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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My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Gone Fishin’ Proves Comedy Can Be Funny And Family Friendly

Courtesy: Caravan Pictures/Hollywood Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

In the world of comedies, there are buddy comedies and then there is “Gone Fishin’.”  This outrageously funny flick will bring the entire family to tears with laughter.  It’s one part “Dumb and Dumber” (only funny) and one part “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”  It proves that comedy can be funny without going blue.  That’s thanks both to the writing of uber writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams and Jill Mazursky, along with the acting of Joe Pesci and Danny Glover.
 
“Gone Fishin’” was originally released in 1997.  Much like so much other comedy of the 90’s, it was comedy that for the most part was family friendly.  So having it brought back to light on blu-ray is like unearthing a relic from a bygone era.  Both the writing team of Abrams and Mazursky, and the acting duo of Pesci and Glover are to be commended for their parts in bringing this near Three Stooges-esque story to life.  Joe Pesci was a laugh riot in his own right throughout this movie.  Considering his resume, he was a natural choice.  That resume includes a pair of teamings with Glover in Lethal Weapon 2 and 3 in 1989 and 1992 respectively. 

Given, the story behind “Gone Fishin’” makes suspension of disbelief next to impossible.  But the movie’s comic elements more than make up for that fact.  Every time that Joe and Gus turn around, something else goes wrong for them.  For instance, watching their boat get pulled away by a train after the same train nearly destroys it comes across as almost cartoonish.  It’s simply one of many funny moments for the whole family.  And Joe and Gus themselves are funny.  Their mannerisms, their facial gestures, all of it combined make for plenty of laughs for the entire family.  Again, one can’t help but make at least light comparisons to the style of comedy that made the Three Stooges popular.    

“Gone Fishin’” is a funny movie.  There are those who would compare it to the pair’s teaming in Lethal Weapon 2 and 3, and automatically slam it.  So be it.  But that comparison isn’t entirely fair as that is comparing apples to oranges.  If anything can be said of the movie that’s bad, it’s Joe Pesci trying way too hard to come across as a New Jersey native.  And while his comic delivery is over the top, to say the least, it’s so over the top that it’s funny.  Even though it may not be the most memorable of comedies, “Gone Fishin’” is still by and large a great, fun, turn off your brain comedy for the whole family any day of the week.

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