MVD Visual’s New ‘Raiders’ Fan Flick Doc Is A Treasure For Cinephiles, ‘Raiders’ Fans Alike

Courtesy: MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy: MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group

Imitation, it is often said, is the sincerest form of flattery.  That is why in the entertainment world, thousands of people every year dress up as their favorite TV and movie characters and why just as many people set out every year to make their own fan-made versions of their favorite TV shows and movies.  Late last month MVD Visual, a division of MVD Entertainment Group, released a new documentary on one of those countless fan made films in the form of Raiders!: The Story of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.  This documentary is a gripping story of one group of people’s dreams and their drive to make their dreams come true.  That story is the central element of this recently released documentary and goes a long way toward making it worth the watch.  While the program’s central story gives viewers plenty of reason to watch this doc, its editing sadly detracts from the program’s presentation to a point.  That cannot be ignored.  Of course it doesn’t make the program completely unwatchable.  The movie’s bonus material makes up for that one negative and makes for even more reason to watch this doc.  All things considered, MVD Visual’s new documentary Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made proves in the end to be a presentation that any true cinephile should see at least once.

MVD Visual’s new documentary Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a presentation that every cinephile should see at least once.  That is the case even if audiences disagree about which is the greatest fan film ever made.  That is due in no small part to the story at the center of the documentary.  The story focuses on three men who set out as boys to recreate Steven Speilberg’s cinema masterpiece Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It follows the story of the then boys’ seven-year journey to create their own adaptation of that now legendary action flick and what happened to their relationships as the years passed.  From fighting over a woman as boys, to one of the men almost losing his job as a result of the attempt to recreate just one scene that the trio never accomplished, the story follows the trio’s journey warts and all.  It doesn’t pull any punches.  The end result is a story that interestingly enough screenwriters look for when they look for major blockbusters.  It is one of those underdog stories that results in dreams achieved in the end.  Considering this, the story at the center of Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made gives audiences plenty of reason to see this new doc from MVD Visual.  As much as its story does to interest audiences, the program’s presentation is sadly not perfect.  The program’s editing does detract from its presentation to a point.  There is no denying this.

The story at the center of Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is the stuff that producers and screenwriters from Hollywood’s “Big Six” dream of.  It is an underdog story that results in dreams realized in the end even being a documentary.  That in itself gives audiences plenty of reason to check out this presentation.  Of course as much as the story does to make the program worth the watch, its editing detracts from the presentation to a point.  There are a lot of jump cuts in some of the interview segments.  The jump cuts that are used are used so much at points that it becomes almost uncomfortable to watch.  Other interview segments are cut short due to fade in and fade out segments.  The problem here is that interviewees are talking as these effects are used. So, audiences don’t necessarily get the full story from the interviewees.  The result of these editing issues is a presentation that could likely have a negative impact on viewer engagement.  Luckily though, it happens at various points rather than continuously.  So even if does cause some viewer engagement problems, that risk won’t be too great.  Keeping that in mind, the editing issues, while undeniable, are not enough of a problem that they will keep viewers from watching the documentary in whole.  Even with the editing problems in mind, the documentary is still worth at least one watch thanks to its story.  The story is complimented quite well by the bonus material included with its presentation.  That is especially the case with the story’s bonus deleted scenes.

The story at the center of Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is an enjoyable story that any cinephile should see at least once.  That is because its story is the kind of thing that audiences see in the biggest dramatic blockbusters from Hollywood’s “Big Six” studios.  It is an underdog story that will move any viewer as the dreams of three men come true.  It shows that anyone can accomplish anything if they put their mind to it and really want it.  This comes through loud and clear even despite the issues raised in the program’s editing.  The jump cuts and dissolves do detract from the overall experience, but luckily not so much that they make the documentary unwatchable.  Keeping all of this in mind, this documentary is still well worth the watch whether one is a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark or one is just a cinephile.  Even with everything noted, there is still at least one more element to note in the program’s presentation. That element is the program’s bonus material.  More specifically, the program’s bonus deleted scenes are of note.  The bonus deleted scenes barely top the half hour mark, pushing the documentary’s overall length to just over two hours.  They are, collectively, a prime example of the importance of deleted scenes to any presentation’s home release.  In the case of this program’s deleted scenes, audiences find out that not one but two young women played the part of Marion in Eric and Chris’ adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Audiences also learn how the men – then boys – edited their movie and even get to see the letter that Steven Spielberg sent the men, inviting them to meet him along with much more.  The material that is presented in the deleted scenes adds so much more depth to the primary feature in this documentary.  It is clear in watching them that they were removed most likely for time.  Even with that in mind it is good to see that these scenes were included in the final product.  That is because of the value that they add to the doc’s story.  When that is considered along with the central feature and even the editing issues, the final product is one that, again, any cinephile should see at least once.

MVD Visual’s new documentary Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a documentary that any cinephile should see at least once.  That is due in part to the underdog story at the center of the program.  It is a story that proves dreams can and do come true.  It is just up to a person’s own drive to make those dreams become reality, as is shown here.  The editing issues that are evident throughout the program’s 93-minute run time cannot be ignored.  They are problematic to say the least.  But they are not, collectively, so problematic that they make the doc unwatchable.  The deleted scenes that are included as bonus material do plenty to make up for those editing issues and in turn do just as much as the story itself to make this doc worth the watch.  The commentary plays its own part in making the program worth the watch, too as does the fact that the story is presented both on separate DVD and Blu-ray.  All things considered, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made proves in the end to be one more movie-centered documentary that any cinephile should see at least once.  It is available via MVD Entertainment Group’s online store at http://mvdb2b.com/s/RaidersBluRayDVD/MVD8448BR.  More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://mvdvisual.com, http://www.mvdentertainment.com

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MVD Visual’s New ‘Back To The Future’ Doc Is Worth Seeing “Time” And Again

Courtesy: MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy: MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group

Thirty-one years ago this year, Universal Pictures released a movie that since its release has gone on to become a cultural phenomenon.  That movie goes by the titled of Back to the Future.  It is a movie that has led countless masses to dress up like their favorite time traveling characters at conventions around the country.  It has led to an animated series and any number of documentaries, too.  The latest of those documentaries, OUTATIME: Saving The DeLorean Time Machine was released this past July.  This coming Tuesday, Sept. 13, another documentary centered on the now “timeless” (bad pun completely intended there) will be released MVD Visual that branches out on the movie’s significance even more in the form of the simply titled Back in Time.  The ninety-five minute documentary, while another independent release, is another piece that cinephiles and Back to the Future fans alike will appreciate.  That is due in part to the documentary’s story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The manner in which the story is told is just as important to note in the program’s presentation.  Last of note in the doc’s presentation is its pacing.  Each element is important in its own right to the documentary’s presentation.  Altogether they make Back in Time another Back to the Future feature that, again, cinephiles and Back to the Future fans alike will want to see “time” and again.

MVD Visual’s new Back to the Future retrospective Back in Time is hardly the first documentary centered on Universal Pictures’ “timeless” movie.  Regardless it still proves over the course of its ninety-five minute run time that it is another presentation that both cinephiles and Back to the Future fans alike will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to the program’s story.  The story presents the role that Back to The Future has had, and continues to have, now thirty-plus years after it made its big screen debut.  It tells that story through interviews with the movie’s cast and crew—including Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Donald Fullilove, Claudia Wells, Steven Spielberg, and even Robert Zemeckis—and interviews with a small handful of the movie’s fans among others.  Viewers learn through the interviews some very interesting facts and stories connected to the movie.  One of the most interesting revelations made in the interviews comes from Bob Gale.  Gale, who was one of the creative forces behind Back to the Future reveals that the movie was shopped around to every one of Hollywood’s major studios but none would take it.  He said it was even shopped to Disney because that had been recommended by those other studios.  Gale reveals in his interview that when the movie was presented to them, executives with the studio refused to touch it because they thought the topic of Marty’s mom falling for him in the past hinted at incest.  This is funny to note because Gale said no other studios had even begun to take that angle in reviewing the movie’s script.

Another interesting revelation comes from an interview with Michael J. Fox.  Fox recollects in said interview that none other than Princess Diana actually sat next to him at the movie’s premiere.  He reveals in his interview that he didn’t know she would be sitting next to him and because of certain protocol about being around her, he couldn’t even use the bathroom, so when he started feeling nature call, he couldn’t even respond to its call.  Throughout that anecdote, audiences can’t help but laugh along with Fox as he recalls that silly story.  In the same moment, Fox also recalls Princess Diana’s reaction to one scene in particular in comparison to her reaction to other moments.  That is worth its own share of laughs, too.  It is just one more of the interesting tidbits that make the documentary’s story so interesting.

There is also an outright statement from Robert Zemeckis himself at one point that he has zero intention of making a fourth Back to The Future movie.  Considering the way that most of Hollywood’s “Big Six” studios are taking right now, one can only hope that he will hold true to that even today and that no one else will ever try to make another movie.  Keeping in mind all of the revelations noted here and all of the other interesting and intriguing information shared throughout the program, it becomes clear why the story at the center of Back in Time is so important to its presentation.  Even with its clear importance to the doc’s presentation the story is just one of the program’s key elements.  The manner in which the story is told is just as important to note as the story itself.

The story at the center of Back in Time is clearly an important element in the program’s presentation if not the program’s most important element.  That means that even potentially being the program’s most important element, it is not the program’s only important element.  As important as the story is, the manner in which the story is told is just as important to note as the story itself.  The story is told through two clearly separated segments, which span the course of the doc’s ninety-five minutes.  The first segment focuses on the movie and its significance through the eyes of the cast and crew.  It should be noted specifically here the focus is strictly on Back to The Future, not the two sequels that followed or even the short-lived animated series that it spun off in the early 90s on CBS.  Though there is an indirect connection to the work done by the restoration team in OUTATIME: Saving The DeLorean Time Machine in this segment.  Two members of the build team are interviewed about the work put in to restore the trilogy’s “A” car with footage from that do directly incorporated into this segment.  The program’s second segment examines the significance of Back to The Future through the eyes of some of the movie’s devotees.  The fans in question are not just your average fans either.  One of the fans in question owns the actual VW bus that was used in Back to The Future as well as the truck that Marty won in the movie, as well as other memorabilia.  Another fan has one of the DeLorean replicas incorporated into his own nine-hole mini-golf course at his home.  He uses the car, and the golf course, to raise money for good causes every year.  In another case, viewers are introduced to a young pair of fans who ended up getting married at a Back to The Future convention.  It just so happened that Christopher Lloyd was in attendance as the young man popped the question to his bride to be.  He wasn’t the only one who was there, either.  Harry Waters, Jr., who played Chuck Berry’s cousin Berry (from the movie’s high school dance segment), was also there and sang to the couple after the young lady said yes.  It is a moment that will put a smile on any viewer’s face.  Through it all, the documentary does a laudable job of balancing each segment with the other.  The end result is a story that, thanks to that solid division, will keep viewers completely engaged and entertained.  Of course the segments’ division and the story together are not the only factors that will keep audiences engaged in this presentation.  The program’s pacing is important in its own right, too.

The story at the center of Back in Time and the general manner in which the story is told are both key to the doc’s presentation.  That is because both elements work together expertly to keep viewers completely engaged and entertained from the story’s beginning to its end.  While both elements are clearly important both in themselves and jointly, they are not the program’s only important elements.  The program’s pacing is just as important to note as the story and how it is told.  The program’s pacing is so important because without proper pacing there would be no reason to sit through either of the program’s two segments.  Thankfully the program’s pacing is relatively solid from beginning to end.  The topics that are discussed within each segment are many.  But they do not move so fast that audiences will feel left behind nor do those behind the lens allow the program to lag at any point within any discussion either.  That being the case, the documentary’s pacing joins with its story and its segmentation to make the program in whole one that will keep audiences completely engaged and entertained.  In turn audiences will come out of the program agreeing that while it is not the only Back to the Future to ever be released, it is one that cinephiles and Back to The Future fans alike will enjoy watching “time” and again.

Back in Time is not the only Back to the Future documentary to ever be released.  But in considering all that went into assembling the program it is safe to say that it is another enjoyable piece centered on the landmark movie.  Its story explains not just the significance of the DeLorean (as in OUTATIME: Saving the DeLorean Time Machine) but the cultural significance of the movie in whole.  That is examined through interviews with both fans and with the movie’s cast and crew.  The division of the story into two distinct segments adds to the enjoyment of the program’s presentation.  The pacing of each segment rounds out the doc’s most important elements.  It should be clear in reading this analysis why each element is so important to the program’s presentation.  All things considered, it is clear that the documentary is, in whole, another retrospective centered on Universal’s iconic movie that cinephiles and Back to The Future fans alike will appreciate.  Back in Time will be available in stores and online this coming Tuesday, Sept. 12.  It can be ordered online direct via MVD Entertainment Group’s online store at http://mvdb2b.com/s/BackInTime/MVD8722D.  More information on Back in Time and other titles from MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Visual is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Synhronicity Will Impress Sci-Fi And Noir Fans ‘Time’ And Again

Courtesy: Magnolia Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Magnolia Home Entertainment

The summer movie season is officially upon us once again.  And once again Hollywood is offering up yet another overly bloated crop of prequels, sequels, remakes and spin-offs.  Captain America: Civil War proved to be a flash in the pan.  DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fared just as poorly.  And X-Men: Apocalypse, while out now, received less than stellar reviews by critics ahead of its release.  The rest of this year’s summer blockbusters don’t look overly promising in terms of content or longevity either.  Considering all of this one can only ask if there are any truly worthwhile alternatives to those movies out there.  Thankfully the answer is yes.  One of those alternatives comes in the form of the indie sci-fi flick Synchronicity.  It was released just recently (May 17th to be exact) direct to DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital formats by Magnolia Pictures.  It is a good offering both for sci-fi fans and noir fans.  This is due in part to the movie’s writing.  This will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important as its writing.  That will be discussed later.  The bonus material that is included with the movie plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  It rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.  In the end, each of the noted elements proves important in its own right to the movie’s presentation.  Collectively, they show clearly why Synchronicity is one of 2016’s top new indie offerings and potentially one of the year’s best new movies overall.

Magnolia Pictures’ new sci-fi flick Synchronicity is one of the year’s top new indie offerings.  It is also potentially one of the year’s top new overall cinematic offerings.  That is especially the case considering how little Hollywood’s major studios have offered, and how little they have to offer this year.  This argument is proven in part by the movie’s writing.  This applies both to the movie’s central story and its secondary element.  Writer/Director Jacob Gentry has crafted a script for this movie that is more than just another run-of-the-mill sci-fi flick.  Yes, it is rooted in time travel, parallel universes, and other theoretical physics concepts.  But thanks to Gentry’s attention to detail it doesn’t allow itself to become bogged down in discussions on those concepts.  Rather it only uses them as the basis for Jim’s (Chad McKnight—My Super Psycho Sweet 16, The Signal, Last Goodbye) adventure.  The story in question centers on a machine built by Jim and his friends Chuck (AJ Bowen—The Signal, You’re Next, The Sacrament) and Matty (Scott Pythress—The Signal, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Allegiant) that has the ability to open a wormhole and thus allow for time travel.  What they don’t realize until later is that it allows for more than time travel.  That will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  What happens as a result of the wormhole opening will keep audiences completely engaged and entertained from beginning to end.  It is only one part of the script that makes the writing so intriguing.  The theme that Gentry has incorporated into the movie as a secondary element is just as important to the movie’s writing as the movie’s central story.

The story at the center of Synchronicity is in itself an important part of the movie’s writing.  It is not the only important part of that writing however.  Gentry has also included a bit of philosophy into the movie’s script that ties directly into that story.  That bit of philosophy in question is centered on the role of fate in the universe (or universes).  As Jim discovers over time no matter how many times he goes back things still turn out the same for the most part.  Yes, there are some minor differences with each journey.  But by and large the outcome is still the same.  The outcome in question will be left for audiences to discover for themselves just as with the revelation of the wormhole’s abilities.  Audiences will appreciate in noting this underlying theme that Gentry doesn’t allow it to overpower the movie’s central story just as he doesn’t let the very real theoretical physics concepts overpower it either.  Keeping all of this in mind, the writing behind Synchronicity proves in whole to be a hugely important part of the movie’s presentation.  It shows clearly in and of itself why Synchronicity is such a worthwhile alternative to this year’s major summer blockbusters.  The writing is just one of the elements that shows why Synchronicity is a worthwhile alternatives to this year’s major summer blockbusters.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as worth noting as its writing in its presentation.

The writing behind Synchronicity is a hugely important part of the movie’s presentation.  Thanks to the work of Writer/Director Jacob Gentry, the sci-fi flick’s central story is expertly balanced with the concepts at its base.  It is just as well-balanced with its underlying philosophical concept of fate.  It all combines to make the movie’s writing an undeniably important part of the movie’s presentation.  The writing is just one important part of that presentation, though.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as the writing.  Chad McKnight is wonderful as lead character Jim Beale.  It is intriguing to watch his gradual psychological decline as he keeps going back through the wormhole over and over again.  At first it isn’t clear what is causing that decline.  But as the story progresses it becomes more evident.  And McKnight does a good job of not letting that breakdown go over the top at any one point.  He makes audiences want to see just how deeply Jim is being affected psychologically by what is going on.  McKnight’s co-star Brianne Davis is just as fun to watch as the mysterious Abby.  Right from the story’s outset she leaves audiences wondering just whose side she is on.  Is she on Jim’s side?  Is she on Kraus’ side?   Or is she on her own side?  Viewers do finally find out her true intentions in the end.  That revelation will move audiences very deeply.  That is thanks in large part to the way in which her intentions are revealed, pointing out again Writer/Director Jacob Gentry’s talents.  Speaking of Gentry once again, his bonus interview, and those with McKnight and Davis, serve to add to appreciation for each individual’s work.  They aren’t the movie’s only bonuses or worthwhile bonuses for that matter.  Gentry’s commentary throughout the movie couples with those interviews to show why the movie’s bonus material is just as important to its presentation as the movie’s writing and the cast’s work on camera.

Jacob Gentry’s work in developing Synchronicity’s script and his cast’s work in interpreting the script are both equally important in examining what makes the movie’s overall presentation so interesting.  While both elements are undeniably important to the movie’s presentation they are not its only important element.  The bonus material that came with the movie is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements.  The interviews with McKnight and Davis do their own part in helping to set the groundwork for understanding and appreciating the movie’s script.  They do just as much to illustrate what makes their characters so important in the overall story.  On the other side of the proverbial coin, Gentry’s bonus interview sheds its own light on the movie’s script, including the script’s previously noted underlying philosophical theme.  Viewers get even more insight while taking in the movie with the bonus commentary from Gentry.  Right off the bat Gentry notes in his commentary that his aim was to raft a movie that felt like it was written in 1982.  That would explain the movie’s decidedly 80s new wave style soundtrack and its retro-futuristic look, which Gentry also discusses at length.  On a related note, Gentry discusses the influence of countless movies and directors on the different camera angles, effects and more on his own directing style.  The movies in question include the likes of Poltergeist, Logan’s Run, Double Indemnity, and so many others.  Among the directors cited in Gentry’s commentary are: Steven Spielberg, Ridley and Tony Scott, and others.  One of the Spielberg mentions comes with a note of certain lighting effects in Synchronicity being influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The connection isn’t obvious at first.  But in hearing Gentry discuss the influence in the noted moment it really becomes clear.  For all of the serious discussions that Gentry shares throughout the movie he isn’t without his humorous side, too.  One of the funnier of his discussions comes as he discusses the movie’s cast.  He notes about Chad McKnight being tapped for the movie’s lead that it was his way of paying McKnight back for casting him as a dysfunctional character in his previous movies.  One can’t help but laugh alongside Gentry for that sentiment.  His comment about Brianne Davis having a certain Barbara Stanwick characteristic about her in her performance is interesting in another way.  Considering how many different movies that Gentry prattles on about in his commentary few if any are classics from Hollywood’s golden era.  So for him to put Davis alongside such a renowned actress is quite the compliment to Davis.  All of these insights serve to paint the picture of Gentry as a director and his mindset in creating Synchronicity.  They are just some of the insights that he shares over the course of the movie’s hour and forty-minute run time.  Those insights couple with the insights noted here and the movie’s bonus interviews to show in whole why Synchronicity’s bonus material is just as important as its writing and acting to its overall presentation.  All things considered Synchronicity may never gain the attention or acclaim of its counterparts churned out by Hollywood’s major studios.  But truth be told it is just as deserving to be seen as those movies if not more so.

Synchronicity is on the surface just an indie flick.  But in examining it deeper, as has been done here, it proves to be more than just another indie flick.  It is a movie that takes the standard sci-fi setup (and noir setup) and sets it on its ear, just as Gentry notes in his bonus interview.  It presents a story that is original believe it or not.  That is because it doesn’t allow its very real theoretical physics concepts to dominate it.  And its theme of accepting fate is one that works both in regards to philosophy and science.  Chad McKnight and Brianne Davis are just as important to the movie’s overall presentation as the work put in by Jacob Gentry.  Both actors put in an equally impressive performance from beginning to end here.  And the appreciation for their work is increased in watching their respective bonus interviews.  Those interviews and that of Gentry couple with Gentry’s bonus commentary to make the movie’s bonus material just as important to the movie as its writing and the cast’s acting.  Each element proves integral in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation.  Altogether they show in whole why Synchronicity is one of the best alternatives to this year’s overly bloated crop of summer blockbusters.  In turn they present a movie that is one of the year’s top new independent movies and even potentially one of the year’s top new movies overall.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Magnolia Pictures is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.magpictures.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/magnoliapics

 

 

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Pixies Announce New Tour Dates, Music Video

Photo Credit:  Michael Halsband

Photo Credit: Michael Halsband

The road rolls on for veteran rock group, The Pixies.  The Boston based quartet has announced that it has added a new North American leg to its current worldwide tour.  The thirty-three date tour will kick off on January 15th in Toronto, Ontario Canada.  From there, the band will hit a number of dates in the Northeast before heading south to finish off the month of January.  It will close out January with a performance at the famed Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) in Durham, North Carolina on January 31st.  It will kick off the month of February by heading west to the mountains of North Carolina and a performance in Asheville, NC on February 1st.  That performance will be at Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.  Cults will provide support for both performances.

The remainder of February will see the Pixies perform at dates in the Midwest, West Coast, and Southwest.  It all wraps up on March 1st with a performance at the Austin Music Hall in Austin, TX.  Tickets for this and other shows are available online at http://www.pixiesmusic.com.

Along with the upcoming U.S. tour, Pixies fans have a new video from the band to check out, too.  The band has debuted the video for ‘Andro Queen’, the opening track from the band’s new EP, EP-1.  The video was created and directed by filmmaker Ondi Timoner through her Interloper Films production company.  Timoner’s resume is quite extensive.  She has won the Grand Jury prize for documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival twice and has work permanently displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  She was also the creative force behind VH-1’s series, Sound Effects.  These aren’t her only credentials.  She also crafted the opening film for President Clinton’s 2011 birthday/fundraiser at the Hollywood Bowl.  That even featured celebrities such as: Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Jay-Z, and President Clinton himself.  She even has her hands in the online world.  She is the founder and director of the web-channel, “A Total Disruption.”  This channel features the works of other ingenious individuals and business people that use technology to transform lives, the economy, and the path of mankind.

More information on the band’s upcoming U.S. tour and its new EP, EP-1, is available online at http://www.pixiesmusic.com, http://www.facebook.com/pixiesofficial, http://www.myspace.com/pixies, and http://twitter.com/pixies.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Pacific Rim Is Fun But Forgettable

Pacific-Rim-poster-BIG

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Studios/Legendary Pictures

Thirty-seven.  According to most news agencies, that is how many sequels will have been churned out in theaters by the time 2013 has winded down.  Those reports go on to say that this is a new record for movie studios.  Those same movie studios have most recently been lambasted by the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for that glut of franchise flicks.  The pair most recently stated that if Hollywood’s major studios continue on their current track, the movie industry’s implosion won’t be far behind.  Keeping this in mind, what is a movie-goer to do in looking for something that is not a sequel or even prequel in 2013?  The answer would seem simple.  Although in reality it isn’t.  Case in point, the mega-blockbuster, Pacific Rim.

While it isn’t a sequel, or even a prequel or reboot, the latest blockbuster from Warner Brothers Studios and Legendary Pictures is still anything but original.  The Japanese influenced action flick is formulaic and trite.  The whole robots versus giant monsters bit has been done to death.  If one were to take Power Rangers, Godzilla, Independence Day, Top Gun, (Yes there’s even a hint of Top Gun in here believe it or not) and the equally terrible 1989 movie, Robot Jox, and toss them into a pot, they would get this fast paced and underperforming movie that’s more fit for a person with ADD than a more discerning viewer.   Making things worse, writer Travis Beacham has taken elements of each of the aforementioned movies and TV shows, and tossed them in all over the place for a movie that ultimately adds up to nothing.  From its standard stereotypical character types to its equally seemingly ADD influenced writing to the attempts to cover all of this with special effects in hopes of making it look like something substantial, it all adds up to a movie that is more forgettable than fun.

Pacific Rim is a fun movie.  But it is also largely forgettable.  The most blatant of reasons for this is its very concept.  The concept behind this movie is anything but original as already noted.  Robots fighting monsters has been done for roughly two decades or more with the various Japanese shows and movies that influenced America’s hit pop culture phenomenon that is the Power Rangers franchise.  And that franchise itself caused any number of imitators such as the Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad and VR Troopers just to name a couple of so many that have been churned out here stateside since the early 1990s.  This is just the tip of the iceberg in where this movie goes wrong.  Along with those Japanese TV shows and movies from which this movie blatantly lifts, viewers will also see just as much pulled from the likes of Top Gun and Independence Day.  One scene in particular halfway through the movie’s roughly two hour run time sees Raleigh and his co-pilot Mako (Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi respectively) come back victorious from having taken down a pair of kaiju by themselves.  It looks just like a certain scene from Top Gun (and so many other action movies and TV shows).  Heck, for that matter, one could even argue that this harkens all the way back to a scene from the original Star Wars franchise that occurred after the Death Star was destroyed.  It was a near mirror image.  Again, here we have prime examples of just how unoriginal this movie is.  Instead of trying to do anything original, it just pulls scenes from other movies for this story.  It’s not the end of the movie’s faults, either.

Audiences that are familiar with their sci-fi history will take notice of the scenes throughout this movie lifted from so many other movies and TV shows.  The script’s writing hurts the viewing experience just as much as the lifted scenes, if not more so.  We’ll start with the example of Stacker Pentecost’s over-the-top motivational speech to his forces as he triumphantly joins the fight once more having been sidelined for years from fighting the war against the Kaiju, too.  This exact same over-the-top motivational speech style was used in Independence Day and so many other action movies both before and after it.  It makes the whole work come across as that much lazier and anything but serious.  Rather it makes the movie come across as cheesy.  This kind of interpretation by audiences can greatly hurt the movie in the long run. It’s just one of so many other moments much like it.  These moments coarse through the movie right to its final mega-battle scene, taking even more away from its ability to be taken seriously.  Of course, this isn’t the bottom of the barrel.  Things get worse for Pacific Rim in considering the story’s character styles.

In the case of Pacific Rim, audiences are presented with even more standard action movie fare with the characters of Pentecost and Raleigh.  Raleigh is the standard heroic leader character with a mysterious past about which he won’t talk. It makes him even more mysterious to those around him.  But it hardly creates an appeal among audiences for him as he’s hardly the first character of his sort to grace the big screen.  Having covered one of the movie’s main characters, let’s examine another main character in Raleigh.  Raleigh is the standard plays-by-his-own-rules character style seen in all the way back to Han Solo, Wolverine, Maverick, and so many other anti-hero and semi-anti-hero types.  Just as with so much else in this movie, it’s one more factor that has been done to death.  And because of this, the picture becomes even clearer as to why Pacific Rim will ultimately be one more forgotten action movie that will end up in the five-dollar bin at Wal-Mart not long after it debuts on DVD and Blu-ray.

Pacific Rim suffers from so many negatives.  It’s no wonder why it has fallen so short in terms of ticket sales versus its production costs.  However, for all of its negatives, there is at least one positive to Pacific Rim.  That positive is the movie’s special effects.  The special effects in this movie are above par for Summer blockbusters.  Watching the Jaeger (pronounced yager) pilots working together to bring their robots to life to battle the Kaiju (pronounced KI-joo) is something to behold.  The combination of live action and CG effects sets the bar extremely high for other special effects laden movies to come.  So to that extent, those behind the cameras and computer screens deserve their due credit for this.

At the same time that the movie’s special effects are a good thing, they are also a bad thing.  The reason for this is that it is honestly the only positive to the movie.  Had this movie had more laurels on which it could rest, the special effects would not have been a burden.  But sadly, it doesn’t have those other laurels.  And because of this, it will lead many viewers to feel that director Guillermo del Toro is just trying to fool audiences and make them think this is something with substance.  In reality, it has none.  Sure, the graphics and special effects are great.  But audiences should not let this become a smokescreen.  They need to see that being that this is all it has going for it, Pacific Rim is sadly anything but one of the best new theatrical releases of 2013.  It isn’t the year’s worst.  But it is hardly the year’s best, either.  In the long run, it will prove to be little more than a vague memory in the vast expanse that is the world of the action movie.

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Tiny Toons’ Final Set A Lackluster End To A Classic Cartoon Series

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4: Looney Links! Is allegedly the final installment of director Steven Spielberg’s hit Fox Kids cartoon franchise.  If this is indeed the final installment of the series, then it certainly is not the best way to end things.  While most of this set is presented in its entirety, there is one glaring problem with the set.  That issue comes in the episode, “Weekday Afternoon Live.” The episode in question actually splices the final minutes of the “Toon TV” in place of the final segment that aired in “Weekday Afternoon Live” in its original broadcast.  This is not like Warner Home Video to let such an error occur in its home releases.  This critic’s copy of Volume Four is not the only one that has done this either.  According to others who have purchased the set, they too have had the same thing happen to them.  That one major blunder aside, the remainder of the set will still bring enjoyment to long-time fans of this modern classic cartoon.

This new (and allegedly final) installment of Tiny Toon Adventures offers more than its share of laughs, poking fun at pop culture once again and even some former presidents.  This time around, Buster, Babs, and company take another stab at Batman (and director Tim Burton).  They also go after one of the biggest censorship groups of the time, the Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC).  Only instead of dealing with music, Buster and Babs have to face off certain parties that want to censor cartoons.  Long-time fans will recognize the episode “Toon TV.”  That’s because it’s quite similar to a previous episode from Season One titled, “Tiny Toons Music Television.”  It’s basically more music video spoofs.  This time, the Tiny Toons gang goes even further back in time, covering hits from The Coasters, The Contours, and Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase.  They even cover Tchaikovsky’s famed ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’ in this episode.  Of course, this is just a sample of what audiences can expect from this final collection of episodes.  Buster and Babs pay tribute once more to the golden days of animation by trying to save a group of “two-Tone” toons from an evil executive.  There is much more to enjoy from this final portion of the show’s final season.  But as noted already, the episodes contained in this final series of episodes aren’t entirely that original, thus making it less enjoyable than the series’ first two seasons.

For the seemingly decreased sense of originality in these final episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and the problematic error created in ‘Weekday Afternoon Live’, there is at least one equally noticeable positive to this set.  That positive is an episode the directly addresses the problem of bullying.  To be more specific, it presents the situation in which Shirley The Loon is bullied by her classmates at her ballet class.  Upon telling Babs about the harassment from her swan classmates, Babs vows to get even with them, which she indeed does.  Of course getting even isn’t what people who have been bullied should do.  This is by no means the message.  But it does in its own way, go after bullies.  At the same time, it re-tells the story of The Ugly Duckling.  So in essence, it’s actually a doubly enjoyable episode for this.

The one major sequencing problem evident with Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4: Looney Links! is something that will continue to plague this set unless the people at Warner Home Video make the effort to alleviate this issue.  Luckily, it does have its positives as noted already.  Looking at this set from the perspective of its packaging, the people charged with assembling this set at least got that right.  As with so many multi-disc sets being released now, WHV has released this final installment in a standard single disc case with an insert.  The insert included allows for the set’s first disc to be placed in its own spot, thus protecting the disc from scratching and, in turn, preserving the disc (along with the second disc) to be preserved much longer.  So it is for that reason, and for the laughs offered throughout this collection, that it is worthy of at least some praise.  But the massive error of having the wrong episode spliced into the end of another and the rehashed previous episodes will make any long-time fan of Tiny Toon Adventures take notice that this set is not perfect.  It is far from it by chance because of these issues.  Despite that, it is still a good addition to the collection of any Tiny Toons Adventures fan.  With any luck, Warner Brothers and Warner Home Video will take notice of all the complaints from fans, and re-issue this set as it should be presented.

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Lincoln A Solid Biopic From Start To Finish

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Courtesy: Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Much has been written of Abraham Lincoln.  Books upon books upon books have been published that center on the man and the myths surrounding his life.  Just as much has been crafted for televised documentaries.  And even more has been penned about the era in which our nation’s sixteenth President led his country.  Now courtesy of author Doris Kearns Goodwin, director Steven Spielberg and screen writer Tony Kushner, audiences have been presented with what is one of the most gripping portrayals of President Lincoln and his time in office in the simply titled, Lincoln.

Lincoln was largely met with applause from critics and audiences alike.  Though there were those that had their qualms with the near three hour long semi-biopic.  Many of the arguments against the story were centered on the fact that the movie in fact focuses on Lincoln and the battles in the halls of the nation’s government.  In the story’s defense, audiences should remind themselves that this movie is not about the war on the battlefield.  It is about the battles in Congress over the abolition of slavery and bringing a final end to the Civil War.  It is a beautifully shot and well acted story.  However, those who have mentioned its sometimes long winded nature can be agreed upon.  Sometimes, it does get rather wordy.  And the story’s slower pacing might turn off some viewers considering that the movie comes in at nearly three hours long.  But those that are true history buffs and/or civil war buffs will easily be able to overlook these issues and enjoy it for its positives, which outweigh the negatives.

For the negatives that weigh down Lincoln, its positives outweigh those negatives.  The first of the positives in Lincoln is that it doesn’t get lost in itself throughout the course of its run time.  The story is meant to focus on President Lincoln and what was the most pivotal moment in his time in office; his waning days in office before his assassination.  The new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack home release of the movie includes the bonus feature, “The Journey to Lincoln” on both formats.  This feature is a welcome addition as Spielberg, author Doris Kearns Goodwin—whose book was the inspiration behind this movie—and screen writer Tony Kushner all point out in this feature that the aim was meant to be on what went on in Congress during the final days of the Civil War, rather than on the frontlines.  Having this hammered home so gently by all three individuals makes the story more watchable in comparison to the likes of Public Enemies which was also based on a historical non-fiction.  That movie was a mere shadow of the far better book.  It really was a movie that never should have happened.   This movie at least attempts to stay closer to the book on which it is based.  It presents less the mythical Lincoln and more the actual man, and what he faced in what would be his final days in office.

The story and its primary associated bonus feature make up just one of the positives to the new home release of Lincoln.  The acting on the part of the star-studded cast is another positive to Lincoln.  Even though there are some portions of the movie that are more drawn out than they perhaps should have been, veterans Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black 1-3), and Sally Field (Mrs. Doubtfire, Smoky and the Bandit), all contribute expertly, making their parts fully believable.  Making their performances even more believable are costumes that are spot on.  While the movie may not have taken the Oscar for this category, there is no denying how impressive the end result of that work was.  Speaking of which, audiences that pick up the new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Lincoln get another bonus in the addition of a feature titled, “Crafting The Past” in the set’s bonus Blu-ray disc.  This feature examines not just the costumes, but also the production work and other more fine details of the movie.

The costumes and production of Lincoln are just as important as any other part of the movie that makes it successful.  There is at least one more factor to the movie that makes this the impressive work that it is.  That factor is the movie’s cinematography.  The shooting style us especially powerful in the movie’s closing scenes as the President surveys the result of a battle.  And the movie’s final scene (which will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see the movie), is a prime example of expert cinematography.  The transition into that scene and the final pullout are such powerful statements in themselves, and will leave any true history and civil war buff feeling completely satisfied after having made it through the rest of the movie’s emotional journey.  After having made that journey and having viewed the extensive bonus features included in the new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, those same individuals will agree that Lincoln is in fact one of the best biopics crafted in recent history, albeit only a semi-biopic.  It is available now in stores and online.

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