Disney’s Latest ‘Aladdin’ Re-Issue Offers More Magical Fun For The Whole Family

Walt Disney Studios’ modern classic movie Aladdin is coming back to Blu-ray and DVD again.  The animated feature, originally released in 1992, is set to be re-issued Sept. 10 alongside the home release of Disney’s live action/CG reboot of that movie.  The upcoming Signature Collection re0issue of Aladdin is an interesting new presentation of the movie in large part because of its bonus content, which will be addressed shortly.  The story at the center of the movie strengthens the re-issue’s presentation even more.  The movie’s average price point rounds out the most notable of the movie’s elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Aladdin.  All things considered, they make this latest re-issue of Aladdin a piece that is while not perfect, still a positive new re-issue of what is one of Disney’s most timeless movies.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s upcoming Blu-ray/DVD re-issue of Aladdin (1992) is a mostly positive new presentation of the movie.  That is due in part to the bonus content featured with the movie.  The bonus content is being addressed first in that the movie’s story itself is obviously not changed from its original 1992 presentation.  The bonus content featured in this latest re-issue (which comes approximately three years after the release of the movie’s Diamond Edition re-issue) give viewers a little something old and something new.  The old content carried over to this re-issue are the features about Aladdin’s life on stage, the brief segment featuring Robin Williams’ genie outtakes and the Disney Channel special “Unboxing Aladdin.”  The new extras introduced in this re-issue, the singalong version of the movie, star Scott weinger’s retrospective on the movie and the introduction of two alternate endings that never made the final cut.  For those who have never seen the bonus features from the previous Diamond Edition re-issue of Aladdin, the focus on Aladdin’s stage life is interesting considering its worldwide success.  As is revealed in this feature, the musical almost didn’t happen because of the growing pains that it (and its cast) endured.  Viewers learn that that play didn’t start on Broadway, but went from Seattle and on to Toronto before finally making its way to Broadway.  Seattle and Toronto were used as test markets for all intents and purposes for the play.  The extensive discussions with the lead cast and the musical’s creative heads give a lot of insight into the growing pains that were endured on stage and behind the curtains, such as the evolution of the flying carpet aspect and how to address the comparison between James Iglehart’s Genie and that of Robin Williams.  Viewers will be interested to learn that Alan Menken and his creative partner Howard Ashman originally had plans to make a character for Genie more in the vein of a Cab Calloway/Fats Waller hybrid for him instead of the portrayal that Williams brought to the character.  That approach is what was used for the stage Genie, and ended up proving successful.

The Genie Outtakes segment is brief, but still entertaining, especially for older viewers who will get the references.  Viewers see firsthand here, the many impersonations that Williams did during the movie, but ended up on the cutting room floor.  There are impersonations of Richard Nixon, John Wayne, Elmer Fudd, Wolfman Jack and Michael Jackson just to name a handful of famous figures spoofed throughout the movie, which ended up being removed or replaced.  It serves to show even more, Williams wide range of talent in terms of comedic impersonation.

In terms of the movie’s new bonus content, one of the most notable new features is Scott Weinger’s retrospective “Aladdin on Aladdin.”  Weinger, who was the speaking voice of the movie’s titular character, talks with his fellow cast mates from the movie, as well as his mom and the movie’s creative heads (including Alan Menkin) about the movie’s creation, everyone’s roles and their favorite memories of making the movie.  Viewers will be interested to learn through this bonus that Weinger audition for Aladdin’s speaking voice and his singing voice, but failed the singing audition.  Jonathan Freeman, the voice of Jafar jokes about having wanted to voice a villain for many years before taking on the role of Jafar while Gilbert Gottfriend talks with Weinger via phone and jokes about taking on the role of Iago.  By connection, Ron Clements, one of the movie’s co-writers reveals that Gottfriend was not the first choice for the role.  He reveals Iago was originally going to be British, but after Gottfried auditioned, that all changed.  As if all of that is not enough, Weinger’s discussion with Menken reveals the song which Weinger auditioned and failed.  That song was Howard Ashman’s “Proud of Your Boy,” Which was cut from the final movie, but is featured to this day in Aladdin’s stage presentation.  This is where the bonus content turns somewhat downward.

There is so much discussion in the bonus features about the song in question – “Proud of Your Boy – but the song itself is not featured in whole as a bonus this time.  It is presented however, in the movie’s 2015 Diamond Edition re-issue along with a group of other songs cut from the final presentation.  With all the talk of that song and its impact on the movie’s cast and crew, it would have made so much sense to have included that as one of the carry-overs from the 2015 re-issue.  To that end, it makes no sense why it and the other deleted songs were not included in this re-issues bonuses list.  Hopefully they will be brought over with the next re-issue whenever it is released.

As much as Weinger’s retrospective does to make this latest re-issue interesting for viewers, it is just one of the re-issue’s most notable extras.  The two brief alternate endings included as extras are important in their own right.  That is because they actually serve to make the initial opening for Disney’s 2019 Aladdin reboot make sense.  What’s more, they are certain to lead viewers to discuss whether they would have added anything to the 1992 movie had one or the other been included.  On the one hand, they might not have, but on the other hand, either one could have put even more of a period to the story.  To that end, it is nice to have those alternate endings.  Between this brief extra and the more in-depth retrospective from Weinger and company, these two new bonuses and the inclusion of the previous bonuses collectively make a strong foundation for this latest re-issue of Aladdin.  Sure, they leave viewers thinking they will probably have to keep the Diamond Edition (if they already own it) if only for the deleted songs feature, but that aside, they still make this a positive new collection of bonuses that audiences will enjoy.

The engagement and entertainment offered through the bonus content featured in Aladdin’s latest re-issue is just one part of what makes this presentation so appealing to the movie’s key viewers.  Its story adds to that engagement and enjoyment.  The story, presents plenty of comedy, action and romance for viewers of all ages.  It’s a buddy comedy thanks to Aladdin’s friendship with Genie.  It is also a coming of age story for Aladdin, and also a story about letting go of tradition that even promotes female independence and self-confidence.  This aspect of Aladdin is a big part of the story’s success in its own right.  That is because while it was presented in subtle fashion, that subtle approach of giving Princess jasmine such confidence and inner strength makes it that much more powerful.  It is what Guy Ritchie’s re-write got wrong.  Where Jasmine in the ’92 version was already a great role model for women (especially young women) everywhere, the Jasmine presented in the 2019 version was a way over-the-top, hear me roar, preachy Jasmine who was clearly a response to the MeToo movement.  There is nothing wrong with female empowerment.  Female empowerment is wonderful.  However, the extent to which that empowerment went in Guy Ritchie’s version was far too extreme.  It made her seem more like an uber feminist than just a straight out, strong, confident woman that viewers saw in the 1992 version of Jasmine.  It makes this aspect of the ’92 version’s story that much more integral to its success.  Even as Jafar reveals the true identity of Prince Ali and casts him to the ends of the earth, that is a big moment, but it is not so dark that it might be unsettling, so it is nice to keep that in mind, too.  Simply put, every element of this movie’s story and how each plot element interweaves with one another makes this story unforgettable and honestly timeless.  When this is considered with the importance of the re-issue’s bonus content, that primary and secondary content collectively makes for plenty for the movie’s target audience to appreciate.  It also makes the movie’s average price point such that the noted viewers will find no problem paying that price.

The average price point of Aladdin is $27.99.  That price was obtained by averaging prices at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon and Books-A-Million.  A the time of this review’s posting, the movie was not listed at Barnes & Noble Booksellers’ online store.  The price listed at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon is $24.99 while Books-A-Million’s price is  the most expensive at $39.99.  In other words, save for that one listing, viewers will find the re-issue’s price the same at each of the other noted outlets.  Those prices are all below the movie’s average price and on par with so many of Disney’s other home releases in recent years.  To that end, the movie’s price is money well spent by its most devoted audiences, considering that price comparison and the collective primary and secondary content featured in the movie’s new re-issue.  When this is all considered together, the whole of Aladdin in its new Signature Edition re-issue proves to offer its own enjoyable magical spell for the whole family even despite the lack of one key bonus feature.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s upcoming re-issue of Aladdin (1992) is a positive new presentation of the modern classic musical movie.  That is due in part to the collection of new and old bonus content featured in the movie’s new re-issue.  There is one bonus not carried over that really should have been carried over from the movie’s 2015 Diamond Edition re-issue, but it does not kill the presentation.  It cannot however, be ignored in its absence.  The movie’s story is far more enjoyable than that of the movie’s new 2019 live action/CG reboot, and simply cannot be improved upon (or duplicated.  Yes, that Robin Williams reference was intentional).  The whole of the movie’s primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point, which is on par with Disney’s other home releases, money well spent by the most devoted fans of Aladdin.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of this re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie a presentation that casts its own wonderful magic for the whole family.  It will be available Sept. 10 on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  More information on the movie is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://Movies.Disney.com/Aladdin

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DisneyAladdin

 

 

 

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Time Life’s Robin Williams Profile Is A “Genius” Tribute To A Legendary Entertainer

Courtesy: Time Life

Robin Williams is one of the greatest figures in the modern history of entertainment.  From his early career in the 70s in San Francisco to his later years, Williams offered smiles, laughs and even deep emotional feelings to audiences around the world.  That is why his death in 2014 is one of the greatest losses that the world has ever suffered.  Finding a way to pay tribute to such a legendary figure could not have been easy for anyone to do, but late last year, Time Life released a wonderful tribute Williams in the form of the new 22-disc collection Robin Williams: Comic Genius.  This tribute to a man who truly was a comic genius, is one that every fan of the late great entertainer will appreciate.  That is proven in part through the very content that is presented throughout the set.  It will be discussed shortly.  The program guide included with the set strengthens the foundation formed by the set’s content.  It will be discussed a little later.  The formats on which the set is available put the final touch to the set’s presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Robin Williams: Comic Genius.  All things considered, they make this collection a genius choice for any Robin Williams fan, regardless of which set said fans choose.

Time Life’s new Robin Williams profile, Comic Genius is a fitting tribute to the late, great entertainer.  That is proven in part through the set’s collective content.  The content featured in this expansive set includes performances from Williams’ earliest days in San Francisco, full-length episodes of his timeless sci-fi sitcom Mork & Mindy, appearances on Saturday Night Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Tonight Show and even full-length stand-up specials and far more.  Audiences get to experience Williams’ evolution as an entertainer through all of the noted content.  It is interesting to see how nervous Williams obviously was so early in his career and how confident he eventually became in watching through the set.  That is one of the ways in which the content proves so important.  On top of that, the majority of the content is full-length content.  There are some pieces that were edited, such as one of his early San Francisco shows.  It was edited in order to focus only on his set.  The same applies with some of the SNL material.  The band performances are edited out, but that is not that much of a loss.  The full-length “Weapons of Self Destruction” performance is yet another way in which the content proves so important to the set’s presentation.  Originally recorded in 2009 in the nation’s capitol, the special finds Williams at the top of his game, sharing nonstop jokes about politics, the nation’s social state at the time and various other items.  His pacing throughout the course of the roughly 90-minute presentation is solid from start to finish, as are the transitions from one subject to the next.  It should be noted here that the noted special is not family friendly (nor are many of his appearances).  Interestingly enough, that in itself is key to discuss in examining the set’s overall content.  That is because while there is a lot of explicit content presented throughout the set, there is also some more family friendly material (I.E. the Mork & Mindy episodes).  Simply put, that contrast of his more explicit material and more family friendly content, alongside the overall profile of his personal and professional growth, makes this overall presentation one that is an expansive, in-depth presentation of who Robin Williams was.  It creates a whole new appreciation for all that he did over the course of his career to entertain the masses.  This shows overall why the content presented throughout this set is so important to the set’s presentation.  It thoroughly illustrates everything that made (and still makes) Williams a legend.  It is just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable.  The program guide that comes with the set is just as important to the presentation as the primary content.

The program guides that are featured with Robin Williams: Comic Genius are important to the set’s whole in that they clearly outline the contents of each disc.  This allows audiences to know specifically what content is on which disc.  This saves plenty of time when trying to decide which disc a person wants to watch.  Many people discount this item, but in reality it is very important.  As if listing the general content is not enough, the guides also point out the original air date of each presentation within the bigger set.  This is nothing new from Time Life, and is just as welcome here as ever.  It gives the set a little more depth with that little history tidbit of sorts.  When this is considered along with the set’s general content, the whole of the items makes for plenty of enjoyment for audiences and plenty of reason to own either set.  While each element is critical in its own right to the overall presentation of Robin Williams: Comic Genius, they are just part of what makes this set so appealing.  Its availability on more than one platform adds to its presentation.

Robin Williams: Comic Genius is available on separate 12-disc and 22-disc sets.  The 12-disc set is spread across two discs while the 22-disc set is even more expansive, obviously.  Of course the 22-disc set is more expensive than the 12-disc set.  However, the extra money is money well-spent.  That is because it gives an even more thorough examination of Williams’ career on the big and small screen.  Regardless of which platform one chooses, audiences will still get plenty of entertainment and engagement from every disc and every presentation.  Audiences will see Williams’ roots, his late career and plenty in-between.  In other words, regardless of which set audiences purchase, audiences will have plenty to appreciate and enjoy, as has been evidenced here.  Simply put, regardless of which set one buys, audiences will agree that the set in general is a genius tribute to a comic genius.

Time Life’s recently released tribute to Robin Williams is a wonderful profile of one of the greatest entertainers in the modern history of entertainment. As noted in this review, that is due in part to the overall content presented throughout each of the set’s platforms.  The content shows Williams’ evolution as a performer while also showing his family friendly and more explicit side.  The program guides that compliment the content helps make choosing the content easy for audiences.  The fact that the set is available on two separate platforms – a 12-disc and 22-disc set – gives audiences options, and regardless of audiences’ choice, they will be ensured plenty of entertainment and engagement time and again.  Robin Williams: Comic Genius is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Time Life is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://timelife.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

 

 

 

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20th Century Fox’s Night At The Museum Series Goes Out On A Low Note With Its Last Installment

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

When it originally debuted in theaters late in 2014, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ended up being pulled not long after its original run. It comes across as no surprise that it was pulled so quickly. That’s because it is just a hollow shell of the movie that kicked off 20th Century Fox’s Ben Stiller-led franchise some eight years ago with Night at the Museum. The movie is alleged to have had a production budget of approximately $127 million. By comparison, its total domestic take at the box office was rumored to be around $113,531,745. On the surface that may seem like it was a relative success despite coming up short of its budget. It’s deceiving, though. That’s because the box office sales number is the movie’s gross rather than net. After 20th Century Fox recouped its production budget that left the movie to actually keep only $13,468,255. That is a massive loss to say the least. Put more simply, the movie hemorrhaged money. Given, the total domestic plus foreign sales actually garnered the movie a healthy net profit. But it doesn’t make up for the movie’s lackluster domestic sales. It’s even more proof that American audiences are in fact growing weary of Hollywood’s constantly running river of prequels, sequels, and remakes. So what caused this movie to perform so poorly at least at the American box office? The primary issue with the movie is its script. The script breaks absolutely no new ground in comparison to the franchise’s first two movies. As a matter of fact it goes so far as to rehash much of the material from those movies in hopes that audiences would fall for the writing team’s pathetic overall lack of originality and creativity.  The acting is another issue that should be noted in considering what doomed this movie. Having seen the same sort of comic performances twice over in both NATM and NATM 2, Stiller’s acting here—and that of his cast mates—has become old hat and is just as uninspired as the movie’s script. For all of the movie’s cons, there is one saving grace to the whole thing That saving grace is the fact that the movie continues to push the values of the world’s museums and on a larger scale, learning about the history of the world. In simpler terms, it continues to promote the importance of education albeit history education. That is certainly laudable considering that today’s youths are more concerned with the latest video games and the next big viral video than the excitement of the world’s history. Is it enough to save this movie? Sadly, the answer is no. But at least it doesn’t try to fictionalize history and make it something it isn’t in its efforts to entertain young audiences. Taking into account each of its noted elements, NATM 3 (as it will henceforth be known) proves to be just as forgettable in its new home release as its big screen release last year.

20th Century Fox’s third and hopefully truly last installment in its Night at the Museum franchise is the worst of the studio’s three-movie series. There is by and large very little that makes this movie memorable or even enjoyable. The movie’s script is the main reason that it suffers and in turn makes audiences suffer. The script is laughable especially considering that the trilogy first kicked off eight years ago. The story presented in this movie’s script sees Larry (once again played by Ben Stiller) and all of his friends from the original Night at the Museum movie go on a trip across the Atlantic to return the magical tablet at the center of the trilogy to Ahkmenrah’s father in “Egypt.” The trip has to be made because *gasp* the tablet has been away from its proper place for too long. Apparently it hadn’t already sat in the Museum of Natural History in New York for far too long at the time of the trilogy’s first installment. Go figure. So instead of any new story, it all centers on the tablet once again. And not to ruin things for those that haven’t yet seen the movie now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, but the group’s “epic” quest isn’t quite as epic as one might think. Instead of actually going to Egypt, they travel to London’s major museum and have to get to the museum’s Egypt wing so as to return the tablet to Ahkmenrah’s father (played in little more than a cameo role by Sir Ben Kingsley). With a budget allegedly topping $127 million one would have thought that Larry and company might have actually somehow made the trip to Egypt or the country’s main museum instead of the Egypt wing of London’s central history museum. Add in the fact that Larry and his friends have to hunt for their pint size pals Jedediah and Octavius (once again played by Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan respectively) and also have to get the tablet back from a misguided Sir Lancelot along the way all while maneuvering their way through the museum, and audiences get a script that when examined in such full detail, can only be described as completely contrived, unoriginal, and completely lacking in any creativity. That’s not even to mention the underlying plot of Larry’s relationship with his now teenage son who wants to travel the world instead of go off to college. It is all too much.

The script thrown together by NATM 3’s writing team does more than its own share of damage to this movie. The very fact that multiple parties played a role in the script’s creation could in fact be to blame for its numerous issues. As much damage as the movie’s script does to the movie’s overall presentation, it’s just one of the movie’s major setbacks. The work of the movie’s cast does its own share of damage, too. Larry’s back and forth with Dexter and Laa is all too familiar for those that have watched NATM and NATM 2. It’s been done. It’s one of those situations that proves to be anything but funny this time around because it has already been done so much before. Even Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan felt slightly like they were just “phoning it in” during their parts. It was almost like they themselves had grown somewhat tired of the roles and were trying hard to not show it. On a lesser note, Rebel Wilson is just as annoying in her role of Tilly as Jonah Hill was as security guard Brandon in NATM 2. To be totally frank, having a similar character type used as the secondary guard twice over shows yet again the writers’ lack of creativity or enlightenment. They obviously didn’t learn from Hill’s failures as is evident in Wilson’s portrayal of Tilly. For all of the damage that the cast does with its work in front of the camera, it can at least be said that Robin Williams didn’t disappoint in what is one of his final roles before his untimely death. It’s easy to tell that once again he put in his whole effort from beginning to end. The same can be said of Patrick Gallagher in his return as Attila The Hun. While he is not the lead star, he is still just as entertaining as ever. To that extent one can argue that at least the movie has that as its single, shining ray of light in an otherwise dark cloud of a sequel.

The writing that went into NATM 3 and the work of the cast by does a lot to prove this movie to be one more sequel that never should have seen the light of day. Though, not the entire cast is so disappointing. Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher both shine in their own right. Sadly, their work in front of the camera is the movie’s only fully noticeable saving grace in terms of the movie’s intrinsic value. For all of the problems that show up throughout NATM 3, there is at least one positive that can be noted when looking at the movie from a larger scale. That positive is the series’ continued push for history education and the support of the world’s museums. In an age when the world’s youths are increasingly being distracted by social media, video games, and their cell phones, the continued push to get those same younger audiences interested in history and the houses that keep said history is actually welcome. After all, it has been said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Not only that but those who forget the past won’t have an appreciation for what they have today, either. NATM 3 does a good job of reminding audiences both young and old alike of how far the world has come over the centuries. And when coupled with the series’ first two movies, it does in fact make this installment more worth the watch if only for that one reason. Sadly though, it is the only reason other than the work of Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher that NATM 3 is worth the watch. Other than those two reasons, there is no reason to watch this otherwise forgettable flick.

There is not much positive to say about NATM 3. Other than the work of two of its cast members and the continued solid push for history education and the buildings that house the world’s history, there is not much that can be noted to the movie’s positive side. The script was completely unoriginal and contrived. That is likely because of the number of people working on the script. It just feels like it has all been done before. The same can be said of the cast’s acting, even in the case of new cast member Rebel Wilson. There is no new ground broken in this avenue, either. One could even say that seeing even more museum figures coming to life is anything but new, too. On the other hand though, introducing new historical figures also continues the series’ push for history education and support for the world’s museums. To that extent, NATM 3 has at least that much to its credit. Sadly that is all that it has to its credit. That means that while it’s worth at least a watch, it’s not worth much more than that.

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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.

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My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Pawn Holds Its Own Against Other Crime Thrillers

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new crime thriller, Pawn is an interesting work.  For a movie that was filmed in roughly fifteen days, and helmed by a first time director—David A. Armstrong—it turned out to be not the standard crime thriller.  Rather, it’s a story that requires audiences to completely invest their attention on the story.  If viewers can do this, then they will find that despite some scripting issues, it still turns out to be a movie that is worth at least one watch.

One of the main positives to Pawn is that it wastes no time jumping right into the story.  The story is simple enough.  On one side, audiences get a crime thriller that’s front loaded with lots of crosses and double crosses; so many in fact that some viewers may need a program to follow exactly what’s going on.  In direct relation is the story of a young man who simply wants to turn around his life after having gotten out of jail only hours before the standoff at crime boss Yuri’s café.  The young man is used as a red herring for one specific aspect of the story.  Though, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is used in such role as the story advances.  Because of this one can’t help but cheer for him and hope that he gets out of the café alive and in one piece.

The writing behind Pawn forces viewers to fully engage and immerse themselves in its world.  It’s just one of the movie’s positives.  What can also be noted of the movie is that the acting on the part of both Chiklis and Common was expert once again.  This should come as no surprise, especially considering that Chiklis has quite the extensive resume when it comes to crime thrillers.  He worked for seven seasons on FX’s The Shield, not to mention an equally extensive stage resume, too.  And Common played the role of a crooked cop himself in the 2010 movie, Date Night.  What’s most interesting is hearing Chiklis pull off a British accent.  Typically American actors don’t have much success trying to pull off foreign accents.  But somehow, he pulled it off.  Though he did sound somewhat like Bob Hoskins as Smee in Hook.  And considering that Hoskins is a U.K. born actor, this is actually quite the compliment to Chiklis.

Next to the outstanding of the movie’s all-star cast, one can say of Pawn is its cinematography.  The angles and the fast paced shots help keep the suspense throughout the story.  Even in less action packed moments, the camera work does an impressive job of keeping viewers entirely engaged.  One such example comes late in the story when the unnamed “Man in the suit” (played by Ray Liotta) attempts to feel Amanda’s (Nikki Reed) baby bump after having spent quite an amount of time threatening her life and that of her husband and her unborn child.  The tension in the room is thanks in large part to the camera work.  The angle of the shot leaves viewers wondering what he’s about to do.  It’s just one of so many impressive shots achieved throughout this crime thriller.  And it’s just one of so many moments that make this a crime thriller that is worth at least one watch.

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.