‘The Major & The Minor’ BD Re-Issue Survives Because Of Its Bonus Content

Courtesy: Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group/Paramount Pictures

December 24, 2019 marks 77 years since famed director Billy Wilder’s domestic directorial debut made its own theatrical debut.  The movie, The Major and the Minor, starred Ray Milland (The Uninvited, Dial M For Murder, The Lost Weekend) and Ginger Rogers (Kitty Foyle, Tom, Dick and Harry, Monkey Business) in a story that places Rogers’ character Susan Applegate into a rather precarious situation when she meets Miland’s Major Philip Kirby.  In the decades since its debut, the classic romantic comedy has garnered praise from critics and audiences alike, even receiving a perfect 100% tomato meter rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  For all of its success, the movie has only received a handful of home releases.  Now it has gotten new life on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group on Blu-ray.  This new re-issue is the first time since 2008 that the movie has received an official release and the first time ever that it has seen release on Blu-ray.  It gives audiences quite a bit of reason to applaud beginning with its bonus content. It is rare that this critic will point out a new release’s bonus content as its most important element, but this release is one of those rare cases in which its bonus content is just that.  It will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content makes the movie’s story more engaging and entertaining than it would have been sans said content.  To that end, the movie’s story is its own important part of the Blu-ray.  When it is considered along with the Blu-ray’s bonus content, they make the Blu-ray’s average price point relatively affordable.  This will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the Blu-ray.  All things considered, this latest release of The Major & The Minor one more of this year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

MVD Entertainment Group and Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of The Major and The Minor is a positive new presentation for the classic Paramount Pictures romantic comedy.  It is a good way for the companies to celebrate the movie’s upcoming 77th anniversary.  That is due in large part to the bonus content featured with the movie’s new re-issue.  Featured in the re-issue as extras are: a feature-length audio commentary from film scholar Adrian Martin, a half-hour retrospective on the movie’s history courtesy of film critic Neil Sinyard, and a full-hour-long radio presentation of the movie that features famed filimmaker Cecil B. DeMille. The audio commentary and retrospective are the most important of the bonus items as they provide, collectively, an in-depth history of the movie and its story.  Martin and Sinyard both point out the symbolism of Pamela and Susan as point and counterpoint in the discussions on whether the U.S. should get involved in World War II.  Each man also makes note of the issue of Major Kirby’s conflicted feelings toward Susan and the risqué nature of those conflicted feelings.  That in itself adds a lot to the story.  Also of note that each man discusses, is Wilder’s use of disguise and deception among characters in the story, and how it would go on to become a trademark of his directorial style.  On a related note, Martin also takes time to talk about items, such as character placement and lighting within given scenes.  As if all of this is not enough, Sinyard also discusses how the movie satirizes the military and the timing of the movie’s creation and release in connection to America’s entry into World War II.  Since Martin’s commentary is featured as part of the movie itself, Sinyard’s retrospective is recommended for viewing ahead of watching the movie.  It gives the movie’s story a completely different identity than it would have had sans all of that background.  Martin’s background adds even more after having watched the movie.

The background that Martin and Sinyard provide for The Major and the Minor are clear examples of the importance of bonus content to DVDs and Blu-rays.  They show how bonus content can easily make or break a DVD/BD’s presentation.  For all that they do for the movie’s presentation here, the bonus radio version of The Major and the Minor is notable in its own right.  That is because of its nostalgic value.  The broadcast features Rogers and Milland, as well as appearances by famed director Cecil B. DeMille.  DeMille provides introductions to each of the play’s acts.  The transfer from the original tapes to this presentation featured no loss at all, so there is no need to adjust the volume at any point throughout the program.  What’s more, the static from that original broadcast is there, too.  Simply put, this is another example of how possible it is to transfer vintage to modern technology without any loss.  This could lead to discussions on whether there really is a place for vinyl today, despite the view of so many hipsters.  It is possible to transfer vinyls to CDs without loss, too.  Getting back to the subject at hand, that clean transfer from the original tapes to Blu-ray creates its own wonderful experience.  What’s more, there are some minor changes between the screenplay and the radio play, but those changes were clearly necessary because certain elements obviously did not translate well from the screen to the radio.  Keeping all of this in mind, the bonus radio performance of The Major and the Minor proves just as enjoyable as the big screen version.  In turn, it makes the bonus radio presentation just as worthwhile as the bonus commentaries from Martin and Sinyard.  Collectively, those commentaries and the bonus radio play create a strong foundation for the Blu-ray that cinephiles across the board will appreciate.

The bonus content featured with the recent Blu-ray re-issue of The Major and the Minor is key to the re-issue’s presentation, because of the strong foundation that they form for said showing.  If not for that content, the movie would be anything but interesting.  Keeping the bonus commentaries from Sinyard and Martin in mind while watching the movie, they make the movie’s story quite an interesting work and actually believable.    Maj. Kirby’s bad eye helps with suspension of disbelief in terms of how he fell for Susan’s act.  On another level, the understanding of Susan and Pamela more as symbols of a deep topic makes them even more valuable to the story, and not just the standard romantic rivals that are so overly common in every rom-com.  What’s more, the issue of how Susan was treated by the men throughout the movie will appeal to female viewers – again in understanding Sinyard and Martin’s commentary.  It makes Susan that much more of a sympathetic character, even without the note of her as a symbol for the noted political discussions.  The bonus commentaries also help to explain why Pamela’s sister was the only person who didn’t fall for Susan’s ploy.  It helps to make believable the blindness of the cadets and the adults who fell for her deception.  The end result of those understandings makes the story something truly in-depth and entertaining all in one.  Keeping that in mind, the story becomes far more watchable than it would have been without the commentaries, again showing the importance of the movie’s bonus content.

The entertainment and engagement offered through The Major and The Minor’s story – thanks to the Blu-ray’s bonus content – goes a long way toward making this re-issue a worthwhile watch for cinephiles everywhere.  Being that the bonus content and story work so well together, they make the movie’s average price point just as appealing to audiences in its own way.  The movie’s average price point is $31.25.  That price is reached by averaging prices at MVD Entertainment Group’s store, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million.  The least expensive listing for the Blu-ray is at Amazon, Walmart and Target, at $27.49.  The most expensive listing is at MVD’s store and at Books-A-Million’s store, at $39.95.  Best Buy lists the Blu-ray at $27.99, only slightly more expensive than the price listed at Amazon, Walmart and Target.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers lists the Blu-ray at $28.39.  Paying almost $40 is a little bit overpriced for this Blu-ray even keeping in mind the importance of the expansive, in-depth bonus content and its role in the enjoyment of the movie’s story.  On the other hand, $27.49 is actually relatively affordable, considering that Arrow Video’s releases are imports.  Arrow Video is based in the United Kingdom.  If the release were from a U.S. company, that might be a bit overpriced, but considering it is an import, it is about average, price-wise and worth the least expensive listing.  No matter which retailer consumers choose, the reality is that Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group will still receive a portion of those sales, so they are not going to lose out if consumers opt to buy the Blu-ray from Amazon, Walmart or Target.  Keeping that in mind the average price listing for this Blu-ray is largely a positive, and together with its content, makes the Blu-ray a presentation that cinephiles and classic movie buffs alike will appreciate.

MVD Entertainment Group and Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of The Major and the Minor is a positive presentation from the companies that proves widely appealing.  That is due in large part to the bonus content featured with the re-issue.  That content makes the movie’s otherwise run-of-the-mill rom-com story far more interesting than it would have been without said content.  The bonus content and story make the import’s average price point relatively affordable and worth paying in the end.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they make The Major and the Minor appealing for classic movie buffs and cinephiles alike.  The Major and the Minor is available now.  More information this and other titles from Arrow Video is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from MVD Entertainment Group is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://mvdentertainment.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/mvdentgroup

 

 

 

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

Paramount’s New ‘Star Trek: TNG’ Movie Collection Is A Welcome Set For The Most Devoted ‘Star Trek’ Fans

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment/Viacom/CBS DVD

Make it so!  Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment is beaming down a new Star Trek box set for fans of the franchise’s Next Generation era Tuesday.  Star Trek: Picard Movie & TV Collection is scheduled for release Tuesday on Blu-ray.  The six-disc collection is oddly titled, considering that it is more the Next Generation era movies than TV episodes.  This, the set’s presentation, will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured with the ser is a positive in its own way, in examining the set in whole.  It will be addressed a little later.  Keeping in mind the set’s primary and secondary content, its average price point becomes a key discussion topic in its own right.  It will be discussed a little later, too.  Keeping in mind the importance of all of these elements, this latest collection of Star Trek movies and television episodes is one that will appeal largely to the most diehard Star Trek fans.

Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment’s new Star Trek box set is a collection that is certain to divide fans of the long-running franchise’s Next Generation era.  It is a set that will appeal mostly to the most devoted fans of the franchise and the era thereof.  That is due in part to the set’s overall presentation.  The box set is titled Picard Movies & TV Collection.  The catch is that the set only features two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation along with all four of the movies.  The two episodes featured in the collection are the famed two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds,” which finds Captain Picard being captured by the Borg and turned into one of them.  The other episode, “Chain of Command” also finds Picard being captured, this time as a prisoner of war, so to speak.  One can’t help but wonder why those two episodes were chosen, considering that each was already previously released on DVD and Blu-ray.  There are other, equally entertaining episodes that could have been presented here, which were previously released only on the series’ full season and series box sets.  One of those episodes is the timeless “Darmok.”  The episode, featured in the series’ fifth season.  It was yet another episode that found Picard being captured and stuck on alien turf, having to get out of a tough situation.  What makes it stand out is that no conflict ever happened because Capt. Picard and his counterpart see past their differences and learn to communicate instead.  It is one of the series’ most beloved stories among fans and audiences in general.  “The Inner Light” is another powerful episode that focuses mainly on Capt. Picard in a completely different fashion.  It finds the beloved leader in a “what if” scenario that shows him what his life could have been like.  “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is yet another powerful episode of the series.  It finds Picard and the crew of the Enterprise D working with the crew of the Enterprise C to make sure history runs the way that it was meant to run in what was one of a handful of time travel episodes from the series.  Keeping all of this in mind, one can’t help but wonder why the two episodes featured here were chosen considering they’ve already seen the light of day.

The episodes chosen for this set are just part of what will divide audiences.  The set also features all four of the movies from the Next Generation era.  This is where things get even dicier.  On the surface, it would seem that having all four movies in one, slim package is a good thing.  It definitely is for the most devoted fans of that era from the Star Trek universe (no pun intended).  On the bigger scale though, only one of those movies ever proved truly successful in the long run – First ContactInsurrection, which premiered in 1998, was the second of the four movies.  According to information from Rotten Tomatoes, it was soundly panned by critics and viewers in general, receiving a 54% tomato meter score and 44% audience score.  It was panned by both parties as being little more than an extension of the series.  As a matter of fact, considering the story line, it is a story that had been done prior very early in the series’ run when a hidden federation outpost is accidentally revealed to a group of Romulans.  The Romulans in question end up thinking Capt. Picard is God.  Going back to the featured episodes in this set, that is yet another key episode featuring Picard.

Nemesis, the last of the Next Generation era movies, fared even worse,  receiving a tomato meter score of only 39% and an audience score of 49%.  Written by Brent Spiner, this movie is essentially a double evil twin story, with Data meeting his twin and Picard meeting his “twin,” who turns out to be quite the bad guy with a giant ship. In the end, the bad guy with the bigger ship (big gun) loses to the David character in Picard, of course.

Generations, while the first of the Next Generation movies, comes across as another very familiar story.  The crew of the Enterprise-D already encountered the crew of the Enterprise-C during the course of the series.  Now, here is some of the crew from the first Enterprise bridging the gap with the latest Enterprise crew.  Given, there is an intriguing story about us having to come to terms with our mortalities with the villain wanting to get to the Nexus, but the plot elements written into Picard and Kirk’s own experiences inside the Nexus echo previous episodes of The Next Generation, too.  There are lots of good special effects, but other than that, this movie felt more like a cash grab by Paramount to get fans of both Star Trek eras to open their wallets.  Is that bad?  No.  It makes sense.  At the same time though, the effort did not ultimately feel genuine. It felt more like those involved just wanted to make something that they knew said audiences would buy into even though there is nothing to buy into here.

First Contact is the best of the franchise’s big screen features.  That is because it finally answers the long-unanswered question of who and what was at the heart of the Borg collective.  Never once throughout the course of the series was this question ever answered, even though audiences knew there had to be a starting point, and finally that is what they got here.  Given, the movie’s story is familiar with its time traveling plot line and the attempt to keep history from being altered.  Even with that in mind, the story’s writing staff manages to do something here that makes the story stand out from the time travel stories that were featured in the series.  The set and costume design is also stepped up, adding to the movie’s draw.  To that end, it truly shows itself as something special.

The movies that were spawned during Star Trek’s Next Generation era have themselves become extremely divisive among audiences and fans, as has been noted.  Even with that in mind, there are those fans who are still truly devoted to the series and its cinematic counterparts.  For those audiences, the featuring of all of these movies will certainly be appealing.  In the same breath, the fact that each of the movies featured in the set also themselves feature the same bonus content as was featured in their previous releases will appeal to those noted audiences as well as other audiences.  Simply put, regardless of viewers’ devotion to the Star Trek franchise, everyone will be on the same level, including regardless of whether audiences have seen all four or none of the set’s featured movies.  To that end, love the movies or hate them, at least everyone will get to take in all of the same bonuses thanks to this set.

The carrying over of the bonus content in each movie from this set is a key positive for this set.  The inclusion of all four TNG movies is a boon for the most devoted fans of the franchise, while for those who might be more particular might find it not as interesting a draw.  Keeping that in mind, the set’s average price range of $31.72 is actually not a bad thing.  That price was obtained by averaging prices from Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Book Sellers and Books-A-Million. It was not listed at Target at the time of this review’s posting. Considering the prices of the stand-alone episodes’ Blu-ray releases and the prices of the movies’ releases, that price for this set is actually affordable.  Consumers would have to spend more than $100 for each of the titles by themselves, so paying a little more than $30 for all of them together is its own positive, again, regardless of that noted devotion to the franchise.  Having all of the movies, and at least two episodes (which were clearly chosen subjectively) gives audiences of all devotion something to look forward to here.  To that end, it is money well spent both for the most devoted fans and for even the most casual Star Trek fans who want to still be able to check out all of the TNG movies in one collection, rather than having to hunt them down one by one.  When this is considered along with the featured content – both primary and secondary – the whole of the et proves a positive  for Star Trek fans even despite the division that it will certainly create.

Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment’s new Star Trek: The Next Generation set is an interesting new presentation for audiences.  The most devoted audiences will certainly appreciate having all of the TNG movies in one set complete with all of their original bonus content, and at an affordable price.  The franchise’s more casual fans will appreciate the fans, but might find themselves better off with the movies that they enjoy the most.  What’s  more, those same audiences will find the set’s featured television episodes, which have already seen release in their own standalone Blu-rays, questionable as so many other episodes could have been featured.  To that end, those audiences might not find the set’s average price point enough to encourage them to purchase the set.  Keeping all of this in mind, this latest TNG set is an interesting journey, but not one that every Star Trek fan will want to take.  The set is scheduled for release Tuesday on Blu-ray.  More information on this and other titles from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.ParamountMovies.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/paramountmovies

 

 

 

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

Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

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

G.I. Joe Sequel Another Of 2013’s Worst Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2013 has been a rough year for the movie industry.  It has been either feast or famine for the big studios.  That is thanks in large part to the glut of sequels churned out by the industry’s major studios.  From the upper echelons all the way down to the general movie-goer, those same studios have been lambasted for their increasing reliance on sequels.  The latest movie in the G.I. Joe franchise justifies those darts even more.  Sure it has lots of flash-bang-boom action sequences and its share of special effects, and an easy to understand storyline, it doesn’t have much else.  Some might consider this a good thing for an action movie.  But the reality is because of this, it turns out to be one more movie that won’t take long to end up in the discount bins at retail outlets now that it is officially out on DVD and Blu-ray.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t the worst of the year’s movies.  It isn’t the worst of the record thirty-seven sequels that will have hit theaters by the year’s end.  But it isn’t one of the year’s best movies, either.  The question remains then, what is it about this movie that has left it in movie limbo so to speak?  To answer that isn’t easy.  But it isn’t impossible, either.  The best place to begin with the movie is its writing.  The story’s writing is for the most part, relatively simplistic.  It is also very predictable.  Right from the story’s opening minutes, audiences learn that at the end of the franchise’s first flick, Cobra Commander and Destro had both been captured and placed in special suspended animation tanks of sorts.  It is pretty obvious from this point where the story would progress.  It doesn’t get much better.  From here, audiences are introduced to the story’s secondary plot, the evil twin plot headed by the evil Zartan.  Simple math, right?  Yes.  Two plus two equals four.  Yet another world domination plot on the part of Cobra, which at least goes along with the old cartoon series from the 80s and early 90s.

The predictability of the story in G.I. Joe: Retaliation is just one microscopic part of the problem with its writing.  Just when one thinks the writing couldn’t get any worse, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick make the story even more convoluted by adding in a third storyline involving Snake Eyes’ (one of the few remaining Joes after Cobra’s attack on the Joes) hunt for his arch nemesis, Stormshadow.  Snake Eyes has to nab Stormshadow and bring him back to answer for the murder of his sensei, of which he was accused of committing as a child.  This additional storyline really wasn’t necessary to the overall outcome of the movie.  Wernick and Reese must have known this as they tried to justify it by making sure that only Stormshadow would know the full extent of Cobra’s evil plans this time out.  They could have still had him be a key player without the extra drama.  Had all of this extra fluff been cut, it would have saved a lot of time and maybe even made all of the movie’s over-the-top fight scenes and explosions justified.  But no, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Instead, they left it in.  And to make matters even worse, they made the story drag on even more by adding in unnecessary elements of melodrama both on the part of Stormshadow and the remaining Joes.  There is the whole aspect of Stormshadow having to come to terms with Zartan being the real killer and tricking him when he was a child.  And then there is Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) coming to terms with taking over the Joes after Duke’s (Channing Tatum) death early on.  Let us also not forget Lady Jaye’s own drama involving her father issues, too.  It’s all extra fat that could have been trimmed from the whole thing to make it at least more bearable.

Had the unnecessary elements noted above been removed from the movie’s final script, that removal would have made G.I. Joe: Retaliation more bearable.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  Even the choice of the movie’s title is problematic.  The very inclusion of the word “retaliation” in the title hurts the movie even more.  It’s an ambiguous subtitle.  That’s because in reality, both Cobra and the remaining Joes are retaliating against one another for everything that had happened in the course of the franchise’s first film.  More than likely, the intent was for the subtitle to be aimed more at the retaliation of G.I. Joe against Cobra for its actions against its forces.  But again, the ambiguity is there; too much of it in fact to make such a subtitle work.  And along with the already poor writing, it reduces the movie’s credibility even more.

There is so much that went wrong with G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  However, it would be unfair to ignore the only shining rays of hope that this largely forgettable Summer action flick does have.  Those rays of hope lie in the movie’s really cool gadgets and its action sequences.  Again, had the gadgets and action sequences been left with the predictable writing, the movie would not have been half as bad as it turned out to be.  But because that didn’t happen, the action sequences come across as little more than an excuse to try and distract viewers from the poor writing.  This is most clearly evident in the ironic fact that the most exciting of the action sequences was one that itself might not have even been necessary.  It involves Snake Eyes and his protégé, Jinx, facing a horde of ninjas along a sheer cliff face after having recovered Stormshadow in the aforementioned equally unnecessary extra story line.  As impressive as this sequence was, the only way that it (and its companion story line) could be justified is the fact that so many of the cast members from the previous film didn’t return this time out for whatever given reason.  So something was needed (in the minds of the writers) to advance the storyline.  Thus this sequence and its associated story line were inserted.  Had both elements been removed in the end, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still could have survived.  Sure it probably would have still ended up being forgotten in the grand scheme of things.  But it still would have survived and even taken more seriously.  As enchanted as studio heads continue to be with franchises, it would be no surprise if audiences eventually see another sequel or even a franchise reboot already.  When either of these scenarios plays out, one can only hope that whoever writes its script will learn from all of this and will make a movie that will return honor to the name and legacy that is G.I. Joe.

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

Storming Juno Another Important Story Of WWII

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Stories of WWII told from the American and British vantage points are quite plentiful in the world of television and movies.  Stories from those in other Allied forces are far less.  That is they are far less prominent in the United States.  Now finally, another lesser told piece of WWII history has finally been added to the whole.  One part historical drama and one part documentary, Entertainment One’s brand new WWII story, Storming Juno is an impressive work.  The hour and a half presentation tells the story of the events of June 6th, 1944 from the perspective not of the American or British forces, but from the Canadian military.  It is centered on three young soldiers that were actually there on the day that marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. 

It is difficult to know where exactly to begin in the discussion of Storming Juno.  It would be very easy to compare this movie to the likes of bigger blockbuster films such as Saving Private Ryan and Flags of our Fathers.  By comparison, Storming Juno is just as good as those war epics if not better than them.  That might be a bold statement to some.  But it is a true statement.  That’s not to say that the aforementioned films were bad.  It just means that for an indie war film, Storming Juno definitely holds its own.  And it does so quite well at that.  So what enabled Storming Juno to hold its own so well against much bigger, more epic war movies?  For starters, the movie itself runs just over an hour.  The remaining half an hour of the entire feature’s ninety minute run time is taken by a documentary of sorts.  Another factor in the success of this movie is tied directly to its run time.  That factor is the story’s writing.  Script writer Christopher Gagosz managed in his script, to balance the intertwining stories of the three men on which it focuses.  Along with its balance, there are two more factors that make Storming Juno a success and a must see for any history buff and lover of war films. Those factors tie in to make this a complete story that any history buff and war movie fan will enjoy just as much as any war movie released by Hollywood’s major studios.  The factors in question are the incorporation of actual footage taken on D-Day by Canadian forces and the general historical accuracies portrayed in the movie itself.  These tie back into the writing and in turn the story length and overall enjoyment of the movie.  It all works together to make Storming Juno not just an enjoyable war story, but also one of 2013’s best independent movies.

Storming Juno holds its own against other bigger name war movies first and foremost because of its run time.  Paramount’s Saving Private Ryan clocked in at a massive one hundred sixty-nine minutes long.  That is roughly two hours and forty-nine minutes, or in simple terms, nearly three hours long.  Paramount’s other major war epic, Flags of our Fathers, came in at roughly two hours and twelve minutes.  Storming Juno on the other hand comes in at only ninety-minutes.  The primary story itself (not counting the semi-documentary that follows the main story) comes in at just over sixty minutes.  This puts the actual story at less than half the time of both previously mentioned movies.  If one were to count the full ninety-minutes, then it would still be just over half the time of said movies.  Thanks to the writing of Christopher Gagosz though, it doesn’t feel that ninety-minutes at all.  It keeps viewers engaged through every action filled moment.

Script writer Christopher Gagosz’s writing is largely to thanks for the movie’s ability to keep viewers engaged throughout its full ninety minutes.  He does this because instead of focusing on melodrama, as Saving Private Ryan and Flags of our Fathers do, he instead balances the personal emotions of his subjects with the story’s action.  While Juno Beach might not have been nearly as fraught with danger as Utah Beach, it was still dangerous.  The body language of the soldiers as they waited to take the beach said so much without saying anything.  It served to set the mood of tension, thus keeping viewers engaged.  The action that ensued from the moment that the troop transports landed and the tanks were launched (and subsequently sunk) plays into that tension and does even more to keep viewers’ attention. Right to the battle’s final moments.  As those final moments close, audiences are introduced to some of the men that were there at Juno Beach.  Their interviews serve to cement the story presented and tie into the final factor of the movie’s success.  That factor is its accuracy. 

Much of what is presented in Storming Juno was taken directly from both oral and written first-hand accounts of this battle.  As noted in the bonus “Inside Storming Juno” feature, much work went into bringing the story to life and making it accurate.  Even actual veterans from the battle were brought in to help set the scene, as was an individual with expert knowledge of the Royal Regina Rifles to make certain that the battle was portrayed as accurately as possible.  It would seem that the only questionable aspect of accuracy is that of the planes used in telling the story of the paratrooper.  They seemed to look like B-25s of some sort.  Other than that one slight inaccuracy, so much else was done right with this movie.  It ties right back in to the writing.  And along with the writing and run time, it makes Storming Juno a movie that any history buff and war movie fan will appreciate regardless if another movie based on non-American or British Allied forces is ever made.  It is available now in stores and online.

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

Paramount, Lucasfilm’s new Indiana Jones Box Set The Best Yet

Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm, LTD.

Indiana Jones is one of the most famous and beloved heroes in the stories annals of Hollywood.  His original trio of adventures has transcended generations.  And his more recent adventure has its own legions of fans, too.  To this day, Indiana Jones costumes are still popular every Halloween.  And much like his costumes are so popular, so are his adventures to the point that they have seen multiple releases both as stand-alone features and box sets.  Now fans have the opportunity to see all four movies in a whole new way thanks to the release of the brand new “Indiana Jones:  The Complete Adventures” on blu-ray.

Paramount and Lucasfilm have officially released the complete four film set along with the bonus features included in the previous sets.  Among those bonus features are the “Making of” features for all four of the movies and the feature discussing the now famed “melting face” sequence from Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark.  That in itself is a great feature for anyone who has any interest in Hollywood special effects and movie production.  Some of the features even include bonus pop up trivia that adds even more appreciation for these classic movies.  For instance, audiences learn through the pop-up trivia that when Indy comes face to face with a King Cobra in “Raiders”, he was never really in danger, of course.  He was actually separated from the snake by glass.  That the glass was made invisible in post production is a tribute to the work of all involved.  Another little tidbit is that the canyon scene in which the Nazis were carrying the ark was the same canyon from a certain other famous science fiction movie.  Give up?  Does the title Star Wars mean anything to anyone?  That’s right!  It’s the same one.  Obviously it’s a little more than mere coincidence.

The bonus features included in this set are much like the ones from the previous DVD releases.  But not everyone has had the opportunity to own this piece of movie history.  For those who have yet to include it in their home libraries, the bonus features make the whole viewing experience that much more enjoyable.  They are just a drop in the bucket, though.  The clarity of the picture in all four movies is so much clearer in each one.  Everything is more clear and defined.  Even the original grainy footage is still evident here and there.  Nothing has been lost in the transfer to blu-ray.  If anything, so much has been gained with this set.

The enhanced picture and the extensive bonus features go a long way to making this a must have set for Indiana Jones fans of any age.  They aren’t all that make it an impressive set.  Unlike the previous larger “Complete DVD Movie Collections”, this set is far more ergonomically designed.  It’s presented in a much more slim case shaped like a book.  Each “page” contains the disc for each movie.  Also included on each page is a promo poster and production shots to enhance the design.  This compact design will save space on anyone’s DVD and/or blu-ray rack.  And combined with everything else included in this set, most audiences will agree that “Indiana Jones:  The Complete Adventures” is not only the “complete” adventures of Indiana Jones, but the complete definitive adventures of Indiana Jones.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.