Anchor Bay To Release New WWII Drama This Spring

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Amplify Releasing

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Amplify Releasing

World War II is known today as one of the worst conflicts in human history. The destruction caused by the war and the war’s human cost was devastating to say the least. We have that knowledge thanks to those that survived and through extensive documentation both on paper and film. The combination of these elements has in many cases been translated into some of the most powerful and memorable stories of all time. Stories like that of Oskar Schindler, General George S. Patton, Jr., the battle of Midway, and the crew of the famed Memphis Belle are just some of those countless yet powerful stories that have come from one of the world’s worst conflicts. Now this spring, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Amplify Releasing will add another equally powerful story to those ranks when it releases the human drama Against The Sun.

Against The Sun will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 5th. The movie follows the story of three U.S. Navy airmen that crashed in the Pacific in the early days after America entered the war. After crashing in the middle of the Pacific without any food, water, or possible chance of help, pilot Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt—Deadwood, 12 Years a Slave, No Country For Old Men), bombardier Tony Pastula (Tom Felton—the Harry Potter franchise, Get Him to the Greek, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and radioman Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel—Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Host, The Lovely Bones) must come together to survive. The trio faces not just the dangers of the open sea but its own emotional struggles, too as it floats thousands of miles from land. If this sounds familiar, it should. An equally well-known story is that of the crew of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese sub, leading to the greatest loss of life at sea in U.S. Naval history. The 900 survivors of the sinking faced very similar challenges. Their story was turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1991 titled Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. There is also a major motion picture centered on the ship in the works that will star Nicholas Cage. Getting back to Against The Sun, it will include a handful of bonus material including a behind-the-scenes featurette, a piece on the movie’s costuming, the movie’s special effects and more. The full list on bonuses is noted below:

  • A Behind-The-Scenes Look
  • A Plane Takes Flight
  • Starving at Sea
  • Working on Water
  • F/X: On Set and Off
  • Blisters, Burns, and Bites
  • Dressing The Part

Against The Sun will be available on DVD Tuesday, May 5th. It will retail for MSRP of $22.98. Its run time is ninety-nine minutes. More information on Against The Sun and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

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Shout At The Devil Is Well Deserving Of Its Recent DVD/BD Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group/MGM/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/MGM/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory re-issued this Spring a movie that is perhaps one of the lesser known wartime period pieces to have been released during the 20th Century. The movie in question is the World War I period piece Shout at the Devil. This 1976 film, starring Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker) and Lee Marvin (M Squad, The Dirty Dozen, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), is a movie that deserves a second chance and rightfully has gotten one thanks to the people at Shout! Factory. The story’s script is the central reason for it to get that look that it otherwise might not have gotten in its original release. The script’s premise is pretty simple to follow, which leaves plenty of time for action throughout its length. Also worth noting is the acting on the part of both Marvin and Moore. The duo’s on screen presence makes suspension of disbelief quite easy, thus making the movie that much more enjoyable whether one is seeing it for the first time or the first time in a long time. And last but not least is the movie’s special effects department. While the movie is at its heart an action flick, the over-the-top explosions and other special effects that are overly used in today’s movies are nowhere to be found here. It seems like a minor detail. But reality is that it is quite important in the overall scheme of things. Each of the factors noted here are important at their own level. Altogether, they show just why Shout at the Devil is one of the 20th Century’s more underrated action flicks and war-time period pieces.

When asked to name some of the greatest war-time movies ever crafted during the 20th Century, most audiences will likely rattle off movie titles such as The Great Escape, Schindler’s List, Patton, and other big name movies. The likely reason for this is that movies centered on World War I are so few and far between. Next to Shout at the Devil perhaps the only other movie centered on that World War I that most audiences will come up with when asked to name any is All Quiet on the Western Front. Odds are few people will name Shout at the Devil as a matter of fact. Given the chance to watch this movie, word might finally spread now that it has been re-issued in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. And one reason that word might spread is the movie’s script. The script behind this movie is pretty simple. It sees Marvin and Moore as Colonel Flynn O’Flynn and Sebastian Oldsmith respectively. The pair goes toe to toe with German officer Herman Fleischer (Reinhard Kolldehoff) in a game of cat and mouse across Africa. After Fleishcer and his men set fire to the village where O’Flynn and Oldsmith are staying with Oldsmiths’ wife and child things get very personal. That’s because Oldsmith’s newborn is killed in the process. The pair is then given reason to join forces with the British Navy to hunt down Fleischer’s battleship and sink it. It’s as simple as that. So it leaves one wondering why some viewers didn’t like this movie. Perhaps those are the viewers that should give this movie another watch now that it has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD box set courtesy of Shout! Factory. Perhaps a second watch will allow those audiences to see it more clearly and in turn appreciate it for that script, if nothing else.

The script penned for Shout at the Devil is central to the overall enjoyment of this period piece. Working in direct connection with the script is the acting on the part of its lead cast. There is obvious chemistry between Moore and Marvin throughout the movie. Their interactions show that. From their first scene to their fight when O’Flynn’s daughter announces that she and Oldsmith are going to get married, to Oldsmith’s reaction to being volunteered for the mission to find Fleischer’s battleship, their interactions with one another pull viewers effortlessly into the movie. Audiences will find themselves laughing quite a bit at the contradiction of personalities between the duo at so many points throughout the story. And even in the story’s few more emotional moments, they both pull off their parts expertly. That ability to interpret each scene and properly emote will easily keep audiences engaged and entertained. In turn, they make the movie’s roughly two-and-a-half hour run time fly by thus proving once more why this little-known movie so rightly deserved its re-issue from Shout! Factory.

The acting on the part of Lee Marvin and Roger Moore in Shout at the Devil and the movie’s script are both important parts of the movie’s enjoyment. There is one more factor to examine in the movie’s overall presentation that makes it a movie worth watching. That final factor is the movie’s special effects. Those that give this movie a chance will note that it is both a drama and an action flick. No action flick is complete without a certain amount of special effects. The problem with Hollywood today is that it relies far too much on special effects to make up for what is an otherwise boring film that lacks any real substance. The case with Shout at the Devil is the exact opposite as today’s movies. Given, studios didn’t have access to the resources in 1976 to which they have access today. Regardless, those behind the movie’s special effects used the resources at their disposal at a minimum. The flight scenes were obviously filmed in front of a blue screen as was the scene early on in which Fleischer’s battleship rams the tiny boat carrying O’Flynn and Oldsmith. But in comparison to other movies released in the late 70s, these special effects were actually respectable. They didn’t look so deliberate that one would end up simply shaking their heads at said scenes. And even the final scene, which will not be revealed here, kept the explosions to a minimum. They weren’t the over-the-top flash-bang-boom trips on which filmmakers such as Michael Bay and James Cameron go in their movies. Simply put, the special effects used in Shout at the Devil were used as part of the story rather than to make up for lack of story. And that balance with the writing and acting serves as part of the whole that once more makes Shout at the Devil a movie that any movie buff and military movie buff should see. This is regardless of whether said individuals will see the movie for the first time or for the first time in a long time.

Shout at the Devil is available now in stores and online in a double-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo pack courtesy of Shout! Factory. It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/shout-devil. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Timeless Media is available online at http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial, http://www.shoutfactory.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364, and http://www.timelessvideo.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it at 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.

EOne’s Angel of the Skies Is An Underrated WWII Story

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

World War II was the most devastating military conflict that the world has ever seen.  The interesting thing about this war is that it led to the creation of some of the film industry’s most iconic movies.  Movies like Tora Tora Tora, Patton, and The Longest Day became cornerstones of the biggest titles linked to WWII.  Since the days of those classics, countless other movies centered on WWII have been churned out.  Some of them have been not so bad, while others have been not so memorable.  Entertainment One’s new WWII era movie Angel of the Skies is one of those movies that while it is an indie flick, is still one that is not so bad.  Sure, there are some historical inaccuracies depicted in the movie.  But the general story behind the movie is what makes it worth at least one watch.  The acting on the part of the cast helps to make the movie worth at least one watch, too.  And the same can be said of the early flight scenes and backdrops.  All of it taken into account, Angel of the Skies is not as bad as some have already made it out to be.

Angel of the Skies has received mixed reviews by some critics.  The biggest criticism of the movie has been its historical accuracy.  There are some issues with said accuracy.  But one must also take into account that no movie ever based on historical events was one hundred percent accurate in itself.  That being taken into account, it really is not that bad of a movie within its genre.  The story itself is worth a watch first and foremost for the themes tied into the overall story.  Writer/director Christopher-Lee dos Santos ties into his story, the themes of brotherhood, determination, and dedication.  He does so in a way that none of the themes overpower themselves through the course of the movie.  They actually work together to give the story an emotional depth that will keep viewers engaged through the movie’s near two-hour run time.  The story’s theme of dedication works quite well in a dual role here.  On one hand, the theme of dedication works as it is linked to the sub-story between Flight Officer Earl Kirk and his girlfriend, Deborah Caldwell (Lillie Claire—Supernatural, Suing The Devil) and to the dedication of the flight crew to one another after  their plane is shot down.  That theme of dedication among the flight crew directly compliments the script’s theme of brotherhood, too.  Even in the greatest of odds, the men refuse to leave one another behind if at all possible, and will do whatever it takes to save one of their own from Nazi officers.  In turn, that theme of brotherhood is directly linked to the theme of determination.  The men were determined to survive and survive together at all costs.  Each of these themes work together seamlessly to make a story that is worth at least one watch by any history buff and film buff.

The interweaving themes that make up the script behind Angel of the Skies are central to the movie’s ability to keep viewers engaged.  They collectively aren’t all to be considered.  The acting of the cast helps to move the story along, too.  The actors that make up the movie’s cast are largely unknowns.  Despite that, they put on a believable performance.  This is the case both by themselves and together.  The men that make up the flight crew do quite the job in their roles.  As enjoyable as it is to watch them take on their roles, it’s the vile SS officer Stutze that truly stands out in this movie.  Stutze (David James) is truly ruthless in his attempts to locate the South African airmen and carry out his duties.  Not to reveal too much, but he is so vile that he goes so far as to have his men kill a German milkmaid that had protected the airmen after they were shot down.  This after he told her that everything would be okay.  He even gunned down a defenseless American soldier early on as part of his character’s setup.  The ability of an actor or actress to make his or her character that despicable means that said individual is more than doing his or her job in said role.  If the combined themes aren’t enough to keep audiences engaged through the story, then that juxtaposition of character types and roles will definitely do its part to keep viewers engaged.

The general writing and acting that comprise Angel of the Skies combine to make it a movie that is well worth at least one watch.  They don’t work by themselves, though.  The movie’s special effects and backdrops play their own role in making this movie worth at least one watch.  Unlike so many other WWII based movies, this movie mixes CG with live action.  The flight scenes are largely computer generated.  It’s obvious where the computer elements were used, too.  But at least they weren’t as cheesy as those used in the 2006 James Franco WWI flop, Flyboys.  One almost couldn’t tell the difference as the bombers were flying into German airspace.  The only times that one could tell for certain that computer graphics were used were when the bombers came under fire from the Messerschmitts and when the flight crew’s bomber crashed.  The rest of the movie’s story was set against a live action backdrop.  What’s interesting about the live action backdrop is that it didn’t feel as over the top as those used in some other WWII era dramas.  It felt more real for lack of better wording.  That is an area in which far too many movie makers get things wrong.  Too many movie makers look for settings that will enhance their movies.  And it only serves to lessen the movies in question to a certain extent.  That isn’t the case here, though.  That realistic feel combines with the movie’s writing and the cast’s acting to make it a movie that despite being an indie flick is still one worth watching at least once by any history buff and movie buff.  It will be available next Tuesday, December 31st on DVD.  It can be ordered direct from the Entertainment One website at http://us.eonefilms.com/films/angel-of-the-skies?lang=en-US.  More information on this and other releases from EOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com.  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.

Ghost Army One Of The Greatest Generation’s Greatest Stories

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ latest WWII documentary, The Ghost Army is another of this year’s best documentaries.  While it will not be available until next Tuesday, June 18th, its release was still quite well timed with the recent passing of last week’s 68th anniversary of D-Day.  There are so many stories that have been told about the members of “The Greatest Generation” as they were so properly termed by former broadcaster Tom Brokaw.  Sadly, as each year passes, there are fewer and fewer members of said generation left to share the stories of WWII.  One can only wonder how many stories will never be told because of this.  Thankfully though, PBS has managed to recover what is perhaps one of the least told stories of WWII with this new release.  It is one that regardless of whether one has an interest in war history, art history, or history in general, will appeal to so many audiences. 

The Ghost Army is on the surface one more story of WWII.  What makes it so special is that while there are so many stories that have been told, the story of the Ghost Army has not been told nearly as much as others.  That is because as members of the then secret military outfit noted, their operations were kept classified for some four decades after the war ended.  So while some books have been written on the group of soldiers, little else has been created or even published about this group of men.  That being noted, the stories shared by those that served with the Ghost Army will amaze any viewer.  It’s incredible to believe that this group of soldiers was able to outsmart so many Nazi divisions with just speakers and a bunch of inflatable weaponry and vehicles.  It’s so incredible in that for decades mankind has marveled at how advanced the Nazi forces were in terms of their military technology in comparison to the United States.  The Ghost Army didn’t need all of the high tech rockets and other tech to hold off the Nazi forces.  It’s a true statement to American know-how and creativity.

Speaking of the creativity of the Ghost Army, art lovers will appreciate this program as it notes that many of the men that staffed the Ghost Army were in fact artists.  It was because of their talent as artists that the Ghost Army was able to pull such acts of deception over not just the Nazi forces, but their own forces, too.  At one point, narrator Peter Coyote notes that an airfield built by the Ghost Army was so convincing that an American recon plane landed and was summarily told to get out of there, so as to not blow their cover.  That is a tribute to the talents of all involved from brainchild to reality.  And as viewers will learn in the show’s closing minutes, many of those same men came to be some of America’s best known and respected individuals in the worlds of art and fashion.  On a side note, it should be noted here that some of the unit’s men had some real talent with a pencil and pen.  That’s revealed through drawings and etchings crafted by the men during trips to Paris.  Parents should note that these drawings in question do contain at least some slight nudity.  One drawing does reveal a woman’s breasts under a very sheer negligee.  It’s just one of a handful of drawings that some older audiences might not think appropriate for younger viewers to see.  So parents and teachers should use their discretion here.  Sure the stories connected to the drawings will have viewers laughing.  But the drawings themselves might be a bit much for some viewers. 

The stories shared by the members of the Ghost Army are quite eye opening and impressive to say the least.  Just as impressive is the understanding that the simple use of theatrics was able to hold off so much of the German army.  And to learn that certain members of the Ghost Army went on to become highly successful in their art and fashion related careers is even more incredible.  There is one more factor in The Ghost Army that makes it an impressive documentary.  That factor is the original footage taped through operations conducted by the once top secret military outfit.  The footage helps to fully illustrate what the Ghost Army did and the impact of its operations.  It helps to pass on what is perhaps one of the most incredible stories of the Greatest Generation for a whole new generation (and generations to come).   All of these stories and revelations shared in The Ghost Army prove even more, the value and importance of public broadcasting.  The program will be available next Tuesday, June 18th.  It can be ordered online direct via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20299476&cp=&kw=the+ghost+army&origkw=The+Ghost+Army&sr=1.

 Anyone wanting more information on The Ghost Army and any other PBS program can get all the latest and more online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org. 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.

Patton BD Re-Issue A Must For Any Movie Lover

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Patton is one of the single greatest works in movie history.  This epic isn’t just a war movie.  It’s a movie about a man and his impact on those around him and the entire world.  It’s also about his own battle to come to terms with who he was.  The dichotomy of who Patton was in this story is really what makes the near three hour run time so watchable.  On one side, audiences see a man who is a trained killer.  Even his own adversary notes near the story’s end notes that life without war would kill him, not a bullet.  And even one fellow soldier notes to his face that he [Patton] does what he does not because he was trained to do it, but because he enjoyed it.  Those are two very bold statements about Patton the soldier.  The trained soldier is just one side of who Patton was.  On another side of the stone, audiences see a man who has one of the biggest hearts in the world.  He showed that as cold and calculated as he was on the battlefield, he still cared about the men who served under him.  His problem was his inability to balance the two.  It’s almost as if Patton felt the need to uphold a certain reputation.  But at the same time, he knew that he had to show at least some humanity.  One individual interviewed for the movie’s primary bonus feature, “History Through The Lens—A Rebel Revisited”, notes that what Patton is really about is the rise and fall of this almost mythical figure.  That rise and fall involved his inability to balance his humanistic side with the expertly trained soldier.General Patton’s inability to balance the soldier and the man is a big part of what has led to discussions among audiences in the four plus decades since this biopic first debuted.  That discussion is also raised in the film’s main bonus feature, which has also been brought over from the movie’s previous releases on DVD.  And as famed writer/director Francis Ford Coppola notes in the movie’s preface, he really tried hard to make sure people would see that the movie wasn’t meant to generate political discussions, but discussions about the complexity of who Patton was.  Speaking of Coppola, it’s interesting that he also notes to audiences of how he was originally fired from the film.  Go figure, he was brought back, and his work with fellow writer Edmund H. North went on to make a movie that could easily be used as the basis for any doctoral dissertation or for conversations among true movie lovers.

Coppola and North are to be highly commended for this outstanding story of a man’s struggle to balance his duty as a leader of men with being a man with a heart.  Their work is just one part of what makes this new Blu-ray re-issue a must for not just any film buff, but also for anyone who thirsts for movies with real substance.

The bonus features, which were carried over from the previous DVD releases, go into full depth showing how far the cast and crew went to making a movie that wasn’t just another movie “based on actual events.”  Audiences have gotten far too many of those movies, even since Hollywood’s golden era.  Yes, it’s been going on even that long.  The interviews culled for the bonus features show how the people behind the camera went into painstaking detail about Patton’s time as one of the Army’s most influential and controversial figures.  The main feature, “History Through The Lens: Patton – A Rebel Revisited” runs roughly ninety minutes.  It compares Patton as he’s seen on screen, and the real life figure, going so far as to admit at first Patton’s family didn’t take too well at the thought of a bio pic based on his life originally.  But when they saw the final product, his family appreciated the work that had been crafted.  It’s a perfect feature both for any film buff or even any history class.  While there are other features included on the newly re-issued set, this one alone more could have carried the movie and made it that much better.  That’s not to say that the other features weren’t necessary.  Quite the opposite.  They were just the icing on the cake, so to speak.  They just helped to put this already iconic movie over the top as not just one of the best movies of the twentieth century, but of all time.  The new Patton Blu-ray re-issue is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct via 20th Century Fox’s online store, http://www.foxconnect.com.

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