‘Jasper Jones’ Is One Of This Year’s Best Foreign Imports

Courtesy: Film Movement/Screen Australia

Murder mysteries and coming of age tales are among the most overly common story plots used today in literature and cinema.  From the U.S. to the U.K. to points around and between, both plots – both alone and combined – they seem to be among the most popular story types among viewers and readers alike.  Yet it seems in so many cases that between the genres, that there is little variance from one story to the next.  Luckily though, every now and then, a little variance does happen along.  Enter the Australian import Jasper Jones.  Originally released in Australia on March 2, 2017, this powerfully moving human drama made its domestic debut this past April courtesy of the independent movie studio Film Movement.  Billed as “Australia’s Stand By Me,” this deeply engrossing story can also be likened in part to To Kill A Mockingbird.  That is evident in the movie’s writing, which forms the foundation of the movie’s presentation.  It will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s on-screen work adds to the movie’s presentation, too and will keep viewers just as engaged as the movie’s central story.  It will be discussed a little later.  The bonus cast interviews put the final touch to the movie’s home presentation.  It will also be discussed later.  Each element is critical in its own way to the whole of this story.  All things considered, they make Jasper Jones a movie that fans of murder mysteries and coming-of-age flicks alike will appreciate from its home country all the way to America and points in-between.

Film Movement and Screen Australia’s gripping human drama Jasper Jones is a powerful cinematic work that crime drama and coming-of-age fans around the globe will appreciate.  That includes American audiences who maybe are looking for something different from the constant run-of-the-mill gory crime dramas that so permeate television and theaters here in this country.  That is due in no small part to its story.  Unlike so many American movies and television crime dramas, this story relies solely on writing instead of blood and gore (which is what it seems so many American crime dramas rely on today) to keep viewers engaged.  Here, audiences find a young boy named Charlie who…well…comes of age after being pulled into the mystery of a young girl’s death by a young man who the whole town dislikes.  The townspeople dislike Jasper, it would seem, purely out of some personal bias.  That bias comes into play later when the family of Charlie’s friend Jeffrey Lu is harassed by white members of the community in retaliation for Jeffrey helping his cricket team win a match.  That’s getting off topic.  Getting back on topic, Charlie is forced to keep secret what Jasper has revealed to him as the pair tries to figure out who killed the girl.  It just so happens that the girl is the sister of Charlie’s love interest, Eliza (played here by Angourie Rice – Spiderman: Homecoming, The Nice Guys, The Beguiled).  This complicates things even more until Eliza herself reveals a troubling truth about her sister’s death that puts everything on its ear, especially after the revelation of the red herring.  What’s interesting about the red herring (who won’t be revealed here) is that the inclusion of the character in question, is where the comparison to Harper Collins’ great novel To Kill A Mockingbird comes into play.  The character and its inclusion can so easily be likened to the use of Boo Radley in the novel in question.  While all of this is going on, Charlie (who honestly, in this critic’s view looks like Joshua Jackson from his time in Disney’s Mighty Ducks franchise when he was around that age) also has to deal with family issues at home.  His parents are constantly fighting, his mother is cheating on his dad (played by Dan Wyllie – The Hunter, No Activity, Muriel’s Wedding), and he is just trying to navigate it all.  One can’t deny that at times, the balance between this element and the main story does cause the movie to get bogged down in itself a little bit, but thankfully it’s not so much that it makes the movie unwatchable.  Rather, it could have perhaps been a little bit better balanced as it seems at times to bounce back and forth as part of the overall story.  Either way, this plot element and the story’s main plot still work well enough together to keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the roughly 103-minute (1-hour, 43-minute) movie.  Of course when it’s all said and done, audiences will also agree that the story overall is so powerful that one absolutely must be in a certain mindset in order to appreciate the movie’s emotional depth.  It’s not one of those stories that one can just turn on any time.  It really demands that much and that kind of emotional attention and connection in order to fully appreciate it’s depth.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is a key piece of its presentation that forms a strong foundation for its presentation.  That foundation is strengthened even more through the cast’s on-camera work.

The cast’s work on camera throughout this story is so critical to note because of the story’s emotional depth.  It is not an easy story to take in, being so deep.  That being the case, it was key for the cast to do its utmost to help illustrate that emotional depth.  Each cast member did just that, beginning with lead star Levi Miller, who plays Charlie.  Miller, who is a relative newcomer to the movie industry according to IMDB (it lists no film or TV credits to his name) is to be commended for his handling of Charlie as Charlie has to come to terms with everything going on in his life.  One of the moments in which he shows he deserves such credit is the subtle moment early on when Jeffrey (Kevin Long – another relative newcomer to the business — is asking Charlie a bunch of “would you rather” questions on the pair’s ride to school.  Charlie is clearly lost in his thoughts of what Jasper revealed to him, and it would have been so easy for Miller to go over the top in his handling of Charlie’s mentality at the moment.  Instead though, he made Charlie’s mindset fully believable as someone who has really got too much for someone of such age on his mind.  Miller’s handling of Charlie as he continues to struggle to tell Eliza what he discovered of her sister is another good example of what makes his work so endearing.  Again, it would have been so easy for him to ham up those dramatic moments, yet his subtle acting in those moments added to the story’s tension.  Even how he handled his growing frustration toward his mother, Ruth (Toni Collette – Little Miss Sunshine, The Sixth Sense, Muriel’s Wedding) shows so much talent for such a young actor.

Miller’s performance throughout the story here is definitely worthy of applause.  His isn’t the only applause-worthy performance, though.  Collette’s work as Ruth Bucktin, Charlie’s mom, cannot and should not be overlooked.  As Collette noted in the movie’s bonus interviews (the interviews will be discussed a little later), Ruth is in a place in this story in which she is trying to make sense of her life.  The thing is, Ruth trying to make sense of her life makes it so easy for viewers to hate Ruth.  From over reacting to the local death mystery (including forcing her son to do unnecessary back-breaking manual labor, which likely would have gotten her arrested today) to her cheating ways, Ruth is just a completely troubled character who has got a lot of problems.  There is just no defending her, which it would seem is what the story was aiming for.  It helped to illustrate the emotional strife that Charlie was going through and having to navigate as he also dealt with the knowledge of the girl’s death.  So kudos goes to Mrs. Collette for her portrayal of Ruth.  She really proves to be one of this story’s unsung stars.  Hers is still not the last of the notable performances included in this movie.  Aaron L. McGrath (The Code, Around The Block, Ready For This) who plays the movie’s title character, deserves his own share of attention, too.

Considering that the movie is named after Jasper, but it is never explained why everyone instantly assumes he’s responsible for the disappearance of Eliza’s sister or why he appears so little on camera, McGrath does a good job of adding his own tension to the story when he is on camera.  His best moment comes as he confronts Mad Jack and is forced to face a certain dark reality that will surprise everyone.  The way in which McGrath presents Jasper’s mix of pained emotion as he points the rifle at Mad Jack makes one really feel for Jasper.  That’s because it shows how much Jasper really cared about Eliza’s sister.  This is another one of those moments in which an actor could so easily go way too far over the top, yet McGrath didn’t.  Rather, he handled the moment expertly, pulling audiences in and holding them through the whole sequence.  It’s just one more way in which the cast’s on-camera work here is so critical to the movie’s presentation.  Each of the other cast members could just as easily be cited here, but there’s not enough time or space to pay each one the time they deserve.  Keeping that in mind, the cast’s work, as shown here, couples with the story’s writing to do plenty to keep audiences completely engaged in the story from start to end.  It still is not the last element to note in examining the movie’s whole.  The bonus cast interviews included in the movie’s home release are also of note.

Miller’s sit-down is one of the more notable of the cast interviews.  His discussion on Charlie’s relationship with his parents shows the seriousness of that element of Charlie’s personal growth.  The same can be said of his understanding of Charlie’s own growth from the beginning of the story to the end.  His appreciation for author Craig Silvey (who wrote the book on which Jasper Jones is based) shows just as much his maturity in handling his on-screen responsibilities.  One must remember in taking in these and other discussions brought up during his interview, that this is a young man who apparently had little to no screen credits coming into his role.  So to hear such frank and mature discussion shows this young man is certain to have a solid acting career if given the chance.  Director Rachel Perkins’ discussion on balancing the movie’s dark and light elements shows a real focus on that key detail.  It’s refreshing to hear such serious attention so as to not let the movie be too depressing.  Her discussions on the cast, and what made each cast member the right choice adds even more appreciation for each cast member’s work, speaking again of the cast’s work.  Her discussion on the movie’s reach and accessibility is jus as enlightening because she shows she understands the importance of properly adapting a literary work to the cinematic world.  She notes that Craig Silvey approved the script’s final draft, which clearly lifted a great burden from her.  It’s a fun, yet clearly appreciative moment that shows how serious she took getting the adaptation right.  The discussion on how the movie addresses race relations at the time at that part of the country is enlightening in its own right.  Between these discussions and others that she shares, Perkins’ discussions show yet again the importance of the movie’s bonus interviews.  They really add their own strength to the overall foundation of the movie’s presentation.  That is shown through the other noted interviews and those not directly noted.  When all of the interviews are considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work throughout, the end result is a work that drama fans – not just crime drama fans – the world over will appreciate.

Jasper Jones might not be one of the best-known human/crime dramas to be released in recent years.  Yet, it is a human/crime drama that clearly deserves more attention than it has already gotten.  That is because it has so much to offer fans of both genres beginning with its gripping story.  The story follows its young protagonist as he has to navigate the waters of keeping a dark secret while also dealing with what is a difficult home life.  Yes, it does get a little bogged down at time, but not to the point that it makes one want to skip through any scenes.  That’s a tribute to those charged with adapting the original literary work to the screen.  The cast’s work adds to the story, giving audiences just as much to appreciate, as has been noted.  The bonus interviews included in the movie’s home release strengthen the movie’s foundation even more, and in turn, show once more the importance of bonus material to any movie, domestic or otherwise.  When all three elements are jointly considered, they present Jasper Jones as one of this year’s best unknown foreign import flicks.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.filmmovement.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Film_Movement

 

 

 

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‘National Parks Adventure’ Is A Powerful, Moving Cinematic Adventure

Courtesy: Shout! Factory.MacGillivray Freeman Films

The United States today has roughly 400 national parks spread from one end of the country to the other.  That includes parks not only in the lower 48 states, but in Alaksa and Hawaii, too.  They are among America’s greatest collective natural treasures.  Sadly though, many of America’s parks are at risk thanks to the nation’s current ruling body.  They need to be protected.  That message is driven home in stunning fashion in MacGillivray Freeman Films’ new national parks doc National Parks Adventure.  Scheduled to be released July 17 via Shout! Factory, this powerful 43-minute presentation effectively drives home that message, too.  That is done in part through the story at the center of the doc.  It will be discussed shortly.  The doc’s cinematography adds to its impact even more, and will be discussed a little later.  Its bonus material puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Each element is important in its own way to the whole of its presentation.  When these elements are coupled with the doc’s packaging and pricing, the whole of these elements makes the program in whole a strong, important reminder of why America’s national parks are great getaways and in turn, why they must be protected from those who would set out to let them be destroyed.

MacGillivray Freeman Films’ new documentary National Parks Adventure is a beautiful, loving tribute to America’s national parks system.  It is a strong reminder of why the parks system must be protected and preserved from the forces that set out to let any harm come to them, such as those in office today.  That message is presented so strongly in part through the story at the doc’s center.  The story follows a trio of adventurers who make their way from the redwood forests of California up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, climbing and exploring various parks along the way.  Viewers get to see for themselves along the way, the beauty of some of the nation’s greatest national wonders.  The only downside to the story is the fact that for the mention of the parks that span the nation, the trio’s adventure spanks only half (if that much) of the country.  To that end, maybe there will be a “sequel” of sorts that will take the trio (or another trio) across the other half of the country on to the East coast.  After all, audiences get a glimpse into Everglades National Park, so it would make sense to give a little more thorough look at that and other parks on the East coast.  That aside, the journey that is undertaken here is still one that is certain to keep viewers engaged, regardless if only for the journey.  Of course, the journey at the center of the doc is only one part of what makes the doc engaging.  Its cinematography is really the program’s cornerstone.

National Parks Adventure’s cinematography is stunning to say the absolute least.  Shot entirely on 15perf 65mm 3D cameras, the parks presented in their full beauty from the ground and the air.  The redwood forests’ full presentation is moving, especially as the program takes viewers back in time to the creation of the national parks system by President Roosevelt.  The national parks of the southwest present some of the most awe-inspiring visuals of the program.  The rich contrast of the sun and shade against the rocks in various shots will leave viewers saying wow.  This applies just as much as the trio rides its bikes down the sheer cliffs of one of the parks on their journey.  The shots of the ice cave in Michigan is itself strong in its visuals.  Maybe it’s the way the light hits the ice and snow that hangs from the cave’s surface.  Maybe it’s just the protruding structures themselves.  Maybe it’s all of that combined.  Either way, it is another memorable moment that again clearly displays the expert talent of those behind the cameras.  One can only imagine what these (and the program’s other various stunning shots) must have looked like on a full IMAX screen if one was not lucky enough to catch the program on said screen.  Considering how rich the visuals are on the small screen (of course small is relative, since screens can reach upwards of 60-inches — if not more today) they must have looked so much more enthralling on an IMAX screen.  When the depth that the cinematography is considered along with the very importance of this program’s story, the two elements obviously give the program quite the depth overall, and in turn gives audiences reason to watch this doc at least once.  Even as much as the noted elements do to the positive for National Parks Adventure, they are not its only key elements.  The bonus material plays into the doc’s presentation, too

The bonus material included with the program’s home release includes separated “making of” featurette segments that focus on different shooting locations as well as commentary on the making of from those behind the camera.  Audiences learn through the “making of” segments that filming the Michigan shoot happened actually because a shoot at another location did not play out how the crew and director had wanted, and that things only got more difficult with that shoot.  Not to give away too much, but that difficulty included technical issues raised by the weather.  Viewers also learn that the crew filmed far more parks than were shown.  In all, it’s revealed, that the crew filmed at 25 of the nation’s national parks.  So obviously not all of the footage was used.  It’s too bad that none of the unused footage was included as deleted scenes.  It would have been interesting to see some of that footage.  The bonus interviews included with the bonuses includes a brief interview with narrator and veteran actor Robert Redford.  Yes, that Robert Redford.  He states outright during his interview that “national parks are extremely important to protect and preserve.”  He explains his love for the parks and for mother nature in general started when he was 11, after he survived polio and that “there is something almost spiritual in the power of the parks.”  That in itself makes for its own share of interest.  As if that devotion to this program (and to nature) isn’t enough for audiences, director Greg MacGillivray himself seconds Redford’s thoughts in his own words.  Those statements give firm certainty as to the purpose of this program.  It was made as a means to call attention to the importance of protecting the parks so that future generations will be able to appreciate them.  Considering this, and the depth added to the program through the bonus making of featurettes, the appreciation will be not only for the parks, but for the work put into making a program aimed at calling people to want to protect the parks, too.  That being the case, it will leave audiences agreeing that this doc in whole is a successful call to action as well as a tribute to some of America’s greatest natural wonders, especially when the bonus material is considered alongside the program’s main story and its cinematography.

National Parks Adventure is not the first program of its kind, aimed at bringing attention to a certain issue while also trying to entertain audiences.  Even despite this, it success at doing both without letting that awareness factor overpower the entertainment.  This is proven in part through the story, which follows three people making their way through some of America’s national parks.  The cinematography used in each park does plenty to make that journey engaging and entertaining.  The bonus material adds its own depth to the program especially through the bonus commentary.  That’s because that commentary certifies that this program is in fact an activist doc of sorts.  Even with this revelation, audiences will note that it doesn’t overpower the program’s entertaining elements.  That balance of awareness and entertainment makes the program in whole an adventure that audiences will definitely enjoy.  It will be available July 24 and can be pre-ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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PBS Distribution Releasing Two Early Halloween “Treats” This Summer For The Whole Family

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Summer is officially here, and before long, fall will be here, too.  With the return of fall also comes the start of the annual holiday season, Halloween.  Most people refuse to accept that the holiday season starts with Halloween, but it does.  In anticipation of Halloween’s return, PBS Distribution has two DVDs on the way — the brand new DVD Ready, Jet Go!Jet’s First Halloween and the re-issue of the classic Garfield Halloween special, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.

The lead episode in this season follows Jet’s friends — Sydney, Sean and Mindy — as they help him experience and enjoy his first ever Halloween, from carving a jack-o-lantern to trick or treating to even a haunted house of sorts.  In return, Mindy gets to fly by the red moon, something she had wanted to do for a long time. Celery even takes the kids into space to see a lunar eclipse along the way.

For all of the fun that everyone has during the night, there is one problem that the kids face:  Mitchell Petersen.  Mitchell is determined to find out what is going on with the Propulsion family, so the kids have to deal with him while keeping the family’s secret and trying to enjoy the night.  This story is divided into two segments to add to the enjoyment.  It isn’t the only story included in the disc.  Two more episodes are included as bonuses.

The first episode — “Diggin’ Earth'” — is a familiar story that finds Jet and company wanting to dig to the center of the earth after reading a story in a comic book about just that.  Yes, it’s another take of Jules Verne’s timeless story Journey To The Center of the Earth.  When the kids find out the reality of their effort, they still work to be the first kids to dig the farthest into the earth.

The second bonus episode — “Mindy’s Mystery” — is a botany lesson of sorts.  It follows Mindy, Jet and company as they try to track down a sweet aroma that’s keeping Mindy awake.  The source of the smell is a surprise to everyone, and leads to the botany lesson in question.

Ready, Jet, Go!Jet’s First Halloween runs 80 minutes and will retail for MSRP of $6.99.  It can be pre-ordered online now direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this DVD is available along with lots of Ready, Jet, Go! activities, printables and more at:

 

Website: http://pbskids.org/readyjetgo

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

 

Courtesy: PBS Distribution

Also set for release August 28 from PBS Distribution is a re-issue of the timeless Garfield Halloween special, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.  The special was most recently re-issued as part of Anderson Digital’s Garfield holiday collection in 2015.  This time it is being released by itself as PBS Distribution released the collection’s other two holiday specials together on DVD in 2017.

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure follows everyone’s favorite feisty feline as he recruits his k-9 pal Odie to help him get lots of candy on Halloween.  The duo ends up at an old deserted house that turns out to not be as deserted as they thought.  The special will have the fur…er….hair standing up on the backs of viewers’ necks, It may be a little too spooky for some younger audiences, though older kids might find it spooky fun.

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure will retail for MSRP of $6.99 and can be pre-ordered online via PBS’ online store.

More information on the latest Garfield DVDs is available online along with Garfield games and more at:

Website: http://www.garfield.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/garfield

 

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Shout! Factory Kids, Legacy Classics Partner To Release New Boxcar Children Adventure

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Legacy Classics

Shout! Factory and Legacy Classics are bringing the classic literary figures The Boxcar Children to Blu-ray and DVD in a brand new, Dove-approved adventure this summer.

The Boxcar ChildrenSurprise Island is scheduled to be released August 7 via Shout! Factory Kids.  The story, co-directed by Dan Chuba (The Boxcar Children) and Mark Dippe (SpawnGarfield Gets RealGarfield’s Pet Force), follows the young orphans as they spend the summer on their grandfather’s tiny, almost uninhabited island.  As it turns out, there is at least one other person living on the island, a mysterious figure named Joe.

Joe seems very friendly and helpful, but something about him doesn’t seem right.  So, the kids start trying to figure out if he’s hiding something.  The movie features the voice talents of J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 – 3WhiplashLa La Land), Martin Sheen (The DepartedApocalypse NowSpawn), Griffin Gluck (Just Go With ItWhy Him?, Just Before I Go), Dane Dehaan (ChronicleThe Place Beyond The PinesThe Amazing Spder Man 2), Joey King (The Kissing BoothWhite House DownThe Conjuring), Talitha Bateman (The 5th WaveAnnabelleCreation, Love, Simon) and Gil Birmingham (TwilightThe Twilight SagaBreaking Dawn Part 1, The Twilight SagaBreaking Dawn Part 2).

The Boxcar ChildrenSurprise Island can be pre-ordered online now direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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‘Incredibles II’ Is More Proof That The Sequel Is Rarely, If Ever, As Good As The Original

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Disney/Pixar’s new animated movie Incredibles II is one of the studios’ most anticipated movies since the studio released its debut animated movie Toy Story way back in 1995.  Fourteen years in the making, this sequel has been demanded by fans every year since the The Incredibles premiered, and hyped up quite a bit in the past year or so by Disney/Pixar in response to that demand.  That being the case, expectations were quite high for this latest offering from what is one of Hollywood’s leading studios in Pixar.  While this highly anticipated sequel largely lives up to those expectations – thanks to its story — it is not without at least one con – its pacing.  That will be covered later along with another of the movie’s positives, the work of the movie’s voice cast.  Keeping its pros and con in consideration, Incredibles II definitely lives up to the hype and is worth the watch, but is also more proof that the sequel is rarely if ever, as good as the original.

Incredibles II is an interesting new offering from Disney/Pixar.  While maybe not Disney/Pixar’s best effort, it is also not the studios’ worst offering either as is evidenced partly through its story.  The story at the center of Incredibles II picks up right where its predecessor left off, with the Parr family facing off against The Underminer.  The outcome of that instance sets up the remainder of the story, which sees the roles established in The Incredibles reversed.  This time, Bob stays at home and has to tend to the Violet and Dash while Helen goes out and gets to live the dream that she talked about all those years ago.  That continuity is, in itself a strong piece of the story.  The deeper evaluation of the family dynamic here, seeing Bob struggle (and eventually settle into a rhythm) as he tries to be “super” dad while Helen gets to live her dream this time is interestingly enough something to which so many couples can relate.  That’s because every husband and wife/mom and dad has gone through Bob and Helen’s situation at one point or another in life children aside.  From Bob trying to make sense of the “new math” with Dash to him chasing around little Jack Jack to Helen feeling like she has to run home at the drop of a hat, despite living her dream, every couple with kids has been there, trying to balance their lives.  This is just one part of what makes the story work as well as it does.  Writer/Director Brad Bird is to be commended for his use of a red herring to mislead audiences.  This is despite the fact that there is still a certain predictability to the story in regards to the villain’s true identity.  One has to appreciate how Bird managed to make even grown up viewers second guess themselves even just to a point in this aspect.  The only downside to the whole story is the revelation of how the villain’s plan was executed.  That revelation won’t be revealed here, but when audiences see for themselves, they will agree it is anything but original.  Rather it’s something that’s been done so many times.  Of course, in Bird’s defense, this movie is a super hero movie, so there are of course going to be some limitations in how the evil plot is executed as well as other elements.  Keeping all of this in mind, even with its pros and cons in itself, the story at the center of Incredibles II proves to form a relatively solid foundation for the movie’s overall presentation.  In turn, it alone makes for enough reason to watch this movie at least once.  While the story clearly does plenty to make Incredibles II at least somewhat watchable, it does suffer from one major problem.  That problem is its pacing.

The pacing of the movie’s story doesn’t make it unwatchable, but there is no denying that it does detract from the overall viewing experience at the same time.  The pacing really becomes most prominent as an issue around the final act of the roughly 2-hour story.  The final act takes place onboard Devtech’s ship, but is set up just beforehand.  That entire act could have been shortened without the story losing any of its depth.  It was as if Bird was trying too hard to appeal to hardcore viewers who had waited with baited breath for so many years for this story, and the end result was so much material going into the story that honestly could have been left out.  It leaves one wondering how many scenes, if any, ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor before it was all said and done.  Truth be told, the amount of material thrown into the final act (and even somewhat into the second act) makes the movie’s 1-hour, 58-minute run time feel every bit that long.  While it feels every bit that long, at least the pacing doesn’t make the movie feel any longer than that set time limit.  To that end, while the movie’s pacing is problematic in the grand scheme of things, it is not enough to leave the movie unwatchable.  It just means that when the movie eventually is released on DVD, BD and digital outlets, people will definitely find themselves thankful to be able to watch it at their speed.  Luckily for the movie’s sake, this is its only major con. Given, there’s also the issue of trying to figure out why no one saw Jack Jack’s powers in action at the end of The Incredibles in examining that pacing.  Were Bob and Helen not looking up when Jack Jack was fighting Syndrome?  Honestly, that is something else that deserves note.  That’s because of how much of the story is taken up by Bob dealing with Jack Jack’s growing powers.  They had to have seen what he was doing before Bob launched Helen up to catch Jack Jack after Syndrome’s plane was destroyed.  To that end, it makes the movie’s story and related pacing even more problematic.  Adding that issue to the overall presentation that is Incredibles II, it detracts from the movie’s presentation even more, and honestly does make one question the movie overall that much more.  Of course maybe Bob and Helen didn’t see Jack Jack or maybe they forgot.  It is conceivable.  Keeping that in mind, it still keeps the movie off of life support. To that end, the movie does have at least one more positive.  That positive is the work of the movie’s voice cast.

Audiences will note that save for maybe one character – Dash – the original voice cast from The Incredibles returned for this installment of the Parr family’s adventures.  This is important to note because it meant a certain level of familiarity and friendship among the cast.  That familiarity made for performances that were just as believable as those in The Incredibles.  Huck Milner is the only new addition to the cast this time out, as he took over from Spencer Fox as the voice of Dash, and even being the “new kid on the block,” Milner still held his own as the voice of the precocious young lad.  In fact, he makes Dash just as believable here as the rest of his family.  Audiences will laugh with joy as he tries to steal back Bob’s car (and eventually does, but for a good reason, not to give away too much) because of his enthusiasm and naivety.  In the same breath, Sarah Vowell’s presentation of the adolescent now teenager Violet is such that her character is just as believable.  Craig T. Nelson is spot on once again as the voice of Bob, who this time has found himself the stay at home dad, trying to control the kids.  His take on Bob as Bob struggles to settle into his new matrimonial role of sorts will have men and women alike laughing.  One of his best moments comes as Bob is falling asleep reading a story to Jack Jack, and Jack Jack ends up trying to wake up daddy.  Every dad out there knows that struggle.  The same applies as he is trying to make sense of the “new math” in order to help Dash with his homework.  When those performances are considered along with that of Holly Hunter (and even Brad Bird once again as Edna Mode), the collective performances of the voice cast gives audiences plenty in themselves to appreciate here, too.  Considering this along with the bigger story of the movie, which really could have used some more work (sadly) before being released, Incredibles II proves to be a movie that after 14 years of waiting maybe should have waited another year as it comes up short, at least in this critic’s view.

Disney/Pixar’s new animated feature Incredibles II took 14 years to finally see the light of day.  It was a movie that for so many, had been 14 years too long in the making.  The reality though, is that because of an issue with pacing and one major plot hole that could so easily negate most of this story, Incredibles II probably should have waited at least one more year, if not more.  Simply put, it’s a work that proves once again that the sequel is rarely if ever, as good as the original.

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‘The Honey Games’ Is A “Sweet” New Addition To Studio 100’s ‘Maya The Bee’ Franchise

Courtesy: Shout! Factory Kids/Shout! Factory

Maya the Bee is back on Blu-ray with a brand new adventure that is certain to have viewers of all ages *ahem* buzzing courtesy of Shout! Factory and Studio 100.  The adventure, Maya The Bee 2 comes a little more than two years after the release of its predecessor, Maya The Bee, which was also released via Shout! Factory and Studio 100.  While it likely will not be unfamiliar to many audiences in its approach, this installment in the Maya The Bee franchise is still a story that is certain to entertain and engage viewers of all ages.  That story is one part of what makes the movie worth at least one watch.  The bonus material included with the movie adds to its entertainment, showing even more why this movie is worth seeing.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part in the movie’s presentation, too, and will be discussed a little later on.  Each element noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Maya The Bee 2.  All things considered, they make Maya The Bee 2 a work that is certain to bring the whole family together, and in turn have viewers of all ages buzzing about this new animated feature.

Shout! Factory and Studio 100’s new animated import Maya The Bee 2 is another enjoyable entry in the bigger story of the little bee who could.  It is definitely worth at least one watch.  That is due in no small part to the story at the center of the movie. Many viewers may find that the movie at the center of the movie is not exactly unfamiliar.  It is, at its core, an underdog tale centered on a competition that will decide the fate of two groups.  In the case of this story, Maya and an unlikely group of ragtag misfits join together to defeat Violet and her friends so that Maya’s colony won’t have to sacrifice what little honey it has in a thin summer season.  As expected Violet and her friends at first prove problematic for Maya and Team Poppy.  That’s because of her villainous ways, including playing with the emotions of Maya’s best friend.  As the story progresses, Violet of course learns her lesson and finally does the right thing, leading to a happy ending for all that includes Violet and Maya becoming friends.  It’s anything but new in regards to the overall plot.  Audiences have seen this already in the likes of Disney’s Pixie Hollow Games (one of its many Tinkerbell specials), Monsters University, Revenge of the Nerds and other similar movies and TV specials.  Through it all are the common discussions on friendship, fair play and family that are tied in to the story’s secondary coming-of-age plot.  That secondary plot sees Maya growing as she navigates the situation.  That growth plays directly into the main plot, and in turn shows even more why the movie’s story, while not unfamiliar, is still reason enough for families to see it at least once.  It is only one part of what makes Maya The Bee 2 an interesting watch.  The bonus material that is included in the movie’s presentation strengthens that presentation even more.

The bonus material included with Maya The Bee 2’s home release is the standard fare, much as with its story – a behind-the-scenes making of featurette that shows how the movie came to life.  Yet, it does its own share to entertain viewers and keep them engaged.  The making of featurette gives viewers a glimpse into the process of the movie’s creation, from the importance of lining up the sound effects (and using the proper tools to create the sound effects) to the time and effort put into making the movie look as realistic as possible and more.  It only runs roughly 20 minutes at the most, yet those discussions and the discussion on the very motivation for the movie’s creation come together the add even more reason for families to watch the movie.  That’s because of the added appreciation that they create for the movie overall.  Even with that added appreciation in mind, the noted elements are still not the last of the movie’s most important elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation, too.

The work of the movie’s cast is important to note because while it is voice over work, it still requires its own share of effort and time.  Luckily, that time and effort paid off, especially for lead voice actor Coco Jack Gillies (Mad Max: Fury Road, The evil’s Playground, Oddball and the Penguins), the voice of Maya.  Whether in her happier moments or her more emotional moments, Gillies makes Maya a wholly sympathetic character for whom audiences will have no problem rooting.  Case in point is the movie’s climax, in which Maya admits to the Queen (Justine Clark – Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Look Both Ways, Danny Deckchair) and to the Empress (Marny McQueen – Son of the Mask, The Mule, Bogan Pride) that she had disrespected each character, and in turn dishonored them.  The humility that Gillies establishes in her delivery makes this moment one of the movie’s most memorable and engaging.  That’s because of Gillies’ ability to make audiences believe her performance.  A happier moment such as that when the Empress initially invites Maya to the games, is just as believable.  Gillies’ cast mates do their own part in making the movie engaging, too.  Linda Ngo (Top of the Lake, The Furies, Mako Mermaids) is just as enjoyable as the despicable and spoiled Violet.  She brings to her performance, a certain something that makes audiences love to hate Violet.  That is a tribute to Ngo’s work.  Even as Violet has her change of heart, Ngo makes that moment believable even as predictable as it was.  Benson Jack Anthony (800 Words, Emo The Musical, High Life) does a good job in his own right, too, even though Willi, Maya’s “sidekick” is not on screen but so much.  Anthony makes the most of each appearance, making viewers applaud him, too.  His performance gives plenty of hope for his future regardless of whether it is in voice work or actually on screen.  Taking into account each of these performances and those not more directly discussed, the whole of the cast’s work proves to do just as much for Maya The Bee 2 as its story and bonus material.  When all three elements are joined together, they make Maya the Bee a movie that is sure to have the whole family *ahem* buzzing.

Studio 100’s latest entry in its Maya The Bee franchise, The Honey Games is a surprisingly *sweet* new addition to the series in both senses of the word.  That is due in part to a story that while not unfamiliar, still gives the story a new life in its dual plot.  The bonus material included with the movie adds a certain extra depth to the story and its presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast – both main and support – ensures in its own way, too, audiences engagement and entertainment.  Each element is important in its own right to the whole of Maya The Bee 2.  All things considered, they make this movie a work that will have the whole family *buzzing.* More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Comedy, Heart, Bonus Content, Combine To Make ‘Doctor Detroit’ One Of 2018’s Top New Movie Re-Issues

Courtesy: SHout! Factory

Truly diversely talented actors are hard to find in the current era of entertainment.  Sure, there are good actors, both male and female, but finding actors who show true diversity and talent within that diversity is difficult to say the very least.  Thinking briefly, some of the names that come to this critic’s mind are the likes of Meryl Streep, the late great Robin Williams, the legendary Katherine Hepburn, and as underappreciated as he is, Paul Giamatti among others.  These actors showed time and again their ability to adapt to so many different styles of performances, and did so with such talent.  As noted, they are just some of the people on that list.  Another name that deserves to be discussed along with them is none other than Dan Akroyd.  Akroyd, has shown just as much talent through his diverse roles as his counterparts and contemporaries.  Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy, My Stepmother Is An Alien, My Girl and so many other movies have allowed Akroyd to exhibit such range and talent therein.  On April 24, another of Akroyd’s classics – Doctor Detroit — will get new life thanks to Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory, thus serving as more proof of Akroyd’s talents and abilities.  Whether audiences are seeing it for the first time or first time in a long time, it proves in many ways not only Akroyd’s talents, but in itself to be one of his best movies.  It proves both statements first and foremost through its story, which will be discussed shortly.  Speaking of Akroyd’s talent and diversity, both show through clearly in his acting, which will be discussed later.  The bonus material included with the movie’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue put the final touch on the movie’s presentation.  Each element is important in its own right to the overall presentation of Doctor Detroit.  All things considered, these elements make this movie (and its soon to be released re-issue) a work that any Dan Akroyd fan will appreciate and that proves Akroyd’s place in the pantheon of great actors.

Shout! Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1983 adult comedy Doctor Detroit is a work that will appeal to any Dan Akroyd fan while also proving just as much as Akroyd’s other movies, why he is one of Hollywood’s elite actors.  Both of those statements are supported in part through the story at the center of this classic comedy.  The story, which is at its heart an underdog story, sees mild-mannered (and very geeky) professor Clifford Skridlow unwittingly thrust into a world that is the polar opposite of his life of academia and the upper crust.  It’s really a fish-out-of-water element that when coupled with that underdog element gives this story so much heart.  One could even argue that Skridlow having to take on an alter ego of sorts in order to free Walker’s ladies – Monica, Jasmine, Thelma and Karen – even gives the movie a sort of super hero element even though it’s not a super hero story.  Through it all, Skridlow maintains his sense of honor, respecting the ladies and befriending Diavolo (T.K. Carter—Domino, Rush Hour, The Thing), again highlighting the story’s underdog element.  Considering that element, the super hero element, and the fish-out-of-water element all being so expertly balanced here, the writing team of Bruce Jay Friedman, Carl Gottlieb and Robert Boris deserve their own share of applause for their work.  More often than not, the more hands in a proverbial pot, the more troubled things get, but that didn’t happen here.  What’s more even with everything going on, the story’s pacing still stayed solid throughout.  What’s more the elements themselves blended together just as well and in turn complimented each other quite well.  In all honesty, if not for the drugs and sexual content, this movie would have been a great family movie.  Director Michael Pressman even makes note of this in his new bonus interview included with the movie’s re-issue. This will be discussed later in the discussion on the movie’s bonus material.  Getting back on track, the story itself and the elements tied into the story give the story so much heart that it alone makes this movie a standout work not just from Akroyd and Universal Pictures, but in general.  It is just part of the reason that the movie stands out, too.  Akroyd’s work on camera is another way in which the movie stands out.

Akroyd’s portrayal of Skridlow and his wild alter ego is so important to note because it keeps audiences just as engaged and entertained as the movie’s story and its combined elements.  The two characters so dramatically juxtapose each other throughout.  One could almost argue that Akroyd took certain parts of his character from his Coneheads skits on Saturday Night Live and attributed it to his take on the “good doctor.”  Those familiar with his performance in those skits will hopefully see that comparison just as much as this critic.  In the same breath, his presentation of Skridlow as a geeky, mild-mannered figure makes one wonder if that portrayal played – at least in part – to his portrayal of Ray Stanz in The Ghostbusters.  That’s because there is at least some similarity in those characters.  Watching Akroyd’s portrayal of Skridlow as he tries to balance the two personality types throughout is a laugh riot and makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Considering all of this, and the work of his supporting cast, those collective performances go a long way toward making the story even more interesting.  They make their characters that entertaining with their comic and caring personas.  While Akroyd’s work, and that of his cast mates, clearly does plenty to add to Doctor Detroit’s enjoyment, it still is not the last of the movie’s most important elements.  The bonus material included in the movie’s upcoming re-issue rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material included in Doctor Detroit’s new re-issue is important to note because it combines some previous bonus material with some new material.  The new material includes a feature length audio commentary with director Michael Pressman and Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball and a one-on-one interview with Pressman about the movie.  The older material includes the familiar promotional radio interviews that the cast did for the movie, the trailers, TV spots, radio spots and photo gallery.  The new material included in this release offers quite a bit of insight and entertainment.  One of the most interesting comments that comes from Pressman’s one-on-one interview is his hindsight revelation about the movie’s drug and sexual content.  He said in no uncertain terms of that content, that he was not fond of that content, looking back on the movie.  Ironically, if that content had not been there, the movie’s story might have been quite different.  That’s not to say a similar story could not have been told.  But it would have likely ended up quite different, but probably still as entertaining in its own right.  That sentiment is echoed in the feature-length audio commentary along with his discussion his decision to make the movie very cartoonish, right down to the wrecker running through the junkyard gate.  Just as interesting to note in his interview and commentary is the note the connection of the drug content to the death of Akroyd’s fellow actor and longtime friend John Belushi’s death not long before the movie’s filming from a drug overdose.  Pressman openly ruminates that he was concerned how Akroyd would handle those references considering Belushi’s passing so soon before work on the movie started.  Bringing everything full circle, Dyball notes during the audio commentary that he personally thought this movie was the point at which Akroyd’s star really started to rise, creatively speaking.  He admitted The Blues Brothers and 1941 were both good movies, but that it wasn’t until this movie that things really started moving for him.  He has a point.  Looking at the movies that came after Doctor DetroitTrading Places, Ghostbusters, Spies Like Us, Dragnet, etc – it is a valid statement, at least to this critic.

As if the information shared in the new bonus material is not enough, the promotional radio interviews offer their own insight and entertainment.  Akroyd talks about The Blues Brothers in one of the radio interviews, noting that he felt the movie was, at its heart, about separation of church and state.  That is an interesting angle to take.  He also notes the creative process for Doctor Detroit and a handful of other topics that are in themselves certain to keep audiences just as entertained and engaged as the information shared in the new bonus material.  Between the information shared by Akroyd and the rest of the movie’s cast in the radio interviews and the information and thoughts shared in the movie’s new bonus material, the bonus material overall presents plenty of its own reason for audiences to watch this new re-issue.  When all of the bonus material is considered along with the work of Akroyd (and his castmates) and the movie’s fully entertaining story, the whole of those elements makes Doctor Detroit the right prescription (yes, this critic went there) for Akroyd’s fans and for classic movie buffs alike.

Shout! Factory’s upcoming re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1983 adult comedy Doctor Detroit is a wonderful watch for Dan Akroyd’s fans and classic film buffs alike.  It is the perfect prescription (yes, this critic went there again) for anyone looking for an alternative to all of the prequels, sequels, reboots, biopics and movies based on actual events currently filling theaters.  That is proven in no small part to the movie’s central story, which expertly balances so many story elements into one whole.  Even being an adult comedy, those elements give the movie just enough heart that if not for the drug and sexual references (including the sexual content that makes up its central plot), this could easily be a family movie.  The work of Akroyd and his fellow cast mates throughout does plenty in its own right to keep audiences entertained and engaged.  The entertainment and insight offered through the movie’s bonus material – both the familiar and the new – adds its own level of enjoyment here, too.  Each element is important in its own right, as has hopefully been made clear in this review.  All things considered, they make the upcoming re-issue of Doctor Detroit one of this year’s top new movie re-issues.  It will be available April 24 in stores and online.  It can be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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