‘Voodoo Macbeth’ Is Worth Watching Despite Concerns Of Content, Rating

Courtesy: Lightyear Entertainment

Movies based on actual events are big business for the cinematic world.  Hollywood’s major studios have made increasing use of said stories throughout their collective history while independent studios have, thankfully, been far less reliant on the genre, though there have been some independent studios that have turned out their own fare, much to the same result of the major studios’ offerings.  The result in question is movies that are otherwise forgettable because of their blend of history and overpowering fictional embellishments.  Now independent studio Lightyear Entertainment has become just the latest studio to join that mass of studios big and small alike that have fallen back on what is really an overblown genre with the recent release of its new movie, Voodoo MacBeth.  Set for release Tuesday, the movie centers on the history of famed media figure Orson Welles’ work with the famed Harlem Negro Theater Unit on its 1936 stage presentation of Shakespeare’s timeless drama, Macbeth.  The independent period drama that is based on actual events is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.  One reason it proves itself worth that one chance is its writing.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the writing is largely a positive and will keep audiences mostly engaged and entertained, the writing also includes a significant amount of foul language and some material that some might find questionable, yet the movie has no rating.  This is a negative that needs to be addressed.  The bonus commentary that accompanies the movie is one more positive worth noting, considering that the one negative is not enough to doom the movie.  This will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to this movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Voodoo Macbeth far from being as timeless as Shakespeare’s original, but still worth watching at least once.

Voodoo Macbeth is an intriguing presentation from independent movie studio Lightyear Entertainment.  It is another movie that is worth watching at least once but really does little to help make the case for the historical drama genre.  One thing that it does have going for it is its writing.  The writing encompasses not only Welles’ own story but the bigger story of how the now famed 1936 performance of Macbeth by the Harlem Negro Theater Unit came to happen.  The story of Welles’ personal relationship with his wife, Virginia plays into the bigger picture, but thankfully never overpowers the central story.  There is also the story of the theater troupe’s members and their own personal stories added to the mix. As with Welles’ personal story, their stories don’t take overpower the central story, either.  Along the way, the movie’s writing staff made sure to include the role of racism even there in Harlem at the time to help progress the bigger story of the collective’s drive to put on the play.  Considering how much went into the overall story, it would have been so easy for the writers to let the story get bogged down in itself, but thankfully it didn’t.  That allowed the pacing and story in general to remain fluid.  As a result, audiences are ensured their engagement and entertainment throughout the story.

While the writing that went into Voodoo Macbeth ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment throughout its nearly two hour run time, the writing also includes a lot of foul language and content that some might find questionable, even considering its use in the bigger context of the story.  This is important to note because according to the movie’s case, it has no rating (IE PG, PG-13, R).  What’s more, there is not even any indication anywhere on the case of said content.  Some of that content includes references to homosexuality, which some audiences might find troubling.  At one point, two of the male cast members kiss each other, and at another one of the men in question attends a gay club, so that is content that again is understandable for its use in the context of the story but may cause some audiences to be uncomfortable.  All of this in mind, it is somewhat disconcerting that the movie got away with getting through without a rating.  Whether that is just because it is an independent movie or because it simply slipped through the cracks is anyone’s guess, but audiences need to be aware of all of this.  It is not enough to doom the movie but is definitely still of concern.

Keeping in mind that the movie’s lack of a rating and any mention of its content is absent anywhere herein is not enough to doom the movie, there is at least one more positive to note.  That positive is the movie’s bonus feature-length audio commentary.  The commentary is provided by the collective of cast members Jewell Wilson Bridges and Inger Tudor, producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, writer Erica Sutherlin, and director Zoe Salnawe.  If that seems like a lot of people, that is because it is.  As is revealed in the commentary early on, there were 10 directors alone for this movie.  There were a whole lot of people involved in the writing, too.  Salnave even notes in her comments that there were so many creative heads behind the scenes that a lot of attention had to be paid to the writing to ensure the story did not get bogged down in itself.  Thankfully that didn’t happen, even with so many hands in the proverbial pot.  Audiences also learn through the commentary the nearly two hour run time was the goal for all involved.  While no one said anything outright, it would seem that the statement in question was a reference to how so many movies out there today have become so long; upwards of three and even four hours.  On a funnier note, one of the group mentions what is known as the “Macbeth Curse” or the “Scottish Curse.”  The mention comes as the group discusses a power outage happening during the movie’s 25-day filming span and wonders if the curse played into it.  For those who might not be aware of what the curse is, there is a belief in theater that speaking the name Macbeth inside a theater other than in the script, leads to disaster.  Allegedly the so-called curse stems from Shakespeare using an actual incantation in the play Macbeth during the scene involving the witches, and it just so happened that some witches were watching one production of the play.  They got so angry at the presentation that they put a curse on every presentation of the play from that point on.  Whether that is true is anyone’s guess.  Though, considering the one major issue from which this movie suffers shows that maybe there is something to the curse after all.  Along with the lighthearted discussion on the curse, there was also a lot of in-depth discussion on the cast’s work on camera and trying to make the movie look believable in terms of its sets and costumes.  Those who are interested in this aspect of period flicks will appreciate these talks.  All of this in mind along with everything else discussed in the bonus content, it makes the audio commentary a strong companion to the movie.  When the positive of the commentary is considered along with the positive of the writing, the two elements make Voodoo Macbeth worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.

Voodoo Macbeth, Lightyear Entertainment’s new historical drama, is an intriguing presentation from the independent movie studio.  It does little to break any new ground in the bigger picture of the genre, but is still worth watching at least once.  That is due in part to the movie’s writing.  The writing does an admirable job of interweaving so many story lines into the bigger picture that is the movie’s central plot.  While the writing deserves at least some applause, there is content in the writing that makes the movie deserving of a PG-13 rating at the very least and an R at the most.  The thing is that there is no rating here and no indication of any of the content anywhere on the movie’s case.  This is problematic, as audiences need to know this kind of information and aren’t informed.  Knowing this is not enough to doom the movie, its bonus audio commentary adds to the overall appeal.  That is because of the background that it adds to the presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Voodoo Macbeth an intriguing addition to this year’s field of new independent movies that is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.

Voodoo Macbeth is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. Its run time is 108 minutes (one hour 48 minutes). The movie will retail for msrp of $24.95 on Blu-ray, $19.95 on DVD, and $12.95 on digital platforms. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

More information on this and other titles from Lightyear Entertainment is available at:

Websitehttps://lightyear.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/lightyearent

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/LightyearEnt

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.

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Lightyear Entertainment To Release New Historical Drama This Month

Courtesy: Lightyear Entertainment

Movies based on actual events are and have been big business for the movie industry for decades, and now Lightyear Entertainment will release a new movie based on a key period in Orson Welles’ life later this month.

Voodoo Macbeth is scheduled for release Jan. 17 through Lightyear Entertainment. The movie focuses on Welles’ work with the Harlem Negro Theater Unit on its 1936 presentation of Shakespeare’s timeless drama, Macbeth. The group’s rendition of the play moved the setting from Scotland to Haiti and used Caribbean voodoo in place of witchcraft used in the original play.

The group’s performance of the play was not without controversy. Politicians called the play subversive. Residents of Harlem called the play exploitative and protested the play. Despite the controversy that swirled around it, the play ended up being successful, playing for 10 weeks at the Lafayette Theater before touring nationwide.

Welles was quoted in a 1982 interview as saying of his work with the troupe, “By all odds, my great success in my life was that play, because the opening night there were five blocks in which all traffic was stopped. You couldn’t get near the theater in Harlem. Everybody who was anybody in the black or white world was there, and the play ended there were so many curtain calls that they finally left the curtain open, and the audience came up on the stage to congratulate the actors. That was magical.”

A feature-length audio commentary with cast members Jewell Wilson Bridges and Inger Tudor, producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, script writer Erica Sutherlin, and director Zoe Salnave serves as the movie’s primary bonus content. Actual 1936 footage of the original play from the National Archives and Records Administration is also included as a bonus.

Voodoo Macbeth will release on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. Its run time is 108 minutes (one hour 48 minutes). The movie will retail for msrp of $24.95 on Blu-ray, $19.95 on DVD, and $12.95 on digital platforms. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

More information on this and other titles from Lightyear Entertainment is available at:

Website: https://lightyear.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LightyearEnt

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.

Story Pacing, Bonus Content Are The Only Saving Graces For Walt Disney Studios Animation’s Latest CG Feature, ‘Strange World’

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Animation

The new year has barely begun, but even with that being the case, Walt Disney Studios has already announced its first new home release for 2023.  The company announced late last month it will release its latest CG feature, Strange World Feb. 14 on DVD and Blu-ray.  The movie is the first full CG feature (and first full theatrical CG feature) from the company’s animations branch since the release of Encanto in November 2021.  The company partnered with Bardel Entertainment in December 2021 for the CG adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, so technically, while it is a CG movie (which was released exclusively through Disney’s streaming service, Disney+), it is not a solo release from Disney.  That movie has yet to see a home release date, too.  Strange World does little if anything to improve the track record for Disney’s animation unit, considering the fact that Encanto was so forgettable.  Strange World suffers largely because of its story, which will be discussed a little later.  The story’s pacing is the movie’s main saving grace.  It will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s bonus content is also of note to the positive.  It will be discussed later, too.  When it and the pacing are considered together, they make Strange World worth watching once, but sadly no more than that one time.

Walt Disney Studios Animation’s latest new CG offering Strange World is a disappointing new presentation from the animation arm of Walt Disney Studios.  Much like its most recent predecessor, Encanto, it offers audiences little to make it memorable, other than maybe the fact that it is not a musical.  One of the only other positives to this movie is the pacing of its story.  From beginning to end of its roughly 90-minute run time, the story wastes little time getting things moving.  That is proven right from the movie’s outset, which is a brief back story on the Cade family (the movie’s central stars).  In that introduction, it is revealed that the elder member of the Clade family, Jaeger (Dennis Quaid – Innerspace, The Day After Tomorrow, Frquency) essentially abandoned his family while on a mission in the mountains of the family’s homeland, Avalonia.  Of course, there is more to that story that is revealed as the story progresses.  Not to give away too much, but it is ironic (or maybe not) that Quaid has also worked on Innerspace and The Day After Tomorrow considering the content in this movie’s story, not to give away too much.  Getting back on track, that initial opening setup is very brief, but makes sense as soon as the story fast forwards more than 20 years in the future.  The story that follows is set up very quickly and in clear fashion.  From there, the adventure into the “subterranean” world of Avalonia moves steadily right up to its final act and resolution.  Even the moments in which Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal – Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler) and Jaeger have to come to terms with their relationship do not manage to slow the movie down too much.  That is a good thing, too, considering how that secondary story of the father and son’s relationship (and Searcher’s own relationship with his son, Cade (Jabouki Young-White – Rough Night, Set It Up, C’mon C’mon)) plays into the bigger story.  That secondary story actually weaves seamlessly into the overall story, allowing for the story to not get bogged down in itself and in turn keep moving fluidly from beginning to end.

As much as the pacing of Strange World’s story does for its appeal, the overall story presented herein detracts greatly from that appeal.  That is because in hindsight, the story is really anything but original.  Not to give away too much for those who have yet to watch it, but this movie proves ultimately to be little more than a reimagining of 20th Century Fox’s timeless 1977 science fiction classic, Fantastic Voyage.  That is recognized when Ethan Clade (Young-White) finally realizes the reality of where the family really is in its journey.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s writing team is to be commended at least to a point, in keeping that realization a surprise not only for the Clade family but also for audiences in the process.  Again though, the realization almost immediately lends itself to comparison to Fantastic Voyage and in turn reduces that engagement and entertainment.

This is just one of the problematic aspects of the story.  The preachy message about finding a renewable source of energy through the setup of pando’s problematic nature is clearly an allegory of how we as humans must find an alternative to fossil fuels.  Yes, we need to get off of fossil fuels, and those efforts to find something else are already there.  To that end, audiences do not need this message continually shoved down their throats.  The purpose of movies is supposed to be an escape everything, not to have preachy messages and agendas pushed.

As if all of this is not problem enough, — again not to give away too much – the ultimate final revelation at the story’s end makes a direct reference to the idiot theory by so many that Earth is flat.  Of course, a flat earth is not shown, but a round one, yet to even suggest we are living on something else that is living – an actual living organism – is laughable and leaves one wondering why this was even incorporated into the movie, unless some nutjob flat earther was part of the writing team.

This still is not the end of the issues posed by the story.  The whole matter of the father and son dynamic between Jaeger, Searcher, and Ethan (Ethan is gay, by the way, and that is shamelessly right out in front of audience, so some parents might want to be aware of this) thankfully does not overwhelm the bigger story of the family’s journey through Avalonia’s “subterranean” world.  At the same time though, it doesn’t really add much, if anything, to the story.  The whole thing of each son trying to make his own path and identity despite his father’s own history is preachy in its own right, and nothing new to the movie industry, too.  Thankfully though, this subplot thankfully does not manage to overpower the overall story even as it doesn’t help the story, either.

Looking back at all of this, there are lots of problems with the story at the center of Strange World.  From its overall lack of originality to its preachy nature, it is just anything but memorable.  It is at least engaging for the one watch.  To that end, the multiple problems featured in this movie’s story are not enough to completely doom Strange World, and leave room for one more positive, that being the movie’s bonus content.

The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release is at least somewhat enjoyable, even despite some preachiness from Young-White in the “Strange Science” bonus feature.  He goes off about the need to care more for the planet, etc. in the end of the 13-minute bonus, which features the movie’s creative heads talking about the story and the work that went into its creation.  The very brief creature feature at least offers some entertainment as it gives names to each of the creatures encountered throughout the Cades’ journey.  The 23-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette is for lack of better wording, the standard “making of” featurette that comes with so many movies, regardless of studio.  Audiences learn how much time and work went into the CG that made the movie, with so much detail given from one subtopic to another.  It and the other bonuses are collectively all that really makes the overall viewing experience here worthwhile, that is other than the pacing of the story.  To that end, the pacing of Strange World’s story and the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release are its saving graces.  Without them, this movie would not be worth watching even once.

Strange World, the latest CG feature from Walt Disney Studios Animation, is sadly another disappointing offering from the animation arm of Walt Disney Studios.  Its story is anything but original, though at least the execution thereof makes for some appeal.  The story’s pacing works to help with that execution, thankfully.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its coming home release is also of note, though not very much.  Keeping all of this in mind, Strange World proves ultimately to be another forgettable offering from Walt Disney Studios Animation.

Strange World is available now digitally.  It is scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 14.

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

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

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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.  

Moonwatcher Films’ Indie Flick, ‘5-25-77’ Is A Surprisingly Enjoyable Based On Actual Events Presentation

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

With 2022 officially in its waning days, it is safe to say that Hollywood’s major studios have struggled to release very much in the way of substantive content. This year has largely been just another filled with prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on books and actual events. However, it looks like with the year finally winding down, maybe just maybe something positive might be finally here thanks to the premiere of Amblin Entertainment’s new drama, The Fablemans. Directed by none other than Steve Spielberg, the movie is a love letter to classic cinema and its role in a person’s own development. Whether it lives up to the hype is yet to be seen since it only premiered today. It is hardly the only movie of its sort. As a matter of fact, independent studio Moonwatcher Films’ brand new movie, 5-25-77 is its own unique story of the role of cinema in a young man’s personal growth. Released to DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, the movie is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation that will move audiences to plenty of laughs and tears. That is due in large part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The bonus feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie adds to the movie’s appeal. It will be examined a little later. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of the movie’s positives and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered they make this movie a refreshing alternative to everything churned out by Hollywood’s major studios so far this year and one more of the year’s top new independent movies.

5-25-77, the newest independent movie from independent studio Moonwatcher Films, is a surprisingly enjoyable addition to this year’s field of new independent movies. What’s more it is also a welcome alternative to all of the content being churned out by Hollywood’s major movie studios, what with all of the prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on books and movies that they have continued to churn on this year. The movie’s appeal comes in large part through its story. The story here is simple: It is a coming-of-age story of sorts that follows the personal growth and development of writer/director/actor Patrick Read Johnson, during his teenage years. The story starts in 1968, when Patrick, as a young boy, is taken to the theater by his parents to see the timeless science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is clear in that opening scene that is where his love of cinema started. From there, he decides to start making his own movies with his own models and friends as the casts. As the story progresses over the course of the movie’s two hour, 13 minute run time, viewers see Patrick grow from a clumsy, goofy young man with stars in his eyes to a more thoughtful, mature young adult. What is really interesting in the overall story is that there is actually so much more depth than audiences realize at first. This is revealed late in the story as one of Patrick’s friends psychoanalyzes him as they and Bill wait outside the hospital for another of the friends, Robin. Patrick’s friend gets him to finally reveal the real reason for his drive to make movies. That revelation will be left for audiences to discover for themselves, but suffice it to say that the revelation in question will lead many viewers to want to go back and watch the movie again. When they do, they will catch something very important that they likely overlooked to begin with early on in the story. The subtlety of that element’s incorporation into the story gives the story so much more depth in the bigger picture.

Another aspect of Patrick’s growth comes through the story of Patrick’s relationship with Linda. The puppy love that he exhibits with Linda is a situation to which so many audiences can relate even today. That is because everyone has felt that infatuation (which is what he was really feeling) at one point or more in their young lives. Patrick’s eventual revelation of the situation involving Linda and Tony is just as pivotal to the story of his development. That is because it is really the final breaking point of sorts for him. The revelation that he makes is the catalyst to him finally making the most important decision of his life at that point. The way in which Johnson weaved this story in with the story of the impact of his childhood on his young adult life makes the overall story so rich and engaging. At times, audiences will be drawn to so much laughter. At others, they will be led to some tears as they watch Johnson’s growth. As a result of the engagement and entertainment that the story generates, audiences will agree that it forms a strong foundation for the movie’s presentation.

The story gains even more traction as audiences go back and watch the movie with its bonus feature-length commentary. The commentary is provided by Johnson and fellow well-known cinema figure, Seth Gaven, founder of the A.V. Squad and editor of the 1990 family friendly sci-fi flick, Spaced Invaders. The background that the duo provides is what adds to that depth. For instance, audiences learn through the commentary that unlike so many movies that are based on actual events, most of what is portrayed in this movie actually happened, including Robin putting her own fist in her mouth and getting it stuck. Yes, audiences will most definitely be left to learn more about that one on their own. On another level, Johnson reveals that the cost of one portion of the movie was roughly $100,000. In other words, the overall cost to make the movie was likely very low. This is important to note because even being a low budget movie, the overall presentation proves to be so engaging and entertaining. There are no special effects or any big budget items anywhere in the movie. As a matter of fact, Johnson and Gaven go into a discussion on that simplicity and tie that into a discussion on the overuse of special effects in the current era of movie making. As if all of this is not enough, Johnson, who appears in the movie as his father, also goes into a brief discussion about his relationship with his father, which again does play its own subtle but pivotal part in the bigger story. His discussion on this topic makes for even more appreciation for the overall story and is just one more of so many interesting anecdotes that Johnson and Gaven share throughout the movie’s commentary. When all of the noted discussions are considered along with the rest of the commentary included in the audio track, the whole makes the whole of the commentary truly a bonus in every sense of the word and even more reason to take in this movie.

The commentary that accompanies the movie is not the last of the items that make 5-25-77 worth watching. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of its elements. Backing up a little bit, the cast’s work is also discussed in the audio commentary. Johnson reveals in the commentary that the real life Bill and Robin both play small parts in the movie. Bill takes on the role of the theater manager while the real life Robin only gets a brief appearance at a nurse at the hospital. John Francis Daley (Spiderman: Homecoming, Bones, Vacation) takes on the role of Johnson, and does such an entertaining job in his performance. The goofy smile that he gives any time a girl even looks at him is so laugh-inspiring. His dedication to bringing his own movies to life and the awe that he exhibits as young Patrick is introduced to a young Steven Spielberg and just as young George Lucas (as he creates Star Wars) is certain to move audiences. That is because viewers can fully appreciate the stars that are in Patrick’s eyes and the impact that the experience had on him. It is a performance that is fully believable.

Just as impressive is Steve Coulter’s performance of Bill. Coulter (Coasting, Fate Twisted Simply, Please Wait To Be Seated) is a wonderful foil to Daley. He does so well trying to keep Patrick as grounded as possible throughout the story, even as Patrick just keeps letting everything get to him. For lack of better wording he is the straight man to Daley’s more energetic lead who is so deserving of his own praise because of just how he portrays Bill’s more level-headed and realistic approach to everything. His dedication to his friend even as Patrick changes so dramatically is admirable to say the least and it makes for its own share of applause.

One more noteworthy performance come from Collen Camp (Clue, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Sliver) who plays the part of Patrick’s mother. Those moments throughout the movie when she comes into Patrick’s room, calling his name out of frustration are so hilarious. Every viewer will relate to those moments, as everyone has had that happen on one end or the other. At the same time, that moment when she realizes that Patrick has given up his dream of becoming a movie maker just so that he could make Linda happy, the compassion that comes into her eyes is so moving even in its simplicity and subtlety. Her determination to help Patrick get to Hollywood, and the little song and dance moment that follows is such a wonderfully moving and lighthearted scene. It will inspire tears and laughter all at once, as will her reaction in the story’s finale when Patrick finally makes that final decision to take a big step. Again that moment will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see the movie. That aside, Camp’s performance is engaging and entertaining in its own right. She brings so much emotional depth to the movie in the moments when she is on screen in all of the best ways. When her performance is considered along with the other performances noted here and with the rest of the cast’s work, the whole makes clear, the overall importance of the cast’s work to the movie’s presentation. When the impact of the cast’s work is considered alongside the depth of the movie’s story and the depth that the audio commentary adds to the story, the whole makes 5-25-77 a movie based on actual events that is surprisingly worth watching.

5-25-77, the newest cinematic offering from independent movie studio Moonwatcher Films, is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation. That is due in part to the story at the center of the movie. The movie’s story is a coming of age story that while yes, it is based on actual events, proves to be anything but the overblown, overly embellished movies that are its counterparts from Hollywood’s major studio counterparts. The feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie in its new home release adds even more appreciation for the story. That is because it reveals at least in part just how much of the story actually did happen. It also presents a number of other intriguing anecdotes that will keep audiences engaged. The cast’s work throughout the movie makes for its own interest, too. That is because each cast member’s performance is that believable. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of 5-25-77‘s presentation. All things considered they make this movie one more of the year’s top new independent movies.

5-25-77 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray through MVD Entertainment Group. More information on this and other titles from The Film Detective is available at:

Websitehttps://thefilmdetective.com

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Classic Film Buffs Will Appreciate The Film Detective’s ‘The Bat’ Re-Issue

Courtesy: The Film Detective/MVD Entertainment Group

Halloween is just a matter of days away and just in time for the big day, independent movie distribution company The Film Detective will re-issue Universal Studios’ 1959 movie The Bat on DVD and Blu-ray.  The cult classic has been panned by audiences and critics alike, getting a 20% score from Rotten Tomatoes.  Even Vincent Price (who played more of a supporting part in the movie than lead) allegedly said he was ultimately disappointed with the movie in hindsight.  All of this aside, it is still a work that its established audiences will find just as appealing in its latest presentation as in its theatrical premiere.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its latest re-issue is far from perfect but does add at least a little something to the presentation.  The audio and video in this latest presentation is also of note and will also be discussed later.  When it is considered alongside the other elements noted here, the whole makes The Film Detective’s forthcoming re-issue of The Bat a welcome addition to this year’s field of new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

The Film Detective’s upcoming re-issue of The Bat is a mostly successful offering from the classic cinema distribution company.  The movie’s success comes in part through its central story.  The story is simple:  $1 million that was embezzled by a bank president is hidden in a house that has been rented by author Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead – Bewitched, Charlotte’s Web, Citizen Kane).  Van Gorder and a group of others are in the house and are well aware of the money, searching for it during their stay.  There’s just one problem, the infamous killer known as “The Bat” is also looking for the money, and will stop at nothing, including murder, to get the money first.  While Moorehead is the lead here, the movie continues to be marketed, oddly, more on the back of Vincent Price (The House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax, The Great Mouse Detective).  That is of note because for all intents and purposes, Price’s character of Dr. Malcolm Wells is in fact more of a supporting character here than a lead.  Not to give it away for those who have yet to see the movie, but he is more or less a red herring and not the star, showing up at only certain points in the story.  The Bat’s identity is eventually revealed in the story’s finale, but only after Dr. Wells ends up being killed by The Bat.  Sorry, folks, that had to be revealed.  The money is also found after The Bat is also killed.  Who finally ended The Bat’s reign of terror (so to speak) and how will be left for audiences to figure out for themselves.  There are some very real plot holes and other problems with the acting throughout the movie, but otherwise, they can be overlooked when looking at the bigger picture of the movie’s story.  To that end, the story here is reason enough for audiences to take in this movie.

While the story at the center of The Bat gives audiences reason enough to makethe movie worth watching, the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its latest iteration makes for at least a little bit more reason to take in the movie.  The most notable of the bonuses featured with the movie’s new re-issue is the essay composed by professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney.  Ney’s essay is presented in a booklet that comes with the package.  He notes in his essay, the roots of The Bat, pointing at that it was author Mary Roberts Rinehart’s debut novel, The Circular Staircase, that paved the way for what would become the stage presentation of The Bat.  That presentation, which apparently Price greatly enjoyed as a child, went on to be made into a movie three times over, the final time with Price as one of its stars.  He also points out the very deliberate choice by Rinehart and those involved in The Bat’s creation.  From there Ney furthers the discussion, pointing out how Moorehead’s character of Van Gorder intentionally takes it on herself to try to solve the mystery of The Bat’s identity and the location of the stolen money.  It really is a reflection of changing roles of women in society and again, Ney addresses this, too.  It could be a starting point on so many discussions on feminism and its role in society and in cinema.  As if all of this background is not enough, Ney also offers audiences a background on Rinehart’s very motivation for becoming an author.  Not to give everything away, but it has to do with her family’s own standing.  Interestingly, according to Ney, Rinehart remains one of the lesser-known figures in the literary world today, despite the maintained popularity of The Bat to this day.  This and so much other background information and history that Ney provides in his essay makes for plenty of engaging reading material, and in turn really the most notable of the re-issue’s bonus content.

Ney also provides a feature-length audio commentary throughout the movie.  The problem though, is that he clearly reads from a script throughout the course of his discussion.  That is clear through his pacing and general delivery.  He is not sitting there watching the movie at the same time as audiences.  It detracts from the viewing experience and leaves one feeling like he only did the commentary to get paid, rather than out of love for the movie.  It all just feels too scripted and fluid rather than organic.  To that end, it really does detract from the movie’s presentation.  Thankfully, the negative impact that the commentary leaves is not enough to doom the presentation.

The career retrospective of Crane Wilbur, who wrote the screenplay for The Bat also adds little if anything to the viewing experience and appreciation for the movie.  That is because of how fast it moves.  It just goes from one movie to the next on which he worked, so rapidly that it makes it difficult to follow even for those who fully engage themselves in the brief presentation.

On the positive side of things, the bonus radio broadcasts, which feature Price, of other programs make for their own enjoyment.  They are not connected in the least to The Bat but are still fun to hear.  They take audiences back to another time and give audiences more of a profile of Price’s work.  Keeping that in mind, this and Ney’s essay do just enough to make the bonus content its own positive overall.

Knowing that the bonus content featured in The Bat’s new re-issue is neither entirely good nor bad, there is one more complete positive to note.  That positive is the movie’s overall production.  The audio and video presented here is so clear, even more than 60 years after the movie made its theatrical debut.  It is unknown if any work was done to remaster the footage for its presentation here, but regardless, the overall presentation looks and sounds so good.  That alone more than wakes for reason to take in the movie, especially among its established audiences.  When this and the story are taken into account with the re-issue’s more notable bonus content, the whole makes The Bat’s new re-issue all the more engaging and entertaining.

The Film Detective’s forthcoming re-issue of Universal’s The Bat is a mostly successful presentation that classic film buffs will find enjoyable.  That is due in part to its story, which is a simple soft-boiled crime tale.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue makes for its own appeal, at least to a point.  The movie’s production rounds out its most important elements.  That is because of the high quality of the sound and video.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie in its new presentation.  All things considered they make The Bat a welcome addition to this year’s field of new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

The Film Detective’s forthcoming re-issue of The Bat is scheduled for release Oct. 25 on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other titles from The Film Detective is available at:

Website: https://thefilmdetective.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FilmDetective

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‘The Bad Guys’ Is One Of The Most Welcome Surprises Of 2022’s Field Of New Movies

Courtesy: Universal Pictures/Scholastic Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation

Everyone loves a great heist movie, right?  Okay maybe not everyone, but lots of people do, though.  Thanks to Universal Pictures, Dreamworks Animation and Scholastic Entertainment, audiences of all ages got a great new heist movie this year in the form of the cinematic adaptation of author Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys books in the aptly titled movie, The Bad Guys.  This almost two-hour movie is one of the biggest cinematic surprises of 2022.  Having made its theatrical debut April 22, the movie did not last long in theaters, coming home less than two months later to digital and physical platforms June 21.  Why it made the transition so quickly is anyone’s guess.  Its gross ticket sales of more than $96 million managed to finish the movie’s theatrical run in the black.  Regardless of why it was pulled so quickly, that is not necessarily a bad thing.  That is because it meant home audiences who did not want to have to go to the theater would not have to wait that long to finally get to enjoy it in the comfort of their homes.  There is plenty to appreciate about the movie, beginning with its story, which will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is also important to note in terms of the movie’s engagement and entertainment and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted does its own share to keep audiences engaged and entertained throughout this movie.  All things considered they make The Bad Guys a very good movie for the whole family.

Universal Pictures, Scholastic Entertainment, and Dreamworks Animation’s cinematic adaptation of author Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys book series is one of the most unsuspecting successes of this year’s theatrical releases.  Its success is due in part to its featured story.  The story stays largely true to its source material, combining elements of the stories in Blabey’s beloved children’s books for an overall story about Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Ms. Tarantula turning from bad to good, but still at least being a little bad in the end.  The group’s transformation happens after being arrested early on for a heist that it commits.  Professor Marmalade (played by Richard Ayoade – The IT Crowd, The Watch, The Double) comes in after striking a deal with Diane Foxington (voiced by Zazie Beets – Deadpool 2, Joker, Atlanta) to help reform the criminals.  In the process of their reformation, Mr. Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell – Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) actually does start going good, which leads to its own share of conflict within the group as the story progresses.  Of course being a family friendly movie, the story ends up with a surprise happy ending that will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  Coming in at just under two hours (one hour, 40 minutes to be exact), the story’s pacing helps things along, too.  Even the romance subplot (yes, sadly even here there is a romance story) does not overpower the bigger story of the Bad Guys turning good, but rather is blended well into the overall story, letting itself take a backseat to the bigger tale.  The overall story also has plenty of jokes that are just edgy enough to have adults laughing but not questioning their content.  So even here is an aspect of the story that further shows the story’s importance and impact.  Overall, the story featured here in The Bad Guys offers so much for audiences to appreciate more than once.

As much as the story featured in The Bad Guys does to make it enjoyable, it is just one part of what makes the movie so engaging and entertaining.  The cast’s work throughout does its own share to make the movie enjoyable.  From Alex Borstein (Family Guy, Bad Santa, Catwoman) taking on the comedic role of Police Chief Misty, who is hellbent on catching Mr. Wolf and company, to Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine, This Is The End, Pineapple Express) adding so much comedic timing as Mr. Shark, to Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, In The Heights, Hamilton) bringing something of a Joe Pesci type personality to Mr. Piranha, and more, the whole cast brings so much enjoyment to the movie.  Staying for a moment on Ramos’ performance, he does such a great job giving Mr. Piranha that Napoleon complex of sorts for which Pesci’s characters have come to have over the years.  He really has a great gangster persona yet he does it in such a fun fashion that the whole family will enjoy his work.  Robinson brings his own talent to Mr. Shark, making Mr. Shark an equally great comic relief among the group.  He succeeds in creating that contrast between the personalities of his cast mates and deserves his own share of applause.  Borstein, who is largely known for her work on Family Guy is just as entertaining as Officer Misty, giving Officer Misty an almost Ahab-esque personality in her quest to catch The Bad Guys once and for all.  The moments when the group escapes her clutches, her reaction makes for so many laughs.  Between these cast members and the others, every cast member here brings so much to the table and makes for that much more engagement and entertainment for the whole family.  When the cast’s work pairs with the movie’s story, that collective makes for all the more enjoyment here.

The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release rounds out the presentation’s most important elements.  There is a lot of bonus content but not a lot at the same time.  There is an expansive amount of content in the way of learning how to make push pops (which is directly related to a certain element of the movie’s story).  Families can learn how to make healthy and tasty fruit push pops and how to dress each one up as a character from the movie, which takes up a lot of time.  It also means it will take a lot of time for parents to write everything down if they actually make the frozen treats. 

Another bonus that stands out is the standard making of featurette.  Audiences learn through this featurette that the animation style used in this movie was intentionally meant to be different from all of the cookie cutter animation presented by Disney and so many other Dreamworks movies.  It is pointed out that the movie’s animation is an intentional blend of anime and French animation style.  It gives the animation its own welcome unique touch that is just as endearing as the movie’s story and the cast’s work. 

In yet another of the bonuses, audiences get to hear from the movie’s main cast, as the group talks about taking on its respective roles.  The interviews are brief, but still enlightening and entertaining.  That is because of the insight that each cast member offers in terms of taking on the roles of characters that most audiences might not know.  It shows a certain level of respect that each cast member has for the characters, the movie, and for one another.  Between this bonus, the others discussed here and the few others included in the movie’s home release, the overall bonus content is not necessarily ground breaking, but it does add at least a little bit of extra engagement and entertainment to the presentation.  When the enjoyment raised by the bonus content is considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work therein, the whole makes the movie overall such a joy to take in any time with the whole family.

Dreamworks Animation, Universal Pictures, and Scholastic Entertainment’s recently released cinematic adaptation of The Bad Guys is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation that the whole family will enjoy together time and again.  That is proven in part through a movie that does so well in bringing together elements of author Aaron Blabey’s books for its central story.  The work of the cast interpreting the scripts adds even more enjoyment to the mix because of the personality that each actor brings to his and her respective character.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release adds its own subtle touch to the presentation, too.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered they make Bad Guys one of the biggest surprises of this year’s field of new theatrical and home movie releases.

Bad Guys is available now on digital and physical platforms.  More information on The Bad Guys is available at:

Website: https://uni.pictures/TheBadGuys

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

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‘League Of Super Pets’ Is Not Super, But Still Worth Watching

Courtesy: Warner Brothers/Warner Animation Group/DC Entertainment

In 2005 when Warner Brothers brought Superman’s canine friend Krypto to the small screen in his own series, it marked the first time ever that any of the DC Entertainment Universe’s animal superheroes had ever gotten its own attention.  Prior to the series’ premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers had only focused on DC’s human and superhuman stars, so it was a key step in the companies’ attempt to expand DC’s comics to screen universe.  The series less than two years from March 2005 to December 2006, spanning just two seasons and even incorporated Krypto’s original Legion of Superheroes cohort Streaky the cat.  After the series ended, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment largely abandoned any plans for any future Super Pets properties on TV and in theaters.  However, late last month, the companies brought some of DC’s super pets back to the screen again, this time in theaters in the form of League of Super Pets.  The movie, which made its theatrical debut July 29, is a mostly entertaining presentation, though is not perfect.  The main positive in this movie is its story, which will be discussed shortly.  While the story is enjoyable for the whole family (albeit not entirely accurate to the comics), the story does have one troubling aspect, that being the use of some adult language.  This will be discussed a little later.  It is not enough to doom the movie, so to that end, there is at least one more positive to note in the form of the cast’s work.  This will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered they make League of Super Pets a mostly successful new take on DC’s Legion of Super Pets comic book and new family flick.

League of Super Pets, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers’ latest addition to the ever-expanding DC Entertainment Universe, is a mostly successful overall presentation.  The movie’s story is really the key to its success.  The story in question finds Krypto, Superman’s canine friend having to assemble a group of super powered animals to help save the big blue boy scout after a guinea pig named Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live, Bombshell) bent on world domination kidnaps him and the rest of the Justice League members.  The other animals (which are not original members of the League of Super Pets from the 1962 comic book), gained their powers thanks to some orange kryptonite that broke off of an orange kryptonite meteorite and was captured by said megalomaniacal guinea pig.  The unexpected group of heroes ends up saving the day after Lex Luthor turns on Lulu, and Krypto learns a valuable lesson about friendship along the way.  Meanwhile, the other Super Pets – Ace, Chip, Merton, and PB – all end up being rescued and adopted by the other Justice League members.  There is some accuracy and inaccuracy here.  Ace has always been known to be Batman’s dog, while Chip has had a tie to the Green Lantern Corps.  PB meanwhile was never Wonder Woman’s pet.  She was Circes’ pet in the comics, but that can be forgiven.  The very message about the importance of rescuing shelter pets that is clearly tied into the story makes that forgivable.  Shelter pets need forever homes, so having that accented here in a less than preachy fashion is so welcome.  The friendships between Krypto and the group will resonate with audiences of all ages as the group takes on Lulu and Lex.

While the story featured in League of Super Pets is engaging and entertaining, there is at least one problem within the story.  That problem is the use of some adult language throughout the movie.  The language in question comes from Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne – Orange is the New Black, American Pie, Slums of Beverly Hills).  Lyonne is not to blame here, but rather the movie’s writers.  There are points where Merton clearly is meant to be using a certain foul word since it is bleeped out.  At other points, she uses clearly other foul language that is also bleeped out.  Merton is not the only one who uses some questionable language.  There is a young kitten (yes, a kitten – IE child) who says to the super pets, “See you in heck” as it tries to kill them.  Considering that this movie is rated PG and is meant to be a family friendly flick, having that language in there, even censored, is still disappointing.  That the movie’s writers and creative heads felt the need to go blue in a family movie really does detract from the movie’s appeal, and parents need to be aware of this aspect. 

While the questionable language that is peppered throughout the movie is problematic, it is not enough to make the movie a failure.  The work of the movie’s cast works with the story to make for more appeal.  Dwayne Johnson leads the way as Krypto.  At first, the announcement that he was going to take on the role was questioned by many, and justifiably so.  That is because of his current body of work.  His current body of work is composed of action flicks and very specific tough guy type roles.  It leads one to imagine Johnson giving Krypto such style persona.  Thankfully that was not the case.  He actually made Krypto endearing, showing his ability to adapt to the role. 

On a related note, Kevin Hart, who has also developed himself into a very specific type of actor, pulls back here, too.  His typically annoying, over the top approach to his roles is nonexistent here, which is appealing.  The vulnerability that he brings to Ace as Ace talks abut how he ended up at the shelter balances well with Ace’s more confident side to make Ace a well-rounded character in his own right.  McKinnon really does well in her own right to bring out Lulu’s megalomaniacal nature, too.  She does so well to make Lulu’s diabolical nature so funny and believable at the same time.  Between the performances put on by Johnson, Hart, and McKinnon, and those of the rest of the cast, the whole makes the cast’s overall work just as engaging as the movie’s story.  Those two items together make the movie in general worth watching at least once, even with the concerns of the occasional unnecessary foul language in mind.

League of Super Pets, the latest addition to Warner Brothers and DC’s ever-expanding universe, is an interesting presentation.  It succeeds in part because of its story.  The story finds Krypto having to form a new group of furry super powered friends to save the Justice League.  Along the way, he also has to learn about friendship and teamwork, which will resonate with plenty of audiences. While the story featured in this movie is accessible for audiences of all ages, the occasional use of some questionable language is disappointing.  That is the case even with it being censored.  There was no need for the movie’s writers to go blue and ruin what is otherwise a family friendly atmosphere throughout the story.  It is not enough to doom the movie but is certainly a concern.  The cast’s work pairs with the story to make for more engagement and entertainment.  That is because the cast’s performances are so believable.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered League of Super Pets proves maybe not super but still worth watching at least once.

League of Super Pets is playing now.  The movie’s home release date is under consideration.  More information on this and other titles from Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment is available at https://dc.com

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

‘The Batman’ Is The Most Unique Batman Movie To Date

Courtesy: Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment

More than 83 years ago, Batman, one of the world’s most famous comic book characters, made his first appearance in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics (Issue #27).  In the nearly 85 years since the Dark Knight made his debut on the printed page, he has had countless stories told both in print and on screen.  Fans of all ages have their favorite version of the big, black bat (longtime fans will get that reference) throughout that time, too.  Audiences got a whole new story of Batman in March when Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment debuted The Batman.  This take of the Batman mythos is the most unique addition to the Batman universe to date.  That is due in large part to its collective presentation style and story, which will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on screen makes for its own interest and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in is recent home release is just as much of note as the movie’s primary content and will also be examined hater.  Each item noted here plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered they make this movie one more of this year’s top new theatrical releases.

The Batman, the latest addition to Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s decades-long series of Batman movies, is the single most unique entry in that realm.  It is completely separate unlike any of its predecessors both in terms of its stylistic approach and its story, both of which are tied together.  It is the first time in the franchise’s history that a Batman movie has been so gritty and that one of the franchise’s movies has focused more on story than say special effects and Batman’s gadgets (including the Batmobile).  As writer/director Matt Reeves points out in the movie’s bonus content (which will be discussed later), the intent here was to craft a movie that was in fact a detective story, not just another comic book to film tale.  It was meant to present Batman doing what he has done best for decades, solving mysteries.  In this case, it found Batman trying to solve the mystery of The Riddler’s sadistic, homicidal quest to bring his own justice to Gotham City before The Riddler can commit his crimes.  It is more of a hard-boiled film noir style presentation than the movies that audiences have come to know over the decades, and that is wholly a good thing.  There is no 1960s-era cheekiness here.  There is not even any of Tim Burton’s approach here.  If anything, this clearly Hush-esque story feels more like a natural progression of the gritty approach taken by Reeves’ predecessor, Christopher Nolan, in his Batman trilogy.  As noted, the focus is on Batman/Bruce Wayne’s abilities as a human detective and less on his toys (again, longtime Batman fans will get that reference), and that really is a nice change of pace.  That unique approach really gives the movie its own identity separate from the other Batman movies out there.  What’s more even being as long as it is (clocking in at just shy of 3 hours), the story still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained even despite the issues posed by that length and related pacing.

Speaking of the movie’s run time and pacing, that really does collectively detract from the viewing experience.  From beginning to end, there is so much brooding, even more than ever before.  What’s more, there are so many plot elements and so many twists and turns that the story really does get bogged down in itself by the end.  Speaking of the end, it seems like Reeves and company could not seem to figure out how to end the movie.  From Falcone’s arrest to the chase with the Penguin, to Edward’s arrest and the long sequence that follows, there is just so much in the final act that it is too much.  Reeves and company could have ended the movie at so many points therein, but in going on as long as they did, it makes the story feel that much more like it just plods along.  Considering that the story already plods along at such a slow pace as is, that only hurts it that much more.  Keeping that in mind, the story is unique but is far from perfect.  It really requires audiences to fully immerse themselves in the story and be ready and willing to sit through it all.  Those who are ready and willing to sit through it all will agree that the story is, again, unique, just too long for itself.  It is not enough to doom the story, but certainly does detract from the movie’s overall presentation.

While the story featured in The Batman is a mixed bag, something that is more of a positive overall is the work of the movie’s cast.  Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) plays the part of a troubled young Bruce Wayne surprisingly well here.  He is actually that believable as he takes on what is one of the most iconic roles in modern movie history.  There are no hints of that glittery vampire that he portrayed in the Twilight saga.  Here, audiences get from him a Bruce Wayne/Batman who is emotionally lost.  He is trying to make sense of the tragedy that had consumed Bruce for such a long time.  Perhaps part of the reason that he does so well is that this movie is not just another origin story.  This is not even a Year One story (which is also discussed in the bonus content).  This is Bruce Wayne at a pivotal point in his life and role as Gotham’s protector, coming of age in a manner of speaking.  Pattinson’s ability to interpret Bruce’s emotional and mental state here is so immersive, so kudos goes to him for his performance.

On another note, co-star Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine) is just as noteworthy in his diabolical performance as The Riddler/Edward Nash (yes, they changed his last name here, more of a sign of how far this movie branches from the roots of the Batman mythos).  Edward’s performance, the killer instinct that he brings out in this portrayal, immediately conjures thoughts of the villain in Se7en.  From bludgeoning one official to death, to beating another within half an inch of his life and putting a bomb around his neck, to his maniacal sense that he and Batman were two sides of the same coin (wonder is that a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future for Batman?) as he sits on the other side of the glass in Arkham, Dano does so much right with this version of The Riddler.  He really is about as sociopathic and homicidal as the late great Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.  Yes, that is a lofty statement, but it is true.  The way in which he makes The Riddle rant to his followers in his internet posts really brings out that psychotic nature even more.  Overall, Dano is well-deserving of his own applause here.  He makes it that easy for audiences to be shocked by The Riddler and hate Edward.

Dano’s performance is just one more of the most notable in this movie.  Colin Farrell (Daredevil, S.W.A.T., In Bruges) puts on his own powerful performance.  Considering Farrell is not American (just like Pattinson), he makes his accent fully believable at the foundation of his performance.  That foundation is bolstered by his full-on mobster style take on Oswald Cobblepot.  Rather than making “Oz” just another comic book character, Farrell makes The Penguin more of a gangster type name than character with a bunch of bird-themed gadgets, etc.  Again, this is another way in which the movie continues to separate itself from all of the other Batman movies out there.  He makes Oz a character that audiences will love just as much as love to hate.  He is just that impressive in every one of his on-screen moments.  When his performance is considered along with those of Dano, Pattinson, and the rest of the cast, the overall work of the cast is so worthy of applause.  The cast’s work handling the script makes that extensively long, plodding story more bearable.  As a result, audiences will manage to remain engaged in the story to the end, so again, the cast’s work proves just as important here as the story.

The work of the cast interpreting the script in this movie is impressive to say the least.  It is the cast’s work alongside the unique hard-boiled noir detective story here that really makes The Batman worth watching.  This is especially important to note because of the movie’s run time and plodding pacing.  Those elements are just part of what makes the movie bearable.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its recent home release rounds out its most important elements.  The content is extensive, taking on the movie’s creation from pre-production to wrap in its longest feature, which runs just shy of an hour.  Also addressed through the various extras as the makeup and costuming for Selena Kyle/Catwoman, Edward/The Riddler, and Bruce/Batman.  Audiences are also treated to an in-depth examination of the Batmobile, from its creation to its testing and how the movie’s big chase scene came to life.  Audiences also get an interesting look at Batman’s “relationship” with The Riddler, how The Riddler’s view on justice and vengeance inadvertently leads Batman/Bruce to eventually change his view on whether Gotham City is worth saving.  Dano’s discussion here is really eye-opening.  That is because it shows Dano really has an understanding and in turn appreciation for that duality between the lead antagonist and protagonist.  The discussion on how Selena slowly transforms into what will become Catwoman is another interesting albeit brief discussion.  That is because it outlines the personal emotional issues that she faces, finding out the truth of her mother and the role of Falcone (who is played just as well by John Turturro – O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Quiz Show, Barton Fink) in what happened to her mother.  It makes audiences look forward to what star Zoe Kravitz (X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road, Divergent) will bring to the role in the next Batman movie.  Each of the bonus features that come with the movie’s home release clearly offer audiences plenty to appreciate.  When they are all considered together, they offer just as much to appreciate if not more than that of the story itself.  Keeping that in mind, when the bonus content featured here is considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work therein, the whole makes The Batman a unique new addition to the Batman mythos that while not “your grandad’s Batman” is still well worth watching.

The Batman, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s latest addition to the expansive Batman cinematic and TV universe, is a unique presentation.  Its uniqueness is partly due to its featured story.  The story here is not just another typical Batman movie that focuses on Batman’s gadgets and all of the cliché villain portrayals.  Rather, it is a deep hard-boiled crime noir story that is full of twists and turns.  Given there are perhaps too many of those twists and turns throughout, and too many endings in the final act, but the overall story is still worth watching for those who are ready and willing to sit through its nearly 3-hour run time thanks to that overall story and approach.  The cast’s work interpreting the extensive script is a saving grace.  From one actor to the next, every cast member does his and her own important part in making the otherwise plodding story bearable.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  That is because of all of the background that it offers audiences.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered they make the movie not the best of the year’s new theatrical releases, but still one of the best.

The Batman is available now.  More information on this and other titles from DC Entertainment is available at https://dc.com.

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.

‘Lightyear’ Is A Surprisingly Entertaining Addition to Disney, Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ Universe

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

More than 25 years ago when Disney and Pixar debuted Toy Story in theaters nationwide, the companies forever changed the face of animation.  In the nearly 30 years since that movie’s debut, the Toy Story franchise has also gone on to become a favorite among audiences of all ages through its movies and shorts alike.  Given, the franchise’s third movie should have been the finale, but that is a discussion for another time.  Fast forward to this year and the debut of the franchise’s new spinoff, Lightyear.  The movie made its digital home debut Wednesday and will make its physical home debut Sept. 13.  The movie was met with mixed reviews when it made its theatrical debut and has since struggled since then, with critics giving the movie a score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences giving it an only slightly higher score, at 84%.  With the movie out now on digital platforms and soon on physical platforms, it will be interesting to see what happens with those scores. One thing that is certain about the movie at this point is that it does deserve to be seen at least once.  That is due in part to its very approach, which will be discussed shortly.  The story within the movie also plays into the overall presentation and will be examined a little later.  The cast’s work 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 they make Lightyear a movie that audiences will find worth watching at least once.

Lightyear, the latest addition to Disney and Pixar’s already extensive Toy Story franchise, is another interesting addition to that universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due in part to the movie’s general presentation.  What is interesting about the presentation is that it is a movie within a movie.  Right as the movie opens, audiences are presented with the message that the movie is the same movie that Andy (from the original Toy Story movies) watched and that got him interested in Buzz Lightyear in the first place.  So the fact that audiences are treated to a movie that is composed of a movie is a unique approach.  On a related note, IMDB lists as one of Lightyear’s goofs as being that Andy never had interest in Buzz Lightyear in the first place in the original Toy Story movie until his mom surprised him with the Buzz Lightyear toy.  It adds that in the second movie, Buzz as a toy wasn’t even based on a movie.  How does the person who wrote about Andy having no interest in Buzz Lightyear prior to getting the toy know for a fact that this is the case?  As excited as Andy was to get his Buzz Lightyear toy, one would imagine Andy had to have had some knowledge of the movie.  Even today in the real world, toy companies market toys based on movies to children all the time and children get excited.  Taking that into account, even if Andy hadn’t seen a Buzz Lightyear movie, he still could have been excited about the toy.  To that end, that goof posted to IMDB holds no water.  Getting back to the matter of the alleged goof in Toy Story 2, who is to say that was not just one of the characters saying Buzz wasn’t based on a movie just to make Buzz angry?  Now keeping everything noted in mind there, the very presentation of the Buzz Lightyear movie as a movie for audiences essentially makes this movie its own presentation.  Yes, it is essentially a spinoff from the Toy Story franchise, but it is still its own standalone presentation that is a valid presentation.

Going a little bit deeper, the story that is presented within the movie makes for its own interest.  The story is an all too familiar tale of personal growth.  Buzz’s growth comes as he has to learn about accepting help and the consequences of letting one’s self be consumed by one’s own personal drive and desire. From causing his ship to crash on the planet in the first place because he had to put everything on himself to being so obsessed with reaching hyperspeed in his attempt to find a way off of the planet, Buzz thought he had to do it all.  He did not want anyone’s help, and that caused him to lose his first partner and almost lose others along the way including that first partner’s granddaughter and her friends.

On a secondary note, audiences learn about the battle between Buzz and Emperor Zurg.  Out of respect for those who have yet to watch this movie, this critic will be careful in discussing the pair’s conflict.  However, audiences who are familiar with the story of how Buck Rogers came to be in the 25th century will find a clear influence there (whether intentional or not).  The conflict between the pair plays into the whole matter of the fabric of space and time and certain paradoxes (again not to give away too much).  Now this conflict between Buzz and Zurg also goes into another so-called good that IMDB has posted about the movie.  It is known that in Toy Story 2, Zurg said that he was Buzz’s father, and that negated the situation in Lightyear.  That little statement was meant wholly as a tongue-in-cheek spoof of Star Wars.  It was not meant to be serious, so again, whatever IMDB employee pointed out this continuity “issue” took that moment far too seriously.  To that end, audiences need to go into this movie’s story completely discounting the so-called goofs that IMDB has listed if they intend to have any appreciation for the story.  As long as they keep that in mind, audiences will find themselves surprisingly able to enjoy the story just as much as the movie’s very unique presentation style.

As much as the movie’s presentation style and story do to make the movie engaging and entertaining, they are just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The cast’s work is also of note.  Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, etc.) leads the way, bringing Buzz to life on screen this time out.  He is clearly well-versed in the role of the hero, considering his time working with Marvel Studios.  His performance is entertaining but does not necessarily break a lot of ground for a character such as Buzz.  If anyone really stands out in terms of the cast, it is Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur) as he voices Sox, the robot cat.  The subtle way in which he brings Sox to life is a prime example of less is more.  That deadpan delivery that he gives is just so entertaining throughout and really makes him the unsuspecting star of the cast.  Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit) and Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black, The Messenger, Prism) bring their own comic touch to the movie as they bring life to Mo and Darcy.  Marcy’s initial declaration about not wanting to hold a gun because it would be a violation of her parole makes for such a great comedic moment putting Soules’ talents on display.  At the same time, that the writers would keep bringing up her criminal past makes the joke get old quick.  Thankfully Soules makes the best of it doing the best she can to try to keep the joke funny.  Waititi’s delivery as Mo makes Mo such an endearing character because he is so innocent.  He can’t help that he is such a clutz, and that constant uncertainty that Mo displays is another great part of how Waititi brings him to life.  They really do so much, as does Sohn and even Evans all things considered.  To that end, the work put in by the cast does its own share to make Lightyear engaging and entertaining, too.  When their work is considered along with the story and even the movie’s general presentation, the whole makes Lightyear a surprisingly engaging and entertaining new offering from Disney and Pixar.  It is not the companies’ best work ever.  That honor still belongs (at least to this critic) to Up.  That aside, it is still a movie that even being a spinoff from the initial Toy Story universe, is still worth watching.

Lightyear, Disney and Pixar’s new Toy Story spinoff, is an interesting addition to that universe.  The movie proves itself so intriguing in part because of its general presentation.  The general presentation is a double presentation of sorts.  It is a movie within a movie that is its own presentation within the bigger Toy Story universe.  That is a unique approach.  The movie’s story is relatively accessible, as it presents Buzz as a central character on a journey of personal growth.  That familiarity is certain to engage and entertain audiences throughout the movie.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements.  From familiar style acting from Evans to more comedic and heartfelt performances from his cast mates, the cast’s work does its own share to engage and entertain audiences.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the presentation that is Lightyear.  All things considered, they make Lightyear a surprisingly welcome addition to Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story universe that is actually worth watching at least once.

Lightyear is available on all digital platforms now.  It is scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray 13 through Disney and Pixar.  More information on this and other titles from Disney and Pixar is available at:

Websitehttps://www.pixar.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Pixar

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/pixar

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.  

“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

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