‘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

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

‘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

20th Century Studios’ ‘Murder On The Nile’ Reboot Is A Reboot That Is Actually Worth Watching…If Only Occasionally

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios

Crime sells, and it sells a lot. From television to books to movies, it sells. As much as humans might want to deny their fascination with crime, it sells. That is why there are so many TV shows that center solely on crime. That is why newspapers and news agencies thrive on the topic. It brings those eyeballs, and with them, sales. That is why some of the most well-known novels in literary history center on crime. One of the great names in literary crime is the late great author Agatha Christie. Her novels about Hercule Poirot and the crimes that he solved are known the world around. They have been read by countless audiences, and the TV series that rose from the books has been seen by just as many viewers. The popularity of Christie’s works is such that they have also led to multiple big screen adaptations of those books, the most recent being this year’s take of her novel, Death on the Nile. Released theatrically this year through 20th Century Studios, it came 44 years after the then most recent adaptation, which was released in 1978. Now Tuesday, it will come home on DVD and Blu-ray, less than two months after its Feb. 11 domestic theatrical premiere.

The second of 20th Century Studios’ adaptations from Christie’s novels following the 2017 release of Murder on the Orient Express (which was also a reboot of a previous theatrical rendition), this presentation is not terrible nor is it great. It is worth watching at least once. The studio’s new updated take of Murder on the Nile is worth watching at least once. That is due in large part to the story, which will be discussed shortly. While the story makes for its own engagement and entertainment, the pacing thereof is slightly problematic. It is not enough to doom the movie, but is still important to note. It will be discussed a little later. The movie’s general presentation works with the story to make for more appeal, and will also be addressed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Death on the Nile. All things considered, they make this latest update on the story worth watching occasionally.

20th Century Studios’ reboot of Death on the Nile is an interesting update on the late great author’s timeless crime thriller novel. Its appeal comes primarily through its story. The story is simple. It features Poirot on a boat trip down the Nile River with a group of well-to-do individuals as part of a couple’s honeymoon. Along the way, the newlywed wife, Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot — Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, Red Notice) is gunned down as she sleeps one night during the river cruise. Linnet’s new husband, Simon (Armie Hammer — The Lone Ranger, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Social Network) is heartbroken, and everyone on board is a suspect. Poirot (played here once again by Kenneth Branagh — Murder on the Orient Express, Henry V, Hamlet) interviews each suspect on board, including his own friend, Bouc (played once again by Tom Bateman — Jekyll & Hyde, Murder on the Orient Express, Snatched). AS the interviews take place and everyone suspects everyone else, two other murders happen, and they are connected directly to that of Linnet. The final reveal will not be covered here out of respect for those who have yet to watch the movie, but in hindsight, it comes as no surprise, considering how so many real life crime stories unfold in shows, such as Dateline and 48 Hours. This critic will at least admit that the one person thought to be the offender turned out to not be that person, but rather a red herring. Now given, being another adaptation of Christie’s original story, there are variations, which is somewhat disconcerting. At the same time though, the story plays out relatively well and will keep viewers engaged and entertained.

While the story plays out so well, there is still a concern about its pacing. The story wastes little time introducing the main characters. However, from there, the story takes its time building up the full plot. Specifically, it spends the first hour of its two hours building the plot. That buildup drags more than once, which will lead some audiences to want to fast forward plenty of times. The second act, which takes place aboard the boat, drags at multiple points, too as Poirot interviews each suspect. What keeps things moving is the surprise murders that happen in connection with that of Linnet. If not for those moments though, the movie would have otherwise just plodded along, so to that end, it’s more proof of the attraction that humans have to crime. Even in the final act as Poirot begins to unfold everything, the remaining group together in one room, there seems to be a bit more exposition than is really needed. Thankfully it is not so much that it bogs down the action too much. Keeping all of this in mind, the story’s pacing does pose some problems for the movie’s overall presentation. Thankfully though, that issue is not so concerning that it makes the movie a total failure.

Keeping in mind that the pacing, while problematic is not overly so, there is at least one more positive to this reboot’s presentation. That positive is the movie’s general presentation. It is clear throughout the movie’s two hour six minute run time (which is relatively short considering how most movies average two and a half hours nowadays if not longer) that lots of sound stages and computer generated effects are used. At times that blend of real sets and CG is a little bit cheesy, but there is honestly something appealing about it, especially in an age when so many movies rely almost entirely on computer generated graphics and green screens. It is a bit of a throwback to movie making from a bygone era. The costumes are also nice throwbacks, including Branagh’s clearly fake mustache. Speaking of Branagh, his acting is part of that general presentation. It leads the way once again among a cast whose work is otherwise just part of the whole. Also of note here is that while there is some blood used at points, its use is so minimal. In an age when so many crime stories overly use blood and gore, this minimalist approach is just as welcome to the general presentation as anything else. It is such a nice change of pace. Keeping everything noted here in mind, the whole of the general presentation makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment. When that engagement and entertainment is considered along with the overall positive of the movie’s story, the whole makes this reboot of Death on The Nile worth watching at least occasionally.

20th Century Studios’ new update of Agatha Christie’s crime novel, Death on the Nile is an intriguing presentation. It is not great nor is it terrible. Its story, which is relatively easy to follow makes for most of the reason for giving it a chance. It is a crime story that while fiction, is mirrored in real life by just as many true stories very similar in fashion, ironically enough. The story’s pacing is somewhat problematic because it drags at points throughout the story. The general presentation works with the story to make for more engagement and entertainment. When the two items are considered together, they make for reason enough to give the movie some appeal and in turn worth watching at least occasionally. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make this reboot of Murder on the Nile worth watching at least occasionally.

Murder on the Nile is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://www.20thcenturystudios.com

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

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 Announces ‘Robocop’ 4K UHD/Steelbook and ’12 Monkeys’ 4K UHD Re-Issue Dates

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video is scheduled to re-issue Orion Pictures’ 1987 crime/action thriller Robocop again next month, along with a new re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1995 movie 12 Monkeys.

The company’s re-issue of Robocop is scheduled for release April 12 on 4K UHD steelbook and will come more than two years after the company’s most recent re-issue of the movie. Robocop centers on a Detroit police officer who becomes half-man-half robot, all crime fighter after he is gunned down by members of a notorious gang. Ashe fights crime on the streets of his beloved city, there is also strife within the department, which is owned by an equally notorious group, known as OCP. While not a gang, it still exerts its own influence on the department and city. Arrow Video’s forthcoming 4K UHD steelbook re-issue of Robocop will retail for MSRP of $49.95. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video’s 12 Monkeys 4K UHD re-issue is scheduled for release April 26. The movie stars Bruce Willis (Die Hard 1-5) as a convict named James Cole, who has to travel back in time from 2035 to 1990 in order to stop the outbreak of a plague that wiped out most of the human race, but no animals. If Cole can stop the plague and the group associated with the plague, he will win his parole. When Cole is imprisoned in a psychiatric Ward for his warnings, things get even more difficult. 12 Monkeys will retail for MSRP of $49.95. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

Both titles are available to order here.

More information on these and other titles from Arrow Video is available online now at:

Websitehttp://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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

Real Cinephiles, Vintage Sci-Fi Fans Will Enjoy Corinth Films’ New 50s Sci-Fi Flicks Collection

Courtesy: Corinth Films

The 1950s is one of the single greatest eras of American cinema. That is because it was during this era that the science fiction and horror realms came together to create some of the movie industry’s greatest and still timeless movies. Movies, such as Them!, The Beast From 30,000 Fathoms, and This Island Earth joined the likes of It Came From Outer Space, Godzilla, and It Came From Beneath The Sea and so many others to give audiences a fun fright. That era also produced some lesser-known flicks within said realms, such as Rocketship X-M, The Brain From Planet Arous, and The Hideous Sun Demon that as cheesy as they are, still offer their own entertainment value. Now thanks to independent movie company Corinth Films, those three films have been culled in one setting for renewed attention in the newly released collection, Drive-In Retro Classics. Released on DVD March 15, this cinematic collection is a must have for any fan of 1950s cinema. The movies themselves are reason enough for that. This will be discussed shortly. While the movies are reason enough for audiences to take in this collection, the lack of any bonus content slightly detracts from its presentation and will be addressed a little later. Knowing that the lack of any bonus content is not enough to doom this set, the discussion on the movies’ general effect should also be examined, and will be later, too. It rounds out the collection’s most important elements. When it and the other items noted are considered together, they still make the set still well worth watching, and owning, especially by true cinephiles and lovers of classic science fiction and horror.

Corinth Films’ newly released vintage science fiction/horror cinematic collection, Drive-In Retro Classics is a must have for any true fan of movies from the 1950s and of vintage science fiction and horror. That is due in no small part to its featured trio of movies. The movies are Rocketship X-M (1950), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), and The Hideous Sun Demon (1958). The Brain From Planet Arous is a great hybrid sci-fi/horror flick that finds its protagonist, Steve March (John Agar — The Mole PeopleSands of Iwo JimaFort Apache) possessed (yes, possessed) by a giant brain creature from another planet, Planet Arous. The very concept of possession is typically saved for religious-themed horror flicks. Though, there have been movies in which the innocent victim’s mind is controlled by an alien being. In the case of this story though, March is actually possessed by the alien/spirit being. It actually enters his body like a demon and gives March the powers of radiation to kill and destroy. Meanwhile another brain creature (a good one in this case) comes to Earth in search of the evil brain creature. How it all plays out will be left for audiences to discover on their own. It all has a happy ending. Again, the comparison to horror movies centered on possession makes the story all the more interesting especially being that this is a science fiction movie about an evil being from another planet wanting to conquer Earth and the universe. That in itself is certain to generate plenty of discussion among audiences. To that end, it would have been interesting to have some discussion on the matter in some bonus content, but sadly there is no bonus content. This will be discussed a little later.

The Hideous Sun Demon is interesting in its own right. In the case of this movie, one cannot help but make something of a Frankenstein comparison. That is because the monster in this case is in fact, not necessarily the bad guy, when one really thinks about it. Played by Robert Clarke (The Man From Planet XCaptain John Smith and PocahontasBeyond The Time Barrier), the monster becomes itself when Clarke’s character, Dr. Gilbert McKenna, is exposed to sunlight after initially being exposed to a dangerous level of radiation. Things turn out anything but good for McKenna/the monster in the end, again making for a direct comparison to Frankenstein. On another note, one can’t help but wonder if this movie played any part in the creation of the famed Dr. Connors/Lizard from the Spiderman universe in Marvel Comics. That is yet another discussion that would have been interesting for inclusion in the set, but sadly isn’t. On yet another note, this very concept of McKenna turning into a monster whenever the sun comes out seems to be a turning of two other classic Universal movie monsters, Dracula and the Wolfman. Dracula goes out by the light of the moon, and the Wolfman becomes himself by the light of the moon. Where Dracula is afraid of sunlight because it can kill him, McKenna becomes his monster because of the sunlight. So again, one can’t help but wonder if there was influence from those old timeless Universal monster movies here.

Getting back on the subject at hand, McKenna has a friend who thinks he has a serum that can help cure McKenna, but things don’t exactly go as planned, leading to a final showdown between the monster and law enforcement atop an oil container at a refinery. The matter of the serum is also a link back to Dr. Conners’ story in the Spiderman universe, again leading to the noted comparison. The way in which the story ends is so much like that of Frankenstein, too. There is even a scene in which McKenna (in his human form) is talking to a little girl. It immediately conjures thoughts of the scene from Frankenstein when the monster meets the little girl. Of course, the outcome is quite different, but the comparison is unavoidable. All things considered, the story proves itself a unique presentation that audiences will find fun to watch every now and then.

Rocketship X-M takes audiences in yet another direction. In the case of this movie, the story is a space travel type tale. A group of astronauts goes into space with the aim of going to the moon, but instead ends up off course and landing on Mars. They discover that there is in fact life on Mars, too, but not what people might think. Instead of multi-headed, multi-eyed creatures with long, slimy tentacles, the beings are humanoid. The astronauts, led by a very young Lloyd Bridges (AirplaneAirplane IIHot ShotsHot Shots Part Deux) as Col. Floyd Graham, even discover a stone head that looks like some of those found in Egypt through the decades. This discovery brings about a discussion that any ancient alien theorists will find engaging. The planet’s inhabitants kill most of the crew while Graham and two others survive. The catch is that while the remaining group survives its encounter on Mars and gets back to Earth, the finale is less than happy. Rather, the whole thing ends on a decidedly somber note, leaving one wondering ultimately why they watched. At the same time, that wonderment leads to the understanding of why Rocketship X-M is one of the lesser-known science fiction flicks from the 50s. Even with that in mind, it is still worth watching at least once.

While the movies that make up the body of Drive-In Retro Classics are each worth watching in themselves and collectively, the lack of any bonus content connected with them detracts from the collection’s presentation to a point. As noted already, it would have been interesting to have a discussion on The Brain From Planet Arous and its combined science fiction and religious horror elements. Again, this movie’s story finds a being from another planet actually possessing the story’s protagonist. This is a blending of two separate genres in one and works so well. It would have been nice to have someone connected to the movie or even an academic with knowledge of the movie talk about this and other matters, such as the film history of its main cast. Sadly none of that is there.

A discussion on whether there was in fact a direct link between Universal’s classic monster movies and The Hideous Sun Demon would have also added to the collection’s presentation. The connections are unavoidable in watching the movie, but again, without some discussion on that possible background, audiences are left to just assume that the connection was intentional. It is a piece of cinema history that in its absence just hurts the overall engagement and entertainment in the movie that much.

Moving to bonus content for Rocketship X-M, some discussion on the movie as it relates to the likes of Destination Moon (which came out around the same time as Rocketship X-M) would have been interesting. Just as interesting would have been any talks on humans’ (and moviemakers’) fascination with the moon. The history of movies centered on humans going to the moon reaches back to the very birth of movie making, so something on that would certainly have been interesting. On a similar note, Destination Moon and Rocketship X-M each came out five years before the so-called “Space Race” started, so obviously there is no connection there. That aside, that is in itself worth noting in another discussion.

The discussions on the movies’ background and their connections to other items is just some of the bonus content that would have really helped enhance the viewing experience here. Some discussion on the special effects used in the movies would have added even more to the viewing experience. Clearly the special effects in these movies are very low grade. From the video effects used in the possession scenes in The Brain From Planet Arous to the makeup and costume for the lizard creature in The Hideous Sun Demon, to the obvious strings used to create the effect of weightlessness in Rocketship X-M and more, there is plenty to address in the way of the movies’ special effects. It just would have been nice to have those discussions and the others addressed here. Not having them does not doom the collection’s presentation, but it certainly would have enhanced the viewing experience so much.

Knowing that the lack of any bonus content does not make this overall presentation a failure, there is one more item to examine. That item is the movies’ general effect. Audiences will note that little if any effort was made to remaster the movies’ video and audio in presenting them here. To a point that is a bad thing, as is evidenced in the audio in The Hideous Sun Demon. There are points throughout this movie in which it sounds like the audio was recorded on an area microphone. At other points, the audio is more balanced. In the case of The Brain From Planet Arous, there are obvious jump cuts and other related video matters that clearly were not touched up. Even with the imperfections there, there is something so positive about it all. It plays into a sense of nostalgia that viewers will find themselves appreciating plenty. When this is considered along with the movies themselves and their stories, that collective makes for plenty of reason in itself for audiences to watch all three movies in this collection. To that end, the collection proves worth owning and watching even despite the lack of any bonus content.

Corinth Films’ classic sci-fi collection, Drive-In Retro Classics, is a largely successful offering for any true cinephile and lover of vintage science fiction and horror. That is due in no small part to the movies featured in the collection. They are lesser-known entries from what is one of the greatest eras of cinema, but still fun sci-fi flicks either way. The lack of any bonus content associated with the movies does detract from the overall presentation, but not enough to doom the set. To that end, the general effect of the movies’ presentation works with the movies and their stories to make for even more reason for audiences to give the collection a chance. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the set’s presentation. All things considered, they make Drive-In Retro Classics a presentation that true cinephiles and lovers of vintage science fiction will find engaging and enjoyable.

Drive-In Retro Classics is available through Corinth Films. More information on this and other titles from Corinth Films is available at:

Websitehttps://corinthfilms.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/corinthfilms1977

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/corinthfilms

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.

20th Century Studios’ ‘West Side Story’ Reboot Is More Proof Hollywood Needs More Original Ideas

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios

It goes without saying that William Shakespeare is among the most influential writers and playwrights in history.  From “12th Night” to “The Taming of the Shrew” to Macbeth” and “even Romeo and Juliet” and so much more, Shakespeare’s works have been done and redone more times than anyone can count on two hands.  20th Century Studios will release a reboot of one of the most well-known re-imaginings of “Romeo and Juliet” on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday in its recent reboot of the classic 1961 musical, West Side Story.  Originally having debuted in theaters in 2021, this latest reboot is a mixed bag presentation.  The reboot’s very presentation makes that clear.  It is both positive and negative.  The musical numbers included in the story are part of that general presentation and are positive in their own right.  They will be discussed a little later.  The cast’s work rounds out the most important of the reboot’s elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this latest take of West Side Story worth watching at least once.

20th Century Studios’ reboot of West Side Story, which is itself a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” is an interesting presentation among the seemingly never-ending sea of prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on actual events.  It is interesting in large part because of its general presentation.  Unlike so many reboots of other movies out there, the general presentation here actually takes audiences back in time.  This story is set in 1957, and the sets and costumes work hard to make sure that the time period is reflected.  It would have been so easy for the movie’s creative heads to just allow the movie to be another 21st century update, like so many reboots out there today, but they didn’t go that route.  To that end, it is somewhat refreshing to see that they took that proverbial road less traveled. What’s more, the movie in this presentation is a near shot for shot copy of the 1961 big screen classic, so in other words, the general presentation here does not necessarily break any new ground.  It is admirable that the movie’s creative heads would go to such lengths to bring the 20th century into the 21st and pay such tribute to its source material.

At the same time that the reboot’s creative heads clearly wanted to honor the movie’s source material and its fans, that might actually not be such a good thing, either.  If the 1961 movie could be updated without losing but so much of the original, then it leaves one wondering if there was any need to even do this, just for the sake of getting a new, younger generation of audiences interested in the story.  The look of this new update does work to throw back to that of the original movie, but it tries too hard, to be honest.  It all looks so spit shined what with the updated camera technology.  Speaking of that tech, there are so many lens flares thrown in throughout the presentation that audiences will think they are watching a movie helmed by JJ Abrams, not Steven Spielberg.  Audiences who are familiar with Abrams’ works will immediately understand that reference.  It really serves to offset the positive in the effort to take audiences back to the original 1961 movie and further shows the needlessness of reboots.

While the general presentation of West Side Story is a bit of a mixed bag, the movie is not all bad.  The musical numbers from the 1961 movie and its stage adaptations are all here, too.  They come complete with the dance numbers used in those presentations, too.  It continues to show the efforts of those behind the cameras to fully pay homage to the story’s source material and to its fans.  The look, feel, and sound of those musical numbers does just as much to keep audiences engaged and entertained as the story.  The playful back and forth of ‘I Want To Live In America,’ which points out the two contrasting views of the Puerto Ricans is made even more engaging what with the costumes and sets.  The contrast of the happiness and tension between the two sides in ‘Tonight’ makes for its own interest as Maria is so happy while the gang members sing about their determination about the big fight that is going to happen.  On yet another note, Rita Moreno’s mournful number near the story’s finale is just as moving as she recalls the past and examines the state of the city and nation at that point.  These and all of the movie’s musical numbers go a long way toward making the latest reboot of West Side Story worth watching.  When they are considered along with the cast’s work, those two elements and the general presentation all combine to make for at least some reason to give this reboot a chance.

Ansel Egort (Insurgent, Divergent, The Fault In Our Stars) leads the way as Tony in this latest take of West Side Story.  He is to be applauded for the control that he exhibits throughout the movie.  It would have been so easy for him to ham it up in a moment such as the balcony scene lifted from “Romeo and Juliet.”  He instead did quite well in making Tony’s infatuation with Maria believable.  This even though he clearly is not a teenager and neither is his co-star, Rachel Zegler (Shazam), who plays Maria this time out.  Mike Faist (Wildling, The Atlantic City Story) deserves his own share of applause of Tony’s friend, Riff as his more combative mindset offsets that of Tony’s more peaceful thought patter.  It makes Tony’s fate all the more tragic in the movie’s final scene.  That is not a spoiler, either, considering how well known West Side Story is its own source material are.  Faist’s performance as Riff makes it easy for audiences to love him and at the same time feel so sorry for him for having his mindset.  Much the same can be said of the work of his counterpart, David Alvarez (American Rust, The Stamp Collector, Child’s Play), as he portrays Bernardo.  He is just as set on combat as Riff, and it shows.  He and Faist are both fully believable in their roles, their refusal to work toward peace.  Sadly, so many people in today’s society are still so much like them, so kudos are in order for them in getting audiences to stop for a moment and think about that.  Between these performances and so many others presented throughout the movie, the overall work of the cast proves to be its own positive that makes the movie worth watching.  When it is considered along with their performances of the musical numbers of the positive side of the general presentation, the whole makes this movie a reboot that is worth seeing at least once.

20th Century Studios’ new reboot of West Side Story is an interesting presentation from the Disney-owned studio.  Its interest comes in large part through its general presentation.  The general presentation does not necessarily break any new ground in comparison to the 1961 cinematic presentation.  That is both good and bad.  The musical numbers add their own interest to the new presentation.  That is because as with the general presentation, they also lift from the original, and the performances thereof are fully engaging and entertaining.  The cast’s work in those moments and throughout the movie rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.  That is because their work is believable, and makes the viewing experience all the more immersive.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of West Side Story.  All things considered, they make this reboot worth watching at least once.

West Side Story is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:

Website: https://www.20thcenturystudios.com

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

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.  

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Does Not Give The ‘Ghostbusters’ Franchise Any New Life

Courtesy: Sony Pictures

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Everybody knows that old adage, and for director Jason Reitman that could not be farther from the truth in watching Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  The thing is that in the case of this movie, which was helmed by Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman – who directed the original Ghostbusters movie back in 1984 – the adage does not apply in a good way.  That is because there is little if anything to like about this movie.  Its story is its most problematic concern and will be discussed shortly.  The general writing and acting is problematic in its own way to the movie’s presentation and will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content (or rather the lack thereof) rounds out the movie’s most prominent concerns.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife hopefully the last big screen Ghostbusters iteration for a very long time.

When Columbia Pictures released its take on the Ghostbusters franchise, audiences did indeed answer the call, but not necessarily in the way in which the studio heads had hoped.  While some audiences appreciated the movie, the overwhelming majority of audiences and critics panned the movie, and justifiably so.  Interestingly enough, the movie was helmed by Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters movie in 1984.  It (the 2016 reboot) received a score of 74% from Rotten Tomatoes (along with a 49% audience score), so one would have thought that after the movie’s general failure, studios in general would have had second thoughts about taking on the franchise yet again.  Apparently staff at Sony Pictures (and Reitman’s son Jason) did not worry too much about the movie’s response when they decided to make Ghostbusters: Afterlife happen. Sadly, this latest entry in the Ghostbusters franchise is disappointing in its own right.  That is due in large part to the story.  The story featured in this movie is itself just a reboot of the 1984 movie.  Gozer the Gozerian is back to try and take over the world again.  This after the original Ghostbusters team destroyed Gozer almost 40 years ago atop a skyscraper in New York City.  The difference is that this time, it’s not the original Ghostbusters crew taking on Gozer (though ¾ of the original team does appear in the movie’s end to help deal with the evil Sumerian God – not to give away too much).  Rather it is a new, much younger team of Ghostbusters consisting of Egon’s grandson and grand-daughter and their friends.  Trevor (Finn Wolfhard – It, Pinocchio, Stranger Things) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace – I, Tonya, Troop Zero, The Handmaid’s Tale) are Egon’s grandchildren.  They are joined by Phoebe’s friend “Podcast” (newcomer Logan Kim) and Trevor’s love interest, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor – Freaky, Selah and the Spades, Irreplaceable You) as they take on Gozer and its minions.  The very knowledge that the original Ghostbusters team defeated Gozer so many decades ago makes suspension of disbelief impossible right from this point.  This is only the tip of the iceberg, too.

It is clear in watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife that Reitman and the rest of the movie’s creative heads were doing two things here.  The first thing they were doing was just a bunch of fan service.  From the giant stack of books in Egon’s house in Summerville, to the footage from the original movie that Phoebe watches on her laptop (which is clearly blatant product placement for YouTube) to the use of another giant structure from which Gozer and its forces originate, and more, there is so much fan service happening throughout this story.  As if that is not bad enough, the creative heads’ use of young actors was clearly an attempt to satiate those (like this critic) who wanted an Extreme Ghostbusters style movie.  Instead, they gave said audiences little more than a teeny bopper flick meant to make older audiences feel nostalgic and younger, pre-teen and teen audiences interested because they thought there was some need to update the movie.  Reitman explains in the lone bonus feature in the movie’s home release of how the idea for this story came about, but it does not make the story any more bearable.  Only it makes things worse.  This will be discussed later.  Simply put, this so-called sequel really could have been so much better if those in charge had really taken more time and thought about how it could have succeeded, but sadly it did not reach that level.  Instead it ended up just being a shallow re-hashing of the original, much like so many sequels out there from so many franchises.  It is just one of the problems that mars the movie’s presentation, too.  The collective writing and acting featured throughout the movie brings out its own concerns.

The writing starts out strongly by setting the stage, explaining that Egon had lived in the house and was obviously there facing off against some kind of evil being, but failed to do so, to a point.  The thing is that from there, the story is quick to go from that to present day, introducing his family and front loading the story with so much contrivance along the way.  Gary’s (Paul Rudd – Ant Man, Ant Man and the Wasp, Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) flirting with Callie (Carrie Coon – Avengers: Infinity War, Gone Girl, The Post) from early on makes it honestly painfully clear that they would take the place of Dana (Sigourney Weaver – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Alien) and Louis (Rick Moranis – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids) as the Gatekeeper and Keymaster.  What’s more, their interactions just feel so cheesy and forced in every scene.  Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess, but regardless, it is painful to watch. 

On the same note, Gary’s lack of concern for his students, simply popping in copies of horror movies for the students to watch while he examines earthquake maps in his office simply is not believable.  Even less believable is how Phoebe just casually strolls into Gary’s office and talks about it all as the other students sit watching the movies.  The pair’s dry, so-called witty banter falls flat and not only there, but throughout the movie.  Staying on that note, that none of the students take any interest when she and Podcast bring in an old ghost trap leaves one scratching one’s head just as much.  Add in the moment in which Lucky’s dad, who happens to be the town’s police chief (played by Bokime Woodbine – Spiderman: Homecoming, Halo, Fargo) asks Phoebe, ‘Who ya gonna call?” when she declares at the jail (again, not to give away too much) that she gets a phone call is just as cheesy in its delivery and timing.  It felt like one more piece of the creative heads’ fan service for those who grew up with the original 1984 Ghostbusters.  Audiences cannot help but feel some sympathy for Woodbine, being that it fell on his shoulders, considering how little screen time he got. 

From there, Ray’s (Dan Akroyd – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) explanation of how Egon ended up in Oklahoma (which basically tells the story) is so misplaced and contrived in itself.  Had this explanation been somehow incorporated more into the movie early on instead of just going from the brief intro to the present might have helped the movie’s presentation more.  The story itself of how Egon ended up there is contrived, though.  ‘Oh, Egon went crazy ,talked about the end of the world, and that Evo Shandor built another temple in a random spot in America’s heartland’ (roughly translated from Ray’s story) just feels so outlandish.  That is especially the case considering again that Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter defeated Gozer in the original movie, so how did Gozer manage to come back?  That issue is never explained away as part of the story, either, leaving that massive plot hole wide open.  Between everything noted here and so much more, the issues with the story’s writing and the cast’s work interpreting the scripts, there is little to nothing to appreciate from those elements.  When their problems are coupled with the issues raised by the movie’s very story, the movie becomes that much less entertaining and engaging.  It still is not the last of the movie’s concerns.  The bonus content (or rather lack thereof) featured in the movie’s home release rounds out its most important items.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s home release features one bonus feature.  The feature is the standard “making of” featurette.  It presents interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, beginning with Jason Reitman discussing how the idea for the movie’s story came about.  His revelation makes clear that he never had any intent to create a story in the vein of Extreme Ghostbusters, but rather, it was always going to involve younger cast members.  To that end, at least it makes it seem like it was not just all about the dollar signs for Reitman.  However, all of the blatant product placement (YouTube, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Walmart, etc.) throughout the movie, one might think otherwise.  At the same time though, Reitman also admits that he wanted to write a story that was a “love letter” to the original movie.  In other words, he openly paid fan service through this story while also making it more youth oriented, even though the original movie was geared toward older audiences and had a certain edge.  Neither of those applied here, and that hurt the movie greatly.  So again, that led to the movie being just a rehashing of the original Ghostbusters but just more family friendly so to speak.  Hearing the comments from Reitman and company as they talk about the movie in the movie’s lone bonus feature does so much to detract from the movie’s engagement and entertainment in its own way.  When the revelations in the “making of” featurette are considered along with the shortcomings in the story and its collective writing and acting, the whole makes this latest Ghostbusters installment its own disappointing presentation.  One can only hope that seeing all of the movie’s problems, it will be a long time before the franchise will see another installment, even though the grand finale here left the door open for another movie.

Sony Pictures’ latest Ghostbusters iteration, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a disappointing new entry in the storied franchise.  It offers little if anything to like for fans of the property who have clear heads.  The story featured within is one part fan service and one part teeny bopper flick loaded with unnecessary romance subplots.  The mix makes me its own share of problems.  The writing and acting makes for its own problems, as little if any of it is believable.  The lone bonus feature that comes with the movie’s home release makes for its own share of problems, making the movie even less engaging and entertaining than it was without that item.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife a work that shows the Ghostbusters franchise needs to remain buried for the foreseeable future unless a truly good story is crafted for the next movie.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available now on digital and physical platforms.  More information on the movie is available along with all of the latest Ghostbusters news at:

Website: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/ghostbustersafterlife

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ghostbusters

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.