“POTC 5” Is A Welcome Return to Form For Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean” Franchise

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

More than 14 years ago, Disney brought to audiences what was one of the company’s biggest and best movies of its rich, decades-long history when it released Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. That nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, based on a ride at one of the company’s theme parks, proved to be its own enjoyable and successful action packed cinematic ride. In the years since its July 9, 2003 theatrical debut, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become less enjoyable with each entry. It fell so far from the glory of that first movie that when it was originally announced that Disney would make the franchise’s fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, much speculation was raised along with plenty of eyebrows. Every bit of that speculation was justified considering the problems with the franchise’s second through fourth installments. The reality of the franchise’s latest (and hopefully last) installment is that it proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the series. that is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note in examining this movie as the story itself. It will be discussed later. The work of the movie’s cast puts the finishing touch on its presentation. Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales proves itself a treasure in its own right even with its problems.

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Men Tell No Tales is a treasure of a movie, looking at the overall picture of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. That is because in comparison to the franchise’s second through fourth installments, its story brings the franchise full circle while also wrapping up the loose ends created over the course of the series’ previous entries. That includes its very first offering. This time out, Jack Sparrow has to evade yet another high seas villain who he wronged years ago all while trying to locate yet another powerful treasure. All the while, young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites — Maleficent, Oculus, Gods of Egypt) is trying to lift the curse on his dad, Will Turner, much as Will tried in previous movies to lift his dad’s curse. Henry ends up meeting his own love interest Carina (Kaya Scoldelario — Moon, The Maze Runner 1 – 2) very much in the same fashion in which Will and Elizabeth met in the franchise’s first movie). The twist that the writers put on Carina’s back story is a positive because it doesn’t just outright repeat Will and Elizabeth’s love story, but gives it new life so to speak. Henry trying since his childhood to lift his father’s curse is just one of the loose ends that this movie’s writers wrap up this time out. It is directly connected to the reunion of Will and Elizabeth, which is also addressed in this story, in turn bringing the entire franchise full circle. What is truly interesting to note in those attempts to tie the franchise together, the writers even acknowledge, albeit briefly, the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. That very brief mention of that movie is actually a good thing considering how…well…strange it was.Considering all of this, the story at the center of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales forms a relatively solid foundation for the movie’s presentation.

Relatively is emphasized because there are some issues with the story that cannot be ignored. First and foremost is the fact that in the original trilogy, it was hinted that anyone who controlled Davy Jones controlled the seas. Yet in this story, anyone who wields Poseidon’s trident also controls the seas. It’s kind of misleading to have two separate ways to control the seas. Also of note is the number of scenes that likely could have been cut without harming the movie’s overall story. There was a handful of scenes throughout the two-hour, nine-minute movie that could have been cut, not only cutting down the movie’s run time, but also keeping the movie’s pacing from slowing at those points, too. The dual presentations of Salazar’s back story not once but twice is a prime example of material that could have been cut back. It would have made more sense to tell how Jack lured Salazar into the Devil’s Triangle when he was initially introduced rather than introducing him initially and then later telling his back story. Some of the early interactions between Carina and Henry could have been trimmed back, too. Given, two hours and nine minutes is not a bad run time for this installment of the POTC series, but the material that could have been axed made the movie feel almost two and a half hours, which became the series’ standard run time. Cutting the noted material would have easily cut the movie back to about two hours flat, but considering as quickly as the story already manages to progress, it would have progressed that much faster without losing anything along the way. Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is not perfect, obviously, but it also is quite an improvement over the stories at the center of the series’ previous entries. To that end, this story forms, again, a relatively solid foundation for its presentation. It is not the movie’s only key element. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note as its story.

The stylistic approach taken in this movie is so critical to note because it takes audiences back to the very first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The action is there throughout along with the comedic timing, prat falls and more that made Pirates of the Caribbean so surprisingly enjoyable in its first outing. The over-the-top drama of the franchise’s second and third films were largely absent this time out, too, making this stylistic return to form quite welcome. Jack’s unlikely re-introduction and the early island fight sequence between Jack, his crew and the British soldiers are prime examples of what makes the movie’s return to form so welcome. The big high seas battle scenes between Salazar’s ship and crew and those of Sparrow also show how this movie stylistically returned to the franchise’s roots. There are also the liens traded between Jack and Henry as well as other dialogue that returns to form just as much. Between the lines and scenes noted here and so many others not noted directly, viewers will find that the movie’s creative forces went to great lengths to stylistically take viewers back to POTC‘s roots in a new setting and story. Those efforts paid off greatly here, strengthening even more the movie’s overall presentation. When those efforts are coupled with the work of the movie’s cast, the movie’s presentation proves even more why it is worth the watch.

Johnny Depp and company entertain audiences throughout the course of POTC 5 with their performances. That includes funny moments such as Jack and Henry’s first meeting and even Barbosa’s men as they discuss Salazar’s escape from the Devil’s Triangle with Barbosa as well as so many other moments. What audiences will note in these interactions is that even these moments are themselves another stylistic return to form for the movie. The same can be said of the more emotional moments between Henry and Carina. Audiences familiar with the series’ history will agree very similar chops were shown between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the original trilogy. Thwaites and Scodalerio are just as impressive as the pair’s characters slowly fall for each other. Rather than just go over the top, the growth is gradual, keeping audiences fully engaged. That subtlety in the pair’s acting shows experience beyond its years, and shows the promise for each actor’s future. Even Geoffrey Rush deserves his own applause as he has to keep himself from being run through by Salazar. He shows a side of Barbosa that rarely had to be seen in any of the franchise’s previous entries, and did so professionally, too. It made those moments just as interesting as any other from himself and his fellow cast mates. Those moments in question, when joined with the moments noted here, make even clearer why the cast’s work in front of the cameras just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story and its stylistic approach. Speaking of those elements, when they are joined with the cast’s work, the whole of the noted elements keeps Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales afloat much more easily than its predecessors, and makes it honestly the series’ best entry since Curse of the Black Pearl. keeping that in mind, Dead Men Tell No Tales sees Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a positive final note to an otherwise doomed franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a positive final statement for Disney’s otherwise sunken high-seas series. It takes audiences back to the glory of the franchise’s first film both in terms of the cast’s acting and the movie’s stylistic approach. While the movie’s story does have at least one plot hole — which is more powerful, controlling Davy Jones or Poseidon’s trident? — and suffers from some minor pacing issues related to unnecessary scenes, it still is a fun story that easily allows audiences to suspend their disbelief. Each item noted here plays its own part into the movie’s overall presentation. Good and bad considered side by side, this movie sees thankfully, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a much-needed positive final note to the otherwise maligned franchise. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Walt Disney Studios is available online now at:

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‘Cars 3’ Is A Fitting Final Lap For Disney/Pixar’s ‘Cars’ Franchise

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Cars 3, the latest entry in Disney/Pixar’s high-octane Cars franchise, was one of the most hotly anticipated movies of this year ahead of its nationwide theatrical debut this past June. That is because of just how disappointing the franchise’s second installment — released in 2011 — proved to be. That movie, which was essentially just an acting vehicle for Larry The Cable Guy, was little more than a cash grab for Disney and Pixar. While Cars 3 did make up for the wreck that was Cars 2, it didn’t do so without some issues. That is not to say that Cars 3 is unwatchable. As a matter of fact, one of the elements that makes it worth at least one watch is its story. At the same time, the story is also the movie’s primary negative. It will be discussed shortly. While the movie’s story makes up two of its most important elements, divided into two sides, it is only one of the movie’s most important elements. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements. Both elements are critical to the movie’s overall presentation in their own fashion. All things considered, Cars 3 still manages to make it to the checkered flag, albeit on seven cylinders. Yes, that awful pun was intended. That aside, Cars 3 does go the mile and in turn proves itself worth at least one watch.

Cars 3 is a fitting finale for Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. It is not a perfect period to the franchise, but is still an enjoyable presentation that is worth at least one watch. That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which brings the franchise full circle. Eleven years after Lightning McQueen first debuted, he has become a beloved veteran of the Piston Cup Series in this movie — beloved both by fans and by his fellow race cars. However, he also finds that his heyday has passed and must come to terms with moving on and moving forward. If this sounds familiar, it should. A very similar story was presented approximately seven years ago in Toy Story 3, another Disney/Pixar flick. The movies’ writing teams are not the same, but the story is quite similar, just presented in a different scenario. It is also a story that, much like that of the franchise’s freshman entry, reminds audiences of racing’s roots. While Thomasville Speedway does not exist in the real world, it instantly conjures thoughts of North Wilkesboro and so many of the tracks that formed NASCAR’s foundation. It was nice to see the movie’s writing staff bring back this focus on the sport’s past (including its moonshining connection) once again, especially considering the direction that NASCAR has gone since the early 2000s under its current leadership regime.

Paying tribute once more to NASCAR’s roots while also presenting a message of letting go and moving forward are both key to making the story Cars 3‘s central story entertaining. They are only a portion of what makes it watchable. Not to give away too much for those who perhaps haven’t yet seen this movie, but there is also a surprise twist in the movie’s final scene that is just as certain to entertain audiences while still tying directly into that theme of progress. It makes the story that much stronger. Keeping all of this in mind, the movie’s central story forms a strong foundation for its presentation. While that foundation is strong though, it is not entirely solid. There are some noticeable cracks in that foundation thanks to the writing team’s apparent struggle to decide if they wanted to throw back to Cars or make this movie more a tribute to the voice of Doc Hudson, the late great Paul Newman.

Throughout the course of Cars 3‘s one-hour, 42-minute run time, the story references Doc Hudson so many times that it becomes easy to lose count of said references, even going so far as to use what must have been some material that never made it to Cars’ final cut in this case to try to advance the story. The problem here is that rather than advance the story, it leads the story to get sidetracked, ultimately slowing the story’s pacing. That pacing problem is in the end, the second of the movie’s most important elements to discuss. It almost makes one want to fast forward the movie at times as Lightning McQueen progresses on his journey of re-discovery just to make it through the movie’s traffic. Yes, that bad pun was intentional, too. Getting back on the subject at hand, the diversions created through the references to Hudson include extra scenes, such as Lightning’s discussion with Smokey about Doc and his recollections of his own conversations with Doc among others. Those extra scenes probably should have hit the cutting room floor as they do not do much to advance the movie’s central story. Considering all of this, it becomes clear why Cars 3‘s central story is both a positive and a negative. That duality is so important that it in itself gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this sequel at least once. Also making Cars 3 worth at least one watch is the work of its voice cast.

Owen Wilson returns once more as the voice of Lightning McQueen for this ride as do the original voice actors who brought life to Radiator Springs’ residents and even Dinoco owner Tex’s voice (Humpy Wheeler), that of Chick Hicks — Bob Peterson (Cars, Up, Finding Nemo) — and Lightning’s hauler Mack — John Ratzenberger (Cars, Cars 2, Toy Story 1 – 3). Both the seasoned cast and the new additions — Armie Hammer as the voice of Jackson Storm, Chris Cooper as the voice of Smokey, Cristela Alonzo as the voice of Cruz Ramirez and Kerry Washington as the voice of Natalie Certain — do their utmost to make the movie enjoyable for audiences of all ages. While Jackson Storm is the movie’s main villain, he is not really on camera very much. Keeping that in mind, Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) easily could have hammed it up as the self-centered, high-performance race car. He didn’t allow that to happen, though. Instead he showed his understanding and respect for his part in the story’s bigger picture each time, making Storm a villain that audiences will love to hate. To that end, Hammer is deserving of his share of applause for his work. Alonzo (Mind of Mencia, Cristela) is just as entertaining as Cruz. This includes both Cruz’s funnier moments — such as when she accidentally digs herself into the sand and when she is acting as the racers’ trainer — and her more emotional moments –such as her confrontation with McQueen following the demolition derby and the equally moving climax in the story’s final act (not to give away too much). Considering the situations into which the movie’s writers put Cruz, it would have been easy for Alonzo to go over the top, too. But She shows time and again so much talent, ensuring even more audiences entertainment and engagement. When her work and that of Wilson couples with work of the movie’s supporting cast (the Radiator Springs cast, announcers, etc.) the whole of their work strengthens the foundation formed by the movie’s story, and makes the movie that much more worth the watch. That is even considering the issues raised in the story’s balance. When this is considered along with the movie’s standout CGI, which has clearly been stepped up since the franchise first debuted 11 years ago, the whole of Cars 3 proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable watch. It doesn’t live up to the legacy left by Cars, but definitely does make up for Cars 2 while potentially even leaving the door open for a whole new series of Cars movies, leaving it a fitting finale for the Cars franchise.

The third and likely last entry in Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise is a fitting final lap for the series. It proves in the long run that it really should have been Cars 2 instead of the movie that turned out to be Cars 2. That movie never should have even existed. Even with that movie having been made, Cars 3 will likely be considered the real rightful Cars 2 by most viewers. That is due in part to a story that despite struggling to balance its tribute to Paul Newman with an actual continuation of Cars, still proves to have some heart — enough heart to make it worth at least the occasional watch. The work of the movie’s voice cast — both main and support — strengthens the movie’s presentation even more. Add in some impressive CGI work that that clearly is another step up from the franchise’s freshman film, and audiences get a movie that definitely makes it to the checkered flag. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Cars 3 and other Disney/Pixar movies is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pixar.com

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ESPN To Debut New ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer During ‘Monday Night Football’

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is giving audiences extra reason to tune in to Monday Night Football.

The network will debut the first full trailer for the forthcoming Stars Wars movie The Last Jedi during its Oct. 9 broadcast, which will see the Bears and Vikings face off under the lights.  According to a news release from the network, the trailer will debut during halftime.  Game coverage is currently scheduled to start at 8:15 p.m. EDT.

Details have been scant about the movie’s plot ever since the announcement that the movie was being made.  What is known is that it picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) locating Luke Skywalker.  The trailer that has currently been made available hints that despite Luke’s reluctance, she convinces him to train her while also learning some deeply held secrets about the force and the Jedi.

Mark Hamill returns to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker alongside the now late Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benecio Del Toro.

Rian Johnson wrote and directed the movie.  Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman produced while J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski and Jason McGatlin each served as executive producers.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi will debut in theaters nationwide Dec. 15.  More information on Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com

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‘Soul on a String’ Survives By More Than A Thread

Courtesy: Film Movement

Late last month, independent movie company Film Movement brought the Chinese epic Soul on a String to audiences when it released the movie domestically on DVD.  The movie, which originally debuted in its home nation June 15, 2016 and domestically Oct. 22, 2016 at the Chicago International Film Festival, is a an interesting cinematic experience.  It crosses elements of east and west for a story that makes the movie worth at least one watch.  The story will be discussed shortly.  While the story itself makes the movie worth at least one watch, its pacing sadly detracts quite a bit from the movie’s overall presentation.  It will be discussed later.  While it takes away quite a bit from the movie’s presentation, the movie’s stunning cinematography makes up for that pacing and makes it at least somewhat bearable.  It will be discussed later, too.  Each element is key to the overall presentation of Soul on a String.  All things considered, the movie survives by more than a thread.

China’s imported epic journey of self-discovery Soul on a String is one of 2017’s most intriguing independent home releases.  Released domestically by Film Movement, the movie follows one man’s journey of redemption as he tries to return a sacred stone to its rightful place.  If this sounds oddly familiar, it should.  Disney’s hit animated movie Moana presents a very similar story, just with some minor changes.  In the case of the latter movie, the protagonist is a young woman on a coming-of-age journey as she travels to return a sacred stone to its rightful place.  Considering that Soul on a String came along first (Moana debuted Nov. 23, 2016 domestically, roughly five months after Soul on a String debuted in China), one can’t help but wonder about the connection between the two.  Getting back on the subject at hand, the story at the center of Soul on a String is in itself reason enough to give this movie at least one watch.  Audiences will be moved by Tabei’s personal growth over the course of his journey.  He starts out a very reluctant figure, wanting nothing to do with the journey or his two unlikely companions who join him along the way.  However, as his journey progresses, Tabei becomes more welcoming of them and grows personally, accepting even more his journey and fate.  That growth over time makes the problematic pacing of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie almost bearable.  Speaking of that pacing, it is the movie’s one major negative.  It is a major issue for the movie’s presentation, too.

The pacing of Soul on a String’s story is the movie’s only real notable negative.  That may not seem like much on the surface, but in the grand scheme of the movie’s two hour, twenty-two minute run time, it is extremely problematic.  Obviously the story’s intent is to follow Tabei on his long journey.  However, the story’s pacing plods along at points nearly at a snail’s pace, making one quite encouraged to fast forward through those many points.  In defense of the movie’s writing team of Zhaxidawa and writer/director Yang Zhang, the movie’s oftentimes dragging pace could have been fully intentional as a means to illustrate the length of Tabei’s journey.  If that is the case, then it definitely leaves viewers feeling like they are right there on that expansive journey.  Regardless of whether or not that was the intent, the pacing’s problematic nature cannot be ignored.  That is especially the case when there is so little actual action to the story.  Luckily, as problematic as the story’s pacing is, it is not enough of a problem that it makes the movie unwatchable.  The movie’s cinematography makes that plodding pace at least somewhat bearable.

Soul on a String won the “Best Cinematography” award at the Shanghai International Film Festival last year at the film’s Chinese debut.  That win was fully justified, too.  From start to finish, those behind the cameras and those charged with putting those shots together did an exceptional job of setting each of the movie’s scenes.  The vast expanses with their rich colors (both on land and in sky) are visually stunning throughout the movie.  The same can be said of the tight canyons through which Chung and Pu are forced to travel late in the story.  Each scene harkens back to the American Westerns which the movie strives (and succeeds) to emulate.  As a matter of fact, it could easily be argued that the scenes established in this movie actually outdo those in their American counterparts.  Audiences will revel in the juxtaposition of the lake to the mountains in the story’s final act and the natural beauty of the countryside throughout Tabei’s journey.  All things considered, the visual aspect of Soul on a String is truly the movie’s cornerstone.  It makes this Chinese import worth watching even more than the epic journey of self-discovery at its heart.  Of course when both elements are set alongside one another, they make the movie’s pacing throughout an issue that while clearly problematic, is also at least somewhat bearable.  Keeping all of this in mind, Soul on a String proves to be an independent offering worth at least one watch and that survives by more than a thread.

Soul on a String is a work that while definitely not perfect, thanks to its pacing, is one that is worth at least one watch.  That is thanks to its story and cinematography, which collectively ensure viewers’ engagement at least through most of its nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time.  If not for the positives that both elements prove, the movie’s plodding pacing would have ultimately doomed it.  That–again-was not the case, though.  Since it wasn’t the case, the movie ultimately survives by more than a thread.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available online now at:

 

Website: http://filmmovement.com

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‘Rogue One’ Shows Star Wars Fans Should Be Concerned About Franchise’s Direction Under Disney

Courtesy: Disney/Lucasfilm

Disney and Lucasfilm’s latest dive into the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not the worst of the franchise’s efforts to be released to date.  At the same time, it is hardly the franchise’s best effort, too.  That is because the movie, which had been so highly anticipated by audiences and critics alike, has proven to have more problems than positives.  The problems in question begin with story at the center of the movie.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story poses some problems that cannot be ignored, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of at least some applause.  Next to the movie’s soundtrack, led by legendary composer John Williams, it is the movie’s only other saving grace.  Keeping this in mind, one more key critical point must be addressed here in the form of the movie’s pacing.  This will be discussed later.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reason for any true Star Wars devotee to be concerned about Disney’s direction with this franchise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was touted by many as the franchise’s best entry to date.  Sadly though, a thorough investigation of the movie’s overall presentation reveals it in fact has just as many problems as positives.  The most obvious of the problems presented within this movie is its story.  More specifically speaking, the story’s setup is its real problem.  The story’s setup focuses on a young female with a checkered past leading a group of rebels to find the plans to the Death Star.  Along the way, an Imperial pilot turned…well…rogue (enhancing the movie’s title even more) helps Jyn and company in their efforts.  If that sounds familiar at all to anyone, it should.  A very similar plot was used for Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ story.  Given the female lead’s circumstances are different in the two stories as are the overall stories.  That does serve to save this movie’s story albeit only slightly.  However, there is no getting around the blatant similarities in the movies’ setups.  Taking that into consideration one can’t help but see there is clearly a lack of effort in regards to the story’s setup; a lack of effort that so many audiences apparently refuse to see.

The setup that is used in Rogue One’s story is an item that cannot be ignored in examining this movie’s overall presentation.  That is especially the case since the movies’ writing teams were separate from one another.  While the story’s setup is clearly a problematic issue, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of its own share of applause.  That is because it exhibits an obvious (and applause worthy) attempt to throw back to the stylistic approach of the franchise’s original trilogy. From the costumes to the scene transitions, it is clear that those behind the lens wanted to pay tribute to the original trilogy and those who grew up with those movies.  That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that makes the movie’s stylistic approach so impressive.  The final climactic battle scenes throw back to the franchise’s originally movies in their own right, too.  That is exhibited as the X-Wings fly around the imperial attach vehicles and take them out and as the rebels on the ground fight imperial troops on foot.  Of course some of the scene’s bigger, over-the-top moments throw back to similar scenes from so many WWII-era flicks.  This takes away from the moment’s seriousness to a certain point.  That, however, is a minor issue at most.  Overall, the stylistic approach taken to this Star Wars story must be applauded. It shows an effort to bring back the look and feel of the franchise’s original installments while also pointing toward the franchise’s future.  Hopefully that balance (which was visibly missing from The Force Awakens) will be more visible in the franchise’s next effort.

The stylistic approach of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the movie’s one saving grace.  It shows a valid attempt to pay homage to the Star Wars franchise’s past and fans while also pointing to the franchise’s future.  It does so in a balanced fashion, too.  Sadly though, it is the only element that makes sitting through this 2-hour, 5-minute movie worth the effort.  Speaking of the movie’s run time, that run time feels far longer than it actually is.  That is due to the pacing established in the movie’s story.  As noted, the movie runs just over two hours.  The majority of that time—about 1 hour, 20-minutes—is spent building up to the eventual attack on the imperial facility containing the death star plans.  On the positive side, it doesn’t waste too much of that time setting up Jyn’s story.  It just spends most of that time sending her here, there and everywhere as she tries to find out her father’s message and then convince the rebels to go after the plans.  Things move just as slowly as ever in the story’s final act after Jyn convinces Cassian and company to join the cause.  Jyn and Cassian’s attempt to reach the plans, and the outcome thereof, seems to drag on almost endlessly especially as the battle outside the facility rages.  Even after Jyn and Cassian finally get the plans (the climax), things don’t pick up much, leaving observant audiences scratching their heads, wondering when and if the story will finally end.  It was as if the movie’s writing team couldn’t just leave well-enough alone.  That continued slow boil right up to the movie’s way-over-the-top and overly cheesy final scene makes one wonder how one kept from fast forwarding through the movie well before then. When these pacing issues are taken into consideration with the obviously problematic setup to the movie’s story, they take greatly detract from the movie’s overall presentation.  They take away so much from this movie that the movie’s stylistic approach becomes the only reason to give it a chance.  All things considered, there is so much negative to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that true Star Wars devotees should be very concerned about the direction that Disney is potentially forcing Lucasfilm to take with their favorite franchise.

True Star Wars devotees should be genuinely concerned about the direction that their favorite franchise could potentially be taking after watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Though its stylistic approach throws back to the franchise’s original trilogy, its pacing and the undeniably unoriginal setup to the movie’s story do plenty to take away from the movie’s overall viewing experience.  The story’s pacing makes its run time, which barely tops two hours feel far longer.  The story’s setup is a near mirror image to the setup used in The Force Awakens.  Keeping all of this in mind, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proves to be a story worth one watch, but honestly not much more.  More information on this and other entries in the Star Wars universe is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars

 

 

 

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CMG’s ‘Lured’ Re-Issue Leads Phil’s Picks’ 2016 Top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues List

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

It’s hard to believe but there are now only two weeks left in the year.  There’s still so much ground to cover before the year ends, too in terms of year-ender lists. This morning we move on again, staying still in the DVD and BD category, though.  On tap today we have the list of the year’s top new DVD/BD Re-Issues.

Included in this list are box sets and standalone DVDs/BDs.  So it’s a mix.  But it’s a solid mix.  Topping this year’s list of top new re-issues is Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of the 1947 thriller Lured.  The movie was one of star Lucille Ball’s very rare non-comedic roles, and she shines brightly in this movie.  The bonus commentary included in the movie adds even more to its viewing experience.

Speaking of bonus material, this critic took into account the re-issues’ bonus material as well as their packaging in assembling this list. It wasn’t easy.  But it is what this critic feels is a solid list nonetheless.  As a reminder, the list includes not only the Top 10 New DVD/BD re-issues but five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  That being said, here for you is Phil’s Picks’ 2016 Top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues.

 

PHIL’S PICKS 2016 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BD RE-ISSUES

 

  1. Lured

 

  1. Sudden Fear

 

  1. Return of the Killer Tomatoes

 

  1. Charlie Brown’s All-Stars

 

  1. A Boy Named Charlie Brown

 

  1. Peanuts: Snoopy Come Home

 

  1. A Scandal in Paris

 

  1. The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series

 

  1. Transformers: The Movie

 

  1. Bump in the Night

 

  1. Kingdom of Zydeco

 

  1. Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series

 

  1. The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Series

 

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

 

  1. Beauty and the Beast

 

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LPS: Making Friends Is A “Little” Collection That Boasts Big Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Hasbro Studios/Discovery Family

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Hasbro Studios/Discovery Family

The Littlest Pet Shop is officially open for business once again.  That is because Shout! Factory Kids has released yet another new compilation of episodes from the family favorite animated series.  Littlest Pet Shop: Making Friends was released in stores and online earlier this month.  And there is plenty for parents and children alike to appreciate about this latest collection beginning with its episodes.  They are collectively just one of the collection’s important elements.  The writing behind each episode is just as important as the episodes.  Last but not least of note within these episodes are the musical numbers presented throughout.  Each element proves important in its own right to the whole of Littlest Pet Shop: Making Friends.  Altogether they make this latest collection of episodes another little collection that once again boasts lots of big fun for the whole family.

Shout! Factory Kids’ new Littlest Pet Shop DVD Littlest Pet Shop: Making Friends is another little collection that once again boasts lots of big fun for the whole family.  This is due at least in part to the episodes that make up the body of the collection. This new DVD, the series’ tenth, features five more (technically four since one of the episodes is a two-part episode) episodes loaded with fun for the whole family.  What especially makes the episodes themselves so important to the collection is that each one follows the same underlying theme of making friends.  That theme is presented in different ways from one episode to the next and will be discussed shortly.  That is tied into the episodes’ writing.  The continuous theme presented throughout these episodes is just one part of what makes the episodes important to note in this collection.  Audiences will be just as happy to note in this collection that all five (or four, whichever side of that argument one chooses) episodes come from the same season—Season 3.  Adding to that all they are presented in chronologic order for all intents and purposes.  Obviously not every episode from Season 3 is here.  But in examining the order of the episodes presented on the disc, they are presented in the same order as they appeared in their original broadcast.  All that was missing was the episodes in between.  Though, many of those other episodes have already been presented in previous LPS collections.  One can only hope that eventually after the series’ full four seasons have been presented in its standalone sets, the whole of Season 3 (and the series’ other three seasons) will see a proper complete release for true fans of the series.  That is a discussion for another time.  Getting back on track, the episodes presented in LPS: Making Friends prove in the end to be hugely important to the set’s presentation.  They are collectively not the set’s only important element.  The actual writing within the episodes is just as important to note as the episodes themselves.

The episodes that are presented in Shout! Factory Kids’ new LPS collection are in their own right hugely important to the set’s presentation.  One reason for that is that all of the set’s featured episodes follow one continuous theme.  The theme in question is indeed that of making friends.  Adding to that is the fact that the episodes each come from the same season.  As if that isn’t enough, the episodes are also presented in an order that is at least partially chronological.  Given, it’s not entirely chronological since the episodes that separate them aren’t there.  But in general, they are presented in the same order in which they appeared in their original broadcast.  All things considered here, the episodes prove hugely important to this latest LPS collection. Of course the episodes would be nothing without their writing.  The writing is what connects the friendship theme from one episode to the next.  At the same time, the stories presented from one episode to the next stand on their own merits.  In the set’s opener “Sleeper,” Blythe’s furry friends meet a new raccoon friend named Mr. Von Fuzzlebutt.  Yes, that’s really his name.  Everybody really likes him, especially one specific member of the group.  The thing is that this new friend is nocturnal.  So he spends much of his time at LPS sleeping.  This leaves Sunil and Vinnie to have to make it appear that MR. Von Fuzzlebutt is awake when he’s not.  The result is a story that has been done so many times before in so many different TV shows and movies.  One of the most notable of those others is the famed 80s buddy comedy Weekend at Bernie’s.  Keeping that in mind, the story at the center of this episode is one that will definitely entertain today’s parents (many of whom grew up in the 80s) just as much as their children.  The story behind this episode is just one example of what makes the writing within LPS: Making Friends so important to the set’s presentation.  The story behind “Why Can’t We Be Friends” is another example of the importance of the episodes’ writing.

“Sleeper” is a key example of what makes the writing behind this set’s episodes so important.  It is just one key example of what makes the writing so important, too.  The work behind “Why Can’t We Be Friends” is another example of what makes the writing so important.  Yet again here is that theme of friendship.  At the same time, the story stands on its own merits.  In the case of this episode the LPS pets meet a friendly spider named Webber.  Only not everybody is a fan of Webber at first.  Sunil, as it turns out, is deathly scared of Webber because of his own fear of spiders.  This is funny in itself considering that Sunil is a mongoose, who is much bigger than Webber.  It’s like the stereotype of an elephant being afraid of a mouse.  Of course over time Sunil learns those all-too-important lessons about stereotypes and pre-judging others.  Thanks to that lesson Sunil and Webber become friends in the end.  That story and lesson make this episode stand out clearly from the set’s other episodes even as it carries the set’s underlying, connective theme.  It is hardly the last episode that can be cited in proving the importance of the episodes’ writing, too.  The set’s two-part closer “It’s The Pet Fest!” is one more prime example of what makes the writing in these episodes so important to its presentation.

The writing within “Sleeper” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends” clearly shows why the writing in this set’s episodes is so important.  The stories stand out from one another but the underlying theme of friendship is clear and present.  It is just presented in different fashion within each episode.  That is a great thing, too.  They are not the only episodes to show the importance of the set’s writing.  The set’s two-part closer “It’s The Pet Fest” shows that importance just as much as “Sleeper” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”  This episode sees Blythe organizing a fundraising concert for a good animal cause.  There’s just one problem.  She didn’t file for the necessary permits in time.  As a result she has to make friends with her mortal enemies, the Biskit Twins for help.  It is yet another familiar plot element that has been used in so many movies and television shows before as is the case of a young person arranging a benefit concert.  Even though they are not exactly new plot elements, the show’s writers still manage to successfully keep both lot elements fresh and entertaining in this episode.  They do so by not only having Blythe bring in a band that is world-famous in the LPS universe, but also by having the LPS pets put on their own concert, too.  In the end Blythe and the Biskit twins do end up working and existing together.  And the benefit proves to be a huge success.  Blythe even gets a big new honor as a result while the Biskit twins are left literally high and dry to wrap up the episode on a high note.  Again, the episode presents that underlying, recurring theme of friendship yet still holds its own against its counterparts here.  That being the case, the episode’s story and its theme come together to show just as much here the importance of the episodes’ writing as “Sleeper” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”  “Room Enough” shows that importance, too.  Together with the set’s other noted episodes it shows even more the importance of the writing within these episodes.  All in all, the writing within every one of these episodes shows with full clarity the importance of the writing within the episodes.  They show why the writing is just as important to the set’s presentation as the episodes themselves.  The episodes and their writing are together not the set’s only important elements.  The musical numbers that have been incorporated into the episodes are important to the set’s presentation, too believe it or not.

The episodes that are featured in Shout! Factory Kids’ new LPS collection are undeniably important to the set’s presentation.  The same can be said of the writing within each of the featured episodes.  As important as both elements prove to be to the set’s overall presentation they are not its only important elements.  The musical numbers that are incorporated into these episodes are—believe it or not—just as important to the set as the writing and the episodes themselves.  The musical numbers are so important because of how rare they are in the grand scheme of the series’ four-season run.  It is obvious in the case of the numbers featured here that they musical numbers were intentionally incorporated into the episodes.  They were actually intentional parts of the story rather than just random mini-numbers thrown in for the sake of it.  They actually added to each story.  There’s a full-on pop punk piece in the set’s closer, and a more “poppy” number in “Room Enough” that will have viewers tapping their toes just as much.  For the rockers out there, the writers even incorporated a solid rock tune into “Sleeper’s” story.  In a weird way, it sort of conjures thoughts of certain musical numbers presented in Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.  Coincidence or not the similarity is there.  And it is fun regardless.  It is just as fun as those numbers and the others presented in this set, too.  Keeping that in mind, it should be clear just why the musical numbers incorporated in this set’s featured episodes are just as important to note as the episodes’ stories and the episodes themselves.  Each element is important in its own right.  That is obvious.  All things considered though, they make this DVD in whole yet another little collection that boasts once again lots of big fun for the whole family.  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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