‘Fighting With My Family’ Deserves At Least A Fighting Chance

Courtesy: WWE Studios/Universal Pictures

Underdog stories and movies based on actual events are among the most commonplace staples in the movie industry today.  The genres reach all the way back to Hollywood’s golden age.  Back in February, World Wrestling Entertainment and its movie division WWE Studios joined the ranks of studios that have churned out movies under one banner, the other, or both when it debuted its new movie about WWE Divas Champion Paige, Fighting With My Family. The movie made its way to home release only months later in May complete with bonus content and extended director’s cut.  The bonus content featured in the movie’s home release plays its own important part to the whole of Fighting With My Family and will be addressed a little later.  The movie’s central story is its most important element and will be addressed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast on screen also plays into its presentation and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way.  All things considered, Fighting With My Family proves to be a movie that has at least a fighting chance with WWE fans and wrestling fans in general.

WWE Studios/Universal Pictures’ recently released dramedy Fighting With My Family is a work that will appeal to a very targeted audience.  Keeping that in mind, it is a movie that has at least a fighting chance (yes, that pun was intended) with those viewers.  That is due in part to the story at the center of the movie.  The story is a work with an all too familiar underdog/coming-of-age base that is itself based on actual events.  It is nothing that audiences have never seen before, even within the sports realm, too.  It follows the story of WWE Divas Champion Paige as she rises through the ranks of the WWE from her humble beginnings in England.  Keeping that in mind, one could even call it another rags-to-riches piece.  Simply put, the story is nothing new in the bigger picture of the movie industry, and not overly memorable.  However, it is still an interesting piece worth at least an occasional watch both among wrestling/WWE fans and audiences in general.  Director Steven Merchant notes in his feature-length commentary that the Knight family was closely consulted for the movie, since it is based on a documentary about the family and real events.  He reveals the movie stays close to Paige’s real story, despite a few liberties being taken.  To that end, it will make the story that much more appealing for viewers.  It is just one of the aspects that makes the movie appealing to the noted viewers.  The work of the movie’s cast adds its own share of interest to the movie’s presentation.

While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does appear in the movie – and produced it – he is not the main star in the movie.  The cast that portrays Paige and her family are the main stars.  Nick Frost plays Paige’s dad Ricky, and is so entertaining in the role. Between his comedic moments and his more emotional moment (at the story’s finale) and even his more tough guy moments, Frost manages to keep viewers entertained with ease.  Frost’s co-star Lena Heady, who plays Paige’s mom Julia, plays so well against Frost as a foil.  The chemistry between the pair is obvious in their interactions.  It makes those interactions that much more enjoyable.  Lead star Florence Pugh is just as entertaining as her cast mates as she grows and develops as a character.  Her portrayal of Paige will keep viewers fully engaged as she goes from being that outside underdog figure at the story’s beginning to the confident, proud Divas Champion by the story’s end.  There’s no reason to hide that aspect of the story.  A story of this nature obviously ends with the underdog rising above all obstacles to win the biggest prize.  Between her acting, that of her main cast mates and even the supporting cast, the work on camera by the movie’s cast does just as much as the story itself to make the movie appealing for its key viewer base.  When the two elements are joined, they show even more why this movie doesn’t go down without a fight.  Yes, that awful pun was intended, too.  They are not the movie’s only key elements.  The bonus content that is featured with its home release is just as worth noting.

The bonus content featured with Fighting With My Family includes a feature-length audio commentary with Merchant, a “making of” featurette that features interviews with the cast, deleted scenes and a featurette on how Pugh learned the wrestling moves needed to take on the role of Paige.  The feature-length commentary is the anchor for the bonus content.  Merchant reveals through his commentary, a lot of information.  He points out that Paige’s first NXT match was actually inspired by Eminem’s movie 8 Mile, and adds later, Clint Eastwood’s 1979 movie Escape From Alcatraz played into another scene later in the movie.  That is just the tip of the iceberg.  He also reveals that Pugh’s co-star Vince Vaughan did quite a bit of improving throughout the movie in terms of lines.  The discussions on his improving will be saved for audiences to discover for themselves. Merchant also reveals through his discussions, that parts of Paige’s story were left out for the sake of time, such as the fact that Paige was accepted into WWE on her second try, not her first, and her road to the Divas Championship was far longer than time allowed, even in two-and-a-half hours (the run time of the movie’s director’s cut).  The NXT facility shown in the movie was not WWE’s real NXT facility, either, according to Merchant.  He reveals the facility was a set created in England, though many of the wrestling matches and WWE scenes were shot on set at WWE tapings.  This is just some of the information that is revealed through Merchant’s commentary.  There is far more for audiences to take in for themselves.  Between everything listed here and everything else, Merchant’s commentary proves it is the most important of this movie’s bonus features.

The cast discussions on their interactions with the real life Knight family and the focus on Pugh’s wrestling lessons are enlightening and entertaining in their own right.  They add a little bit more to Merchant’s discussions, but are overshadowed by the noted commentary.  That is not to say that they lack value, but that the commentary holds the most power in this movie’s presentation.

The deleted scenes are interesting in that it is clear why certain scenes were cut.  For instance, the extended cut of the chase between Zak and Ez definitely did not need to be in the movie for any impact.  To that end, the chase scene that is featured works well in itself.  The additional scene in which Paige’s friends confront her for changing when she comes home for the holidays is another scene that was cut.  It definitely was not needed either.  Paige’s weightlifting scene at the NXT facility did not add much to the movie, either, so it is understandable in watching that scene why it was cut, too.  These are just a few of the scenes that were cut from the final product.  When they are considered alongside the rest of the featured deleted scenes, the effect of having cut them makes for more appreciation for what is in the final product – even in the director’s cut.   Keeping all of this in mind along with the notes of the director’s commentary and the other featurettes, the bonus material featured with the home release of Fighting With My Family proves to be, in fact, important in its own right to the whole of the movie.  When it is considered along with the work of the cast on camera and the work of Merchant in fashioning the script, all three elements make the movie a piece that while it may not get its own title belt, at least doesn’t get pinned.  It is a movie that is worth at least an occasional watch that deserves a fighting chance.

WWE Studios/Universal Pictures’ recently released movie Fighting With My Family is an interesting presentation that will definitely appeal to wrestling fans in general and WWE fans alike.  It doesn’t take the championship in the already vast sea of movies from WWE Films, but it does at least deserve a fighting chance.  That is due in part to its multi-tiered story that is easily accessible due to its many all-too-familiar plot elements.  The work of the movie’s cast in front of the lens adds to its appeal, as noted already here.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s home release puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Each item is important in its own right to the whole of Fighting With My Family.  All things considered, the movie doesn’t put the Smackdown on its counterparts in this year’s field of new movies, but at least never gets the three count.  More information on this and other titles from WWE Studios is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.wwe.com/inside/overtheropes/wwestudios

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

Twitter: http://twitter.comwweuniverse

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from Universal Pictures is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.universalpictures.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/universalpics

 

 

 

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Universal Pictures Announces ‘Fate Of The Furious’ Home Release Date

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

The latest installment in the hit Fast & Furious franchise is racing to home release.

Fate of the Furious will be released Tuesday, July 11 on DVD, Blu-ray and 4KUltra HD Combo pack.  It will be preceded by a digital HD release on Tuesday, June 27. Audiences can see the movie’s trailer online now here.

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Vin Diesel, Jason Staham, Michelle Rodriguez, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, the movie follows Dom, Letty, Mia, Brian and the rest of their friends as they embark on one more globe-trotting, action-filled adventure.  This time, the threat that the elite driving corps faces comes from a deranged anarchist bent on bringing total chaos to the world.

The movie’s upcoming home release on DVD and Blu-ray includes a digital director’s cut and more than an hour of bonus content including a behind-the-scenes look at the stunts used throughout the movie, audio commentary with director F. Gary Gray and extended fight scenes.  The movie’s Blu-ray release will feature its own bonus material that will be exclusive to that platform.

The full listing of the movie’s bonuses is noted below.

BONUS FEATURES EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY:

  • The Cuban Spirit –As the first major studio motion picture to shoot in Cuba in decades, the country’s effusive spirit permeates the making of the film.
  • In the Family –In The Fate of the Furious, family ties are put to the ultimate test. Get an inside look at the family divide.
  • Car Culture –It’s time to put yourself in the driver’s seat of the supercharged vehicles showcased in The Fate of the Furious.

BONUS FEATURES on BLU-RAY and DVD:

  • All About the Stunts –Go behind the scenes to witness how The Fate of the Furiousaccomplished the most epic stunts in franchise history.
  • Extended Fight Scenes
  • Feature Commentary with Director F. Gary Gray

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS  EXTENDED DIRECTOR’S CUT
Director F. Gary Gray’s never-before-seen extended cut and the Theatrical release are available on all physical products (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD) that will include digital codes for both versions.  Also available on digital platforms.

More information on The Fate of the Furious is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://uni.pictures/FateFuriousExtended

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FastFurious

 

 

 

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‘Moana’ Makes For An Enjoyable Occasional Watch

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios has gone to great lengths in recent years to attract young female audiences looking for something other than the standard damsel in distress stories.  New strong female leads such as Princess Elena (Elena of Avalor), Merida (Brave) and Elsa and Anna (Frozen) have proven those efforts have paid off.  The company’s take on Rapunzel (Tangled) could be argued either way.  Late last year, the House of Mouse brought its young female audiences another strong female role model in the form of Moana.  The Polynesian teen’s coming-of-age story proved to be a rousing success for Disney in terms of sales.  Now available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, the movie has proven to be just as much of a financial boon for the company.  As successful as it has performed, this latest teen-centric tale of self-realization and friendship is, in reality, not Disney’s best.  It is not a total loss, though.  That should be emphasized here.  That is due in part to its dual-pronged story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The story’s pacing does take away from the story, bogging it down more than once.  The movie’s bonus material should also be noted in examining its overall presentation.  That will be discussed at more length later, too.  Each element plays its own part in Moana’s overall presentation.  They show that while it is anything but Disney’s best, it is also not the studio’s worst effort either.  It is worth at least an occasional watch.

Walt Disney Studios’ latest animated adventure Moana is hardly the famed studio’s finest work.  To be fair, it is also not the company’s worst effort.  It is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to the movie’s dual-pronged story.  The most obvious of those two prongs is Moana’s own coming-of-age story.  After being told by her father not to go beyond the reef, she decides (on the advice of her grandmother) that she should make her own decision.  This leads her to strike out on her own adventure in an effort to save her island and its surrounding islands.  This story of self-actualization generates, in itself secondary messages about finding one’s own way in life, not being afraid to take chances, and so many other messages.  The movie’s writing staff is to be commended for the way in which they incorporated those messages into the central story without allowing them to overpower the script’s central story.  They are to be commended just as much for the balance of that central story with the secondary story of Maui’s turn from villain to hero.

The secondary story of Maui’s turn from villain to hero is just as commonplace in the cinematic realm as Moana’s coming-of-age tale.  As the pair journeys to return the heart of Taffiti Moana eventually leads Maui to realize the error of his ways, leading him to make a tough decision about himself and about personal sacrifice, leading him to atone for his past wrongs and become a hero.  It is, in its own right, its own coming-of-age story, just more in the avenue of self-actualization.  This story of personal growth is just as commonplace in the cinematic realm as Moana’s coming-of-age tale.  Yet somehow the script’s writing team was able to make both stories work.  That ability to make both stories so entertaining makes the movie’s writing team deserving of its share of applause.  At the same time though, that applause cannot be too loud.  That is due to the problem raised through the story’s pacing.

Moana’s writers are to be commended for joining two common-place cinematic stories and somehow balancing them.  They are to be commended, too for somehow taking at least a somewhat original approach to the all-too-familiar stories.  While the writers are to be commended for the efforts taken to make those stories work collectively and alone, they cannot be applauded too loudly.  That is because their efforts also led to a pacing problem that clearly bogs down the movie.  That pacing issue is evident early on as Moana is given the heart, only to lose it when she is caught by her father.  The problem here is that it meant the story had to take a lot of unnecessary time building up to Moana getting the heart back from a somewhat expected source all while she is growing up and finding her way all before she even embarks on her epic journey.  Once Moana finally gets her voyage, things pick back up a little, only to get bogged down again as she and Maui get randomly attacked by a bunch of mutant-type living coconut pirates.  Yes, mutant-type, living coconut pirates.  Sounds like the premise for a really bad 1950s B-sci-fi flick, right?  Once they escape the creatures’ (which conjure thoughts of the goombas from the Mario Brothers video game franchise) clutches, the story does pick up again, only to be bogged down yet again later as Maui (at least temporarily) deserts Moana—not to give away too much—before things pick up again in the story’s final act.  Considering the constant back and forth of the story’s pacing, keeping audiences engaged in the nearly two-hour movie is not easy.  That could potentially chalked up to the fact that it seems like the writers just threw together elements of past Disney offerings such as Aladdin, Hercules, and so many others and hoped they would make this story work.  They made the story’s dual-pronged approach work.  But they clearly caused problems in the story’s pacing.

The pacing of Moana’s dual-pronged story is a problem that cannot be ignored in examining the movie’s overall presentation.  The constant back and forth of the movie’s pacing makes maintaining audiences’ engagement (especially younger audiences) problematic.  Luckily, the efforts of the movie’s writing team to balance the stories and somehow make them at least somewhat original makes enduring the pacing problems easier.  Another element that makes up (at least somewhat) for the movie’s pacing is the bonus material included in the movie’s home release.  The movie’s key bonus feature is the documentary “Voices of the Islands.”  The roughly half-hour program takes viewers along with the movie’s heads to the South Pacific as they studied the Polynesian people and their culture ahead of the movie’s creation.  Audiences will be surprised to see how much of the region’s culture—from the importance of family and community to the importance of the coconut to even something as minor as the people’s hair style—plays directly into the movie in this program.  All of these discussions exhibit just how much time and work went into making the movie believable and that it properly paid tribute to the people on which it is centered.  It creates a new respect for the work put in to bring the story to life and is yet another example of how bonus features can make an otherwise forgettable flick more memorable and not the last.  The bonus ‘Gone Fishin’’ short that features Moana and Maui adds its own enjoyment to the movie’s overall presentation.  When the movie’s bonus material and its story are coupled together, they make the one negative of the movie’s pacing bearable.  The end result is a viewing experience that audiences of all ages will enjoy even with just the occasional watch.

Walt Disney Studios’ new animated movie Moana is not the studio’s best effort, nor is it the company’s worst offering.  It is a movie that is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to the balance in the movie’s dual-pronged story.  The story’s pacing is problematic.  There is no denying that, but luckily it is not so problematic that it makes the movie unwatchable.  The bonus material that is included in the movie’s home release gives audiences even more reason to give it a chance; especially the movie’s companion 30-minute “Voices of the Islands” documentary.  That bonus documentary, when coupled with the movie’s balanced two-part story, the two elements do plenty to make up for the movie’s pacing problems.  That combination makes the movie worth watching at least once in a while.  More information on Moana is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://movies.disney.com/moana

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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G.I. Joe Sequel Another Of 2013’s Worst Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2013 has been a rough year for the movie industry.  It has been either feast or famine for the big studios.  That is thanks in large part to the glut of sequels churned out by the industry’s major studios.  From the upper echelons all the way down to the general movie-goer, those same studios have been lambasted for their increasing reliance on sequels.  The latest movie in the G.I. Joe franchise justifies those darts even more.  Sure it has lots of flash-bang-boom action sequences and its share of special effects, and an easy to understand storyline, it doesn’t have much else.  Some might consider this a good thing for an action movie.  But the reality is because of this, it turns out to be one more movie that won’t take long to end up in the discount bins at retail outlets now that it is officially out on DVD and Blu-ray.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t the worst of the year’s movies.  It isn’t the worst of the record thirty-seven sequels that will have hit theaters by the year’s end.  But it isn’t one of the year’s best movies, either.  The question remains then, what is it about this movie that has left it in movie limbo so to speak?  To answer that isn’t easy.  But it isn’t impossible, either.  The best place to begin with the movie is its writing.  The story’s writing is for the most part, relatively simplistic.  It is also very predictable.  Right from the story’s opening minutes, audiences learn that at the end of the franchise’s first flick, Cobra Commander and Destro had both been captured and placed in special suspended animation tanks of sorts.  It is pretty obvious from this point where the story would progress.  It doesn’t get much better.  From here, audiences are introduced to the story’s secondary plot, the evil twin plot headed by the evil Zartan.  Simple math, right?  Yes.  Two plus two equals four.  Yet another world domination plot on the part of Cobra, which at least goes along with the old cartoon series from the 80s and early 90s.

The predictability of the story in G.I. Joe: Retaliation is just one microscopic part of the problem with its writing.  Just when one thinks the writing couldn’t get any worse, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick make the story even more convoluted by adding in a third storyline involving Snake Eyes’ (one of the few remaining Joes after Cobra’s attack on the Joes) hunt for his arch nemesis, Stormshadow.  Snake Eyes has to nab Stormshadow and bring him back to answer for the murder of his sensei, of which he was accused of committing as a child.  This additional storyline really wasn’t necessary to the overall outcome of the movie.  Wernick and Reese must have known this as they tried to justify it by making sure that only Stormshadow would know the full extent of Cobra’s evil plans this time out.  They could have still had him be a key player without the extra drama.  Had all of this extra fluff been cut, it would have saved a lot of time and maybe even made all of the movie’s over-the-top fight scenes and explosions justified.  But no, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Instead, they left it in.  And to make matters even worse, they made the story drag on even more by adding in unnecessary elements of melodrama both on the part of Stormshadow and the remaining Joes.  There is the whole aspect of Stormshadow having to come to terms with Zartan being the real killer and tricking him when he was a child.  And then there is Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) coming to terms with taking over the Joes after Duke’s (Channing Tatum) death early on.  Let us also not forget Lady Jaye’s own drama involving her father issues, too.  It’s all extra fat that could have been trimmed from the whole thing to make it at least more bearable.

Had the unnecessary elements noted above been removed from the movie’s final script, that removal would have made G.I. Joe: Retaliation more bearable.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  Even the choice of the movie’s title is problematic.  The very inclusion of the word “retaliation” in the title hurts the movie even more.  It’s an ambiguous subtitle.  That’s because in reality, both Cobra and the remaining Joes are retaliating against one another for everything that had happened in the course of the franchise’s first film.  More than likely, the intent was for the subtitle to be aimed more at the retaliation of G.I. Joe against Cobra for its actions against its forces.  But again, the ambiguity is there; too much of it in fact to make such a subtitle work.  And along with the already poor writing, it reduces the movie’s credibility even more.

There is so much that went wrong with G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  However, it would be unfair to ignore the only shining rays of hope that this largely forgettable Summer action flick does have.  Those rays of hope lie in the movie’s really cool gadgets and its action sequences.  Again, had the gadgets and action sequences been left with the predictable writing, the movie would not have been half as bad as it turned out to be.  But because that didn’t happen, the action sequences come across as little more than an excuse to try and distract viewers from the poor writing.  This is most clearly evident in the ironic fact that the most exciting of the action sequences was one that itself might not have even been necessary.  It involves Snake Eyes and his protégé, Jinx, facing a horde of ninjas along a sheer cliff face after having recovered Stormshadow in the aforementioned equally unnecessary extra story line.  As impressive as this sequence was, the only way that it (and its companion story line) could be justified is the fact that so many of the cast members from the previous film didn’t return this time out for whatever given reason.  So something was needed (in the minds of the writers) to advance the storyline.  Thus this sequence and its associated story line were inserted.  Had both elements been removed in the end, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still could have survived.  Sure it probably would have still ended up being forgotten in the grand scheme of things.  But it still would have survived and even taken more seriously.  As enchanted as studio heads continue to be with franchises, it would be no surprise if audiences eventually see another sequel or even a franchise reboot already.  When either of these scenarios plays out, one can only hope that whoever writes its script will learn from all of this and will make a movie that will return honor to the name and legacy that is G.I. Joe.

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