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

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Websitehttps://www.20thcenturystudios.com

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

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

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

Courtesy: Arrow Video

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

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

Courtesy: Arrow Video

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

Both titles are available to order here.

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

Websitehttp://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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

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

Courtesy: Corinth Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Websitehttps://corinthfilms.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/corinthfilms1977

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/corinthfilms

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

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

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy: Sony Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ghostbusters

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

Visual Effects, Bonus Content Are The Saving Graces For ‘Eternals’ In Its New Home Release

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel’s latest addition to the MCU official made it first home premiere this week in the form of the digital release of Eternals.  The movie is set for physical release Feb. 15.  Running more than two and a half hours, this new addition to the MCU is an interesting presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due to its visual effects, which will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s story, while interesting, is also very problematic.  This will be discussed more a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its digital and physical release works with the movie’s visual effects to make it a little more worth watching.  They will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Eternals imperfect, but still worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ newest movie, Eternals, is an intriguing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once now that it has made its way home through digital release.  The movie’s visual effects are the most prominent reason for its limited appeal.  The visual effects have taken the work that those at Marvel Studios have done throughout the company’s history and stepped it up even more.  Seeing the effects used to make Makkari the shockingly fast speedster that she is a prime example of that improved visual technology.  The CGI that was used to make it look like she was making her way through the fight scenes was minimalist in its approach, and because of that, there is something about it that makes it look so clean and believable.  The work used to make Ikaris the Superman-esque figure that he is, is just as impressive.  Again, there is a minimalist approach used to make the lasers shoot from his eyes that makes those moments so entertaining in their own right.  On another note, the work that was used to create the scenes in which Arishem discusses the Eternals’ role on Earth with Sersi is impressive in its own right.  The contrast of Arishem’s massive size to that of Sersi is so clear, and it makes the comparison so powerful in its own right.  Between all of that and the on-site shooting, the overall visual effects used throughout the movie make Eternals at least a treat for the eyes.  Sadly, where the visuals do so well, the movie’s story detracts from the viewing experience to a point.

The story featured in Eternals is important to note because of its inability to balance everything going on in terms of the themes and the general story.  The story is essentially a nearly three-hour rumination on the meaning of life and our purpose on this planet.  Along the way, there is a completely contrived love story element in the story’s finale, which will also not be given away here.  Along the way, the story goes back and forth in time, between early human history and present day as the Eternals reunite.  The whole back story and team rebuilding takes up the first roughly 90 minutes of the movie.  Yes, there is that much buildup before audiences finally get anything of substance.  That the story does go back and forth, even those who fully immerse themselves in the story will find themselves getting lost along the way.  Keeping this in mind with the realization of the story’s overarching philosophical and theological ruminations, and what audiences get here is a work that does little to keep audiences engaged.  Add in the story’s contrived finale, and the story becomes even more problematic.  As if that is not enough, when the one unnamed Deviant realizes what is really going on, one cannot help but wonder why it wanted to kill the Eternals rather than take the time to find out if maybe they were on the same page.  Maybe that could have led to a more classic story of the protagonists and antagonists teaming up to stop the greater evil.  It is all just so troubling, along with the realization that the story never explains away why Thena has her psychotic moments, that the story really just gives audiences little if anything to appreciate.  Perhaps the reason for all of the problems is that the story’s writers took from so many different eras of Eternals comics for the featured story.  This is part of the discussion in the movie’s “making of” featurette.

The “making of” featurette, as noted, reveals that the writers lifted not only from Jack Kirby’s early Eternals series, but also from other more modern runs, including that of famed Sandman creator, Neil Gaiman.  If the writers had just focused on one story from one era, maybe it would have all worked better.  Only time will tell.  Viewers also learn through the “making of” featurette, the intentional focus on diversity in the cast and how it plays into representation for viewers.  This discussion adds a little appreciation for the movie, but only a little. 

In regards to the deleted scenes, they are crucial in their own way to the movie’s presentation.  That is because in watching through the deleted scenes, audiences will agree that most of the scenes in question do not fit into the final cut.  Only one scene, titled “Nostalgia” really maybe should have stayed in the movie.  The scene finds Sprite and Makkari talking about whether humans deserve to be saved.  There had to have been a place in which it would have fit into the story, especially being so brief.  The other scenes though, clearly did not fit anywhere into the movie.  To that end, it shows the importance of this bonus featured.

The bonus gag reel is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  It does not really add to or detract from the overall presentation in any big way, but it is still entertaining.  That is because it kind of shows that things don’t always go right.  Seeing the cast, attached to wires, dancing around aimlessly as they wait for takes to start will make for plenty of laughs, for instance.  Seeing Angelina Jolie trying and failing to grab an orange with her “spear” is funny because it shows what she had to work with to pretend to grab it.

For those who appreciate production, the feature length audio commentary focuses a lot on the movie’s production, rounding out the bonus content.  When it is considered along with the rest of the movie’s bonus content, the whole becomes that clear in its importance to the movie’s presentation.  Together with the movie’s visual effects, these two elements make up for the problems posed by the story at least to a point and make the movie worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ Eternals is an interesting presentation that will find the majority of its appeal among the most devoted Marvel Comics fans.  More casual audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once, but not really more than that.  Its appeal comes largely from its visual effects.  The visuals effects take the company’s special effects work up another step once more from what it has already offered audiences.  The movie’s story proves somewhat problematic to more casual audiences.  That is because it is really all over the place from beginning to end.  Its movement back and forth in time as it progresses and its philosophical and theological musings throughout make for so many problems.  The less than believable finale puts the final nail in the coffin.  That moment just is not believable, considering everything else that happens in the story.  It just seems so contrived.  The bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release works with its visual effects to give audiences at least a little more reason to take in the movie.  All things considered, this movie proves to be a presentation that is neither the best nor the worst of Marvel’s MCU entries to date.

Eternals is available now on digital.  It is scheduled to release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 15. More information on the home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Websitehttps://marvel.com/movies/eternals

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/officialeternals

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

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

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/disneystudios

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

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

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios/Disney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Websitehttps://20thcenturystudios.com

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

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/20thcentury

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

Marvel’s ‘Eternals’ Coming Home Soon

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel Studios’ latest addition to the MCU is scheduled for home release this winter.

Eternals is scheduled for release Jan. 12 on digital and Feb. 15 on Blu-ray. The announcement was made Thursday through a news release. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

Eternals follows a group of heroes that has watched and protected Earth ever since the dawn of man, unseen and also avoiding involvement along the way as much as possible. That all changes when a group of evil beings called Deviants returns to Earth, the Eternals’ hands are forced, causing the group to reunite and protect the planet.

Eternals‘ forthcoming home physical release features a handful of extras, all of which are noted below.

Bonus Features*

  • Audio Commentary – View the film with audio commentary by Chloé Zhao, Stephane Ceretti, Mårten Larsson
  • Immortalized – Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe launches into the cosmos with the Eternals. In this behind-the-scenes documentary, dive deep into the reasons why Marvel wanted to immortalize these superheroes for the MCU.
  • Walks of Life – Eternals unveils Marvel’s biggest and most diverse lineup of Super Heroes in one film. Hear reactions from the cast on being involved in the film and the instant sense of camaraderie that was felt on the day they all joined each other in their costumes.
  • Gag Reel – Watch some of the hilarious mishaps of the charming cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Gravity – Phastos and Jack have a conversation that leads to a breakthrough.
    • Nostalgia – Sprite and Makkari reminisce about humankind while overlooking the ruins of Babylon.
    • Movies – Gligamesh and Kingo connect over movies while crossing the Amazon River with the rest of the team.
    • Small Talk – Sprite confronts Dane in the museum about his interactions with Sersi.

*bonus features vary by product and retailer

More information on the forthcoming home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Website: https://marvel.com/movies/eternals

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

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

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

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/disneystudios

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