‘Scenes From An Empty Church’ Is A Surprisingly Enjoyable Addition To This Year’s Field Of New Independent, Overall Movies

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/MPI Media Group

When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached American shores last year, the initial impact was stunning to say the least.  Live music was shutdown along with schools, businesses, and even the movie industry.  Major studios’ theatrical offerings were delayed until this year, and some of those offerings are still delayed to this day.  Thankfully, for all of the impacts that the pandemic had on the movie industry, not everyone gave up.  Independent filmmaker Onur Tukel took to one of the empty churches in New York City to make his movie, Scenes From an Empty Church.  Thank goodness he took the chance to make this movie, too.  That is because it is one of this year’s most unsuspecting successes from the independent movie community.  That is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie enhances the viewing experience and will be examined a little later.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, the movie proves to be, again, one of the best of this year’s field of new independent movies, and possibly movies in general.

Scenes From an Empty Church, released Tuesday through MPI Home Video, is one of the most surprising of this year’s new movies, independent and otherwise.  The movie’s success comes in part through its story.  The story in question follows to priests – Father James and Father Andrew – as they navigate the impacts of the pandemic on the church, which ended up being closed, just like everything else early on.  What is interesting here is that the story is a reflection of everything that happened when the pandemic first reached America’s shores, but is not a documentary.  It is in fact a fiction, but is so surprisingly engaging and entertaining because it really embraces the old adage that art and life impact one another.  Audiences on both sides of the discussion will relate to Father James and Father Andrew in their separate reactions to the forced closure because they will so easily see themselves in the men.

While the impact of the pandemic on the nation is essentially the backbone of this story, it is not the central story.  Rather, the examinations of the loneliness that we all felt as a result of the pandemic as well as the role of faith and religion in everything that happened are really the core of the story.  Tukel points this out in the feature-length audio commentary that comes with the movie.  This element will be discussed more a little later.  Getting back on topic, the discussion is so interesting considering that Tukel – again referencing the commentary – admits in the commentary that he is not Christian and relied on his Director of Production (who he said was far more knowledgeable about various religions) for the discussions between Father James, Father Andrew, and Father Andrew’s friend Paul (Max Casella).  People nationwide felt very lonely as a result of the isolationist measures forced on Americans by governments at the local, state and federal levels.  So, one would imagine that a place like a church would help people ease that sense of loneliness.  At first that wasn’t the case at the church, because of Father James, but over time, audiences see Father James change and allow more people to come to the church.  Along the way, Andrew, James, and Paul have some interesting discussions on faith.  At times, the discussions are serious and deep, such as the existence of the soul.  At others, the discussions are far more lighthearted. One of the more lighthearted discussions comes through Paul’s revelation for audiences, the irony that even though he is a Catholic priest, Andrew is actually Jewish.  This makes for a memorable, laugh,-inspiring moment.  Another great moment comes as Andrew and James are trading scripture to try and outdo one another on a separate discussion.  Paul chimes in after the men are done and states, “That was great.  It was like dueling banjos, except with scripture.”  Getting back on the topic at hand the story, which takes place largely in the church’s sanctuary and kitchen, is so strong because ultimately it follows the changes that Paul, James, and Andrew go through as they begin to let more people into the church and have their release.  That character development within the main trio of characters and the portrayals of those who come to the church strengthens the story even more.  Taking all of this into account, the story is so simple, but is so rich in that simplicity.  Audiences really will find themselves fully immersed in the story because of the story and its execution.  The success that results from that full engagement and entertainment is itself ironic because according to Tukel himself, this may end up being the last movie that he helms.  This is one of so many so interesting revelations made in the audio commentary.

According to information from IMDB, Tukel has helmed approximately 15 movies since his directorial debut, House of Pancakes in 1997.  That count includes this movie.  Interestingly it turned out to not be his last movie.  He also directed the movie, Tes Yeux Mourants / That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes this year.  So that means that maybe just maybe audiences will see more content from Tukel in the years to come after all.  He does also admit during his commentary that he says a lot of things that he doesn’t really mean.  This movie certainly shows that Tukel has talent as a writer and director, after all.  That talent is exhibited thanks to the work of his cast, who he admits he did not even audition.  He states in the commentary that everyone in the movie is someone that he knows either directly or through someone else.  He adds that for the most part he did not have to really step in and tell the cast how to do its job.  This moves into the matter of the cast’s work, which will be discussed later.  Getting back on topic again, Tukel reveals that he is not a Christian nor is he even a practicing Muslim even though he and his family are from Turkey.  He leaned heavily on his Director of Production (DP for short), who happened to be far more versed in various religions than himself for this movie’s dialogue and story.  It just makes for such an interesting juxtaposition.  Here is some one who is not Christian nor even practicing Muslim for that matter, and he is helming a movie that he wrote about the role of religion and faith in general during such a difficult time.  Speaking of the writing, Tukel also reveals through his commentary that some of the scenes that are in the movie were not even in the original script.  The talks of how the scenes came to be are themselves engaging.  They make the movie’s bonus deleted scenes all the more important.  That is a matter for another time.  Between everything noted here and the rest of Tukel’s discussions throughout the movie, his commentary makes for so much engagement and entertainment in its own right.  When that is considered along with the engagement and entertainment ensured through the movie’s completely unpretentious story, that whole shows even more why Scenes From an Empty Church is so surprisingly enjoyable.  That is not all that makes the movie so enjoyable.  As noted already, the cast’s work on camera puts its own touch to the movie.

The cast’s work on screen is so important because every single bit of that work feels so natural.  Casella’s performance in particular is a prime example of the enjoyment that the cast’s work brings to the movie.  Going back to the audio commentary, Tukel reveals here that Casella was “going through his own things” when the movie was being made, and that he used those personal matters to help him build on his performance as Paul.  Casella succeeded in that approach so well.  It makes Paul such a sympathetic character that audiences will love.  Interestingly, Tukel also reveals in the commentary that he modeled Paul after himself, as a sort of “lost” figure, trying to find his way.  Casella obviously took that into account with his own personal matters to enhance his performance even more. 

Casella is not the only actor worth noting.  Majorie Johnson and Edward Carnevale star as parishioners Elisabeth and Jimmy.  Jimmy suffers from severe anxiety.  Elisabeth meanwhile just wants to be able to pray. Their personalities are so distinct from one another, and each actor is so believable in their respective role.  The matter of fact personality that Johnson brings to Elisabeth as she tells James and Andrew that she can hear their discussion is just so deadpan.  There is something about that “I can hear you but I really don’t care” persona makes her so memorable.  In the same vein, Carnevale is just as believable as Jimmy prays, and cries, trying to overcome that noted anxiety.  It would have been so easy for him to ham it up, but he never once does that.  It makes his brief moment on camera so moving in its own right.  Similarly, Natalie Carter as Nurse Sara is just so entertaining as she tries to get Father James to reveal what her husband has confided in him.  Not only that, but her presence as she talks about wanting to leave her job as a nurse is just as moving.  There is something in the way she handles Sara’s mixed thoughts and emotions that is itself fully believable.

As if all of this is not enough, the subtlety in the performances put on by Kevin Corrigan (Father Andrew) and Thomas Jay Ryan (Father James) that makes them just as enjoyable to watch throughout.  What really makes their performances so enjoyable through that subtlety is how they use that to really bring out the humanity in each man.  So many people thing that priests, ministers, etc. are these high, holy figures.  But watching the two discuss philosophy, theology, and the use of people clapping every day for healthcare workers (is it really to support them or is it just self serving? – another interesting thought) makes them fully relatable.  It makes them “one of us” so to speak, and each man succeeds so well in this matter. 

On yet another note, Craig Bierko is just as deserving of his own attention even in his brief performance as “the sinner.”  Going back yet again to the audio commentary, Tukel reveals in the scene with Bierko (which apparently according to Tukel was not even in the movie’s initial cut) could have been Satan according to one of Tukel’s own friends.  In hindsight, it makes sense, looking at Bierko’s semi-neurotic performance.  There is a certain edge about “the sinner,” and the fact that he is dressed all in black, makes that possibility even more sensible even if that was not the initial intent.  Bierko’s performance in his scene with the priests sort of makes it a biblical sort of situation with “the devil” facing off against the priests, pointing out the shortcomings of Christianity.  It is just one more of so many wonderful, natural performances from the movie’s cast.  When this performance, the others noted here and those of the rest of the cast are all considered together, they leave no doubt as to the importance of the work done by the movie’s cast.  When that work is considered along with the impact of the story and its companion commentary, that whole makes fully clear, why Scenes From an Empty Church, is such a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation.

MPI Home Video’s presentation of director Onur Tukel’s Scenes From an Empty Church is an unsuspecting success.  It is one of the most surprising offerings among this year’s independent movie industry and movie industry in general.  That is proven in part through its story.  Unlike so many independent movies out there past and present, there is no sense of pretense even considering the depth of content in the story, which focuses on the role of religion and faith in the face of a difficult situation, such as the ongoing pandemic.  Yes, ultimately the story will be dated.  Regardless, it will still find itself relatable for audiences even despite this matter.  It approaches the topic with such care and genuine interest.  It makes the story fully believable as a mirror of everything going on even now.  The feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie in its new home release adds its own engagement and entertainment to the whole.  That is because it offers so much background on the movie.  It is not just a director talking about certain kinds of lenses, shots, lighting, etc.  It is refreshing to have that more personal discussion throughout the movie.  The work of the movie’s cast puts the final touch to the movie.  The cast’s work throughout the movie feels so natural.  It makes suspension of disbelief so much easier, and in turn engagement that much easier, too.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they make the movie one of this year’s best new independent movies and potentially best movies overall. 

Scenes From an Empty Church is available now.  More information on this and other titles from MPI Home Video and MPI Media Group is available online at:

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‘Attraction 2’ Is A Movie That Action, Sci-Fi Fans Are Better Off Not Seeing, Knowing About

“There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!”  Those were the words of “Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) in the 1997 blockbuster sci-fi flick Men in Black.  While Kay’s words were in the context of his conversation with Jay (Will Smith), it is a line that applies in the bigger picture of the science fiction film realm, including mpi/Sony/Columbia Pictures recently released flick Attraction 2: Invasion.  This movie is sadly one of those works that people would be better off not knowing about.  Released domestically July 21 on Blu-ray, the movie offers little for audiences to enjoy other than its special effects and maybe its story.  Those two elements are its only saving graces.  Its pacing meanwhile poses the biggest problem for its presentation.  It will be addressed here, too.  Each item noted here plays its own important part to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, they make Attraction 2: Invasion a movie that audiences really would be better off not seeing.

mpi/Sony/Columbia Pictures’ recently released sci-fi import Attraction 2: Invasion is a largely forgettable work that even sci-fi fans will find difficult to take in.  That is not to say it is a complete loss.  It does have at least one semi-positive in its story.  The story is relatively easy to follow as long as one pays full attention.  Yulya (Irina Starshenbaum) is caught in the middle of a conflict between her nation’s military and an aritificial intelligence from another world.  The military just wants to use her for her superhuman abilities, which she gained in the movie’s predecessor, while the AI wants her dead.  Though, it’s never fully explained why it wants her dead.  Caught up in the conflict is her alien boyfriend Artyom (Alexander Petrov).  His addition to the story is where things start to get a bit contrived.  The couple’s relationship, set against the conflict, lends itself to comparisons to the Twilight movie franchise, thus causing some problems in its own right.  As the story progresses, it is revealed that in order to beat the alien AI, the humans have to make do with analog and ditch their digital technology.  That is because that technology is what led to all the problems in the first place, as audiences will find out if they even take the time to watch this movie.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  It is a direct rip-off of the same story element from Independence Day.  This causes even more problems for the story.  Add in the confusion that is caused in the story’s conclusion and what audiences get is a story that on the surface is easy to understand, but is still rife with problems.  While the story that is featured in Attraction 2: Invasion something of a mixed bag presentation, the story’s pacing is nothing but problematic.

The pacing of Attraction 2: Invasion’s story is problematic in that it moves so slowly.  The first roughly hour-and-a-half of this story is just buildup that is accompanied by an ongoing chase scene and commentary about the dangers of digital media.  Considering everything we as Americans know about Russia’s clear interference in the 2016 election, it is somewhat ironic that this Russian import is sending such a message.  It is not until the third and final act that this two-hour, 13-minute movie finally picks up.  Even when it does, it still manages to drag on and build up to its conclusion.  Simply put, this movie, which clocks in at just over two hours, finds every opportunity to drag.  As a result, this concern and those raised by the story couple to make the movie that much less worth watching.  Of course, for all of the problems that this story poses, it does have at least one positive – its special effects.

The special effects that are featured in Attraction 2: Invasion are outstanding.  From the giant alien ship to Artyom’s “space cycle” vehicle thing, to the use of the cinematography in the chase scenes and so much more, the special effects rival anything featured in any of Hollywood’s biggest summer blockbusters.  The explosions are just as big and the use of something like giant video screens on buildings just as spectacular.  The final scene in which the giant AI ship starts sucking the water up and flooding the city’s center is just as immense and intense as any similar scene from so many Hollywood sci-fi flicks.  Simply put, this movie shines thanks to its special effects.  They are everything that action and sci-fi fans have come to expect from any blockbuster.  Sadly though, they are about all that this movie has to fully boast.  Sure, its story is simple to follow, but it is problematic in its own right, as is the story’s pacing.  All things considered, the movie really does prove agent Kay’s statement from Men in Black:  The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!” 

Mpi/Sony/Columbia Pictures’ Russian sci-fi import Attraction 2: Invasion is a movie that action and sci-fi fans are better off not watching.  It does offer a story that is easy to follow.  The problem is that the story comes across at least in part as some kind of Twilight rip-off, considering the unnecessary romance subplot that puts our heroine and her love interest in the middle of a conflict between the two opposing sides.  What’s more, the plot element involving using analog tech in place of digital as a means to defeat the AI is itself a rip-off of a key element from another well-known sci-fi alien invasion blockbuster.  The story’s pacing causes watching this movie painful, even though it runs just over two hours.  The movie feels like it runs two-and-a-half hours instead of just over two hours because of the pacing.  The only real saving grace to this movie is its special effects, which rival those of any Hollywood blockbuster.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, the movie is a presentation that audiences will find better off unknown and unwatched.

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MPI Media Group’s New ‘Donna Reed Show Set’ Is A Positive Offering For Some Viewers

Courtesy: mpi media group

The Donna Reed Show is back again…sort of. For the first time ever, mpi media group released the series’ first five seasons in one box set last month.  The final three seasons were not included in the set because mpi currently does not have the distribution rights to those seasons.  This new collection, while not a full-series set, is still a welcome addition to the home library of any of the show’s fans and to that of any classic television fan.  That is due in part to its average price point.  That is the most important aspect to consider here because the content featured across each of the five featured seasons is exactly the same as that featured in the seasons’ previous standalone releases.  It will also be addressed in this analysis. The set’s general packaging plays its own important part to the set, too, and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here plays its own important part to the whole of The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5.  All things considered, they make this collection a good collection for those fans who do not already own the series’ first five seasons.  For those who do, there is, in full discretion, no reason to purchase this set.

mpi media group’s release last month, of The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5, is a worthwhile purchase for those fans of the series who do not already own the series’ first five seasons.  That is due in part to the collection’s average price point.  This is the collection’s most important aspect because the sets that make up this set’s packaging are exactly the same sets that mpi media group released one by one in the past.  Looking at prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million, the standalone sets that made up the series’ first five seasons range in price from $25 to as much as $40 each.  The new bundled set however, averages at $102.71.  Considering that the original press release that announced the box set’s release listed the set’s MSRP at $129.98, that average price – using listings at Target, Amazon, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble – is not too bad.  That is especially the case considering that the five seasons that make up the set span 186 episodes.  When one considers this along with the collective price of five standalone sets, ranging between $25 and $40, an average price of $102.71 becomes even more affordable.

The average price point of The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5 is critical to its overall presentation if only for the fact that this set takes all five of the previously released standalone sets into one large bundle package.  Audiences who do not already own the series’ first five seasons will find this aspect to be a positive in its own right.  Adding in the fact that the primary and secondary content is exactly the same in each season’s set, that price becomes even more noteworthy.  It should be noted here that in having done the research on The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5 and the show’s standalone sets, the alleged “new” bonus material featured in this set is in fact not new.  All of the bonus content featured in the seasons’ original releases is featured in this collection.  What’s more, the commercials that originally ran with the show are included as part of the episodes’ presentation within each season’s set, too.  This is key to note because of the sense of nostalgia that their inclusion generates among audiences.  When it is considered along with the overall fact that the same sets featured here feature the same primary and secondary content as that of the original season sets, the box set in whole becomes that much more appealing for longtime fans.

The fact that The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5 is comprised of the very standalone sets that mpi media group has previously released, and that the content is exactly the same in these sets as is in the previously released sets, audiences who purchase this collection can rest easy knowing they have the exact same presentation that is exhibited in those noted standalone sets.  While this is critical in its own right to the whole of the collection, it is not the last notable item in this box set.  The set’s general packaging rounds out its whole.  As noted already, the box set is composed of the same standalone season sets that mpi media group already released in past years.  That includes not only the content, but the packaging, too.  Each season set features a full episode guide printed inside the case’s wrapping.  The guide lists specifically each episode within the confines of its respective disc.  Having that listing saves viewers time in deciding which episode to watch.  It would have been nice if the episode guide had listed a brief episode summary, and not just episode titles, air dates and disc numbers.  Beggars can’t be choosers, though.  To that end, the packaging – despite the one negative – is just as much of a positive to this set as the set’s content and general presentation.  When it is considered along with those elements, the end result becomes a set that presents a fully positive viewing experience for fans of The Donna Reed Show and classic TV fans in general.    Now if only mpi media group could get the rights to the series’ final three seasons, fans wishes would finally come true for a full series run of this timeless series.

mpi media group’s recently released five-season set of The Donna Reed Show is a positive new offering for fans of the classic sitcom and for fans of classic television in general.  That is because fans who do not already own the series’ standalone season sets, which have already been released through mpi media group, get those same season sets in one complete bundle in this box and at a more affordable price at that. Those same fans also get all of the same content in each set, both in terms of their primary and secondary content.  The packaging, in terms of the episode guides is also the same.  Each item is a positive in its own right to the whole of The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5.  Collectively, they make this set a positive offering for fans of The Donna Reed Show who did not already own this series’ currently available sets.  With any luck mpi media group will one day claim the rights to the series’ final three seasons, thus allowing all of the series’ fans to finally own the series truly in whole.  The Donna Reed Show: Seasons 1 – 5 is available now.  More information on this and other titles from mpi media group is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Dealt’ Is As Good As And Possibly Better Than Any Hollywood Underdog Drama

Courtesy: IFC Films

Card mechanic Richard Turner is one of the greatest and most respected figures in the world of card tricks. Turner has, for decades, wowed audiences across the country with his sleight of hand abilities, and next week, a new documentary from mpi media group and IFC Films will profile the veteran performer with a new documentary titled Dealt. The nearly 90-minute doc, which is also rather aptly titled, is an entertaining, inspiring and memorable work that is an easy candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new documentaries. That statement is supported in part through the program’s story. It will be discussed shortly. The program’s pacing also supports that statement and will be discussed later. The bonus material included in the program’s presentation supports said statement even more. Each element is important in its own way, as will be discussed. All things considered, they make Dealt a program that is pure magic. Yes, that pun was fully intended.

Dealt, the new Richard Turner profile from mpi media group and IFC Films, is an aptly titled, truly magical presentation that will appeal to not just magic lovers but audiences in general. That is proven in part through the doc’s inspiring and entertaining story. The story in question profiles Turner and what has made him such a respected figure in the magic community throughout his life and career. It is also a profile of a man who as he has gotten older, has had to come to terms with his disability, learning to accept it rather than be ashamed by it. As audiences will see over the course of the program’s 86-minute run time, Turner starts out being upset about being blind, even somewhat ashamed of it. That is obvious as he talks about his anger over media figures bringing it to light in their interviews with him. Yet over time, he finally begins to accept his situation, learning to live with it rather than hide it. There’s even an eventual award reception for his talents included in the story. One could argue that, considering all of this, this story is the stuff of so many Hollywood underdog dramas, except being an un-embellished and true story, is even better than that fare. Keeping this in mind, the story forms a solid foundation for Dealt, proving easily in itself why this doc is, again, its own magical presentation. Of course, the doc’s story is only one part of what makes it an impressive offering. The story’s pacing, by connection, is important to discuss.

The pacing of the story at the center of Dealt is important to note because of how much ground the story covers in its nearly 90-minute run time. The story starts out immediately by introducing Turner to audiences before eventually making its way into the heart of the story, the development of Turner’s blindness at a young age, and his attempts to cope with that disability. At the same time, there are discussions on both sides about coping with blindness by featuring a woman who is blind but accepts it, and is working with Turner to accept his blindness. Considering the doc’s deeper feature that tackles the issue of coping with disability and the bigger story of Turner’s talents and his legacy, there is so much going on here. Even with so much going on, those behind the story’s creation timed every aspect of the story expertly, moving fluidly from one to the other from start to finish. That fluidity insures just as much as the story itself audiences’ maintained engagement. While that engagement does plenty to help the doc’s presentation, it still is not the last of the program’s last important element. Its bonus material rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material included in Dealt is relatively simple. It includes a handful of deleted scenes and a group of card mechanics (they apparently don’t like being called card trick magicians) giving viewers a quick show. One of the most interesting of the deleted scenes comes as Turner jokes about his blindness with the woman working with him on handling his condition. The jokes that the pair share cannot be repeated in this review, as they are rather adult-oriented, but are certain to have any viewer laughing, sighted or not. The opening deleted scene in which Turner is teaching another aspiring blind card mechanic is just as interesting because it shows the impact that he has continue to have throughout his career. It’s a moving moment to say the least. The bonus magic shows are enjoyable because of their variety. Audiences will get a kick out of one magician’s take on the classic shell game — in which a pea is placed under a shell and moved around. The trickster’s sleight of hand here is impressive. The other card variants displayed add their own enjoyment to this feature. When the enjoyment brought by the deleted scenes is coupled with that brought by the mini-magic shows, the whole of the bonus material shows fully why even as minimal as it might be, it is just as important to the whole of this program as the other noted elements. When all three elements are joined together, they prove without a doubt that this documentary is truly a magical presentation in itself.

Dealt, the new profile of card mechanic Richard Turner, is a powerful, entertaining and inspiring profile of a great man who is also very aptly titled. It shows that despite the *ahem* cards that one is dealt in life, it is possible to make the best of said situation, which is what Turner essentially learned through the course of this real life doc. That is the ultimate message presented in the doc’s central story, which serves as a solid foundation for the program. The story’s pacing strengthens that foundation even more. The bonus material included with the program adds even more enjoyment to its overall presentation. Each element, as has now been noted, is important in its own way to the whole of Dealt. All things considered, they make Dealt a truly magical presentation that is as good as any major Hollywood underdog drama if not better. It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, February 13. More information on this and other title from mpi media group is available online now at:

Website: http://www.mpimedia.com

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MPI Media Group’s New Gerry Anderson Collection Is Imperfect But Entertaining

Courtesy: mpi media group/MPI Home Video

MPI Home Video this week unearthed a special new collection of material from Gerry Anderson, one of the legendary names from television’s early eras when it released the new two-disc collection The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson.  The collection presents to audiences what was essentially the evolution of Anderson’s work from supermarionation to live action.  The presentation of that evolution is the set’s most critical element.  As important as that collection proves to be, the set in whole sadly is not perfect.  It lacks any physical content guide in its packaging, leaving audiences to essentially have to memorize the material included in each disc.  That is a con that cannot be ignored here. Getting back to the set’s overall material, while a pro, it is both a pro and a con (but more pro than con).  That will be discussed later.  Each element is key in its own way to this collection’s whole.  All things considered, The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson proves to be a collection that while enjoyable, comes up just short in its first outing.

MPI Home Video’s brand new release of The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson is a relatively enjoyable first outing for this collection of Anderson rarities, but one that leaves room for improvement should it ever get another release.  The set’s main positive is its primary content.  Audiences get to see in the set’s main body, another attempt at a supermarionation series in the form of The Investigator alongside the live action series The Day After Tomorrow and Space Police.  There is also an attempt at an adult-oriented claymation presentation in the form of Dick Spanner, P.I.  There is even a very old almost Howdy Doody type presentation in Kandy, which is basically a show about a foolish koala.  Though some of the set’s presented material makes clearly obvious why it did not survive, other material such as Space Police leaves one wondering why it didn’t last.  The juxtaposition of the live action and animatronic material presented in the series’ pilot episode is exactly the kind of presentation that would go on to be used for decades by Japan’s Super Sentai series.  It would also end up being used in the Americanized version of that franchise, the famed Power Rangers franchise.  Keeping that in mind, such a show – even in just one episode – shows how far ahead of its time it was.  Simply put, it shows how ground breaking and innovative Anderson was even as he moved away from puppets to live action.

As if the live action and other material is not enough for audiences, there is even a documentary style presentation in the form of Blue Skies Ahead.  This short presentation takes audiences on a jaunt across Europe, showing its key locations while also advertising for Blue Cars bus lines.  It is very much in the same vein as the old color newsreels that audiences might see today on Turner Classic Movies, showing Anderson’s ability to make legitimate nonfiction programming just as much as his abilities in the fiction realm.  Considering this along with the discussion on the featured fiction material included in the set, it becomes clear why the set’s material is so critical to the set’s overall presentation.  It is not the set’s only critical element, though.  The lack of a physical content guide is a negative that cannot and should not be ignored.

Opening up the set’s standard-sized case audiences will note that there is no sign of a content guide anywhere inside or outside the case.  On the surface, this might not seem overly important.  On a deeper level though, it is very important.  There might be those out there who are at least somewhat familiar with the material, but maybe haven’t seen it in decades.  They would be nearly on the same level as those who have not yet seen these presentations.  Keeping that in mind, having a content guide would have made for a solid introduction (or re-introduction) for audiences to that material before they play either of the set’s discs.  Not having that introduction makes for a somewhat uneasy introduction, and in turn detracts from the set’s presentation to a point.  Thankfully, it is the set’s only truly impacting negative.  The Space Police test footage, while perhaps a bit too extensive, presents its own positive to the set’s presentation.

The Space Police test footage included in The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson is for all intents and purposes little more than bonus material.  It takes audiences behind the scenes of the featured episode “Star Laws.”  Throughout the course of the footage, audiences see that the scenario presented in the final product was not the only considered scenario.  Nor were the actors in that final product the only actors who had test screenings.  The comparison of the two scenarios and the actors is key because it adds to the appreciation for the final product.  The scenarios presented in the test footage show that that material was just too campy even despite some impressive animatronic and prosthetics work with the aliens.  Even the lead actors presented in the test footage were a bit over the top cheesy in their presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the presentation used in the final product proves to be much more fitting for the show, even being a cop drama.

At the same time that the show’s test footage proves integral to this set’s presentation, it also is somewhat disappointing in just how much test footage is shown.  So much of the material takes place in an alleyway scene, and shows time and again the actors handling the same scenario.  There is also a bevy of in-car test footage with the lead actors that honestly gets boring after a while.  All of this material honestly could have (in this critic’s eye) been cut back, and should have for that matter.  Considering this, the intrinsic value of the test footage shows the importance of Space Police to Anderson’s career, and its place within its genre.  However, it is too much of a good thing even in its use of comparing scenarios and actors.  With this in mind, the test footage included in this set is both a positive and a negative.  When it is set alongside the set’s primary material, the whole of that material becomes a presentation that is enjoyable, but honestly leaves something to be desired in the end.  That is not to say that it is a total loss, but there is room to grow if this set is ever re-issued or if it is ever included in another Anderson collection.

The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson is an interesting new collection of rarities from the famed figure’s career.  It shows a part of his career that has rarely if ever been seen thanks to the primary material presented in its lead disc.  The lack of a content guide of any sort is a detractor for this collection, though.  It takes away from the overall presentation and viewing experience, but does not make the presentation a total loss.  The bonus Space Police test footage adds back what is taken away by the lack of a content guide thanks to the insight that it adds to that one episode.  At the same time, there is such an abundance of that test footage that it really feels like overkill and should have been shaved back.  Each element noted here is important in its own right to this set’s whole.  All things considered, they make the set a collection that while not a total loss, one that leaves room for growth in the next Gerry Anderson collection.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from mpi media group and MPI Home Video is available online now at:

 

 

 

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MPI Media Group To Release Gerry Anderson Rarities Collection Next Month

Courtesy: mpi media group/MPI Home Video

Fans of Gerry Anderson are going to get an early Christmas present next month courtesy of mpi Media Group.

The World of Gerry Anderson is currently scheduled to be released Nov. 14 on DVD.  The new release is a collection of rare classic Gerry Anderson films and other features including his never-before-seen early puppet film Here Comes Kandy, the final segment of the 1980s stop-motion comedy series Dick Spanner, P.I., The Investigator and The Day After Tomorrow, which has no connection to the 2004 big screen blockbuster.

Along with the noted titles, the new two-disc collection of rarities will also feature the pilot Space Police, which would go on to be the template for Space Precinct.

The World of Gerry Anderson will retail for MSRP of $24.98.  Its total run time is 354 minutes.  More information on this and other titles from mpi Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.mpimedia.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MPIMediaGroup

 

 

 

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

‘Ali & Nino’ Is A Rare Miss For IFC Films, mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

War flicks and romance movies are two of the most popular genres in the cinematic realm. The two genres have been combined more than once both in theaters and on the small screen.  In some of those cases, the result has been a success (Casablanca, The Sun Also Rises, From Here To Eternity).  In other cases, the result isn’t so positive (Pearl Harbor, Flyboys).  Late last month IFC Films and mpi media group released a new wartime romantic drama titled Ali & Nino that despite beautiful shooting locations and cinematography, fits into the latter of the two noted categories.  That is because this nearly two-hour movie suffers from a story line that is not exactly original.  This will be discussed shortly.  The story’s pacing is even more problematic as it leads the movie, which comes in at approximately an hour and forty-one minutes, feel far longer.  Luckily though, the previously noted cinematography and the movie’s shooting locations combine to save this presentation and make the movie worth at least one watch.

Ali & Nino is hardly the first time that any studio major or independent has ever released a romantic drama that is set against a wartime era.  As already noted, this latest addition to that field is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.  That is due in part to its story line.  The movie’s story line is anything but original.  It is a Romeo & Juliet style story that sees a man and woman from two totally different backgrounds (Ali is Muslim and Nino is Christian) falling in love and getting married all while facing the perils of World War I and the Bolsheviks.  Not to give away too much here, but it doesn’t have a happy ending despite thousands of miles separating the young star-crossed lovers more than once throughout the story.  This creates, in itself, its own share of problems.  Audiences know that the couple will be reunited each time it is separated.  What’s more, when Ali tells Nino in the story’s final act that he is staying behind the help fight the Bolsheviks, one doesn’t need to be a genius to know the predicted outcome.  Considering all of this, the movie’s story does somehow manage to keep audiences engaged, albeit tenuously because of its pacing, which will be discussed later. Before touching on that problem, it is only fair to also discuss the movie’s saving grace—its collective cinematography and its shooting locations.

The shooting locations used in filming Ali & Nino and its cinematography are by themselves and collectively its most important elements.  If not for these inter-related elements this otherwise formulaic wartime romance would be just another forgettable run-of-the-mill wartime romance.  Audiences will be awed at the wide, sweeping shots of Azerbaijan’s Caucasus Mountains and the streets of Turkey that were used to set the movie’s scenes.  The aerial shots of the mountains as Ali is being led to safety are stunning thanks to the contrast of the white caps of the mountains to the gravel road used to take him to his safe haven.  The city settings, which were likely filmed in Turkey, are used for just as many scenes and are just as impressive as the mountain scenes.  That includes the peaceful scenes and the battle scenes.  The angles that are used within each scene will keep audiences rapt with awe.  If not for the power of that work behind the cameras, the story’s pacing within each scene would be completely unbearable.

Ali & Nino’s pacing is bearable.  However, is should be noted that it is bearable only because of the power of the movie’s cinematography and related shooting locations.  The movie’s run time is listed at an hour and forty-one minutes.  However, its pacing makes it feel like it runs well over the two hour mark.  The movie’s pacing is so problematic that audiences will find themselves begin to feel restless no less than an hour into the movie.  It seems the pacing is so problematic because the story spends so much time keeping its main characters separated and having them worry about how to re-unite.  When they do, the story sees them spending more time in bed together than anything else.  In other words, there really is no real substance to this story.  That lack of substance combines with the story’s lack of originality to make it a work that is worth watching only for the work put in behind the cameras than in front of them.  Other than those related elements, Ali & Nino gives audiences little other reason to watch this movie.

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My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series Is An Out Of This World Success

Courtesy: mpi media group

Courtesy: mpi media group

CBS at one point in time was the single greatest network on television. It had such variety in regards to its offerings. From classic variety shows such as The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to powerful dramas and dramedies such as Maude, M.A.S.H. and Murder She Wrote to equally great sitcoms including: I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, The Bob Newhart Show, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Andy Griffith Show and so many others, CBS offered programming for everyone. Its programming transcended limitations of viewers’ age, gender, and even race. By comparison it seems that the majority of the once powerhouse network’s programming is made up of crime dramas, medical dramas, and “reality television” series. The variety of offerings that once made CBS so great, it seems, has gone completely by the wayside. Thankfully though, a number of those classic shows have been resurrected on DVD and Blu-ray thanks to the efforts of just as many home entertainment companies. The latest of those classic series to finally see the light of day—My Favorite Martian—saw all three of its season released in their own standalone season sets between 2012 and 2014 courtesy of MPI Home Video. Luckily for fans of the standout sitcom MPI Home Video didn’t stop there. The studio released the series in a complete three-season box set this week. And for those that were not lucky enough to add the series to their home DVD libraries in their previous releases, this box set is just as enjoyable and a must have. For those that perhaps will see the series for the first time or even the first time again in purchasing this box set it is so enjoyable first and foremost thanks to the work of its writers. The writing behind the series’ 107 total episodes will put a smile on any classic TV buff’s face. That will be discussed shortly. In direct connection to the writing, the work of the series’ lead actors—Bill Bixby and Ray Walston—is just as entertaining. Their interpretation of each episode’s script makes for more than its share of laughs from one episode to the next. That will be discussed in more depth later. Last but hardly last of note in regards to this box set is the inclusion of its bonus material. The bonus material spread across the series’ three separate season setsis extensive to say the least. There are no fewer than three pilot episodes, one which was for My Favorite Martian, and the other two for a pair of series which sadly never went past their pilots. There is also a full-length clip of Ray Walston on the classic game show I’ve Got A Secret, interviews with Lucille Ball on her show Let’s Talk To Lucy and so much more. These bonuses together with those not named here round out the core of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series’ positives. They are hardly the only positives worth noting, too. One would be remiss to ignore the set’s packaging or even its production values. All things considered, My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series proves in the end to be a piece that every classic TV buff should have in his or her collection and a collection that is one of the best of this year’s family friendly box sets.

MPI Home Video’s brand new release of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series is a collection that every single classic TV buff should have in his or her own home DVD library. It is also one of the best of this year’s family friendly box sets (versus those box sets featuring TV shows and movies that are aimed more at grown up audiences). This is most obvious through the writing behind the series’ three season run. Over the course of the show’s 107 total episodes, it presents plenty of classic story lines that while familiar to the buddy comedy genre, have been tweaked to be fully original in their presentation here. “The Memory Pill,” which is presented in the show’s second season is a prime example of the writers ability to take one of those classic story lines and make them fresh and funny. Tim, wanting to forget a certain woman that he keeps thinking of, takes one of Martin’s memory pills, leading him to develop amnesia of sorts in this episode. So it is up to Martin to get Tim back to his old self. What ensues in the process of the episode is what really makes it funny. Martin brings in a doctor who is played by David White, who was also Darren’s boss in ABC’s classic supernatural sitcom Bewitched. The antics that play out will have audiences of all ages laughing uproariously as Tim continues to try (in his state of amnesia) to convince the doctor that Martin is in fact a Martian. “How To Be A Hero Without Really Trying” (Season One) is another example of the talent of the show’s writers. That is because this episode sees the bachelor Tim trying once again to impress a young woman (which in itself becomes part of the show’s comedy right up to its finale) by taking her and her young brother out for a day trip. The trip is in reality also to help Martin find an element that he needs in order to work on his ship. Thanks to Martin, though the young boy ends up stuck high up on a cliff and has to be rescued. Tim, trying to impress the boy’s sister decides to save her brother. Needless to say plenty of antics come from this decision that will once again have audiences laughing just as much as with any of the series’ other episodes. What’s really funny about the story in whole is that for all of its entertainment that entertainment in question comes about from Tim and Martin having to clean up the other’s mess again and again throughout the course of the episode’s script. Season Three is just as packed with laughs as Tim goes back in time in the season finale, causing quite the disruption in the time space continuum. Also in Season Three, Tim helps Mrs. Brown’s brother build a robot that does household chores. That is a theme that had and has been used so many times before and since in other classic sitcoms including Gilligan’s Island. It’s just one more of so many throughout the course of the series’ original run of the writers’ talents. There are 104 other examples from which viewers can choose throughout the series’ three seasons. In finding their own favorites, audiences will agree that the writing behind My Favorite Martian is one of the series’ most important elements. Through it all, the buddy comedy element never gets old at any point in the series’ run. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in the series’ enjoyment. The work of lead actors Bill Bixby and Ray Walston in interpreting the scripts adds even more enjoyment to the series.

The work of the writers behind My Favorite Martian lies at the center of its success even despite it having just a three-season run on television. The scripts that were crafted by this show’s writers is the kind of material that is so sorely missed today. It’s the kind of material that parents can feel good about letting their kids watch for the most part. It’s the kind of writing that parents will feel just as good about watching with their kids, too without feeling uncomfortable at any point. It is just one element of the show’s enjoyment, of course. The work of lead actors Bill Bixby and Ray Walston in interpreting the writers’ scripts adds even more enjoyment to the show. Bixby’s manic behavior, for instance, in “The Memory Pill” is reminiscent of Cary Grant’s Mortimer Brewster in the classic 1944 comedy Arsenic And Old Lace. He is just so frenzied in his state of amnesia. On the other end of the spectrum, one can’t help but wonder to a point if Walston’s deadpan demeanor as Martin was any influence on Harvey Korman’s portrayal of The Great Gazoo in The Flintstones. For those that might not know, The Great Gazoo was introduced to The Flintstones two years after the start of My Favorite Martian. So it would, again, be interesting to find out if there might have been any connection between the two actors if at all. Getting back on the subject, that deadpan persona that is most prominent throughout the series, set alongside Bixby’s own Dick York meets Alan Young look and persona, makes for its own share of laughs throughout each episode. On a related noted, Walston does break that self-righteous, snooty persona that that audiences love so much. One of the best moments in which Walston breaks that person comes early in Season One in the episode “There Is No Cure For The Common Martian.” Martin gets a cold for the first time ever in this episode and it sort of knocks him down off of his proverbial high horse and makes him no better than any human. It forces him at least for the moment to see that and just makes for a great break from the norm in terms of Walston’s general performance. In its own way, it could be argued that both because of their personas and how they handle them (and the scripts), both Bixby and Walston could be argued to be the straight man and the comedian believe it or not. That is something that audiences just don’t see in comic performances today. It really is something original. And that originality makes for so many great, memorable performances throughout the course of the series’ run. It’s yet more proof of why the work of both Bixby and Walston was (and is) so important to the success of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series. It still is not the final factor in the set’s success. The set’s bounty of bonus material adds even more enjoyment for audiences.

The work of both My Favorite Martian’s writers and its lead actors makes for a great deal of enjoyment for audiences as they make their way through the course of the classic sitcom’s three seasons and 107 episodes. For all of the enjoyment that both elements bring to the series, they are not all that makes this set complete. The collection’s bevy of bonus material adds extra points to the newly released box set. And it is not an understatement to say that there are a lot of bonuses for fans included here. MPI has included in Season One the original pilot episode of My Favorite Martian, the pilot episode for the never-aired series The Reluctant Eye, and even a full appearance by Ray Walston on the game show I’ve Got A Secret. Walston’s appearance on the game show even includes the original TV spots (commercials) that ran in the specific episode between segments. So it really is complete in every sense of the word. On a side note, the episode in question features Walston trying to fool the show’s panels in regards to how he lights a jack-o-lantern. So this bonus is a great fit with Halloween only days away at the time of this posting. In regards to the pilot episode of My Favorite Martian, it should be noted that this is a little bit misleading. That is because episode #1 is in fact the series’ pilot episode. It hasn’t been separated out as a bonus episode. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. It maybe just shouldn’t have been listed under the “bonus” section since it is not listed actually within the list of bonus materials when Season 1 Disc 5 is played. What is listed is that appearance on I’ve Got A Secret and all of the season’s other bonuses, including a complete soundtrack album containing music from My Favorite Martian as well as the season’s bonus photo gallery, and separate sponsor spots along with one of Walston’s own commercials. MPI Home Video’s people didn’t stop here with the bonus material. Season Two boasts interviews with the show’s cast as well as original billboards and ads featuring the show’s cast. Season Three adds even more enjoyment as it features a slew of bonuses. Those bonuses include: interviews with Bill Bixby and Ray Walston on Lucille Ball’s Let’s Talk To Lucy program, home movies filmed by the cast on the set of the show, and a pilot for the also never-aired series The Man in the Square Suit along with other bonus footage. There is so much that there is simply not enough room to list or even discuss it all. But it goes without saying that when audiences purchase this box set for themselves, they will be blown away by the vast amount of bonus material included with this box set. That extensive amount of bonus material coupled with the work of both the show’s writers and lead actors makes for an experience that helps My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series live up to its title. They make it not just a complete series set in name but in experience and in turn they collectively make it one of he best of this year’s family friendly box sets.

The writing and acting that went into My Favorite Martian across its short three season run paid off in spades for the series even with it having run only three seasons. They combine with the bonus material included in this collection to make My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series compete in every sense of the word and in turn one of the best of the year’s family friendly box sets. That is not to discount the set’s packaging, which while it looks bulky on the outside is actually quite ergonomic in and of itself. Each of the series’ three seasons has been presented within its own standalone season set once more. Each set’s discs are placed in what is the norm today in multi-disc packaging–placing discs on either side of a given number of “plates” and in some cases even on the inside front and back of the case. This conserves space within each set and ultimately in the bigger picture of the set’s packaging. Considering the route that the people at MPI Home Video could have taken, this was the smartest possible route for the set’s presentation. Even better for audiences is that an episode guide has been included inside the case for Season One and Season Two. Each guide includes a precise listing of the season’s episodes along with a short yet concise summary of each featured episode. In regards to Season Three, the episode guide only features a listing of the episodes with their original broadcast dates. While it would have been nice to have gotten a complete episode summary as in Season One and Two, it is still nice to at least have an episode guide, period. To that extent, the packaging is yet another positive to a set that is sure to be among any classic TV buff’s favorites this year. Add in the highly impressive look and sound of each episode and audiences once again get a viewing experience that is just as complete as the set itself. It is an experience that will leave audiences of all ages agreeing that this collection of episodes will be a favorite not just of classic TV buffs but even more specifically fans of this beloved classic. All things considered My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series proves unlike collections from so many other series to be truly complete in every possible sense of the word. My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via MPI Home Video’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/products/my-favorite-martian-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from MPI Home Video is available online now at:

Website: http://www.mpihomevideo.com

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MPI Media Group Releasing Classic Sitcom Series Set Just In Time For Halloween

Courtesy:  mpi media group

Courtesy: mpi media group

On October 30th, 1938 Orson Welles and the members of the Mercury Theatre sent America into a nationwide panic with their broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Almost twenty-five years later, CBS introduced an E.T. of another kind to the world when it premiered the classic sitcom My Favorite Martian. The series ran for three seasons on the once powerhouse network from 1963 – 1966. Since then the series has gone on to see all three seasons in their own standalone sets both on VHS and DVD. It has also been re-made into an animated series and a big screen feature starring Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future 1 – 3, Cyberchase, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Jeff Daniels (Tron, Tron: Legacy, The Big Lebowski). It has even been nominated for three TV Land awards. But despite its longevity and fame the series has never seen the light of day in one complete series set. That is until now.

Next month mpi media group will release My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series on DVD. The fifteen-disc box set will be released in stores and online on Tuesday, October 20th. The classic buddy comedy sitcom starred Ray Walston (Picket Fences, The Sting, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) as the loveable alien Uncle Martin and Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father–TV series, The Magician–TV series) as Tim O’Hara, Martin’s “nephew.” Also along for the ride was Pamela Britton (D.O.A., Anchors Aweigh, Blondie–TV series) as Tim’s nosy landlady Mrs. Lorelei Brown. The series debuted as one of television’s top ten programs in its first season. Over the course of its short run, My Favorite Martian also featured a number of well-known guest stars. Among those stars were: Linda Evans, Marlo Thomas, Alan Hale Jr., Gavin MacLeod, Jamie Farr, Stafford Repp, Richard Deacon, Madge Blake, Bernie Kopell, Butch Patrick, Henry Gibson, Allan Melvin, Michael Constantine, Pat Priest, David White and Madge Redmond.

All 107 episodes featured in the series’ three-season run are featured in the upcoming box set along unedited and digitally re-mastered for the set. Also included in the collection will be a number of bonus features, which will be announced soon.

My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series will be available Tuesday, October 20th in stores and online exclusively on DVD. It will retail for MSRP of $99.98. It can be ordered online direct from mpi media group’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/products/my-favorite-martian-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from MPI is available online now at:

Website: http://www.mpihomevideo.com

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Coogan And Brydon’s Second Outing Is Another Entertaining And Delectable Trip

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi Media Group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi Media Group

IFC Films’ latest outing from actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan is one of 2014’s best new independent releases. The “sequel” to the duo’s 2011 feature simply (and aptly) titled The Trip, The Trip To Italy stands out unlike any other production released in 2014. It stands out primarily in its approach. It isn’t necessarily a movie in the most traditional sense. Though there is a sense of a buddy road trip to the story. That buddy comedy element is crossed with something that could almost be considered a reality TV sort of approach. The end result is a presentation that one can’t help but watch if only for that reason. The approach taken by those behind the cameras in presenting The Trip To Italy is just part of the whole that makes this rather intriguing and entertaining work so well worth the watch. Brydon and Coogan’s (sounds like a law firm doesn’t it?) jokes and impersonations throughout the trip make for their own share of entertainment. Nothing is off limits to the pair. No doubt the duo’s comic bits and discussions will have any open-minded viewer laughing uproariously. The last element of The Trip To Italy that makes it such a joy is its backdrops. There is no green screen here. There is no movie magic. Everything that audiences see is really the Italian countryside. In its own way, it could be argued that it is a throwback to the golden era of moviemaking. Together with the movie’s comic element and its overall presentation, all three elements make The Trip To Italy a movie that while not a movie in the traditional sense, a production that still stands firm on its own laurels and is one of the best new independent releases of 2014.

The Trip To Italy is one of the best new independent film releases of 2014. The movie, which ironically enough is itself a sequel, proves to be far better than any of the mass of sequels churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios last year. The central reason that it outperforms those movies is the manner in which it is presented. The “movie” isn’t necessarily a movie in the traditional sense. Yet the classic buddy comedy/road trip aspect is there. To be more precise, it blends that element with something along the lines of a reality TV show to make for a production that completely stands out from that mass of major name equels. What’s more, being that Coogan and Brydon spend most of their time either eating and driving, one could even compare it to the likes of PBS’ Rick Steves Europe. Go figure, Coogan and Brydon go after so many pop culture figures, movies, and more. But they don’t poke fun at Rick Steves even being in a setting that only encourages such jabs. That will be discussed later. Getting back to the subject at hand, the duo’s travels through Europe was compltely unscripted. It was just them touring Italy, checking out some of the country’s finest cuisine and taking in the sights all while making jokes and trying out their best impersonations. There’s no scripting. So while yes it is a movie, it also shows to be one third documentary and one third reality TV. That The Trip To Italy comes across as such an intriguing hybrid is plenty of reason within itself for audiences to check out this latest release from IFC Films. It’s just one reason to watch it, too. The jokes and impersonations shared throughout the its near two-hour run time make The Trip To Italy even more worth the watch.

The hybrid presentation of The Trip To Italy offers audiences plenty of reason within itself for audiences to watch the “movie” at least once. The jokes and impersonations that are thrown around throughout the course of its near two-hour run time add even more reason for audiences to check it out. Nothing is off limits to Coogan and Brydon, either. From Alanis Morissette to Sean Connery and Roger Moore to Al Pacino and more, Coogan and Brydon go after everyone that they can think of. There’s even a joke aimed at famed Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. Speaking of public broadcasting, it is interesting that there was no mention of PBS’ travel series Rick Steves Europe anywhere in this production since the duo spent the length of the movie travelling the Italian countryside. Perhaps that was just too easy and too expected. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardles, the jokes and impersonations that are included throughout the “movie”–including a lighthearted jab at Americans’ tendency to use overblown names for themselves and their posessions–make for plenty of laughs and in turn, just as much entertainment. It’s yet another way in which The Trip To Italy proves itself worth the watch. It still isn’t all that makes the production worth the watch, either. The backdrops throughout the presentation round out the reasons to watch The Trip To Italy.

The comic element of The Trip To Italy and its original hybrid presentation are both key to its enjoyment. Both aspects play their own important role in the production’s enjoyment. While both are equally important, they still are not all that make the presentation worth the watch. The “movie’s” backdrops round out the whole thing and make it all the more enjoyable. As noted previously, it would have been so easy for audiences to make a comparison between The Trip To Italy and PBS’ Rick Steves Europe in watching this work since Coogan and Brydon were travelling the Italian countryside. It would have been just as easy for Coogan and Brydon to make jokes at that show’s expense. Of course that didn’t happen. Perhaps that’s because it would have been too expected and easy. Regardless, the backdrop of the Italian countryside is a major positive to the whole of The Trip To Italy. As subtle as it is and as little as some might think about it, seeing that countryside is just like watching Rick Steves Europe. It’s like watching a video postcard. There is no green screen. There are no special effects. It is really the duo travelling the countryside. It is more proof of the duo’s (and of IFC Films’) dedication to making the experience 100 real and believable for audiences. It is that reality of the “movie” alongside its original hybrid presentation, and its laugh riot jokes and impersonations that makes The Trip To Italy a trip that audiences will want to take more than once.

The Trip To Italy is available online now in stores and online now. It can be downloaded via iTunes now at https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-trip-to-italy/id900191598. More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

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

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