Lionsgate Announces Release Date, Specs For Ex Machina

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s hit sci-fi thriller ex machina is coming to DVD and Blu-ray this summer.

Officials with Lionsgate have announced that ex machina will be released Tuesday, July 14th. It will be releaed both on Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and DVD + Digital combo pack. The movie stars Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, Unbroken), Alicia Vikander (The Circle, A Royal Affair) Golden Globe®-nominated actor Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, A Most Violent Year) and is helmed by Alex Garland (Dredd, writer of 28 Days) in his directorial debut.

The story behind ex machina is centered on young computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall). Caleb has won a competition to spend a week at the mountain retreat of his company’s CEO Nathan (Isaac). What Caleb doesn’t realize is that he didn’t necessarily win a contest. He has actually been chosen to be part of a study involving an artificial intelligence (played here by Alicia Vikander). Caleb has been sworn to secrecy and what’s more, he has been cut off from the rest of the world in the study. Upon meeting the android Caleb is pulled into a world that he never thought possible. Both the DVD + Digital combo pack and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack will feature a handful of bonuses including a making of featurette, a panel discussion from South X Southwest with the cast and crew, and a number of behind the scenes videos. The Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack will retail for MSRP of $24.99 and DVD for MSRP of $19.98. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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National Geographic Films, Virgil Films Team Up For New Documentary Film

Courtesy:  National Geographic Films/Virgil Films

Courtesy: National Geographic Films/Virgil Films

Virgil Films and National Geographic Films will release Nat Geo’s latest documentary Pandas: The Journey Home next month.

Pandas: The Journey Home will be released Tuesday, June 16th on 2D and 3D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Shot entirely in IMAX, the documentary follows a group of pandas from birth to transition back to the wild. In order to create the program, its filmmakers were given unprecedented access to the Wolong Panda Center in China. The thirty-six minute documentary presents the work put in to protect pandas and return them to the wild.

Actress Joely Richardson (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Nip/Tuck) serves as narrator for the film. The project is helmed by director Nicolas Brown (Human Planet, Expedition Alaska) and produced by Caroline Hawkins (Meerkats 3D, Fatal Attractions) of Oxford Scientific Films. Hawkins noted in a recent interview part of her reason for signing on for this film explaining that pandas “are more than just cute and cuddly animals to see in the zoo. They have a place in the wild and in the ecosystem.”

Pandas: The Journey Home will be available from Virgil Films and National Geographic Films Tuesday, June 16th. It will be available in a 2D/3D Blu-ray + DVD combo pack for MSRP of $29.99. It will also be available on demand and via digital platforms in both SD and HD versions. Audiences can check out a trailer for Pandas: The Journey Home online now along with more information on the film online at http://movies.nationalgeographic.com/movies/pandas/. Audiences can get more information on this and other movies from National Geographic Films online at http://movies.nationalgeographic.com/movies. More information on this and other titles from Virgil films is available online now at:

Website: http://www.virgilfilmsent.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/virgilfilms

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Lionsgate Announces Release Date, Specs For New Dramedy While We’re Young

While Were Young BD Box ArtLionsgate will release actor Ben Stiller’s new dramedy While We’re Young next month.

While We’re Young will be released on Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and DVD + Digital combo pack on Tuesday, June 30th. Stiller (Night at the Museum 1 – 3) and Naomi Watts (King Kong, The Impossible, Mullholland Drive) star as a pair of aging urban sophisticates trying too hard to hold onto their youth in the movie. In their efforts to hold onto their youth, the pair—Jason (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts)—join a hip-hop dance class and “mind-expanding” parties among other activities. They are joined by Adam Driver (HBO’s Girls), Amanda Seyfried (Alice in Wonderland, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia), Charles Grodin (Beethoven, Beethoven’s Second, Midnight Run) and now former Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz (a.k. Ad-Rock) along the way. The movie was helmed by Academy Award®-nominated director Noah Baumbach (Best Original Screenplay The Squid and the Whale, 2005). Baumbach has also previously worked with Stiller on the 2010 drama Greenberg. He also developed the big screen adaptation of the classic children’s book The Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009.

One writer for Variety called While We’re Young a “blisteringly of-the-moment and classically zany comedy.” Along with the main feature, both the Blu-ray + Digital HD and DVD + Digital combo pack will also feature a handful of bonus material including six behind-the scenes featurettes and some more scene specific features. The complete list of bonus material included on the Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack is noted below.

BLU-RAY/DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*

  • Six Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes:  “The Cast,” “Working with Filmmaker Noah Baumbach,”
  • “Generation Tech,” “Working with Charles Grodin,” “Ayahuasca Ceremony” and “Hip-Hop Class”

*Subject to change

While We’re Young will be released on Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and DVD + Digital combo pack on Tuesday, June 30th. The Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack will retail for MSRP of $24.99 and the DVD + Digital combo pack for $19.98. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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

Thunder Road Is As Good As Any Action Flick Out There Today If Not Better

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

Robert Mitchum spent somewhere in the range of fifty-five years of his life in front of the camera.  During that time, he made what have since gone on to become some of the most beloved and iconic movies and roles over the curse of that time.  In 1962, he starred in one of his most famous roles as Max Cady in the original take of Cape Fear.  Seventeen years prior, he starred alongside fellow acting legend Burgess Meredith in 1945’s The Story of G.I. Joe.  And in 1958, he starred in what would go on to be one of his most beloved films of all time in the form of Thunder Road.  Now nearly six decades after that movie’s original debut, it has finally been unearthed for a whole new generation of movie buffs to experience thanks to the people at MGM and Timeless Media Group.  It is a great movie that every classic movie buff should see at least once if not more.  The main reason any classic movie lover should see this movie is its script.  The movie’s original script was written by Mitchum before being adapted by the writing team of James Atlee Phillips and Walter Wise.  It is a story that while simple is enjoyable because of its simplicity.  Mitchum’s acting throughout the movie is just as key to its enjoyment.  Maybe it is just this critic’s own view but one can’t help but compare Mitchum’s acting alongside his look in this story to that of James Dean.  Had Dean lived, one can’t help but imagine Mitchum’s portrayal of Lucas Doolin would have been exactly what Dean would have looked and sounded like.  But being Mitchum was so much older than Dean, his acting and look still helped make the story believable.  Last and definitely not least of all worth noting in this movie is the fact that it was not only written by Mitchum but produced by him, too.  Some of the movie’s music was even written and performed by him.  Simply put, Mitchum had his hand in nearly every aspect of this work.  Because he had so much creative control, the end product proved to be a story that while it may be more a cult favorite today, is still one of the best works of Mitchum’s extensive career.  Now that it has been re-issued on a dual-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, it can also be said that it is one of the best new re-issues of 2015.

Thunder Road is one of the best works from Robert Mitchum’s extensive fifty-five year-long career in front of the camera.  It may not be one of his most well-known.  But there is still has so much going for it that it is still deserving of being considered one of his best whether among its cult following or among audiences and critics in general.  Whether or not they are familiar with the movie, audiences and critics alike will agree with that sentiment when they pick up the classic film’s new re-issue.  The main reason that audiences and critics alike will agree that this movie is one of Mitchum’s best is its script.  Originally penned by Mitchum himself, it would go on to be adapted by the writing team of James Atlee Phillips and Walter Wise.  It is a story that while simple is enjoyable because of its simplicity.  It follows Mitchum’s character Lucas Doolin as he runs moonshine in the hills of Kentucky all the while trying to outrun government tax agents and keep his little brother Robin (interestingly enough played by his real life son James) from following in his footsteps.  This movie is a guy movie, what with its mix of moonshine running, motors, and G-men.  Of course Lucas’ relationship with Francie (Keely Smith—Casino, Raging Bull, We Own The Night) will interest its female audiences.  The story runs at a pace that keeps audiences engaged with ease through its little more than hour and a half run time.  Because of its ability to keep audiences engaged through its simplicity, it could actually be argued that set against today’s action flicks, the script behind Thunder Road makes it even better than those largely forgettable special effects-laden flicks.  It’s just one reason that action flick fans and classic movie buffs should give this movie a chance.  Mitchum’s work on camera is another reason audiences will enjoy this movie.

Robert Mitchum played a big part in the success of Thunder Road because of the fact that he actually wrote the original story on which it is based.  It’s just one reason that audiences will appreciate it.  His influence on the movie reached much farther than just its script.  He was also the movie’s lead actor.  Being that he wrote the movie’s original story and produced the movie, too (which will be discussed later), it would be easy to assume that having so much role in the movie, it would go to his head and affect his acting.  Watching the movie though, the exact opposite is the case.  At no one point does he ever try to overdo it with his character.  Lucas’ reserved demeanor throughout the movie actually makes him a stronger character.  That is especially clear when Lucas is originally busted by the tax agents and even later when Lucas explains to Cark Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon—McHale’s Navy, The Shaggy Dog, Perry Mason) that he would not let his brother end up on the same path as him.  Watching Mitchum, moments such as those noted make clear why Mitchum played the lead role.  Interestingly enough though, one can’t help but watch Mitchum and wonder what if James Dean had lived longer.  Maybe it’s just this critic’s own view, but watching Mitchum, one can’t help but imagine James Dean playing Lucas.  That might have actually worked just as well considering Dean’s body of work before his untimely death.  That aside, Mitchum still impresses with his unassuming yet strong portrayal.  It’s yet another reason that audiences will enjoy this recently re-issued classic action flick.  It still is not the last reason that audiences will enjoy the movie, either. The fact that Mitchum also produced the movie is just as important to its success believe it or not.

Between the fact that he both wrote the original story for Thunder Road and that he carried the lead role, Robert Mitchum showed in this movie that he wasn’t just some actor throwing something out for the sake of it. He showed through both his acting and his writing that he meant business with this movie. Even more interesting to note is that he also produced the movie and even wrote some of the movie’s music. That means that he had quite the hand in the movie’s making. Yet it’s also obvious that despite having so much control, he never let that control go to his head at any one point in the movie’s little more than hour and a half run time. That is obvious in the work of his cast mates and those behind the cameras. Their work felt natural from beginning to end. It made that much easier the ability to remain engaged throughout the movie. Being able to so easily remain engaged means more enjoyment and ability to see the other noted reasons that Thunder Road is such an enjoyable classic. All noted elements taken fully into consideration, audiences will agree that they collectively make Thunder Road a must see for any action film fan and for any classic movie buff regardless of their familiarity with this classic story.

Thunder Road is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online. It can also be ordered direct online via Time Media Group’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-crime/thunder-road. Audiences that order the movie via TMG’s online store can get it at a reduced price of $16.97 versus the retail price of $19.97. More information on this and other titles from TMG is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com/tentpoles/timeless-media-group

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364

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Mortdecai Shows That Action Flicks Can Still Be Fun Without Being Dark, Gritty, Moody, Or Violent

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Twelve years ago, veteran actor Johnny Depp single-handedly resurrected his career and became one of the movie industry’s hottest commodities when he starred in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Sadly though, his career has been in something of a free fall since then. Few if any of the movies in which he has starred since have gone on to the same level of success as that surprise sleeper hit. That includes the now trio of sequels that followed it and his latest movie Mortdecai, which debuted in theaters earlier this year. As with those previously noted movies, Mortdecai was released to a rather tepid response by critics and fans alike. So why exactly did Depp’s latest effort fall so flat? It’s just this critic’s own take but more than likely the reason that it failed is simple. It failed in theaters for exact same reason that it has proven so enjoyable for this critic–its stylistic approach. More simply put, it’s an action comedy in a world overly populated with dark, gritty action flicks. While that doesn’t seem like very much it is an important element to note. It’s just one of the factors that makes the movie work, too. The work of writer Eric Aronson in his adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s original book is just as important to the presentation in whole. Last but hardly least important of all to mention is the work of the movie’s cast. This includes not only lead star Johnny Depp but his co-stars, too. Depp’s own acting throws back (intentionally or not) to the work of Peter Sellers and even at one point to Dudley Moore. The work of his cast mates is entertaining in its own right, too. The cast’s acting coupled with Eric Aronson’s adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli and the very concept of the movie being a shining beacon among a sea of overly dark, gritty, violent action flicks, all three elements prove without a doubt that all of this movie’s naysayers are completely wrong in their reviews. As a matter of fact, it proves in the end to be one of this year’s most unsuspecting hits.

Despite what so many audiences and critics had to say about it, Lionsgate’s new action comedy Mortdecai is one of the most unsuspecting hits of 2015. This surprisingly entertaining release is a shining beacon in a sea polluted with overly dark, violent, action flicks. That is the main reason that this movie is such an unsuspecting hit. It may not seem like much. But it is in fact an important factor to consider. In an age when Marvel, DC and others are competing to make the darkest, grittiest, moodiest, and most violent action flick possible without garnering an “R” rating, Lionsgate has taken the road less traveled with this movie. It has opted to take the elements that have made Marvel and DC’s movies so popular and traded them in for a much more lighthearted yet equally action-filled story that will also leave open-minded audiences laughing nonstop from beginning to end. Taking that into account Aronson and Director David Koepp showed through their combined work on this movie that an action movie doesn’t necessarily have to be the next Dark Kight Returns, X-Men, or even James Bond to be entertaining. They showed with this rather rarely used approach that a movie can be action packed and entertaining without being dark, violent, and brooding. Keeping that in mind, the approach used for Mortdecai proves in the long run Mortdecai gives hope that maybe one day audiences and studios alike will finally lean back to those stand-alone movies rather than rely on the ever decreasingly original and creative franchise flicks that are out there. Both of those aspects of the movie’s stylistic approach are equally important to the whole of that element. Together, they show why Mortdecai simply not following other studios’ action flick formula makes this movie well worth the watch.

The fact that Mortdecai doesn’t follow the standard formula used by other major action flicks past and present is within itself more than enough reason for those tired of all the dark, gritty, violent action flicks to watch it. Eric Aronson’s adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s book Don’t Point That Thing At Me is another reason for audiences to check out this movie. Aronson’s script offers up just enough plot twists and comedic moments from beginning to end to keep audiences completely engaged and entertained. The twists coupled with the story’s pacing and its transitions are handled so expertly that at no point will audiences ever feel like they need a program to know what’s going on. What’s more, there is at no point any brooding or other material that would make it comparable to all the other action flicks out there. And the jokes that Aronson throws in are obviously not for younger viewers. But in comparison to some of the material churned out by writers of bigger-named movies, they are actually far less crass than the jokes churned out by so many writers out there today. To that extent, Aronson is to be highly commended. All of this considered, the writing behind Mortdecai proves once to even more length why it is such an unsuspecting hit. It still is not the last reason that it proves itself worth the chance. The work of the cast rounds out the reasons for audiences to give Mortdecai a second chance now that it is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Being that Mortdecai is not just another unnecessarily dark, gritty, brainless, explosion-filled action flick is in itself plenty of reason for those looking for something different to give it a chance. Writer Eric Aronson’s adaptation of Kyril Bonafiglioli’s original book Don’t Point That Thing At Me makes it even more worth the watch as it is loaded with laughs’ laughs that in their own way throw back to the days of the Pink Panther franchise. Speaking of that franchise, the work of Johnny Depp and his cast mates throws back to those movies just as much ironically enough. Intentional or not, Depp’s work as the movie’s title character instantly conjures thoughts of Peter Sellers what with Mortdecai’s overall personality and his bumbling ways. One could even argue that Mortdecai’s drunken presentation in his return from Moscow is a throwback to Dudley Moore. Again this is the case even if it wasn’t intentional. Given neither Depp’s portrayals aren’t precisely the same as those of Moore or Sellers. But the similarities are there. On the other side of the coin, Ewan McGregor does an excellent job of making Inspector Martland a completely despicable character. This is the case even though Martland is one of the good guys, interestingly enough. The thing is that he doesn’t necessarily make audiences hate Martland per se. Rather he makes Martland a great foil to Mortdecai at which audiences enjoy laughing in his failures. Moving on, Paul Bettany is just as entertaining as Mortdecai’s servant Jock. Considering the way that Mortdecai treats Jock, one can’t help but laugh at the pair’s relationship. At the same time, one can’t help but feel at least a little sorry for Jock considering that relationship. It makes for quite the surprise that Jock was in fact not the suspect in the end, not to reveal too much about the movie. Female audiences will be just as enamoured with Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of Johanna. Johanna is the total antithesis of the stereotypical action flick female lead. She is a strong, confident figure. Yet she doesn’t come out and scream it. Rather she shows it in more of a reserved, demure fashion that will have audiences laughing just as riotously as the work of her cast mates. Audiences will love watching her handle Charlie without even lifting a finger. That subtle yet strong portrayal is one of the best of the cast. When partnered with the work of said cast mates, the collective body of work from Paltrow and her cast mates proves once more why Mortdecai is worth far more credit than it received in its run in theaters earlier this year. When set along with the previously noted factors, it serves to help prove once and for all why Mortdecai is not only deserving of far more credit than it received but why it is in fact one of the best new theatrical releases of 2015.

Mortedcai was panned by critics and audiences alike when it was released in theaters earlier this year. The only reason that this critic can come up with for its lack of success is that audiences have been so conditioned by the endless mass of unnecessarily dark, gritty, violent action flicks churned out in recent years that they have lost sight of what’s really important and enjoyable in an action movie. Not to mention the fact that Mortdecai was far less familiar with audiences than anything offered up by DC and Marvel in recent years. These factors taken into consideration audiences and critics that panned Mortdecai were sadly missing the enjoyment that it really offers. The fact that Mortdecai stands wholly apart from that noted mass of movies actually makes it far more entertaining than said features in this critic’s own view. Eric Aronson’s work in adapting Kyril Bonafiglioli’s original book couple with the work of the movie’s lead cast show even more why it is so surprisingly entertaining. It’s just too bad others didn’t see that. But hopefully now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray those same audiences that panned it, and those that have yet to see it, will give it a chance and see everything that this critic has seen. If not, it is their own loss as they are missing out, again, on what is one of this year’s best new theatrical releases.

Mortdecai is available now in stores and online on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=Mortdecai. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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Leap Frog’s Latest Release Is Another Fun Adventure For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Leap Frog

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Leap Frog

Lionsgate has made the quite the name for itself in the world of both movies and home entertainment in recent years.  Its hit movie franchises (The Expendables 1- 3, The Hunger Games) and home releases thanks to ties with History Channel and MLB Productions have garnered Lionsgate quite the reason for attention.  Its ongoing series of DVD releases from Leap Frog’s Letter Factory Adventures franchise has done just as much to put Lionsgate on the map.  Speaking of the Letter Factory Adventures franchise, Lionsgate released the latest installment in that franchise this past March in the form of Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers.  It is another win not just or the people at Lionsgate and Leap Frog but for viewers, too.  That is because of all that it has to offer audiences.  There is plenty to say about its lessons on rhyming, storytelling, and word building.  The musical numbers featured throughout the program’s thirty-seven-minute run time will entertain younger audiences just as much as ay presented in previous Letter Factory Adventures DVDs. Parents, teachers, and children alike will recognize the bonus material included with the DVD.  The standard curriculum commentary is there for teachers and parents as are the bonus sing-a-longs for the kids that have become just as standard with these DVDs.  The combination of the bonus material, the smartly-written lessons, and the equally entertaining musical numbers makes this installment of Lionsgate’s Letter Factory Adventures franchise one more candidate for a slot on this year’s list of best new DVDs and Blu-rays for children and families.

Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers, the latest addition to Lionsgate’s hugely popular Letter Factory Adventures DVDs, is yet another win not just for the people at Lionsgate and Leap Frog, but for parents, teachers, and children, too.  It continues the success carried by the franchise’s previous DVDs primarily through the work of the franchise’s writers.  The writers have crafted yet another story that incorporates three more equally important lessons and does so seamlessly at that.  The lessons in question help young audiences develop an understanding of how words rhyme, understand the structure of stories, and the structure of words.  Young audiences learn through the lesson on rhyming that the suffix of given words makes them rhyme with other words with the same suffix.  The lesson on story structure is even more of a positive in that it actually serves a dual purpose. The central purpose of this lesson is to teach young viewers how a story is built. It presents a story’s key moments—beginning, middle and end—on the most basic of levels. Leap’s use of a card game to encourage his young friends to build their own stories is a great teaching tool for teachers and parents alike. It is just as likely to encourage young viewers in the classroom or the living room to develop their own imaginations and strengthen their understanding of story structure. In the same vein, the lesson on word structure uses a similar sort of card game. The difference here is that instead of cards used to define different story elements, the cards are letter cards. The cards in question allow children to change words by changing just one letter at a time. It brings everything full circle as changing the words can also lead right back to the lesson on rhyming just as much as it is meant to establish children’s word building skills overall. Teachers and parents can even tie in the lesson on word building directly into the lesson on story structure just as Leap and his young friends did to connect everything together in their learning adventure. All three lessons show in their own way why they are so important to the whole of Letter Factoy Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers. Each lesson will educate children without said audiences even realize they are being educated. The fact that each of the lessons can be connected to the others makes them even more critical to the success and enjoyment of this new DVD. And that they can be translated into the real world makes them all the more important, showing yet again why the presented lessons are the cornerstone of this new Letter Factory Adventures DVD. It’s only the beginning of what makes this disc so enjoyable, too. Believe it or not, the musical numbers included throughout the program are important to the whole in their own way, too.

The lessons incorporated into Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers are central to the enjoyment and overall success of the recently released DVD. That is thanks to the accessibility among audiences of all ages. It is also thanks to the fact that the lesson building ideas presented in the program can be easily translated into the real world. They put a whole new spin on the ongoing card game fad that is still so popular among certain groups of older youths. They are only one part of what makes the whole of Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers enjoyable for audiences of all ages, too. The musical numbers that are peppered throughout the program are just as important to the whole in their own way. The main reason that they are so important is that just as with the lessons, they actually educate young viewers without said viewers even realizing it. The group sings about word structures and story structures, and how each is built all within the course of maybe a minute. Children will pay more attention on the songs’ entertaining aspects while parents and teachers will know that the children are in fact being educated just as much as they are being entertained. It’s one more part of the whole that has been standard for previous Letter Factory Adventures DVDs. To see that it remains standard here makes for even more reason for parents and teachers to add this DVD to their collection.

The musical numbers that have become standard among Lionsgate’s Letter Factory Adventures DVDs is its own important element to the whole of the franchise’s latest installment. Coupled with its solidly written literary lessons the two elements together show clearly why every classroom and living room would benefit from having a copy of Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers. For all of the enjoyment that both elements offer audiences in this presentation, the people at Lionsgate and Leap Frog didn’t stop there. Once again, they have included as bonus material curriculum commentary for parents and teachers that offers far more in depth discussion on the lessons than this critic can give. The commentary explains all of the little nuances of the lessons. It really is another important addition to this DVD that educators especially will appreciate. The bonus sing-a-longs take the songs featured in the program and make them karaoke style, encouraging children to sing along even more. It is another way to drive home the concepts being taught throughout the program. As with the curriculum commentary, this bonus is one more standard element in the Letter Factory Adventures DVDs. And it is another welcome standard, too. It proves once again here just how valuable it is to the whole of the presentation. It proves to be just as invaluable to the whole as the curriculum commentary and the lessons themselves. When it is taken into consideration with those other elements it becomes the period at the end of a statement that will have audiences of all ages happily paying attention from beginning to end with each watch.

From its solidly-written literary lessons to its equally entertaining and educational song numbers to its all-too-important curriculum commentary and karaoke style sing-a-longs, Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers presents plenty for audiences of all ages to appreciate. Whether taken by themselves or collectively, they show regardless the continued attention to detail that was given to this installment of the Letter Factory Adventures franchise. They show a continued dedication to excellence in education. And it is that continued dedication to excellence that makes this latest Letter Factory Adventure one that families and classes alike will enjoy taking time and again now that it is available in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Leap Frog’s online store at http://www.leapfrog.com/en-us/app-center/p/letter-factory-adventures-amazing-word-explorers/_/A-prod51563-96914. More information on this and other installments in the Letter Factory Adventures franchise is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.leapfrog.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LeapFrog

 

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20th Century Fox’s Night At The Museum Series Goes Out On A Low Note With Its Last Installment

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

When it originally debuted in theaters late in 2014, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ended up being pulled not long after its original run. It comes across as no surprise that it was pulled so quickly. That’s because it is just a hollow shell of the movie that kicked off 20th Century Fox’s Ben Stiller-led franchise some eight years ago with Night at the Museum. The movie is alleged to have had a production budget of approximately $127 million. By comparison, its total domestic take at the box office was rumored to be around $113,531,745. On the surface that may seem like it was a relative success despite coming up short of its budget. It’s deceiving, though. That’s because the box office sales number is the movie’s gross rather than net. After 20th Century Fox recouped its production budget that left the movie to actually keep only $13,468,255. That is a massive loss to say the least. Put more simply, the movie hemorrhaged money. Given, the total domestic plus foreign sales actually garnered the movie a healthy net profit. But it doesn’t make up for the movie’s lackluster domestic sales. It’s even more proof that American audiences are in fact growing weary of Hollywood’s constantly running river of prequels, sequels, and remakes. So what caused this movie to perform so poorly at least at the American box office? The primary issue with the movie is its script. The script breaks absolutely no new ground in comparison to the franchise’s first two movies. As a matter of fact it goes so far as to rehash much of the material from those movies in hopes that audiences would fall for the writing team’s pathetic overall lack of originality and creativity.  The acting is another issue that should be noted in considering what doomed this movie. Having seen the same sort of comic performances twice over in both NATM and NATM 2, Stiller’s acting here—and that of his cast mates—has become old hat and is just as uninspired as the movie’s script. For all of the movie’s cons, there is one saving grace to the whole thing That saving grace is the fact that the movie continues to push the values of the world’s museums and on a larger scale, learning about the history of the world. In simpler terms, it continues to promote the importance of education albeit history education. That is certainly laudable considering that today’s youths are more concerned with the latest video games and the next big viral video than the excitement of the world’s history. Is it enough to save this movie? Sadly, the answer is no. But at least it doesn’t try to fictionalize history and make it something it isn’t in its efforts to entertain young audiences. Taking into account each of its noted elements, NATM 3 (as it will henceforth be known) proves to be just as forgettable in its new home release as its big screen release last year.

20th Century Fox’s third and hopefully truly last installment in its Night at the Museum franchise is the worst of the studio’s three-movie series. There is by and large very little that makes this movie memorable or even enjoyable. The movie’s script is the main reason that it suffers and in turn makes audiences suffer. The script is laughable especially considering that the trilogy first kicked off eight years ago. The story presented in this movie’s script sees Larry (once again played by Ben Stiller) and all of his friends from the original Night at the Museum movie go on a trip across the Atlantic to return the magical tablet at the center of the trilogy to Ahkmenrah’s father in “Egypt.” The trip has to be made because *gasp* the tablet has been away from its proper place for too long. Apparently it hadn’t already sat in the Museum of Natural History in New York for far too long at the time of the trilogy’s first installment. Go figure. So instead of any new story, it all centers on the tablet once again. And not to ruin things for those that haven’t yet seen the movie now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, but the group’s “epic” quest isn’t quite as epic as one might think. Instead of actually going to Egypt, they travel to London’s major museum and have to get to the museum’s Egypt wing so as to return the tablet to Ahkmenrah’s father (played in little more than a cameo role by Sir Ben Kingsley). With a budget allegedly topping $127 million one would have thought that Larry and company might have actually somehow made the trip to Egypt or the country’s main museum instead of the Egypt wing of London’s central history museum. Add in the fact that Larry and his friends have to hunt for their pint size pals Jedediah and Octavius (once again played by Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan respectively) and also have to get the tablet back from a misguided Sir Lancelot along the way all while maneuvering their way through the museum, and audiences get a script that when examined in such full detail, can only be described as completely contrived, unoriginal, and completely lacking in any creativity. That’s not even to mention the underlying plot of Larry’s relationship with his now teenage son who wants to travel the world instead of go off to college. It is all too much.

The script thrown together by NATM 3’s writing team does more than its own share of damage to this movie. The very fact that multiple parties played a role in the script’s creation could in fact be to blame for its numerous issues. As much damage as the movie’s script does to the movie’s overall presentation, it’s just one of the movie’s major setbacks. The work of the movie’s cast does its own share of damage, too. Larry’s back and forth with Dexter and Laa is all too familiar for those that have watched NATM and NATM 2. It’s been done. It’s one of those situations that proves to be anything but funny this time around because it has already been done so much before. Even Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan felt slightly like they were just “phoning it in” during their parts. It was almost like they themselves had grown somewhat tired of the roles and were trying hard to not show it. On a lesser note, Rebel Wilson is just as annoying in her role of Tilly as Jonah Hill was as security guard Brandon in NATM 2. To be totally frank, having a similar character type used as the secondary guard twice over shows yet again the writers’ lack of creativity or enlightenment. They obviously didn’t learn from Hill’s failures as is evident in Wilson’s portrayal of Tilly. For all of the damage that the cast does with its work in front of the camera, it can at least be said that Robin Williams didn’t disappoint in what is one of his final roles before his untimely death. It’s easy to tell that once again he put in his whole effort from beginning to end. The same can be said of Patrick Gallagher in his return as Attila The Hun. While he is not the lead star, he is still just as entertaining as ever. To that extent one can argue that at least the movie has that as its single, shining ray of light in an otherwise dark cloud of a sequel.

The writing that went into NATM 3 and the work of the cast by does a lot to prove this movie to be one more sequel that never should have seen the light of day. Though, not the entire cast is so disappointing. Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher both shine in their own right. Sadly, their work in front of the camera is the movie’s only fully noticeable saving grace in terms of the movie’s intrinsic value. For all of the problems that show up throughout NATM 3, there is at least one positive that can be noted when looking at the movie from a larger scale. That positive is the series’ continued push for history education and the support of the world’s museums. In an age when the world’s youths are increasingly being distracted by social media, video games, and their cell phones, the continued push to get those same younger audiences interested in history and the houses that keep said history is actually welcome. After all, it has been said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Not only that but those who forget the past won’t have an appreciation for what they have today, either. NATM 3 does a good job of reminding audiences both young and old alike of how far the world has come over the centuries. And when coupled with the series’ first two movies, it does in fact make this installment more worth the watch if only for that one reason. Sadly though, it is the only reason other than the work of Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher that NATM 3 is worth the watch. Other than those two reasons, there is no reason to watch this otherwise forgettable flick.

There is not much positive to say about NATM 3. Other than the work of two of its cast members and the continued solid push for history education and the buildings that house the world’s history, there is not much that can be noted to the movie’s positive side. The script was completely unoriginal and contrived. That is likely because of the number of people working on the script. It just feels like it has all been done before. The same can be said of the cast’s acting, even in the case of new cast member Rebel Wilson. There is no new ground broken in this avenue, either. One could even say that seeing even more museum figures coming to life is anything but new, too. On the other hand though, introducing new historical figures also continues the series’ push for history education and support for the world’s museums. To that extent, NATM 3 has at least that much to its credit. Sadly that is all that it has to its credit. That means that while it’s worth at least a watch, it’s not worth much more than that.

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