IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

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

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Deep Purple’s Latest Live LP An Important Addition To Any Fan’s Library

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eight years ago, Eagle Rock Entertainment released to DVD what has gone on to become one of a handful of iconic performances from legendary British hard rock band Deep Purple. The concert in question was the band’s performance at the 1974 California Jam. Last month, Eagle Rock finally followed up that recording with the DVD’s audio only companion on CD. The DVD half of this recording is probably out of print at the time of this review. So it’s nice to see the classic archived concert’s return. The band only performs seven songs in its set here. But that’s no loss considering how rich each song proves to be. The performance by the band is just as impressive as the set list chosen for the show. And while the audio mix starts out rather muddy, it does get better. This factor is just as important as anything else to note as the alleged history behind the audio mix has its own story. The history behind the audio mix and the audio mix set alongside the band’s performance and its set list serve to make this archived live recording worth at least one listen.

Deep Purple’s set at its 1974 California Jam consisted of only seven songs. That might not seem like much. But the songs included in the set and the set’s near ninety-minute run time make the set list rather impressive to say the least. Over the course of the band’s nearly ninety-minute set, the members of Deep Purple put on what was one of the best performances of the entire California Jam Festival that year. David Coverdale was handling vocal duties for the band at the time of the concert. And he put on a virtual clinic throughout the show, hitting notes that no man should seemingly be able to hit. His ability to those high notes and mid-range notes even puts to shame the likes of Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and even Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), James LaBrie (Dream Theater) and so many other pure singers past and present. Richie Blackmore (guitars) and Ian Paice (drums) both get their moment to shine throughout the show, too. Whether in their solo moments or as part of the whole, Paice and Blackmore prove throughout the show just why they are still among the most respected musicians in their respective fields even today even four decades after that iconic performance was recorded.

Deep Purple spent nearly ninety-minutes wowing audiences in attendance with the band’s fan friendly set list. The band’s members, as already noted, more than exhibit their talents time and again throughout the course of the concert. By direct connection, the band’s overall performance impresses, too. The band keeps the energy up throughout the course of the show, keeping the audience at a fever pitch from start to finish. Even on the slightly more reserved, bluesy ‘Mistreated’ The band somehow maintains a certain level of power. It actually rivals any blues-rock based song performed by fellow Brit-rockers The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Audiences will hear and feel that energy for themselves when they check out this live recording, too.

Both the performance by the members of Deep Purple at this concert and the band’s set list hold equal importance to the overall enjoyment of this latest live DP release from Eagle Rock Entertainment. There is still one more factor to consider in the recording’s overall enjoyment to investigate. That final factor is the concert’s audio mix. There is no getting around the fact that the concert’s audio mix starts out rather muddy. Guitarist Richie Blackmore overpowers David Coverdale’s vocals rather blatantly throughout ‘Burn’ and even ‘Might Just Take Your Life.’ But it does get better as the near ninety-minute concert progresses. In defense of Eagle Rock Entertainment, there is a story that alleges Blackmore went to the individual running the audio board for the band’s performance and essentially told him to put more emphasis on his [Blackmore’s] part than on anyone else. There’s no telling if there is any truth to this story. But if there is, it would most definitely explain why the audio mix sounds so messy early on. Luckily, that muddiness doesn’t last too long. It gets better as the concert progresses. Audiences can hear the different parts level out more as the show progresses. And because the audio mix does clear up and balance out, it makes the show much easier on the ears (as if the set list and performance together aren’t already easy on the ears to begin with).   That ease on listeners’ ears alongside the set list and performance by the band all come together to make this recording one worth at least one watch by both classic rock fans and fans of Deep Purple.

Deep Purple: Live in California ’74 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Cal-Jam-1974-Deep-Purple/dp/B00IAR2DG4/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1400702990&sr=1-2&keywords=deep+purple+California+Jam. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Disney Earns Its Own Wings With Cars Spinoff

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Planes is not as terrible as many critics (this critic admittedly included) had previously considered it to be.  However, it is also not one of the year’s best.  One has to take into account the comments made by co-writers Klay Hall and John Lasseter in the movie’s bonus material to fully appreciate what Planes actually offers audiences.  Their comments play directly into the movie’s overall plot.  The resultant effect is that Planes’ story comes across more as its own story and less of a rip-off of Pixar’s Cars.  The end result is a movie with just enough heart to make it worth at least one watch.

Walt Disney Studios was lambasted by audiences and critics alike (this critic included) when the studio announced that it would be releasing a spinoff of Pixar’s hugely successful Cars franchise.  The very fact that Disney would simply title the new spinoff Planes was to thank for that reaming of the studio. The instant reaction was to say that this movie was just Cars in the air.  While it largely is that, the movie is also worthy of at least some defense.  In its defense, the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release help it to earn at least a slight respect.  Pixar head and Planes co-writer John Lasssetter discusses the movie in a sit-down interview.  He explains in his interview that there had been a proposal to spin off Cars with a movie about trains.  Yes, a movie about trains.  All they would have needed were Steve Martin and someone to take the place of the late John Candy.  Anyone that gets this reference should stand up and take a bow right now.  Getting back on the subject, Lasseter explains wisely that a movie centered on planes instead of trains made more sense.  He explains in his own wording that a movie on planes obviously gave more story options, which makes sense.  That sentiment alone makes the movie more bearable.

Lasseter’s Planes co-writer Klay Hall is also interviewed in the movie’s bonus features.  He explains in his bonus interview that the idea for a story centered on planes was largely thanks to his own late father being a Navy pilot.  The result was a lifelong love for all things aerial.  He explains in depth how his love for all things aerial led to the precise details used throughout the movie, too.  He explains that he wanted to make the movie as factual as possible.  And he did just that.  Anyone that has ever watched the likes of the Red Bull Air Race World Series will appreciate the shots down the long axis of the planes during the qualifying sessions for the big round-the-world air race.  They will also appreciate the technical jargon tossed about throughout the movie’s run time, which barely tops the ninety-minute mark.

The interviews with both Lasseter and Hall earn Planes a new respect that without which, it might not have earned.  Also worthy of note is the plot behind this continuation of Pixar’s Cars franchise.  The writing team of Lassetter, Hall, and Jeffery M. Howard have crafted in Planes, a standard underdog story complete with underlying romance subplot.  This is not the first time that such a story has been done, just as Pixar’s Monsters University was hardly the first college based comedy ever crafted.  In Planes’ defense though, it didn’t directly rip off either of the Cars movies.  It actually does have its own story.  To that extent, it develops even more its own identity.  Add in the fact that comedian Dane Cook has proven that he can actually handle more mature—anyone that has seen Cook’s standup act understand how immature and boring he comes across as being—material, and Planes actually proves that it has not only its own identity, but also has heart.  All of this being noted, Planes proves to be a movie that while hardly one of Disney’s best or even one of 2013’s best, is worth at least one watch with the family.

Planes is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It can be ordered online direct from the Disney online store at http://www.disneystore.com/planes-3d-blu-ray-2-disc-combo-pack/mp/1346514/1000316/?cmp=OTL-Dcom&att=Dcom_FS_Planes3DBluRay_Home_BuyMovie and http://www.disneystore.com/planes-dvd-digital-copy/mp/1346520/1000316/.  More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios and http://www.waltdisneystudios.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Identity Thief A Mere Shadow Of Hughes’ Classic Road Trip Comedy

Courtesy:  Universal Studios

Courtesy: Universal Studios

Universal Studios’ latest attempt at a buddy comedy comes up far short of the John Hughes classic which it tries to emulate. This road trip buddy comedy is a mere shadow of Hughes’ 1987 classic, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Where Hughes did everything right with his movie, writer and director Steve Conrad and Seth Gordon have combined to make a movie in Identity Thief that struggles at best to come across as an update of what is a much better story. Thank goodness for veteran actor Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Extract, etc.). If not for his acting chops, this movie might have completely sunk. He manages throughout the story to pick up the slack left by co-star Melissa McCarthy whose character is annoying in herself, while she as an actress falls flat in her attempt to be funny. It would be interesting to find out if other actresses had been considered for the role or even another actor before the higher ups decided on her. Even the inclusion of guest stars Robert Patrick (T2, The Unit) and rapper T.I. didn’t do a lot to help the movie.

Identity Thief has more than its share of problems. But for all of its negatives, it would be unfair to ignore the few funny and at least semi-heartfelt moments that are peppered throughout the story (as few as they are). The story does offer at least a tiny amount of heart in that McCarthy’s Diana does reach a point where she begins to realize how she is and begins to change ever so slowly. Audiences see hints of Diana’s change when she decides not to take Sandy’s (Bateman) car one night at a hotel. Eventually her own growth leads Sandy to his own point of self-discovery and realization. That realization leads to his own personal growth. The personal growth of both Sandy and Diana does help move the story. And thankfully there are some equally enjoyable moments of physical comedy that help move the story along. Sadly though, those moments aren’t enough to make up for the mass of slower moments that bog down this near two hour movie. Those slower moments leave a movie that clocks in at just under two hours feel more like a near two and a half hour movie. Needless to say that considering this, it’s the final nail in the coffin for this failed attempt at an update of a classic. It’s one more movie that proves there’s nothing better than the original.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.