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

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.

Disney’s ‘Encanto’ Home Release Does Little To Make The Movie An “Anniversary” Worth Celebrating

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

For some reason, humans have a fixation on numbers ending in the numbers five and zero.  They seem to make a big deal on this numbers, whether in the case of anniversaries or in general.  To that end, one would think that when Disney released its 60th animated feature, Encanto, late this year, it would have been a hugely memorable work from the studio.  Sadly that did not prove to be the case.  Now Disney is hoping to give the movie a new life with its upcoming home release Dec. 24 on digital and Jan. 26.  The movie’s home release on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD combo pack) adds slightly to its appeal, but only slightly.  That is due in large part to its featured bonus content, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content is in fact both a positive and a negative, leading into the movie’s one major unavoidable negative, its story, which will be addressed a little later.  The musical numbers and cast’s voice work comes together to make things even more concerning for the movie.  Sadly when these items are considered collectively, they make Disney’s Encanto just as forgettable in its home release as in its recent theatrical run.

Walt Disney Studios’ Encanto is an anniversary mark for the studio that could have been so much better.  That was already proven in the movie’s theatrical run.  The movie’s forthcoming home release further supports that statement.  That is proven in part through the bonus content featured in said presentation.  The bonus content is expansive to say the least.  There is lots of background in the way of explaining the story’s focus on family.  The is also plenty of focus on Disney’s continued drive to make one of its movies as true to the culture that it represents as possible.  That bonus content that centers of mirroring the people and culture of Colombia is engaging and entertaining.  The content that centers on family is where the problems start to appear.  In watching this content (which is extensive in itself) the movie’s creative heads talk plenty about the noted focus.  If in fact the story is all about family, then one cannot help but wonder why so much of the story is spent focused on the Madrigal family’s “ugly duckling,” Mirabel.  Not to get too far off track here, but the story spends quite a bit of time on her and making her extended family more background dressing than actually important cast.

On another note, the bonus content spends what feels like an inordinate amount of time focusing on the movie’s musical content.  Now for those who have not already seen Encanto, Lin Manuel Miranda (who had his stamp on Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns as well as the uber popular Hamilton and In The Heights among many other stories) plays a big role in this movie’s musical content.  As a matter of fact, one cannot help but wonder how much creative control he had in the movie’s musical side, since it gets more time than the movie’s story, getting back on the subject at hand.  So much of the movie’s bonus content centers on the movie’s musical side, that viewers cannot help but feel like Disney and all involved were just trying to distract viewers from all of the plot holes and other problems posed throughout the story.  This shows in its own way how the bonus content does offer some engagement, but is also just as problematic as it is positive.

Encanto’s trailers made it seem like the movie was going to be some big adventure for its lead character, Mirabel.  The reality is that the story is anything but.  Rather, the story is in question more a coming-of-age piece than action.  Mirabel has to figure out why on the night that the youngest member of the Madrigal family receives his magical gift, the magic in the family’s candle starts to fade.  No one believes what she tells them at first, leading her to go on her mission of sorts.  As it turns out (no to give away too much), the reason for the fade is linked back to the clan in general.  Again not to give away too much here, but audiences realize that perhaps the reality is that the Madrigals who had magical gifts were taking their gifts for granted and just had to come to that realization in the end. 

This is where things get problematic.  In setting up the story, the movie’s writers fail to really fully explain how the candle got its magic.  Audiences know that the candle came into being after Abuela Alma’s (Maria Cecilia Botero) husband was killed by some not so nice people.  From there though, there is no explanation of the magic’s candle.  Was it something tied to the culture of Colombia?  We do not know.  What’s more, the identities of the men who killed Abuela Alma’s husband is never fully revealed, either.  As if this is not problem enough, the whole issue of Bruno and his psychic gift playing into the story just seems so random in itself.  It is as if the writers were just putting all of this together as they went along and hoped that it would stick, which sadly it did not. 

Adding even more to the problems is what happens in the story’s end.  The candle is not there, but the magic is back, as are the magical powers of the Madrigal clan.  So then was the candle never magic to begin with?  Again, those who have praised this movie either ignored this and so many other problems, or they were paid for positive reviews.  Yes, this critic went there. 

If all of this is not enough, the semi-climactic moment when Maribel and Abuela Alma confront one another, and then later share their feelings, leading to the final act, just seems so contrived.  Maribel stood up to Alma and told her that everything that happened was her (Alma’s) fault.  Alma then later tells Maribel that she was right, to which Maribel – after hearing Alma’s sob story – backed down and said she was in the wrong.  This is just so contrived.  The young woman had become empowered, only to stand down from the family’s matriarch.  This is just not believable nor realistic.  Between this and everything else noted here, it should be crystal clear why this movie’s story is in itself just so much a failure.  There is little if anything to like other than the subtle, nearly hidden messages about appreciating ourselves and others regardless of who we are and what are our “gifts.”  Of course for all of the problems that the story poses in itself, things only get worse from here.

Looking at all of this, it should be clear why the story featured in Encanto is just as problematic as the bonus content that accompanies it in its home release.  The story centers on one character even though in the bonus content, the movie’s creative heads reiterate time and again that the story is all about family.  Add in all the musical cues tossed in (again they are the central focus among the bonus content) and the story’s plot holes and problems become even more concerning, as do the bonus features themselves.  All of this in mind, it is still only a part of the trouble with the movie’s presentation.  The noted musical cues and the cast’s voice work are also problematic.

As noted, the musical numbers featured throughout the movie are everywhere.  Sometimes they show up at such random times, as if Miranda and the movie’s crew and creative heads just decided to throw them in for what they thought was “good measure” since they didn’t have any other ideas to flesh out the story. 

The voice cast’s work is troubling in that none of the cast’s work does anything to make any of the characters memorable.  Yes, Maribel is supposed to be the story’s lead.  Yes, voice actress Stephanie Beatriz deserves applause for her work as she makes Maribel a strong lead.  Other than that though, she doesn’t do much to make her memorable.  Though, that circles back to the writing.  The script does not really give Maribel much to develop as a character.  Even the work of John Leguizamo (the Ice Age franchise, SpawnMoulin Rouge) here when he is finally introduced does little to help the story.  Though, again, that is because he is brought in so late and is given so little screen time from there on.  It is like the Madrigal family is there, but that is about it.  None of the voice cast really brings anything major and memorable to the table, but again that is because the story does not really provide much if any opportunity for character development.  So once again we see the problems with the story.  It is all tied in together, and in considering this along with the movie’s other problems and the problems, the whole makes the movie overall such a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has released in recent years.

Walt Disney Studios’ forthcoming home release of Encanto does little to improve on the movie from its recent, brief theatrical run.  The improvement is minimal, with the movie’s bonus content proving only slightly engaging and entertaining.  At the same time, they prove problematic because it seems like the extensive focus on the movie’s musical content is an attempt by all involved to distract audiences from all of the plot holes and problems in the story.  Speaking of those problems and plot holes, they are everywhere throughout this story.  The noted musical content and the issues raised through the cast’s voice work add their own problems.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie a work that sadly is not the “anniversary” presentation that it could have been for Walt Disney Studios.

More information on this and other movies from Walt Disney Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/disneystudios

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

‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ Proves Just As Successful In Its Home Release As In Its Brief Theatrical Run

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios/Disney

Well, that sure didn’t take long.  Less than two months after making its theatrical debut, 20th Century Studios’ CG statement flicks Ron’s Gone Wrong made its way to digital and physical home release early this month (Dec. 7 to be exact).  The movie is no better or worse in its new home release than in its brief theatrical run, which according to Box Office Mojo, grossed more than $60 million worldwide during that time.  Attempts to find the movie’s production budget for comparison were unsuccessful.  For those who have yet to see the movie, its story is reason enough for audiences to give it a chance.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story is unquestionably positive, the bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release is just as much a negative that audiences cannot ignore.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s pacing 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 Ron’s Gone Wrong in its recent home release.  All things considered, they make the movie one of the best of this year’s new family DVDs/BDs even with its one primary concern.

20th Century Studios’ recent home release of its family friendly flick, Ron’s Gone Wrong, is a mostly successful offering.  The movie’s success comes in large part through its story.  The story is a two-part presentation that will appeal to younger and older viewers alike.  One half of the story is a clear indictment of big tech, its impact on young people’s mental health, and the unscrupulous measures that big tech will take to exploit those noted users.  The story’s other half centers on the all-too-important message of the importance of friendship and its related topics.  The two halves weave together seamlessly throughout the movie, and together with the pacing (which again, will be discussed a little later) make the story overall fully engaging and entertaining.  The overarching discussion on the invasive nature of social media and its negative impact on young people’s mental health is timeless.  This will remain a concern until such time as young people can pull themselves away from social media and its addictive clutches.  To that end, the story likely will not earn an Oscar®, but will remain timely, making it relatable for generations of audiences.  The movie’s writers clearly went after Apple, Facebook, and so much other big tech and social media in delivering this message.  The companies are not named, but rather spoofed so to speak, through the use of the company, “Bubble” and its antagonistic boss, Andrew.  Andrew is clearly a lifting of Steve Jobs while Marc Weidell is clearly an allusion to Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg.

The connected story about friendship ties directly into the indictment of big tech and social media as lead character Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer – ItLucaShazam) finds himself the only student in his middle school – Nonsuch Middle School – without a so-called B*Bot.  The B*bot, is a digital friend that knows everything about its user, and uses that information to help young people find new friends.  Marc (Justice Smith – Paper TownsThe Get DownJurassic World – Fallen Kingdom) even called the tech the “perfect friend” right in the story’s opening scene.  That immediate message lets people know that one of the key messages in this story is that friends are anything but perfect, but rather perfect in being imperfect.  Barney learns that invaluable lesson when his dad, Graham (Ed Helms – The OfficeVacationThe Hangover) gets Barney his own B-bot (albeit illegally).  In learning its serial number, Barney shortens the bot’s name to just Ron.  Ron is voiced here by Zach Galifianakis (Due DateThe HangoverThe Lego Batman Movie).  His work here is some of his best, and that is actually saying something considering the dumbed down performances that he has presented in the noted movies and others.  Getting back on the subject at hand, Barney and Ron eventually develop a real friendship because Ron is not like all of the other B-bots out there.  What develops will immediately ring a bell with those familiar with the 1986 movie, Short Circuit and its sequel, which came only two years later.  That buddy comedy centered on a robot that developed sentience and only wanted to protect and befriend people.  The good thing here is that this story element does not attempt to just simply rip off said movies, even despite the clear comparison.  What audiences eventually get here is that we should not let tech dominate our lives to the point that we are relying on it to make decisions for us.  We should not rely on it so much that it is doing everything for us, because we know better than technology who we are and what and who we like.  So yes, between this overarching message and that of the almost criminal nature of big tech, the overall story here will remain relevant for years to come.  It also boasts its own share of heart along the way, too.  It makes the story reason enough for audiences to give this movie a chance.

While the story does so much to make Ron’s Gone Wrong entertaining, the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release detracts somewhat from the presentation.  That is because of how little content there is and the content itself.  The bonus content, which is featured only in the movie’s BD/DVD/Digital combo pack and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack (no, it is not featured in the DVD platform) comes in the form of a brief sit-down with Galifianakis and Grazer, and a separate “making of” featurette.  The duo’s interview, which runs maybe about five minutes at most, just finds the pair sharing their thoughts on technology and how their generations vary in their views on technology and its role in society.  The slightly more lengthy “making of” featurette simply takes audiences behind the scenes of the movie’s creation.  Viewers learn of the motivation for the story’s creation from its writing team, as well as about how the cast members interacted as they recorded their lines.  It is in itself really a minimalist presentation that neither adds to or detracts from the movie’s presentation.  So audiences who maybe don’t own a Blu-ray player or one of those overly expensive 4K UHD TVs and players will not be missing out on anything without the bonus content on DVD.  For everyone else, the content is worth watching maybe once, but it really does not do anything either way for the presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the movie still stands strongly enough on the merits of its two-part story alone.  Staying on that note, the movie’s pacing is another positive that is worth noting.

The run time for Ron’s Gone Wrong is approximately one hour, 47 minutes.  That is actually a long run time for a family friendly flick.  Thankfully even being as long as the story is and with so much going on, the pacing remains solid.  This is the case even in the story’s final act in which it seems like the writers – Peter Baymham and Sarah Smith – seem to have had trouble deciding how to end the story.  The action and overall content is solid enough that the story keeps moving at a relatively solid pace throughout.  The result is that the pacing ensures the engagement and entertainment of younger viewers just as much as their older counterparts.  It makes the movie’s overall presentation that much more surprising in its appeal.  When this is considered along with the work of the movie’s cast, which is just as deserving of applause as the story’s pacing and the story itself, the whole makes the movie a mostly successful offering even in its home release.

20th Century Studios’ Ron’s Gone Wrong is a presentation that is just as successful in its recent home release as in its very brief theatrical run this fall.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story is a dual-pronged presentation that is both an indictment of big tech and its impact on society (specifically on young people) and a reminder about the need for people to make decisions and friends for themselves.  While the story is fully engaging and entertaining, the bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release (or rather the lack thereof) detracts from the movie’s home presentation at least to a point.  It is not enough to make the movie’s home release a failure by any means.  The story’s pacing (and also work of the movie’s cast) rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  When all of this is considered together, it makes the movie just as largely successful in its home release as in its brief theatrical run.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is available now on digital, DVD, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack. More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://20thcenturystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/20thCenturyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/20thcentury

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

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.

Walt Disney Studios’ ‘Encanto’ Is A Weak Finale For The Studio In 2021

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios debuted its latest CG flick this weekend in theaters nationwide in the form of Encanto.  While the weekend is all about being thankful, this movie sadly gives audiences little for which to be thankful.  This is despite all the praise that so many have given the movie.  One cannot The reality of Encanto is that it gets everything wrong that its predecessors Coco (2017) and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) got right beginning with the story, which will be discussed shortly.  The various musical cues thrown into the story add to the story’s problems and will be examined a little later.  Last but hardly least of import here is work of the voice cast.  All three items noted are key in their own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie a forgettable offering from Disney.

Walt Disney Studios’ brand new CG movie, Encanto is a disappointing new offering from the once fabled (no pun intended) studio.  The movie is rife with problems, beginning with its story.  The movie’s trailers made it seem like the movie was going to be some big adventure for its lead character, Mirabel.  The reality is that the story is anything but.  Rather, the story is in question more a coming-of-age piece than action.  Mirabel has to figure out in this story, why on the night that the youngest member of the Madrigal family receives his magical gift, the magic in the family’s candle starts to fade.  No one believes what she tells them at first, leading her to go on her mission of sorts.  As it turns out (no to give away too much), the reason for the fade is linked back to the clan in general.  Again not to give away too much here, but audiences realize that perhaps the reality is that the Madrigals who had magical gifts were taking their gifts for granted and just had to come to that realization in the end. 

This is where things get problematic.  In setting up the story, the movie’s writers fail to really fully explain how the candle got its magic.  Audiences know that the candle came into being after Abuela Alma’s (Maria Cecilia Botero) husband was killed by some not so nice people.  From there though, there is no explanation of the magic’s candle.  Was it something tied to the culture of Colombia?  We do not know.  What’s more, the identities of the men who killed Abuela Alma’s husband is never fully revealed, either.  As if this is not problem enough, the whole issue of Bruno and his psychic gift playing into the story just seems so random in itself.  It is as if the writers were just putting all of this together as they went along and hoped that it would stick, which sadly it did not. 

Adding even more to the problems is what happens in the story’s end.  The candle is not there, but the magic is back, as are the magical powers of the Madrigal clan.  So then was the candle never magic to begin with?  Again, those who have praised this movie either ignored this and so many other problems, or they were paid for positive reviews.  Yes, this critic went there. 

If all of this is not enough, the semi-climactic moment when Maribel and Abuela Alma confront one another, and then later share their feelings, leading to the final act, just seems so contrived.  Maribel stood up to Alma and told her that everything that happened was her (Alma’s) fault.  Alma then later tells Maribel that she was right, to which Maribel – after hearing Alma’s sob story – backed down and said she was in the wrong.  This is just so contrived.  The young woman had become empowered, only to stand down from the family’s matriarch.  This is just not believable nor realistic.  Between this and everything else noted here, it should be crystal clear why this movie’s story is in itself just so much a failure.  There is little if anything to like other than the subtle, nearly hidden messages about appreciating ourselves and others regardless of who we are and what are our “gifts.”  Of course for all of the problems that the story poses in itself, things only get worse from here.

The musical cues that are thrown into the story make matters even worse for the presentation.  The musical cues in question are handled in this movie by none other than Lin Manuel Miranda.  His trademark influence on the music that is so familiar in other movies on which he has worked is just as evident here.  There are musical numbers that blend elements of hip-hop and singing.  There are also moments in which they also exhibit such clear similarity to works from Moana (another Disney movie on which Miranda worked and did much better, too).  The thing here is that at some points, the musical numbers are just so random in their placement.  As if the lack of fluidity in the story was not enough, those often random cues throw things off even more.  What’s more, they just pale in comparison stylistically to the song cues crafted by the famed Sherman brothers – Robert and Richard – who crafted songs for some of Disney’s greatest classic movies.  Making things even more problematic here is that the cues are so many that they make the movie’s one hour, 49 minute run time seem even longer.  This is nothing new for Miranda, either.  His equally multitudinous song cues in another Disney movie, Mary Poppins Returns (2018) bogged that movie down, too and caused it to drag so much.  So again, the musical content featured in this movie do more to hurt its presentation just as much as the story itself.  It still is not the last of the movie’s problems, either.  The work of the voice cast is problematic in its own right to the story.

The voice cast’s work is troubling in that none of the cast’s work does anything to make any of the characters memorable.  Yes, Maribel is supposed to be the story’s lead.  Yes, voice actress Stephanie Beatriz deserves applause for her work as she makes Maribel a strong lead.  Other than that though, she doesn’t do much to make her memorable.  Though, that circles back to the writing.  The script does not really give Maribel much to develop as a character.  Even the work of John Leguizamo (the Ice Age franchise, Spawn, Moulin Rouge) here when he is finally introduced does little to help the story.  Though, again, that is because he is brought in so late and is given so little screen time from there on.  It is like the Madrigal family is there, but that is about it.  None of the voice cast really brings anything major and memorable to the table, but again that is because the story does not really provide much if any opportunity for character development.  So once again we see the problems with the story.  It is all tied in together, and in considering this along with the story’s other problems and the problems posed by the story’s musical numbers, the whole makes the movie overall such a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has released in recent years.

Walt Disney Studios’ new CG family flick Encanto has had a lot of hype behind it ahead of its debut this weekend.  Sadly though, the movie does not live up to the hype even though so many critics out there have lauded it so much.  Either those who have lauded ignored all of its problems, or they were paid to provide positive reviews.  The movie fails in large part because of its story.  The story is just all over the place and is rife with plot holes.  It is like the writers just threw the story together and hoped people would overlook everything that went wrong therein.  The movie’s musical numbers make for even more problems for its presentation.  That is because they bog down the movie and leave it feeling longer than it is, which again is nothing new for a movie in which Lin Manuel Miranda is involved.  The work of the movie’s voice cast puts the final nail in the coffin so to speak.  While the cast does a good job in its respective roles, no one actor’s part really stands out.  The thing is that is also because the script does not really do anything to allow for any real character development among the Madrigal family.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they leave the movie a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has produced by itself in recent years.

More information on this and other movies from Walt Disney Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/disneystudios

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

Arrow Video’s Re-Issue Of ‘The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch’ Will Appeal To Horror, Manga Fans Alike

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Halloween has come and gone for another year, and the world is once again going headlong into Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s.  However, this latter part of the holiday season is not for everyone.  For those who would rather avoid everything related to this time of year, Arrow Video has something to pass the time in the form of the new re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch.  Originally adapted from a classic manga “comic,” the movie debuted in 1968 through Japanese studio Daiei Studios.  Originally scheduled for release Sept. 21, Arrow Video is apparently now scheduled to re-issue the movie Tuesday for Western audiences on Blu-ray, more than half a century after its premiere.  Arrow Video’s recent re-issue is a strong new presentation of the cult classic movie and will appeal to the movie’s fans as well as to horror and fantasy fans.  Its appeal comes in part through its central story, which will be addressed shortly. The expansive bonus content that accompanies the re-issue is just as important to the movie’s new presentation as the story if not more so.  To that end, it will be examined a little later.  The re-issue’s pricing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later, taking into consideration all the noted content.  It will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie one more of the best of this year’s new DVD/BD re-issues.

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Daiei’s 1968 horror flick, The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation especially for those who perhaps have never seen the cult classic.  The movie’s appeal comes in part through its story.  The story is adapted from a manga “comic” that was originally crafted by famed manga writer/artist Kazuo Umezo.  The publication in question is identified in one of the bonus features added to the re-issue.  It and more background will be addressed in the examination of the re-issue’s bonus content.  The story here in question centers on the innocent “orphan,” Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) as she is randomly reunited with her parents, following so much time spent at an orphanage.  The reason for her being in the orphanage is never explained away.  This will also be addressed in the bigger discussion on the movie’s bonus content.  As Sayuri settles into her home, she starts to discover that the home is plagued by a very negative force, this after she tells her amnesiac mother that she wants her sister Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi) to be allowed to leave the home’s attic room where she lived for however many years.  Tamami starts to terrorize Sayuri, apparently unhappy that this new person is in the house.  As the story progresses, Tamami shows that she is willing to go to great lengths (including the threat of murder) to get Sayuri to leave.  She wants Sayuri out that badly.  Eventually the revelation is made that Tamami and Sayuri are not in fact sisters and that there is much more at play.  That will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. Tamami is not the only threat, either.  There is also another person in the house who does not want Sayuri there.  The two end up working together to a point to try and get rid of Sayuri, though there is a surprise as the story reaches its climax and finale.  This will also be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The whole of the story is well worth watching, even if one is not a fan of manga or Japanese cinema in general, but into horror.  The appreciation for the story is enhanced as audiences take in the expansive bonus content featured in the movie’s re-issue.

The bonus content consists of a new feature-length audio commentary presented by film historian David Kalat and a separate 27-minute featurette, “This Charming Woman,” which finds manga and folklore cholar Zach Davisson.  There is also an in-depth look at the movie in the presentation’s companion booklet that was penned by author Raffael Coronelli to expand on everything discussed in the other noted bonus content.  Kalat’s commentary points out a number of plot holes in the story, not the least of which being why Sayuri was in the orphanage to begin with.  He also makes note of how Sayuri’s mother got amnesia in the first place.  He gives credit to the explanation that her mother was involved in an accident, but also points out there the story never even explains what accident led to the amnesia.  As if that is not enough, he also brings up the issue of why the back door of the cab that Sayuri hails late in the story opens but no one gets in or out.  Ironically, for all the problems that Kalat points out in the story, he openly supports them, stating in his own words, that he feels they add to the story’s presentation in a unique way.  That in itself is sure to get audiences talking.  On a separate note, Kalat also uses his commentary to share the connection that the movie has to another famous Japanese cinema franchise, that of Gamera and its sequels.  As it turns out, director Noriaki Yuasa is directly tied to that franchise, according to Kalat’s information.  That is sure to generate even more appreciation for this movie among fans of the Gamera franchise.  On yet another interesting note, Kalat opens a discussion on the fairy tale aspect of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, but does not go into full depth about that connection.  Davisson expands on Kalat’s comments in his separate featurette.

Davisson expands on Kalat’s comments by pointing out the connection that the movie has, going all the way back to the stories of the Brothers Grimm.  He notes that while this story is based on a manga “comic,” it still incorporates the “feared mother” aspect by making Ms. Shige (Sachiko Meguro – Warning From Space, The Precipice, Kurotokage) the feared mother/step mother figure since Sayuri’s biological mother is “incapacitated” by her amnesia.  His commentary on this topic makes a person look back in hindsight and say “aha” in the best way possible.  Additionally, Davisson offers audiences some history on Umezo’s career in manga, noting that Umezo started his career at the young age of 18, and that he would go on to be a groundbreaker of sorts in the genre of body horror in manga.  As if all of that is not enough, Davisson, like Kalat, points out that this movie was not the ony one of its kind.  He stresses that in Japanese cinema, movies involving half animal figures was hardly abnormal and that in fact the movie came out a a time when monster movies were at the height of their popularity in Japan.  Davisson points out here that as a result, the movie has never been considered a ground breaker, but is still a cult favorite among the bigger monster movie genre in Japanese cinema.  That is sure to bring about its own share of discussion.  Between these discussions and others that he delves into over the course of his nearly half-hour featurette (including that of the role of women in cinema in Japan at the time), Davisson adds even more engagement and entertainment to the overall presentation, showing even more why the re-issue’s bonus content is so important.

Where Davisson and Kalat leave off, Coronelli picks up.  He adds to the overall bonus content by making note of the role of snakes in the Japanese occult belief system.  He compares it to the role of the fox, which according to him, is the more common occult “familiar” figure in Japan.  From there, Coronelli goes into a deeper discussion, explaining the role that each animal has in the Japanese occult, and then ties that discussion back into the snakes’ appearances in the movie.  This makes for its own share of interest.  This is the most important of Coronelli’s discussions as much of the other content in his notes echoes what Kalat and Davisson have already touched on in their discussions.  All things considered, the overall bonus content here makes for such a rich background to the story and enhances the re-issue’s overall presentation so much.  When the primary and secondary content is considered together, the whole makes the re-issue’s pricing just as important to examine.  That is because of how much the content offers audiences to appreciate.

The average price point for the forthcoming BD re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is $29.76.  That price was reached by averaging prices through Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and MVD Entertainment Group’s store (the company is working with Arrow Video to distribute the re-issue in the United States).  The re-issue was not listed through Walmart and Books-a-Million.  As an added note, Barnes & Noble is currently listing the re-issue at a sale price of $19.99 rather than its normal listing of $39.99.  If one were to consider that price, it would being the average to $33.76, and would make the listing of $27.99 (at Target and Best Buy) the least expensive and well below both averages.  Amazon’s listing of $32.88 is below the upper average, but above the lesser of the two averages.  Considering that the movie is technically an import, those higher prices are to be expected.  Keeping that in mind, they are less hard hitting, and regardless, it makes those $27.99 listings still just as affordable and worth the price, considering the noted overall content.  To that end, the pricing for this re-issue is still its own positive, since there are some prices that while up there, are still relatively affordable, even with the movie being an import.  Keeping this in mind along with the engagement and entertainment that the movie’s story and bonus content will offer audiences, the whole once more shows why this movie is another of this year’s best new BD/DVD re-issues.

Arrow Video’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a surprisingly impressive new presentation from the home entertainment company.  Its appeal comes in part through its story, which is one part horror and one part fairy tale a la The Brothers Grimm.  It will leave audiences guessing throughout about so many items, but in the best way possible.  That and the general story itself does plenty to keep audiences watching.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue adds even more to the presentation’s appeal.  That is because of the history and background that it adds to the movie.  That background and history gives the movie so much more depth through everything discussed.  Keeping the content in mind, it makes the re-issue’s pricing its own positive.  While not hugely inexpensive, the pricing will not break any viewer’s budget.  That is especially understood when audiences keep in mind that the movie is an import.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch.  All things considered, they make the re-issue one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is scheduled for release Tuesday through Arrow Video.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:

Websitehttps://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/phispicks 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.

Ice Nine Kills’ Latest LP Is A Scary Good New Record

Courtesy: Fearless Records

Halloween is almost over, but horror, like evil, will never die.  Metalcore band Ice Nine Kills is an act that seems to live by that mantra, having released so many albums based on horror novels and movies throughout its life.  The band continued to prove that Oct. 15 when it released its long-awaited new album, The Silver Scream 2: Welcome To Horrorwood.  The wait for this record was well worth it, as this critic and any of the band’s fans will agree.  That is proven in part through the musical arrangements featured in this record.  They will be discussed shortly.  The movies represented in the new album add to the record’s appeal in their own way and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted does its own part to make INK’s new album successful.  All things considered, they make the album another successful offering from the band that is not just a great musical Halloween treat this year, but a great addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums.

Ice Nine Kills’ latest album, The Silver Scream 2: Welcome To Horrorwood is another successful new offering from the band that the band’s fans new and established alike will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements are important to the record’s success because of the mix of familiar and new sounds and styles that they exhibit.  Right from the album’s outset in the album’s title track, audiences get the band’s familiar melodic metalcore approach, complete with front man Spencer Charnas’ solid mix of clean vocals and screams and the band’s familiar choral element that has become such a trademark of the band’s songs.  From there though, the band changes things up in ‘A Rash Decision.’  The ominous piano line that opens the arrangement is familiar, but as the arrangement progresses, it very quickly turns to a decidedly Slipknot-esque composition with its heavy, driving guitars, screams, and pounding, solid time keeping.  This is an approach that the band has dabbled with in the past, but never to this extent.  ‘Assault & Batteries’ meanwhile takes audiences back to the sounds so familiar in The Silver Scream and even all the way back to the band’s even earlier hit song, ‘Communion of the Cursed.’   Listeners get even more of the noted Slipknot influence in ‘Funeral Derangements,’ which is one of the album’s many singles.  Perhaps the most notable of the album’s arrangements comes in the form of ‘Rainy Day’ (yes another of the album’s singles).  The incorporation of the electronics into the song conjure thoughts of songs from the likes of Gravity Kills and Spineshank.  That newer sound pairs with the arrangement’s more familiar metalcore elements to make it one of the album’s most notable musical works.  Audiences who want even more new approaches and sounds get that in the distinctly death metal style ‘Take Your Pick.’  Considering that this song features a guest appearance by Cannibal Corpse front man Corpsgrinder, the comparison there is immediate.  To a slightly lesser degree, audiences can also make a comparison to works from the likes of Whitechapel.  From there on out, audiences get plenty of familiar sounds and styles in every song that follows.  At the same time, the songs still boast their own identities, even with that familiarity noted.  Keeping all of this in mind, the mix of new and familiar from one arrangement to the next and even within certain songs makes for reason enough for audiences to hear this record.  Of course, the musical arrangements featured in INK’s new album are collectively just one part of what makes this album worth hearing.  The movies that are represented throughout the record make for their own interest.

The movies that INK chose to represent in its latest album are important to note because unlike so many cinematic sequels, they are not just re-hashings of the material from the original.  From the singles already released so far, audiences know that classic movies, such as Pet Sematary, American Psycho, Child’s Play and Resident Evil are represented here.  Also represented are seemingly the likes of Cabin in the Woods (‘A Rash Decision’), The Fly (‘F.L.Y.’), and even Psycho (‘The Shower Scene’) among others.  Hellraiser is seemingly represented here in ‘The Box’ as is The Evil Dead in ‘Ex-Mortis.’  Simply put, between the movies listed here and the others featured here, INK has opted to not just re-visit the movies visited in the songs from The Silver Scream and its initial sequel/spinoff, The Silver Scream: The Final Cut.  What’s more, the band also made sure to pick movies from across the horror spectrum and history.  Not only does this serve as respect for those movies, but it could very well serve as a starting point for a lifelong love for (and potentially obsession with) those movies for new horror fans.  To that end, that and everything else noted here shows why the movies chosen for this record are important to the album’s success.  Even with this in mind, there is still one more item to address here.  That item is the record’s sequencing.


The sequencing of The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood is important because it ensures the album’s energy remains just right from start to end.  The album starts off in ominous fashion, but doesn’t wait long before it really picks up.  From there, the energy barely shifts at any point.  When it does, it is subtle at best.  The result is that it does just as much to keep listeners engaged and entertained throughout the album as its content and the very cinematic history presented through the featured movies.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is no doubt that the sequencing of INK’s new album is just as important to note as the album’s content.  It all comes together to make the album its own welcome musical love letter to Hollywood’s horror history just as much as its predecessors.

Ice Nine Kills’ recently released album, The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrrorwood is another successful offering from the band.  It is a work that the band’s established and newer audiences alike will enjoy.  That is due in no small part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements offer listeners a solid blend of familiar sounds and styles, and newer approaches.  The whole there makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  The movies that are represented throughout the album are of their own importance.  That is because they are not just repeats of the movies represented in the band’s most recent records.  They continue to show the band’s love for Hollywood’s rich history of horror while also continuing to potentially introduce audiences to that rich history.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  That is because it ensures that the record’s energy remains solid from start to end.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album another successful offering from Ice Nine Kills and one more of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.

The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood is available now through Fearless Records. More information on Ice Nine Kills’ new album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://iceninekills.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/IceNineKills

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/iceninekills

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://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.

Families Will Not Go Wrong Watching ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ At Least Once

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios/Locksmith Animation

20th Century Studios’ brand new family friendly CG flick, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a surprisingly entertaining presentation from the Disney-owned movie.  The nearly two-hour movie (more specifically, it runs approximately one hour, 47 minutes) surprises in part because of its story.  The two-pronged story will be examined shortly.  By relation, the story’s pacing is also of import to the movie’s success and will be examined a little later.  The cast’s acting also plays into the movie’s success.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they make Ron’s Gone Wrong a movie that surprisingly, audiences will not go wrong watching.

20th Century Studios’ brand new family friendly CG-flick, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a surprisingly successful new offering from the studio formerly known as 20th Century Fox.  The studio’s name was changed in 2020 after it was bought by Disney the same year.  The movie’s surprising success comes in large part through its story.  The story is a two-part presentation that will appeal to younger and older viewers alike.  One half of the story is a clear indictment of big tech, its impact on young people’s mental health, and the unscrupulous measures that big tech will take to exploit those noted users.  The story’s other half centers on the all-too-important message of the importance of friendship and its related topics.  The two halves weave together seamlessly throughout the movie, and together with the pacing (which again, will be discussed a little later) make the story overall fully engaging and entertaining.  The overarching discussion on the invasive nature of social media and its negative impact on young people’s mental health is timeless.  This will remain a concern until such time as young people can pull themselves away from social media and its addictive clutches.  To that end, the story likely will not earn an Oscar®, but will remain timely, making it relatable for generations of audiences.  The movie’s writers clearly went after Apple, Facebook, and so much other big tech and social media in delivering this message.  The companies are not named, but rather spoofed so to speak, through the use of the company, “Bubble” and its antagonistic boss, Andrew.  Andrew is clearly a lifting of Steve Jobs while Marc Weidell is clearly an allusion to Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg.

The connected story about friendship ties directly into the indictment of big tech and social media as lead character Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer – It, Luca, Shazam) finds himself the only student in his middle school – Nonsuch Middle School – without a so-called B*Bot.  The B*bot, is a digital friend that knows everything about its user, and uses that information to help young people find new friends.  Marc (Justice Smith – Paper Towns, The Get Down, Jurassic WorldFallen Kingdom) even called the tech the “perfect friend” right in the story’s opening scene.  That immediate message lets people know that one of the key messages in this story is that friends are anything but perfect, but rather perfect in being imperfect.  Barney learns that invaluable lesson when his dad, Graham (Ed Helms – The Office, Vacation, The Hangover) gets Barney his own B-bot (albeit illegally).  In learning its serial number, Barney shortens the bot’s name to just Ron.  Ron is voiced here by Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover, The Lego Batman Movie).  His work here is some of his best, and that is actually saying something considering the dumbed down performances that he has presented in the noted movies and others.  It will be discussed later.  Getting back on the subject at hand, Barney and Ron eventually develop a real friendship because Ron is not like all of the other B-bots out there.  What develops will immediately ring a bell with those familiar with the 1986 movie, Short Circuit and its sequel, which came only two years later.  That buddy comedy centered on a robot that developed sentience and only wanted to protect and befriend people.  The good thing here is that this story element does not attempt to just simply rip off said movies, even despite the clear comparison.  What audiences eventually get here is that we should not let tech dominate our lives to the point that we are relying on it to make decisions for us.  We should not rely on it so much that it is doing everything for us, because we know better than technology who we are and what and who we like.  So yes, between this overarching message and that of the almost criminal nature of big tech, the overall story here will remain relevant for years to come.  It also boasts its own share of heart along the way, too.  It makes the story reason enough for audiences to give this movie a chance.

As much as the story does for Ron’s Gone Wrong in terms of its success, it is just one part of what makes the movie so surprisingly positive.  The story’s pacing also plays into its success.  Reminder, the movie’s run time is approximately one hour, 47 minutes.  That is actually a long run time for a family friendly flick.  Thankfully even being as long as the story is and with so much going on, the pacing remains solid.  This is the case even in the story’s final act in which it seems like the writers – Peter Baymham and Sarah Smith – seem to have had trouble deciding how to end the story.  The action and overall content is solid enough that the story keeps moving at a relatively solid pace throughout.  The result is that the pacing ensures the engagement and entertainment of younger viewers just as much as their older counterparts.  It makes the movie’s overall presentation that much more surprising in its appeal.  The cast’s work joins with the story and its pacing to round out the movie’s most important items.

The work put in by the movie’s cast adds a certain amount of heart to the presentation that make the movie that much more appealing.  The noted heart that is presented comes in part through the performance of star Zach Galifianakis.  As noted, Galifianakis has starred in plenty of less than memorable movies during his career.  His performances therein are just as forgettable.  They make him seem like he lacked any real credibility as an actor, all things considered.  However in this case, his performance as the imperfect perfect friend Ron is so subtle.  That subtlety makes Ron so loveable to viewers of all ages.  It makes Ron such a loveable character in his innocence.  Grazer, by relation, is just as talented as he brings Barney to life.  The way in which he handles Barney’s emotional and personal growth as he navigates his new middle school life and the changes from his former friends turned selfish youths makes Barney a fully sympathetic character.  Those friends – Rich (Ricardo Hurtado – School of Rock, The Goldbergs, Country Comfort) and Savannah (Keylie Cantrall – Just Roll With It, Gabby Duran & The Unsittables) – are among those who fall victim to the addictive nature of the B*bots and big tech.  It makes their revelation about who and what they had become late in the story somewhat unbelievable.  That is not to say that Hurtado and Cantrall did a bad job in their roles.  Rather they did a good job overall.  It is just that at that moment, it is difficult to empathize or even sympathize with them for what Savannah acknowledges they caused.  Audiences will appreciate the pair’s work as they become so addicted to their own fleeting fame, considering that is how so many real world youths (and people in general) have become thanks to YouTube channels, Facebook, Instagram, and social media in general.  It really is an accurate reflection of society.  But again, there is something in that one noted moment that makes their remorse lacking in real emotion. 

On yet another note, Olivia Colman (Hot Fuzz, The Lobster, Tyrannosaur) deserves her own credit in her portrayal of Barney’s grandmother, Donka.  Donka is only a supporting character, but Colman makes full use of her time in the role.  Yes, that includes a little bit of adult humor, but in reality, what kids’ show does not/has not incorporate/incorporated some adult humor for the parents/guardians of its young audiences to enjoy?  The scene involving the meat cleaver and the flashback to Barney’s sixth birthday party give Colman plenty of opportunity to create laughs.  She succeeds in her acting in each case, too.  Even in a subtle moment, such as when she pretends to be a cleaner to help Barney and company break into Bubble’s headquarters (again, yes, that is a direct spoof of Apple), she shines.  Colman’s overall performance makes for a great introduction for viewers that are less familiar with her and her body of work.  It is just one more way in which the cast’s work shows itself so important to the overall presentation of Ron’s Gone Wrong.  When the overall work of the cast is considered along with the story and its pacing, the whole comes together to make the movie a surprisingly entertaining new offering for audiences of all ages.

20th Century Studios’ latest family friendly CG flick, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a surprisingly entertaining presentation for the whole family.  The movie’s success comes in large part through its story.  The story immediately lends itself to comparison to the timeless 1986 buddy comedy Short Circuit but still boats its own identity separate from that movie despite the clear comparison.  The balance of its two-part story line is handled expertly throughout and offers elements that will appeal to grown-ups and younger viewers alike.  Older viewers will appreciate the commentary about the near criminal nature of big tech (including social media) while the messages about friendship tied into the overall story are certain to resonate with younger viewers.  The overall story’s pacing works with the story to add to the movie’s appeal.  That is because it ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment throughout.  This is even despite its nearly two-hour run time.  The cast’s work voicing the characters puts the final touch to the presentation.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they make Ron’s Gone Wrong a right choice for the whole family.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is in theaters now.  More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:

Website: https://20thcenturystudios.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/20thCenturyStudios

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‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Is The Worst Of DC, Warner Brothers’ Superhero Flicks So Far

Courtesy: DC/Warner Brothers

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.  Everybody knows that old adage.  Warner Brothers and DC’s recent presentation (and home release) of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is proof positive of that old adage.  Released through HBO Max after years of protest by Snyder’s minions, the movie was released this summer on DVD and Blu-ray.  Given, the original 2017 cut (which used only part of Snyder’s work before his departure from the project) was hardly memorable, it is far better by comparison than the Snyder cut.  This four-hour presentation is even worse than the movie’s original 2017 cut, and that is saying something, too.  There is little if anything to like about this take of Justice League.  The most prominent problem with the Snyder Cut is its story.  This will be discussed shortly.  The story ties into another prominent problem, the pacing.  Rounding out the movie’s problems is its general presentation.  This item will also be discussed later.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.  All things considered, they make the movie the least memorable of DC and Warner Brothers’ DC titles to date.

Warner Brothers and DC’s presentation of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is proof positive that people really should be careful what they wish for.  That is because while its 2017 predecessor is not necessarily the greatest of the companies’ offerings, it is also not their worst.  That dishonor belongs to the recently premiered (and home released) “Snyder Cut” of Justice League.  The movie suffers from so many problems, not the least of which being its story.  The story, which runs four hours, two minutes in length, is marred right from the get go.  The first two hours are spent building up the background for each member of the Justice League.  The story plods along as a result of this, leading to an issue in the pacing, which will be discussed a little later.  It is not even until almost two hours into the movie that audiences finally get the movie’s first fight scene between the Justice League’s members and Steppenwolf.  This critic is a lifelong DC fan, but this approach to the movie’s first half is completely counterproductive.  By comparison, Marvel Studios did create a number of movies for each member of the Avengers.  There is not denying that.  At the same time though, those movies do all of the buildup for the key characters, thus allowing more time for more important elements in the big final presentation that was the Infinity Saga.  This is the model that DC should have used from day one for its Justice League buildup.  DC and Warner Brothers sort of tried that with Wonder Woman and Man of Steel (which was terrible to say the least in itself) but what with so many batman movies out there, it was next to impossible to figure out how to build up his back story and make it work for this story.  The companies also tried a setup for Green Lantern in 2011, but that movie flopped, with even star Ryan Reynolds decrying the movie in hindsight.  It likely explains why the Green Lantern Corps was mentioned only in passing in this movie.  Add in everything from the story’s epilogue and things get even more problematic.  The whole just adds too much to the whole.  Perhaps the only true positive (or really positives) is Steppenwolf’s acknowledgement of the multi-verse at one point in the story and the Joker’s mention of alternate timelines in the movie’s epilogue.  Considering all the talk of the Flashpoint crossover and the Crisis on Infinite Earths in the DCEU’s television world, it all actually ties together at least a little better.  Though, the use of what is apparently a Lazarus Pit in Superman’s ship and everything else that went into the story of his resurrection offsets all of that, too.  Simply put, the whole of the movie’s story is forgettable.  It simply tries too hard and falls flat.

As noted already, the pacing tied in to the story makes for even more problems for this presentation.  Because of all of the brooding and buildup in the movie’s first half, things really do plod along at nearly a snail’s pace.  Again, if that buildup had been relegated to the standalone movies for the JL’s members, then the story could have just gotten right to the point and moved along at a much more pleasant pace.  What’s more, the epilogue involving Bruce Wayne’s dream (what proves to set up an alternate reality story line) and everything involving Cyborg’s story slows things down even more, as does the completely random meeting of Deathstroke/Slade Wilson and Lex Luthor.  It’s like Snyder just threw that in like so much more and thought it would work.  Sadly it just slows things down once again after the movie could have ended following Steppenwolf’s defeat (not to give away too much).  Simply put, the movie moves too slow too often and just the right speed at too few spots.  The result is that the pacing proves just as problematic as the movie’s story.

As if the negative impact of the story and its pacing are not enough, the general presentation is also problematic.  Audiences who are familiar with Zack Snyder’s work will easily catch the over the top slow motion effects, and the blood and gore.  He follows the same stylistic approach throughout this movie, with more than enough bloodshed (and even Superman holding a skeleton at one point) to appease the most bloodthirsty viewers.  Such approach really is disappointing, as is the unnecessary use of so much foul language and dark, gritty look throughout the story.  People go to movies to escape the grim reality of reality, not to be exposed to even more grim, brooding presentations.  Snyder needs to realize and just accept this.  When and if he ever does, it will hopefully change his ways.  Otherwise, audiences are just going to get the same kind of presentation from Snyder from one movie to the next.  Hopefully, keeping this in mind, DC and Warner Brothers will employ Snyder less as time goes on.  Between this realization and that of the negative impact of the movie’s story and pacing, all three elements leave the movie a nearly complete failure.  The introduction of the Martian Manhunter (a.k.a. J’on Jonzz) is about the only positive, as it and Darkseid’s determination to get the Mother Boxes sets up more Justice League movies; movies that hopefully will not be written or even helmed by Zack Snyder.

Warner Brothers and DC’s recently released presentation that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a problematic new presentation from the companies.  There is little if anything to like about this movie.  Really the only positive that it has is that it sets up another Justice League movie that hopefully will not be helmed or written by Zack Snyder.  There was also the acknowledgement of the multiverse and alternate timelines, which aligns it (to a point) with DC’s television offerings.  What with the new Flash movie coming, it would seem that said presentation will take those mentions into account.  That is because the Flashpoint storyline did in fact involve Darkseid and Steppenwolf following its events in the comics.  Other than that, the movie fails with its story and pacing, as well as its general presentation.  All things considered, Zack Snyder’s Justice League proves to be the worst of DC and Warner Brothers’ superhero offerings to date. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other DC titles from Warner Brothers is available at https://www.facebook.com/DECU2013.  

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

Shout! Factory’s 35th Anniversary Re-Issue Of ‘The Transformers: The Movie’ Will Appeal To A Very Targeted Audience

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/eOne

It’s hard to believe but this year marks 35 years since the landmark presentation, The Transformers: The Movie debuted.  In celebration of the anniversary, Shout! Factory re-issued the movie again Aug. 3 on separate steelbook and Blu-ray/DVD presentations.  The re-issue, which in fact comes five years after the release of the company’s 30th anniversary re-issue of the movie, is sadly a disappointing presentation.  That is due in large part to its featured bonus content, which will be discussed a little later.  For all that said content does to detract from the presentation, it does have at least one positive to note in its restored look.  This will be discussed shortly.  The one other positive worth noting is the re-issue’s pricing.  It will be discussed later, too.  Each item plays its own important part to the whole of this re-issue.  All things considered, they still make the presentation sadly a disappointing new offering from Shout! Factory that does little to further the legacy of The Transformers.

Shout! Factory’s recently released 35th anniversary of The Transformers: The Movie is sadly, a disappointing offering from the company.  It is another example of how far the company has fallen from its former place as the leader in home entertainment.  It is not a complete failure, though.  The most notable of its very few positives is its look.  As noted on the presentation’s packaging, it is presented this time out in a new, restored look thanks to a 4K scan of the original film.  The restoration’s impact is clear right from the movie’s outset.  The rough, hand-drawn anime look from the original movie is still evident here.  At the same time, there is a certain definition to that look.  That is not to say that the charm of the original hand-drawn look is gone by any means.  Rather, it is just that evident that said look has been improved upon without losing the look of the original cut.  Yes, it is an aesthetic element, but it in itself makes the re-issue worth watching at least once.

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/eOne

While the newly restored footage of Transformers: The Movie is a positive that viewers cannot ignore, it is one of very few positives to this set, next to its pricing.  That item will be addressed later.  The bonus content featured with this re-issue detracts considerably from the presentation.  According to information provided late this summer, this latest re-issue features a handful of so-called new bonus features.  In reality, there are three new bonuses: new feature-length storyboards, new deleted and alternate sequences, and a new interview with singer-songwriter John Bush, who provided much of the music for the movie’s soundtrack.  This all sounds great on paper, but in reality, it collectively does little if anything to enhance the viewing presentation.  The interview with Bush for instance finds him talking about how the song, ‘The Touch’ was created.  There is no real insight into its connection with the movie.  Along with the discussion, audiences also get an acoustic, in-studio performance of the song as well as a performance of ‘The Dare,’ another of the songs featured in the movie’s soundtrack.  The storyboards and deleted scenes are just that.  The deleted and alternate scenes are essentially one in the same.  Just as concerning (if not more so) is that there is no sound in the storyboards, which are their own presentation and the deleted/alternate scenes.  As a result, audiences have to essentially guess as which scenes are alternate and deleted.  If any one good thing can be noted here, it is that these same “bonuses” are featured in the movie’s 4K UHD and Blu-ray/DVD combo packs.  Even that is not enough to offset the negative of the content or lack thereof.  At least the more enjoyable bonus content from the movie’s 30th anniversary presentation is featured in this re-issue.  Keeping all of this in mind, the “new” bonus content featured in this 35th anniversary re-issue of The Transformers: The Movie is more burden to the presentation than boon.

For all of the concerns raised by the “new” bonus content in this presentation, there is at least one more positive for the most devoted fans of The Transformers.  That positive is the pricing.  Speaking more specifically, the pricing for the BD/DVD combo pack is that positive.  The average price point for that platform is $15.  That price was reached by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Books-A-Million, and Shout! Factory’s store.  It was not listed through Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Target at the time of this review’s posting.  By comparison, the average price point for the 4K UHD set is $22.19.  That price was reached by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Books-A-Million, and Shout! Factory’s store.  The movie’s steelbook presentation averages at $24.73.  This is all important to note because the only thing that separates the three platforms is their box art.  Yes, that’s it.  Each platform has the same content right down to the bonus content.  To that end the most devoted Transformers fans will do well to save themselves some money and just get the standard Blu-ray/DVD combo pack if they get this 25th anniversary presentation of The Transformers: The Movie if they buy it at all.  Noting again, the lackluster bonus content against the slightly better look of the film, there is little motivation for most audiences to buy this set if they already own the movie’s 30th anniversary re-issue.

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/eOne

Shout! Factory and eOne’s recently released 35th Anniversary re-issue of The Transformers: The Movie is a surprisingly disappointing new presentation of the classic animated feature.  It is not a total failure, though.  Its restored 4K scan is a noticeable improvement on the look from the movie’s 30th anniversary edition without losing the warmth of the movie’s look from that re-issue.  The major shortfall for this movie comes in the form of its “new” bonus content.  Said content is anything but a real bonus.  That is because of how little it does to enhance the viewing experience in comparison to the bonus content carried over from the 30th anniversary re-issue.  It will appeal primarily to the most devoted fans of The Transformers overall.  Considering that the overall content is featured in each of the re-issue’s three separate platforms (yes, three), it makes the pricing for the movie’s Blu-ray/DVD combo pack positive in its own right.  That is in comparison to the pricing for the movie’s separate 4K UHD/BD set and steelbook set.  Keeping all of this in mind, this latest re-issue of The Transformers: The Movie proves itself a presentation that will appeal to a very targeted audience. 

The Transformers: The Movie’s 35th anniversary re-issue is available now. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available along with the company’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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.