“Dr. Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” Is An Imperfect But Still Enjoyable Addition To The Marvel Cinematic Universe

A little more than two months after making its domestic theatrical debut, Marvel Studios/Disney’s Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set for home release of 4K UHD and Blu-ray July 26.  The movie is director Sam Raimi’s first time heading a Marvel movie since helming Spiderman 3 in 2007 and while it is not perfect, it is still an entertaining new addition to the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU).  The movie’s success comes in part through its story, which while imperfect in itself still makes the movie worth watching occasionally.  This item will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part into the movie’s success and will be addressed a little later.  The movie’s general effect rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered this latest addition to the MCU is a worthwhile story that any true Marvel fan will appreciate.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the latest entry in the ever-expanding MCU (and second in the Dr. Strange world), is a mostly successful presentation.  The success that it enjoys comes in large part through its story that although imperfect is at least not too long at just over two hours in time.  The story is relatively simple: Dr. Strange meets a powerful young woman named America Chavez who has the ability to transcend Marvel’s various universes and has to protect her from Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch.  He has to protect America from Wanda because Wanda wants to take America’s powers and use them to venture into the multiverse and find the one in which “her children” reside.  Quotation marks are used because Wanda created her children, so they are not her biological children.  This is tied back into Marvel’s small screen world, sadly forcing audiences to know about the story from Disney+’s Vision and the Scarlet Witch series.  This tie into the bigger MCU is nothing new but is still disappointing because it leaves audiences who have not seen that limited series in the dark so to speak.  On a side note, there is also mention of Marvel and Sony’s Spiderman No Way Home in the story albeit brief, therefore once again forcing audiences to have some knowledge of that movie before coming into this presentation.  All of this aside, the story does manage to stand as its own tale that is not tied too closely to the rest of the MCU, so it has that much going for it.

Getting back to the matter of Wanda’s quest to capture America, it really comes across as being cliché to a point.  It all just seems so formulaic considering that the misguided villain story has been done so many times in other superhero stories in various ways but is still the same sort of tale.  Yes, a mother’s love is powerful, and there are women who have been proven so crazy to have children that they would kidnap others’ children in the real world, but this is not the real world.  It is the world of comics on film, and again, Wanda’s story of a misguided villain is anything but new in that realm.  It all just seems too formulaic, and it does detract from the movie’s presentation to a point.  It is not enough to completely doom the movie, though for audiences who can overlook this issue.

Moving on from that aspect, in the process of trying to protect America from Wanda, America and Dr. Strange end up in one of the endless universes out there in the MCU.  In their attempt to get home, he and America find out that a magical book that they need to defeat Wanda is conveniently located in that universe.  The book is not the only point of interest in the universe in which Dr. Strange and America find themselves. Characters from many other Marvel comic books, including Black Bolt, Reed Richards, and the seemingly most powerful mutant in the world, Professor Charles Xavier, are also there.  This is clearly a way for Marvel and Disney to further expand the MCU and really just feels more like fan service than anything really relevant to the story.  Even more problematic is that as the story progresses, the attention tends to turn more toward Dr. Strange than his young charge.  Thankfully the focus does not turn too much and does make a clear attempt to balance the focus even as there is so much going on not only in that universe but in the many other universes, including what one has to assume is “Earth Prime”.  Considering everything that is going on in the two universes that become the center of the story, the movie’s writing team is to be commended for trying to transition fluidly back and forth between the worlds even with the clear contrivance and other issues in the story.  That writing thankfully keeps the movie’s pacing relatively stable throughout its two-hour run time, which is itself appealing, considering the number of movies out there today that seem ton consciously try to exceed the two-and-a-half-hour mark.  Keeping all of this in mind, the story featured in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is far from perfect, but it is clear that those behind the story’s creation did make an attempt to pull every viewer into the tale.  Those efforts make the story a relatively stable starting point for the movie’s presentation.

Building on the relative stability of the movie’s story is the cast’s work interpreting the story’s script.  Benedict Cumberbatch leads the way as the movie’s titular character.  From beginning to end, Cumberbatch’s personality on screen is so much like that of fellow Marvel star Robert Downey Jr., who for such a long time, portrayed Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man.  That is evidence in the borderline cockiness that Cumberbatch brings out of Steven Strange throughout the movie.  At the same time, he does show a subtle vulnerability in Dr. Strange.  That balance of confidence (maybe overconfidence at times?) and vulnerability makes him a great new potential leader for the Marvel universe or at least a strong character of focus as the MCU enters its next phase.  It just makes him that much more endearing to audiences.

On another note, Elizabeth Olsen’s latest take as Wanda is just as notable in this movie.  There is a certain over the top nature in her subtle fury but also something engaging about her portrayal, too.  From early on, the casual way in which she talks about what happened to Vision in Vision and the Scarlet Witch shows that she has already left reality so to speak.  There is a certain sociopathic nature already peeking through.  As the story progresses, Olsen takes on more of a familiar crazed super villain role.  That familiarity will keep audiences engaged even as comfortable as such a portrayal has become in the comic book to film world.  That is not a slap at Olsen and her work.  It is just that her portrayal is so commonplace that it does not really break any new ground but is still engaging and entertaining in its own right.

On a completely different note, that America is supposed to be the center of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, star Xochitl Gomez, who portrays America, makes the most of her moments on screen.  The vulnerability and lack of self-assurance that she gives America is something to which so many younger teen audiences will relate.  This even though American is technically a being that is centuries old (as Wanda points out at one moment in the story).  The vulnerability shows through as she sees a vision of her childhood in her home world while the lack of self-assurance shows through in her attempt to control her powers.  It is just too bad that she did not get as much screen time as she likely should have, considering the overall story.  Either way, she makes the most of her time on screen, too.  When her performance is considered alongside those of Cumberbatch and Olsen, the main cast’s work on screen adds to the movie’s appeal in its own right.

The main cast’s work on screen is just one more item of note in examining the movie’s presentation.  The general effect in the presentation is also worth examining.  Right from the movie’s introduction in which Steven is dreaming about being in another universe, fighting a monster as he is trying to get to a book, the look of the movie really has that same look that audiences came to know from Raimi’s work helming the original Spiderman trilogy.  The different worlds, the monsters, everything, they all have that trademark Sam Raimi touch.  That touch in question is that of more comic book than the gritty stuff that so many movies have come to use.  It really is a nice return to form so to speak and will certainly appeal to so many audiences.  The whole thing just has that really more comic book realm on screen feel and is so welcome.  When it is considered along with the work of the movie’s cast and the relatively engaging story, the whole makes the movie overall a mostly successful new addition to the MCU universe.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a mostly positive new addition to Marvel Studios and Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is hardly perfect but is also not a failure.  Its success comes in part through its featured story.  The story centers on Dr. Strange’s attempt to keep a powerful mutule-versal being from being kidnapped and essentially killed by The Scarlet Witch, who wants the being’s powers in order to venture into the multiverse and be with her children from one of those universes.  The whole thing is somewhat contrived when viewed in the overall picture, but is still worth taking in.  The main cast’s work on screen adds to the interest especially in the case of Benedict Cumberbatch’s work.  He showed he could potentially take the lead as the next Avengers head if he so wanted.  Elizabeth Olsen’s latest turn as Wanda Maximoff was engaging in its own right, too.  The general effect of the movie rounds out the movie’s most important element in that it really brings back the look of the Spiderman movies helmed by Sam Raimi.  That look is that true comic book to screen look.  It is somewhat cheesy but in an endearing way.  It really does leave audiences feel like they are looking at what they might see in the comic books and is just such a welcome accent to the whole.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie and when considered together, make the movie overall a movie that while imperfect is still entertaining.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled for release on 4K UHD and BD July 28.  More information on this and other titles from Marvel Studios is available at:

Website: https://www.marvel.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marvelstudios

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marvel

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Visual Effects, Bonus Content Are The Saving Graces For ‘Eternals’ In Its New Home Release

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel’s latest addition to the MCU official made it first home premiere this week in the form of the digital release of Eternals.  The movie is set for physical release Feb. 15.  Running more than two and a half hours, this new addition to the MCU is an interesting presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due to its visual effects, which will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s story, while interesting, is also very problematic.  This will be discussed more a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its digital and physical release works with the movie’s visual effects to make it a little more worth watching.  They will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Eternals imperfect, but still worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ newest movie, Eternals, is an intriguing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once now that it has made its way home through digital release.  The movie’s visual effects are the most prominent reason for its limited appeal.  The visual effects have taken the work that those at Marvel Studios have done throughout the company’s history and stepped it up even more.  Seeing the effects used to make Makkari the shockingly fast speedster that she is a prime example of that improved visual technology.  The CGI that was used to make it look like she was making her way through the fight scenes was minimalist in its approach, and because of that, there is something about it that makes it look so clean and believable.  The work used to make Ikaris the Superman-esque figure that he is, is just as impressive.  Again, there is a minimalist approach used to make the lasers shoot from his eyes that makes those moments so entertaining in their own right.  On another note, the work that was used to create the scenes in which Arishem discusses the Eternals’ role on Earth with Sersi is impressive in its own right.  The contrast of Arishem’s massive size to that of Sersi is so clear, and it makes the comparison so powerful in its own right.  Between all of that and the on-site shooting, the overall visual effects used throughout the movie make Eternals at least a treat for the eyes.  Sadly, where the visuals do so well, the movie’s story detracts from the viewing experience to a point.

The story featured in Eternals is important to note because of its inability to balance everything going on in terms of the themes and the general story.  The story is essentially a nearly three-hour rumination on the meaning of life and our purpose on this planet.  Along the way, there is a completely contrived love story element in the story’s finale, which will also not be given away here.  Along the way, the story goes back and forth in time, between early human history and present day as the Eternals reunite.  The whole back story and team rebuilding takes up the first roughly 90 minutes of the movie.  Yes, there is that much buildup before audiences finally get anything of substance.  That the story does go back and forth, even those who fully immerse themselves in the story will find themselves getting lost along the way.  Keeping this in mind with the realization of the story’s overarching philosophical and theological ruminations, and what audiences get here is a work that does little to keep audiences engaged.  Add in the story’s contrived finale, and the story becomes even more problematic.  As if that is not enough, when the one unnamed Deviant realizes what is really going on, one cannot help but wonder why it wanted to kill the Eternals rather than take the time to find out if maybe they were on the same page.  Maybe that could have led to a more classic story of the protagonists and antagonists teaming up to stop the greater evil.  It is all just so troubling, along with the realization that the story never explains away why Thena has her psychotic moments, that the story really just gives audiences little if anything to appreciate.  Perhaps the reason for all of the problems is that the story’s writers took from so many different eras of Eternals comics for the featured story.  This is part of the discussion in the movie’s “making of” featurette.

The “making of” featurette, as noted, reveals that the writers lifted not only from Jack Kirby’s early Eternals series, but also from other more modern runs, including that of famed Sandman creator, Neil Gaiman.  If the writers had just focused on one story from one era, maybe it would have all worked better.  Only time will tell.  Viewers also learn through the “making of” featurette, the intentional focus on diversity in the cast and how it plays into representation for viewers.  This discussion adds a little appreciation for the movie, but only a little. 

In regards to the deleted scenes, they are crucial in their own way to the movie’s presentation.  That is because in watching through the deleted scenes, audiences will agree that most of the scenes in question do not fit into the final cut.  Only one scene, titled “Nostalgia” really maybe should have stayed in the movie.  The scene finds Sprite and Makkari talking about whether humans deserve to be saved.  There had to have been a place in which it would have fit into the story, especially being so brief.  The other scenes though, clearly did not fit anywhere into the movie.  To that end, it shows the importance of this bonus featured.

The bonus gag reel is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  It does not really add to or detract from the overall presentation in any big way, but it is still entertaining.  That is because it kind of shows that things don’t always go right.  Seeing the cast, attached to wires, dancing around aimlessly as they wait for takes to start will make for plenty of laughs, for instance.  Seeing Angelina Jolie trying and failing to grab an orange with her “spear” is funny because it shows what she had to work with to pretend to grab it.

For those who appreciate production, the feature length audio commentary focuses a lot on the movie’s production, rounding out the bonus content.  When it is considered along with the rest of the movie’s bonus content, the whole becomes that clear in its importance to the movie’s presentation.  Together with the movie’s visual effects, these two elements make up for the problems posed by the story at least to a point and make the movie worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ Eternals is an interesting presentation that will find the majority of its appeal among the most devoted Marvel Comics fans.  More casual audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once, but not really more than that.  Its appeal comes largely from its visual effects.  The visuals effects take the company’s special effects work up another step once more from what it has already offered audiences.  The movie’s story proves somewhat problematic to more casual audiences.  That is because it is really all over the place from beginning to end.  Its movement back and forth in time as it progresses and its philosophical and theological musings throughout make for so many problems.  The less than believable finale puts the final nail in the coffin.  That moment just is not believable, considering everything else that happens in the story.  It just seems so contrived.  The bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release works with its visual effects to give audiences at least a little more reason to take in the movie.  All things considered, this movie proves to be a presentation that is neither the best nor the worst of Marvel’s MCU entries to date.

Eternals is available now on digital.  It is scheduled to release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 15. More information on the home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Websitehttps://marvel.com/movies/eternals

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/officialeternals

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Marvel’s ‘Eternals’ Coming Home Soon

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel Studios’ latest addition to the MCU is scheduled for home release this winter.

Eternals is scheduled for release Jan. 12 on digital and Feb. 15 on Blu-ray. The announcement was made Thursday through a news release. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

Eternals follows a group of heroes that has watched and protected Earth ever since the dawn of man, unseen and also avoiding involvement along the way as much as possible. That all changes when a group of evil beings called Deviants returns to Earth, the Eternals’ hands are forced, causing the group to reunite and protect the planet.

Eternals‘ forthcoming home physical release features a handful of extras, all of which are noted below.

Bonus Features*

  • Audio Commentary – View the film with audio commentary by Chloé Zhao, Stephane Ceretti, Mårten Larsson
  • Immortalized – Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe launches into the cosmos with the Eternals. In this behind-the-scenes documentary, dive deep into the reasons why Marvel wanted to immortalize these superheroes for the MCU.
  • Walks of Life – Eternals unveils Marvel’s biggest and most diverse lineup of Super Heroes in one film. Hear reactions from the cast on being involved in the film and the instant sense of camaraderie that was felt on the day they all joined each other in their costumes.
  • Gag Reel – Watch some of the hilarious mishaps of the charming cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Gravity – Phastos and Jack have a conversation that leads to a breakthrough.
    • Nostalgia – Sprite and Makkari reminisce about humankind while overlooking the ruins of Babylon.
    • Movies – Gligamesh and Kingo connect over movies while crossing the Amazon River with the rest of the team.
    • Small Talk – Sprite confronts Dane in the museum about his interactions with Sersi.

*bonus features vary by product and retailer

More information on the forthcoming home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Website: https://marvel.com/movies/eternals

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialeternals

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Goo Goo Dolls Debuts ‘Fearless’ Lyric Video

Goo Goo Dolls debuted the video for its latest single this week.

The band debuted the lyric video for its new single ‘Fearless‘ Thursday.  The song is featured in the band’s most recent album, 2019’s Miracle Pill.

The video for ‘Fearless’ is presented in comic book fashion, taking inspiration from the video presentations from Marvel Comics.  The song’s musical arrangement is an upbeat presentation that is founded in its drums.  Front man John Rzeznik adds to the song’s depth with his vocal delivery while the guitar line adds even more to the song’s presentation.  The choral effect used at various points in the song also is of note.

The musical arrangement works with the song’s proudly defiant lyrical content, which according to a press release, is meant to pay tribute to all of the ‘everyday heroes” who are out there.

Courtesy: Warner Records

‘Fearless’ is just one of the singles released from Miracle Pill.  The album’s title track was released as a single last year.  The album also spawned the single ‘Autumn Leaves‘ in September.

More information on Goo Goo Dolls’ new single, album, tour and more is available online now at:

 

Websitehttp://www.googoodolls.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/googoodolls

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/googoodolls

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

 

Hiddleston Shines In Magnet Releasing’s New Drama ‘High Rise’

Courtesy: Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Pictures

Courtesy: Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Pictures

Tom Hiddleston has made quite the name for himself in recent years, starring as Loki, the evil brother of Thor is Marvel’s Avengers movies (including the standalone Thor movies).  He has also been one of the key names tossed around to potentially replace Daniel Craig as the next James Bond. That could actually be a good choice in the eyes of this critic.  While Hiddleston has some major movies under his belt and possibly on the horizon they aren’t his only credits.  Earlier this year Hiddleston also starred in independent studio Magnet Releasing’s new art flick High Rise.  This movie is a huge departure for Hiddleston from his previous offerings.  Considering this, his acting in this movie is clearly worth noting.  Even as impressive as Hiddleston’s acting (and that of his cast mates) is in High Rise, the movie is far from perfect.  The movie’s story proves to be a matter that is certain to divide audiences.  That will be discussed shortly.  Its  pacing is just as problematic especially considering the movie’s two-hour run time.  There is no ignoring this issue.  All things considered High Rise is not a movie for everyone, including Tom Hiddleston’s fans.  But it is worth at least one watch for those who are able to sit through the whole thing.

Tom Hiddleston’s new indie art flick High Rise is a huge departure for the Avengers star. That is due in large part to the movie’s story and its leader character, Dr. Laing.  Hiddleston’s work (and that of his cast mates) is certain to unite audiences in agreement of his talents.  Hiddleston completely embraces Dr. Laing’s personality throughout the movie.  As Dr. Laing tries to navigate the intricacies of the building’s clearly defined social structure the stresses of making that effort becomes increasingly clear. And Hiddleston handles the growing stress on Laing with the fullest expertise.  Even as the building’s social structure collapses around him, He keeps Laing completely calm even though it is clear that he is being emotionally and psychologically impacted by it all.  Hiddleston’s cast mate Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, The Raven, Dracula Untold) is just as impressive as Wilder.  He is the perfect contradiction to Laing thanks to his…well…wild personality.  Evans is perfect in the role, really showing clearly how easily the separation of classes and resources can create a negative scenario.  Jeremy Irons is just as impressive as Royal, too.  One could go on pointing out the positives presented by the rest of the cast.  Needless to say, the combined efforts of all involved make the cast’s work one of this movie’s rare bright spots.  As much as Hiddleston’s work (and that of his cast mates) does to make High Rise worth the watch, the movie’s pacing sadly offsets it.

Tom Hiddleston’s work as Dr. Laing in High Rise is undeniably the movie’s most important positive.  The same can be said of his cast mates’ work on camera, too.  As important as it proves to be in making the movie worth at least one watch, it can’t be said that the movie is perfect.  That is due to the movie’s pacing.  The movie clocks in at roughly two hours.  Thanks to the story’s pacing, that run time feels far longer.  Whether screenwriter Amy Jump directly adapted J.G. Ballard’s original novel or not, the movie’s pacing is still extremely problematic.  It seems like the breakdown of the building’s social structure just takes far longer than it should.  Even when it does finally happen, it feels as if the consequences of that breakdown take just as long.  Considering this, some audiences might find themselves fast forwarding through certain points.  That clearly exhibits why the movie’s pacing is so problematic.  Even as problematic as it is, it doesn’t make the movie completely unwatchable.  The movie’s central story and the approach to the story couples with the work of the movie’s cast to, again, make the movie worth at least one watch.

Tom Hiddleston’s new indie drama High Rise is not a perfect movie.  That is evidenced through the movie’s problematic pacing.  As problematic as the movie’s pacing proves to be, it is not enough to make the movie unwatchable.  The work of the movie’s cast makes the movie worth at least one watch.  The same can be said of the movie’s story and the approach taken to the story.  The movie’s story is an over the top artsy commentary on capitalism gone awry and the consequences of  trying to control social classes.  It is definitely an original approach to such commentary.  There is no denying that.  But the fact of the matter is that said approach is so over the top that it will, in itself, likely turn off any number of viewers.  That aside, it is still a story worth seeing at least once.  Viewers should be warned that there is an extreme amount of sex and violence throughout the course of the two-hour movie and a healthy amount of nudity, too.  So it definitely earned its “R” rating and then some.  Even with this in mind, and the fact that the story will divide audiences, it is still serves to help the movie stand on solid ground, if not high ground.

High Rise, Magnet Releasing’s new offering starring superstar Tom Hiddleston, is not a movie for everyone.  It is unquestionably an art film, and a total departure for Hiddleston.  That being the case, it was a huge risk for Hiddleston.  For his sake, it was a risk worth taking.  That is because his work on camera and that of his cast mates saves the movie even with its problematic pacing and divisive story.  It might not go on to become one of Hiddleston’s most well-known works.  But it is worth at least one watch.  It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Magnet Releasing is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.magnetreleasing.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/magnetreleasing

 

 

 

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Slayer Debuts Video For Repentless’ Lead Single

The wait is over at last. After a long five-year wait, Slayer has returned to reclaim the metal crown with its new album Repentless. And now, the band has officially debuted the video for the album’s title track and lead single.

Slayer and its new label home Nuclear Blast America debuted the video for the album’s title track/lead single on Friday alongside the release of the band’s new album. The video can be viewed online now via Rolling Stone magazine’s website at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/see-slayers-bloody-prison-nightmare-in-repentless-video-20150911.

Courtesy:  Nuclear Blast America

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast America

The video sees Slayer performing inside a prison in which the inmates have gotten free and taken over. Parental discretion is advised. In regards to the graphic nature of the video, front man Tom Araya noted in an interview with Rolling Stone writer Kory Grow, “We’re telling the story that we’ve always told about society and how humans treat each other,” frontman Tom Araya said. “It can get pretty violent. It can get pretty stupid. But that’s OK. That’s human nature.” Fans can check out Grow’s entire article online now at the link noted above.

The video for ‘Repentless’ marks the first time ever that director BJ McDonnell has delved into the realm of music videos. His most recent directing role was on the 2014 horror flick Hatchet III. He has also worked as a cameraman on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and The Interview. Stunt coordinator Nils Allen Stewart was brought in to help with the video, too. His credits include work on: Planet of the Apes, Anger Management, and Daredevil.

Viewers that watch closely will note cameos by some mbig name actors including: Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Til Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Tony Moran (Halloween’s Michael Meyers, American Poltergeist, Dead Bounty), Jason Trost (Hatchet III, All Superheroes Must Die, The FP), Sean Whalen (Men in Black, Halloween II, Twister), and Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2, Commando, Weird Science).

More information on ‘Repentless’ and the rest of the songs on the band’s new album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.slayer.net

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay, Starz Conjure Up Second Season Of Da Vinci’s Demons On DVD, Blu-ray

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media

Fans of the original drama Da Vinci’s Demons have reason to be excited this winter. That is thanks to Anchor Bay’s announcement Tuesday that it will release the hit drama’s second season next month.

Officials with Starz announced Tuesday that the second season of Da Vinci’s Demons will be released Tuesday, March 3rd. It will be released on Blu-ray + Digital HD and DVD. Season Two picks up where the series’ first season left off. Da Vinci continues to defend Florence against the powers that be in Rome. Meanwhile he also continues his quest for the fabled Book of Leaves and for answers about his mother. New enemies rise up along the way, too; forces that prove to be even more dangerous than even Pope Sixtus and his minions. Both the DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD presentation of Da Vinci’s Demons include a handful of bonuses to complement its ten-episode run. Those bonuses include a “making of” featurette, a recap of Season One, a look at the new sets used in Season Two and more. The full list of bonus material included on Season Two’s box set is noted below.

New Bonus Features:

  • New Sets
  • Creating the World
  • A Closer Look

The Journey Begins: Season 1 Recap

Da Vinci’s Demons stars Tom Riley (I Want Candy, Return to House on Haunted Hill, Happy Ever Afters) as famed inventor Leonardo Da Vinci. He is joined by Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Inbetweeners Movie), Blake Ritson (Rock N Rolla, Titus, Red Cap), Elliot Cowan (Happy-Go-Lucky, Alexander, The Golden Compass), Lara Pulver (Edge of Tomorrow, True Blood, Sherlock), and James Faulkner (Downton Abbey, Bridget Jones’s Diary, X-Men: First Class). The Blu-ray + Digital HD box set will retail for $54.99 and the DVD box set for $44.98. All of the latest updates on Da Vinci’s Demons are available online at:

Website: https://www.davincisdemons.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davincisdemons.starz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaVincis_Starz

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Is 2014’s Best New Movie

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy is the best new movie of 2014 hands down.  This diamond in the rough is a solid answer to director Tim Burton’s recent declaration that he wanted to see a happy superhero movie.  Given, the “guardians” aren’t exactly superheroes.  But at a time when the fare offered by Marvel and DC has become increasingly dark and dominated by damaged, anti-hero figures, this movie shines as the antithesis of those movies.  One part action and one part fantasy it is the breath of fresh air that the superhero/comic book genre has needed for some time and could not have come at a better time.  The movie’s multifaceted script lies at the center of its success.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to its success.  And last but hardly least worth noting of the movie’s success is its collective look and feel.  That includes both its backdrops and its special effects.  The combination of all of these elements proves exactly why Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is one of this year’s best new movies if not the year’s best new movie.  One can only hope that Marvel won’t abandon everything that made this movie great when its sequel comes along in 2017.  Time will tell.  Until such time, audiences will agree that this movie more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new movies.

When Warner Brothers debuted its Tim Burton-helmed take on Batman in 1989, it proved to be something of an anomaly.  No movie at the time or even before had taken the route taken by this movie.  It was dark and brooding, just as Bob Kane had first envisioned him.  It wouldn’t be until 2005’s Batman Begins that audiences would see the rebirth of the brooding superhero.  Some will argue that 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, which started in 2000, would qualify in that category.  But that’s only because of the inclusion of one Wolverine.  That being said, Batman Begins is to thank and to blame for what has become of the superhero/comic book genre.  That being said, the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy is a breath of fresh air.  It is the antithesis of those movies in every sense.  And that is thanks first and foremost to the movie’s multi-faceted script.  The script, crafted by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, avoids every one of the trappings of the movies churned out by both Marvel and DC in recent years.  One of those trappings is the brooding superhero approach used by both Marvel and DC throughout the studios’ ongoing competition.  The script keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum with the extent of it being centered on Peter’s own thoughts of his mother’s death when he was a boy.  The brooding on the part of Drax and Gamora on the loss of their own families at the hands of Thanos and Ronan is kept to just as much of a minimum.  Because Gunn and Perlman keep the characters’ brooding in question, it allows for the movie’s related themes, jokes, and story to take center stage.  The end result is a script that while hardly timeless is still one of the most entertaining to come along in a long time both within the superhero/comic book genre and within the action drama in whole.

Gunn and Perlman are more than deserving of applause because of the fact that they took the road less traveled in their script, opting to keep the story’s brooding to an extreme minimum.  In comparison to the rest of the movies churned out by Marvel and DC in recent years, it really is the single most important factor of the duo’s script. It isn’t the only reason that the script works, either.  The themes of family and friendship that the pair incorporated into the story are even more reason for applause.  They go hand in hand with that lack of brooding.  Throughout the course of the story’s script, Gunn and Perlman note the importance of family and friendship.   Gunn and Perlman essentially tell audiences through their script that friends and family don’t have to be just like one another to come together.  They don’t always have to completely like one another, either.  They even go so far as to jokingly say through the quartet’s interactions that the least likely of friends and families can come together when one least expects it.  This message is driven home in the movie’s final minutes, which won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see the movie.  It is something of a cheesy moment, given.  But again in comparison to the previous releases from Marvel and DC, it’s a refreshingly cheesy moment.  It’s yet another aspect of the Guardians’ script that makes the movie such a success.  The jokes that are tossed around throughout the movie is yet another aspect of the movie’s script that adds to its enjoyment.

The contrast of the positive themes and overall lack of brooding in the Guardians’ script is a hugely important aspect of the script that makes it a success.  The jokes that are tossed around throughout the script make it even more of a joy for audiences.  Whether it be the jokes added to Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon’s banter or the pop culture references used as jokes, or other jokes in general, Gunn and Perlman did an outstanding job in this area, too.  The banter between Peter and Rocket is a laugh riot.  Of course the acting on the part of Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper respectively doesn’t hurt that banter and its jokes, either.  It’s classic back and forth that audiences haven’t seen in a very long time.  There are also plenty of pop culture references used themselves as jokes, including constant references to the hit 1984 Kevin Bacon starring vehicle Footloose.  And Peter’s attempt at a dance-off in order to distract Ronan at one point (again that moment won’t be revealed here) is itself a reference to Michael Jackson if one watches closely.  It’s one thing to use pop culture references in a movie or TV show by themselves to get laughs.  But to use them as jokes (especially as running gags) is rather smart writing.  There are also plenty of stand-alone jokes that will have audiences laughing along the way, too.  The jokes in question aren’t right in audiences’ faces.  But they are clear enough that there’s no missing them.  Again, such placement is very smart writing.  It still is not the end of what makes the script’s writing the key point of success behind Guardians of the Galaxy.  Last but not least worth noting in considering the strength of the Guardians’ script is the story itself.

The story behind Guardians of the Galaxy is the last element of its writing that makes it the hit that it has deservedly proven to be.  The reason that the story works as well as it does is its simplicity.  It seems on the surface that there is a lot involved in the story.  That is because of the amount of backstabbing that goes on.  But the story, at its heart, centers on one fanatical madman’s attempts to destroy an entire race of people and their home world because of his own personal beliefs.  It was used in J.J. Abrams’ recent reboot of Star Trek most recently.  It’s a tried and true plot that has been used any number of times before in other action movies.  And even here it still manages to work in its given setting.  This is especially worth noting considering the story’s extra elements—the chase for Peter Quill and the Orb, Gamora backstabbing Ronan, etc.  There is a lot of extra backstory that is thrown into the mix.  That extra could easily have bogged down the central story.  But even with two people handling the script, that didn’t happen, amazingly enough.  Because those extras don’t bog down the movie’s central plot, said plot is that much easier to grasp and follow, thus keeping viewers engaged from start to finish.  That, alongside the other noted factors that went into the script, shows once and for all why the movie’s writing makes it the best new movie of 2014.

A lot of work went into the writing behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  The painstaking efforts that were taken to make this blockbuster stand out against its competition were not for naught, either.  Rather it collectively paid off and then some.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast should not be ignored as a reason for its success, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as much to thank for its enjoyment and success as the writing behind the movie.  The constant back and forth banter between Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt makes for plenty of laughs throughout the movie.  At no one point does the duo’s arguing feel forced.  It feels entirely natural, which is what makes it so entertaining.  Cooper’s portrayal of Rocket set against Vin Diesel’s Groot is just as funny.  Both situations are classic comedy brought into the 21st century. Pro wrestler Dave Bautista’s own interactions with his cast mates on screen make for their own laughs, too as audiences will see when they watch the movie for themselves. One would be remiss to ignore Pratt’s own comic timing both by himself and set against the talents of others. Audiences will laugh uproariously at his comic timing when he distracts Ronan with his “dance off.” It’s yet another way that the cast’s acting makes Guardians of the Galaxy such a surprisingly entertaining work. Yet it still is not all that makes this movie so enjoyable, either. The movie’s look and feels make the movie even better. They collectively round out the movie’s positives and prove once and for all why any lover of action movies and the superhero/comic book genre will love this movie. Together with the cast’s acting and the movie’s overall writing, it proves once and for all why Guardians of the Galaxy is the best new movie of 2014.

It seems like almost every one of the movie spit out by Marvel and DC in recent years have become increasingly dark and gritty in their stories but in their look and feel, too. Thankfully Guardians of the Galaxy is the polar opposite of those movies in this aspect, too. It incorporates some dark elements in terms of its look and feel, yes. But there are also rather bright, colorful backdrops used throughout the movie. And thanks to all of the comic elements incorporated into both the movie’s script and the cast’s acting, the movie’s feel is just as colorful, light, and light-hearted. It is such a welcome change of pace from all of the movies released by Marvel and DC in recent years and even harkens back to the likes of Iron Man in its own interesting way. Not only does it have that same sort of light hearted, comedic feel, but it also has that same sort of playful edge about it, too. That mix of the movie’s fun feel and its balance of light and dark backdrops is perfectly balanced from the movie’s opening flashback to its final minutes. The end result of that mix leaves audiences wanting to see more in the best way possible. With any luck, Guardians 2 will have just as much of a positive look and feel. For that matter hopefully it will have just as solid a script and acting. If it does, then it will prove the success of this movie to be far more than just a fluke.

So much work went into bringing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy to life. And that work more than paid off. The movie’s multifaceted writing is its cornerstone. It incorporates themes of family and friendship that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It also avoids all of the brooding that has been a trademark of so many of Marvel and DC’s other previous releases. And the story itself is simple in every sense of the word. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast makes the movie all the more entertaining. It will leave audiences laughing nonstop from beginning to end. The look and feel of the movie is the polar opposite of so many movies that have come before, too from Marvel and DC. Each noted element makes Guardians of the Galaxy a memorable and entertaining movie in its own right. Together, they make it the single best new movie of 2014 fluke or not.

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eOne’s “Cell 213” Is An Interesting Theological Thriller

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Paramount.  Disney.  MGM.  20th Century Fox.  Warner Brothers.  For the longest time, these studios were what made Hollywood and the movie industry great.  But somewhere along the way, something changed.  Something very bad happened.  Somewhere in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these five major studios went from churning out some of the greatest titles that audiences have ever seen to churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and remakes.  Now in 2014, there seems to be no end in sight for this trend from Hollywood’s own “Power 5” (only sports fans will get that reference).  Thankfully, independent studios such as IFC Films, Level 33 Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and eOne Entertainment have picked up the slack, releasing some of the most original and entertaining movies that audiences have seen in years.  One example of that originality lies in eOne’s recently released thriller Cell 213.  The movie’s box art and description leads one to believe that it is a horror movie of sorts.  The reality is that it is in fact a rather deep and surprisingly original story.  The story behind Cell 213 is by itself more than enough reason for audiences to watch it at least once.  Veteran actor Michael Rooker’s (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Thunder, Cliffhanger) acting as the vile prison guard Ray Clement is another positive to the movie.  While the movie centers on Michael Grey (Eric Balfour), Rooker is the real star of this story.  And last but not least of all worth noting here is the movie’s run time versus its pacing.  At a time when it seems like Hollywood’s major studios are continuing to battle one another to see who can cram the most material into their movies within a given time span (more often than not that time span is about 2 1/2 hours or a little more), this roughly hour and forty-nine minute movie does plenty without even reaching the two-hour mark.    Each of these aspects by themselves play their own important role in the overall success of this interesting indie thriller.  Collectively, they make Cell 213 worth at least one watch and prove once more why indie movies are just as worth the watch as all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being currently churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5” if not more so.

At first glance, eOne and Alliance Films’ recently released thriller Cell 213 looks like another run-of-the-mill horror flick.  But as the old adage states, never judge a book (or in this case a DVD) by its cover.  The movie is in fact far more than just another one of the overly gory and violence laden flicks that Hollywood’s “Power 5” call a horror.  Rather, it proves to be more a thriller than a horror.  What’s more, it’s not just another thriller, either.  The movie’s script, which was crafted by Maninda Chana, combines traditional thriller elements with some rather deep theological discussions for a movie that will ultimately leave open-minded audiences really thinking.  As audiences learn, young up-and-coming lawyer Michael Grey himself ends up in jail after one of his clients kills himself, essentially framing Michael for his murder.  It is at this point that the movie’s biggest plot hole emerges.  The plot hole is big enough to drive a handful of semis through it.  Thankfully though, the theological discussions that make up the remainder of the movie more than make up for that glaring issue.  The discussions in question center on the battle between good and evil and on making the right choices in life before we die.  A close look at the story reveals these discussions and really makes the movie a lot more interesting than one might have originally thought at first glance.  The end result is a script that makes this indie thriller worth at least one watch.

The theologically based story behind Cell 213 is a big surprise.  By itself, the discussion raised on judgment of one’s soul, etc. is more than reason enough for audiences to check out this movie.  Another reason that Cell 213 is worth at least one watch is the acting on the part of Michael Rooker.  Rooker is most well-known for his work on the NASCAR-based drama Days of Thunder.  He has also worked on Marvel Studios’ latest hit blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, too.  So this movie is obviously not the first time that he has played the role of a villain. And he shows his experience as a villain quite well. Between showing no mercy to the inmates at the prison to putting a chokehold on another officer (a female no less) to showing something of a troubling, almost Norman Bates sort of personality at another point, Rooker makes Ray Clement an absolutely disturbed character that will disturb audiences and make them love to hate him at the same time. If for no other reason, audiences should watch this movie at least once to see just how diabolical and disturbed Rooker makes Clement. That portrayal together with the movie’s deep, theological themes, makes for even more reason for audiences to give it at least one watch.

The theological themes that make up most of Cell 213’s story and the work of veteran actor Michael Rooker are both key to making this movie worth at least one watch. That still leaves one more aspect worth noting—the movie’s run time. Anyone that has been to the theater in the past couple years or so has noticed that Hollywood’s major studios have been seemingly caught up in a competition to see who can shove the most amount of material into a roughly two and a half-hour movie without making it too mediocre. The problem is that movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and even the recent Spiderman and Superman movies have been mostly mediocre. That’s because the people behind the cameras and the scripts have in fact crammed so much into each one of those movies that they have overpowered audiences. That’s hardly the case with Cell 213. The movie clocks in at just under the two-hour mark. Within the confines of that roughly hour and forty-nine minutes, writer Maninder Chana and director Stephen Kay waste no time ruminating on personal drama or any such related topics. The entire time is well-spent, focusing on the battle being waged for Michael’s soul and how he was essentially being tested, thus tying back in to the story’s theological themes. What’s more, at no point do those themes ever get so deep as to lose audiences. Viewers are kept engaged from start to finish thanks to that well-balanced mix of the movie’s run time and its overall content. That, coupled with Michael Rooker’s acting and the themes incorporated into the story, makes this movie complete. They collectively make Cell 213 a story well worth at least one watch whether one is a fan of the horror genre or has any interest in Christian theology. It all makes for a movie that is actually quite surprisingly interesting.

Cell 213 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Cell-213-Michael-Rooker/dp/B00K2OBSI2/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1416580052&sr=1-2&keywords=cell+213. More information on this and other titles from Alliance and eOne is available online at:

 

Website: http://ca.eonefilms.com

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

 

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.

Captain America Sequel Another Largely Forgettable Flick From Marvel

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was touted as one of the biggest hits of 2014 when it hit theaters earlier this summer. While it is enjoyable enough, the sad truth of this movie is that it really is not as great as some would like to believe. It all starts with the script. The issues with the script can be summed up in one word: predictability. In its defense, the writing trio of Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Ed Brubaker make one unpredictable move. That will be discussed at a later point. Getting back to the movie, another major issue from which the movie suffers is what this critic has coined as “whisper scenes.” They are exactly what they sound like. And together with the movie’s scripting issues, it serves to bring this movie down and leave it even less enjoyable. The final product is a movie that proves in the end to be more forgettable than fun. Sorry, fanboys and fangirls. It’s true.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier got a lot of hype leading up to its debut this past April. And while for many, it was considered a hit, a closer examination of Marvel’s latest in its endless river of prequels, sequels, and remakes proves it to be hardly as good as many would want it to be. The primary reason for this is the movie’s scripting. The issues with the movie’s scripting can be summed up in one word. That word is predictability. As soon as Nick Fury shows up in Rogers’ apartment, and secretly tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised, it was pretty obvious the direction in which the script was headed. The bad guys infiltrate the good guys’ headquarters and pretend to be good guys until a certain point at which a major conflict arises. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious. Even without the spoilers that had been “leaked” before the movie’s debut, it was pretty obvious who the real good guys were and who the real bad guys were. And even without those spoilers, it was pretty obvious that The Winter Soldier in question was a former good guy. That formula has been used far too many times before in far too many other action flicks that far exceed this one. Not to ruin the movie for those that haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, but it’s also pretty obvious that the movie’s (and studio’s) heads were not going to kill off the biggest names in their franchises. Again, audiences are presented with so much predictability, greatly decreasing from the movie’s enjoyment.

For all of the issues of predictability that run throughout Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is one unpredictable aspect to the script overall that deserves being noted. That aspect is that Markus, McFeely, and Brubaker actually opted not to let a romance develop between Natasha and Steve. There is a point at which Natasha tells Cap to kiss her so as to avoid detection by some Hydra agents. A conversation between the pair later leads some to believe that perhaps there is a potential for romance there. Luckily though, that doesn’t happen. And for that, the movie’s writers deserve at least some credit if no more. It is one of only two shining rays of light in a movie that lacks greatly in terms positives. The only other positive worth noting is the fact that it keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum unlike the movies that have been churned out over the years from DC. Even with Bucky’s own personal demons, his brooding is kept in check. It really helps the overall product. For that reason too, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to stay at least somewhat afloat.

Those behind the cameras on Captain America: The Winter Soldier did plenty of damage to the movie with just the massive amount of predictability throughout the script. They try to make up for all of that by filling the movie’s nearly two and a half-hour run time with all of the standard fight scenes, explosions, and chase scenes that are all too common with big screen action blockbusters. Thanks to the number of these elements crammed into the movie and the movie’s relatively long run time, it ends up having the same feel as its fellow Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World. That feel is that it’s a movie that is just one explosion, chase scene and fight scene after another. Simply put, the imbalance of substance versus action flick filler hurts the movie even more. And coupled with the script’s predictability from start to finish, it becomes even less memorable.

It should be crystal clear at this point that Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn’t exactly live up to its hype. For those not yet convinced, there is still one more aspect of the movie that while subtle still hurts it in its own way. That last aspect is what this critic has come to call “whisper scenes.” These scenes are exactly what they sound like (no pun intended). Actors talk in hushed tones so as to heighten the tension of a given scene. Those scenes are typically bookended by really loud action scenes or scenes that are otherwise the polar opposite of said scene. Whisper scenes aren’t bad. Don’t misinterpret that. The problem is that this movie is one more that uses them far too often throughout the course of its run time. It seems like an increasing number of directors have been relying on “whisper scenes” in recent years. Simply put, it is annoying. It’s as annoying as the number of lens flares thrown into director J.J. Abrams’ movies. Anyone that is familiar with Abrams’ works will understand this frustration. Anyone that has experienced such over use of “whisper scenes” will be just as able to relate. It is the last straw of a movie that ends up proving to be all but the enjoyable summer blockbuster that it was touted to be.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not a terrible movie. Anyone looking to just turn off their brains and enjoy a standard, mindless orgy of explosions, chase scenes, and fight scenes will enjoy this movie just as much as its predecessor. But those that give the movie a closer examination will see just how many problems it has. Its script is predictable. It relies largely on those aforementioned chase scenes, fight scenes and explosions to try and make up for its predictability and overall lack of substance. And the overload of “whisper scenes” that fill the movie’s run time only serve to hurt it more. The movie’s only shining rays of light are the fact that its team of writers didn’t allow for Steve and Natasha’s partnership to become a romance and it kept Bucky’s brooding to a bare minimum. Other than that, there is very little good that can be said of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a movie that is fun for one watch, but little more.

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