s cast rests easily atop both elements.  Tergesen is especially entertaining in his role as Bryan Millers.  Audiences will especially love how Tergesen willingly switches back and forth between an American accent and a completely intentionally terrible Irish accent as he pokes fun at Liam Neeson throughout the movie.  Those that know their movie history will especially appreciate Tergesen’s work not just for this reason but because his portrayal of Bryan harkens back to Leslie Nielsen’s work in the Naked Gun franchise just as much as the movie’s overall comic element.  Reno Wilson (Mike and Molly, Transformers, Prison Break) is just as entertaining as Lenore’s (Lauren Stamile—Scandal, Burn Notice, Community) new love interest.  He obviously fully embraced his role as Money Maker.  Audiences will find themselves laughing riotously at his full-on portrayal of the stereotypical gangsta rapper figure.  Joyce Bulifant will have viewers laughing just as much in her role as Bryan’s mother Edna.  Edna is everything that the stereotypical grandmother isn’t.  She also used to serve with the CIA.  And she is definitely anything but a little old lady.  The easiest way to describe her is that she is a tough as nails woman with the libido of a teenager.  This is despite her age.  And she shows it throughout the movie.  Bulifant is spot on in her portrayal of Edna, too.  If that doesn’t get audiences laughing, then it’s anyone’s guess what will.  But for those that love a good laugh, her work and that of the rest of the movie’s cast proves in the long run why their collective work makes for even more reason for audiences that love a good laugh will want to see this movie.  There’s not enough time or space to discuss the work of the rest of the movie’s cast (both lead and supporting).  But it goes without saying that the work of the entire cast makes for more than its share of laughs.  Together with the movie’s script and its comic elements, all the noted elements together show even more clearly than ever why comedy fans (adult comedy fans that is) should see this movie if only once.

The work of Tooken’s cast and the work of those that crafted the movie’s script—which also includes its comic element—together make for plenty of reason for older comedy fans to check out this nonstop laugh riot indie action spoof.  For all of the enjoyment that both elements offer audiences, they would mean nothing without the mention of the movie’s intentionally low budget approach.  Yes there are explosions.  Yes there is some blood spatter.  Yes there is gunfire.  But the production values tied into these elements and the rest of the movie are anything but big budget.  The interesting thing is that this is actually a good thing.  It’s another way in which the movie sets itself apart from the works of the Wayans Brothers and other more well-known spoofs. From Money Maker getting his thumb and eventually hand torn off, to the almost cartoonish way that he survived getting blown up beforehand, to the rather disturbing “sword” fight in the movie’s final minutes to so many other moments, the production values of said moments are proudly low budget. In an odd way, the fact that it didn’t try to be a big budget spoof especially in terms of its production values actually made it even more enjoyable. It really served to establish the movie’s identity within the spoof genre. It served to show that a movie can be low budget and still be entertaining regardless of the movie’s genre. Together with the work of the movie’s cast and those that crafted its script, it serves to completely solidify Tooken as a flick that indie or otherwise is still a fun piece for anyone looking to escape, turn off their brain, and have a good laugh.

Tooken may not be a big budget movie or even a big budget spoof. Regardless it is still a movie that anyone looking for an escape and a good laugh will appreciate and enjoy. That is thanks in large part to the movie’s script complete with all of its comic elements. The work of the movie’s cast is just as much to thank for the movie’s enjoyment. The fact that the movie’s cast and crew embrace the movie’s being low budget on every level makes the movie in whole that much more enjoyable. It brings everything full circle and shows clearly why anyone looking for an escape and a good laugh will want to watch this laugh riot indie action spoof. Tooken will be available on DVD Tuesday, July 7th. More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

Website: http://www.cinedigmentertainment.com

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

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The Aviators Is Loads Of High Flying Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/Viva Kids

Courtesy: Cinedigm/Viva Kids

This critic has time and again publicly voiced a certain amount of disdain for the mainstream movie industry in its current era.  The reason being that Hollywood’s major studios have increasingly shied away from everything that once made it so great.  This includes not only live action movies but animated features, too.  While the movies that make up Hollywood’s live action fare have increasingly been little more than a jumble of prequels, sequels, and remakes, the major motion pictures that call themselves animated have been just as disappointing.  The central reason for that disappointing nature of Hollywood’s major “animated” features is their cookie cutter appearance. Whether from Dreamworks, Pixar, Disney, or another studio, the major “animated” motion pictures that have been released in the last ten years or so have looked alike.  And while the scripts behind those movies have themselves been original, it is the look of the movies that has hurt them more than anything.  For all of those look-alike features churned out by Hollywood’s major studios, there are smaller, lesser-known studios out there that pick up the major studios’ slack.  Such is the case with Cinedigm’s new family friendly historically based flick The Aviators.  This movie could not have come along at a better time.  While it’s obvious that computers played a distinct role in the movie’s creation, some of the movie’s animation actually looks like it might have been crafted by hand.  It’s difficult to say without full knowledge of its creative process if any of it was crafted by hand.  But the balance of those parts that were obviously handled via computer and those that might have been hand crafted is enough within itself to make this movie worth at least one watch.  The historically-based story behind the movie also plays its own role in the movie’s enjoyment, too.  And last but not least is the collective various formats in which the movie is made available to audiences.  It is available on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, stand-alone DVD, and Digital HD.  Its availability in three formats gives audiences plenty of viewing options.  It is its own important part of the presentation’s success.  When combined with the movie’s look and its script, all three elements prove the Aviators a movie that flies quite well indie flick or not.

Cinedigm’s new indie family friendly feature The Aviators is something of an anomaly in the current era of the animated film.  In an age when so many look-alike CG-based movies are churned out each year by Hollywood’s Power Five studios, claiming themselves to be “animated,” this movie has come along and broken that metaphorical mold, mixing those too oft used CG elements with a design that may or may not be hand crafted.  The mix of those CG and potentially hand-drawn elements together makes The Aviators stand solidly among its mainstream counterparts.  In turn, it makes it a movie that is well worth the watch if only for that one reason.  Even if the elements that look hand crafted were in fact created via computer, their look is so close to something hand-made that one wouldn’t even know the difference.  That speaks volumes about the painstaking efforts on the part of those charged with bringing the movie to life. They are entirely deserving of every bit of praise given to them for those efforts.  It could even be argued that considering the end result of those efforts, the “animators” behind Hollywood’s more well-known CG flicks could take a lesson or two from them.  And with any luck, said lessons could actually result in a new birth of stylistic originality from Hollywood’s major “animated” movies.

The largely original and creative look of The Aviators is itself plenty of reason for audiences of all ages to check out this family friendly indie flick.  In the same vein, the movie’s largely original and creative story makes it just as worth the watch.  On the surface, it could be argued that The Aviators is just another movie based on actual events.  But the reality of the movie is that it is anything but.  Writer/Director Miquel Pujol and co-writer Iban Roca took one specific element of WWI’s bigger history and used it to craft this story of one group of carrier pigeons’ determination and how it helped the allies win the war.  Roca and Pujol don’t even attempt to call the movie a work based on actual events.  They just took the story of how carrier pigeons were used and used it to craft this largely original story. There’s not even any attempt at the over embellishments that are so overly common with its more well-known counterparts.  It’s just one more reason that audiences of all ages will enjoy this movie. As if it isn’t enough for audiences, the various formats in which the movie has been made available for viewers most definitely gives even more reason to applaud both the movie itself and Cinedigm.

Cinedigm’s The Aviators may not be a new release overseas. But here in the U.S. it is. It was originally released in Spain in 2008. Since its original release, the world of animated movies has taken a dramatic decline here in the United States. The cookie cutter appearance of American “animated” movies coupled with their own falling victim to Hollywood’s trend of prequels, sequels, and remakes has made them far less the viable force that they once were in Hollywood’s golden era. Taking this into consideration, it makes The Aviators all the more worth the watch by audiences of all ages. Making it even more worth the watch is that it is available for audiences in three separate formats. Those formats are a stand-alone DVD, a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and Digital HD. On the surface, it may not seem like that is much of a factor. But it really is. It shows that Cinedigm has paid tribute to all of the movie’s audiences regardless of the format to which audiences have access. Audiences with a DVD player can watch it on DVD. Those that perhaps have access to both a Blu-ray player and DVD player can pick up the movie in its combo pack presentation. What’s more, since there are apparently no mobile Blu-ray players out there yet, the combo pack lets audiences watch the movie on Blu-ray or DVD at home, and watch it on DVD on the go. Speaking of on the go, audiences with tablets can download the movie in its Digital HD format and watch it on the go, too effectively saving space in terms of perhaps packing for a trip of any length without losing the chance of watching the movie in the process. Understanding now the importance of the movie’s various formats, audiences should see clearly why this part of the movie’s overall presentation is so important. Together with the movie’s outstanding animation style and its original script, its various presentation formats solidify the success and enjoyment of The Aviators. Together, they show once and for all why The Aviators is just as good as any “animated” feature from Hollywood’s Power Five studios past or present. In turn, they show exactly why The Aviators is worth at least one watch by audiences of any age.

The Aviators is available now online and in stores. More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

Website: http://www.newvideo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Cinedigm,

                          http://www.facebook.com/CinedigmKids

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.