Minions Is Anything But Memorable

Courtesy:  Universal Studios

Courtesy: Universal Studios

First, there was Despicable Me. Then came its far less entertaining or memorable sequel Despicable Me 2 only three years after the original movie’s release.  Now two years after the release of that movie, audiences Universal Studios has taken yet another step back with the release of its new Despicable Me hybrid spinoff/prequel MInions.  Minions has remained one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets ever since the release of Despicable Me five years ago in 2010.  Regardless of whether or not audiences have seen that movie, everybody knew that Gru’s little yellow, twinkie-esque henchmen would get their own movie somewhere along the line.  It was more a matter of when than if.  The thing is that just as everybody knew the movie would happen, everybody also knew that there was no need for this movie to be made, either.  And this movie proves that argument without a shadow of a doubt.  Given it is not the worst new theatrical release of 2015.  But it definitely is anything but one of the year’s best.  The main way in which it proves itself so forgettable is its script.  This movie’s script is completely contrived and feels as if it was written both by and for someone with ADHD.  The fact that it felt like it was written by and for someone with ADHD is in itself another issue that weighs down the movie.  It jumps from point to point and moves so quickly that audiences really must pay close attention to the movie in order to keep up with everything going on.  For all of its major problems, it can at least be said of Minions that there is one shining light among everything.  That shining light is the work of the movie’s cast.  More specifically, veteran actress Sandra Bullock is to be commended along with fellow veterans Michael Keaton and Allison Janney.  While the movie’s cast is impressive in its own right, it still is not enough to save the movie and make it anything memorable or fully enjoyable.  That being the case, Universal Studios’ new CG-based flick Minions proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new theatrical releases.

Universal Studios’ new CG-based family flick Minions is one of the worst of this year’s crop of theatrical releases.  This includes both the year’s new family flicks (as rare as they are) and movies overall.  It is yet more proof that Hollywood’s seemingly unending river of prequels, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs is something that must be halted.  This is made most obvious through the movie’s script.  The script behind this movie is completely contrived.  It follows the evolution of the Minions from pre-history up to the 1960s, when they meet their first real “master” who was not Gru.  Instead it was a woman named Scarlet, who as it turns out was the world’s first female supervillain according to the story.  Of course, them being her henchmen and bumbling through a bunch of Three Stooges style comedy in their roles, writer Brian Lynch decided to give them the standard zero-to-hero story, even making Bob King of England for about eight hours along the way.  Of course they go from living it up in Buckingham to suddenly just changing the law and letting Scarlet take over before becoming heroes, stopping her in the end.  Some might ask the question, “what’s wrong with all of that?”  The problem with all of that is that suspension of disbelief is very difficult considering it all.  The minions essentially created the whole mess when they tried to steal the queen’s crown for Scarlet.  That set off the whole chain of events that would lead them to face off against Scarlet in the end.  Having stopped her, the minions are rewarded for basically cleaning up a mess that they caused in the first place.  Sound Familiar?  It should, Avengers fans.  Yes, this critic went there.  Taking the entire story and its outcome into consideration alongside the events of Despicable Me and its sequel, it really leaves one questioning how exactly the Minions could go from zeros to heros and back to serving another evil master along the way.  The big picture of it all just makes this story’s script completely contrived and unbelievable.  In turn it makes the movie rather unenjoyable in and of itself.

Brian Lynch’s script is in itself a major stopping point for Minions.  It is just one of the problems that weigh down this largely forgettable flick.  The movie’s pacing is another heavily weighing factor.  The manner in which Lynch crafted the script makes it feel like Lynch himself has ADHD or ADD and in turn wrote it for similar audiences.  Lynch wastes no time with the story once he really gets it moving.  Once the Minions meet Scarlet, things pick right up and move so fast that audiences are left feeling as if they have to have a program to follow the story.  After all, it doesn’t take long for Kevin, Stuart, and Bob to go from being lowly no one henchmen to living it up in Buckingham Palace to looking again for their next master, even after having been made heroes (again) for cleaning up a mess that they created in the first place.  The whole thing moves at what feels like a rapid fire pace from beginning to end, slowing down only momentarily at given points.  That quick pacing partnered with a script that is anything but believable or memorable, Minions proves even more why this movie, while not the year’s worst, is anything but one of the year’s best.

Minions, as it is shown here, is anything but one of this year’s best new movies.  If anything it is more ammunition in the argument against Hollywood’s seemingly endless river of prequels, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs.  For all of the issues weighing it down, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a complete loss.  It can be said that despite the major glaring issues raised by the movie’s script and its pacing, the work of the movie’s cast it to be applauded.  More specifically, the work of lead voice actor Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, Speed, Miss Congeniality)  and that of fellow veteran actors Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, Birdman) and Allison Janney (Juno, Finding Nemo, American Beauty) is to be applauded.  Bullock is entertaining in her own right as the villainess Scarlett Overkill.  Her chemistry with Pierre Coffin (who voiced the minions) makes for plenty of laughs.  While Keaton and Janney only play small parts in the movie, they are just as entertaining as Walter and Madge Nelson, the evil, bank-robbing couple that brings the Kevin, Stuart, and Bob to Villain-con in the first place.  The duo’s demeanor as they pick up the minions and then proceed to rob a bank on the way to the convention is hilarious.  It’s not the first time that movie villains have been portrayed in such comical fashion.  But that doesn’t make the pair’s portrayal any less entertaining. The same can be said of their work later in their shorter appearances, too. Their work in those moments is no less entertaining than in their central appearance early on in the story. That the pair remained so entertaining throughout even in bit parts is a tribute to each actor’s talents. Those talents and those of Bullock combined together make for plenty of laughs throughout the course of this movie. Of course as much as the trio does for the movie it still is not enough to save the production. In the end, even with their efforts, Minions still proves to be a movie that is going to find itself just as forgotten as its predecessors and the majority of Hollywood’s countless other prequels, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs.

Universal’s new Despicable Me prequel/spinoff Minions is anything but one of this year’s best new theatrical releases. It isn’t the year’s worst, either. But it definitely is not one that will go on to be anything memorable in the long run. That is thanks in large part to a script that at its base, is rather unoriginal. The script sees the minions creating a mess in their search for a master and eventually cleaning up the very mess that they created and being rewarded for doing so. The script’s pacing is just as problematic as the story housed within the script. The pacing of the script requires audiences to remain fully engaged in the story for fear that they will miss something. It moves that fast. While both elements weigh down the movie very badly, it can be said that Minions does have at least one saving grace—the work of certain members of its voice cast. Those members specifically are lead actor Sandra Bullock and supporting cast Micheal Keaton and Allison Janney. Their collective work makes for its own share of entertainment throughout the course of the movie. However that entertainment is still not enough to save Minions from itself. That being the case, Minions proves in the end to be a movie that while not the year’s worst movie, is also anything but one of this year’s best. Rather it is one more work that will hopefully do anything but make its audiences into minions of Minions.

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Born To Race Fast Track Keeps Pace With Universal’s Fast And The Furious Franchise

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

One part The Fast and the Furious, one part Need for Speed and one part Top Gun, the second installment of Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born to Race franchise is a movie the surprisingly enough holds its own against its bigger-named counterparts.  There’s no getting around the fact that the franchise, which started with Born to Race back in 2011, is not the first of its kind.  Universal beat Anchor Bay to that punch with its massively popular Fast and Furious franchise.  That aside, there is still plenty to enjoy in this latest installment in the Born to Race franchise.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script (I.E. its writing).  Unlike so many other movies backed by major studios out there, the script for this movie rips off neither its predecessor nor its bigger-named brethren.  Another reason that this movie works as well as it does is its pacing.  The movie moves fast.  But it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers struggling to keep up with the story.   And last but not least to consider is the movie’s casting.  The movie’s heads wiped the slate clean with this movie, casting a while new list of actors to fill its lead roles.  But those actors still get the job done well enough to keep the movie believable.  These three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that despite being an independent release, is a movie that any fan of its genre should see at least once.

The central point of success in Born to Race: Fast Track is its script (I.E. its writing).  There’s no getting around the fact that it is not the first movie of its kind within the race-based action subgenre.  That aside, it actually holds its own surprisingly well against Need for Speed and Universal Studios’ Fast & Furious franchise.  Unlike so many bigger-named movies out there across the genres, Born to Race: Fast Track doesn’t attempt to rip itself off.  Nor does it try to be just another of the aforementioned bigger-named movies in its genre.  The only movie that one could even begin to say it does copy is Tom Cruise’s hit 1986 fighter jet flick Top Gun.  It goes so far as to put lead actor Brett Davern in a pair of aviator sunglasses alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff late in the movie, in a scene that almost directly mirrors one well-known scene from Top Gun.  Even with that blatant lifting, it doesn’t take away from the movie’s overall enjoyment.  As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to argue that paying such homage to such a classic film without any sense of hamming it up only gives this movie even more credibility.  It would have been so easy for that moment to go overboard.  But it didn’t.  That combined with the fact that the movie’s writers opted to develop a story that didn’t blatantly rip off the Fast & Furious movies makes the movie’s script all the more enjoyable.

The script behind Born to Race’s latest installment is the central point of the movie’s overall enjoyment.  While it obviously does bear quite the semblance to Top Gun in terms of its plot, it doesn’t go so far as to try and be just another Fast & Furious or Need for Speed.  It does at least try to be its own story to a point.  Adding to the movie’s enjoyment is its pacing.  The writing team behind the movie wastes no time setting up the movie’s plot.  And once the plot is established, the writers keep the story moving.  They do so without missing a beat, too.  Most impressive of all is that as fast as the story progresses, it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers in its own proverbial dust (bad pun fully intended), wondering what they experienced by the end of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time.  It switches gears at all of the right points and never finds itself idling, either.  And yes, both of those bad puns were fully intended, too.  The end result of that smart pacing is a story that movies fast, but not as fast as the cars that take center stage throughout the movie.  Alongside the movie’s solid script, the pacing helps to make Born to Race: Fast Track that much more enjoyable for any fan of all of the racing movies out there.

The pacing of Born to Race: Fast Track’s story and the story itself work together to make the movie one that fans of fast cars will enjoy even with just one watch.  Both elements are important to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment.  There is still one more factor to consider in the movie’s enjoyment.  That factor is the movie’s casting.  The production’s heads wiped the slate clean with this second installment of the franchise.  None of the actors from the franchise’s first movie returned for this installment.  The reason for this happening is anyone’s guess.  It could have been the movie’s heads.  It could have also been that the cast didn’t want to return for a second movie or simply couldn’t due to other commitments.  Regardless, the cast tapped for this movie does its own part to make the movie work.  The new cast members are all quite young.  And most of the cast members are quite well-known in their own right, too.  Lead actor Brett Davern is best known for his time on MTV’s hit series Awkward alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff.  He also has dramatic experience, having acted in bit parts in CSI: Miami, In Plain Sight, and Cold Case.  Mirchoff has also filled roles on CSI: Miami and CBS’ other hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  Younger viewers might also recognize him from his work on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.  The movie’s other cast members have their own extensive resumes, too.  That collective experience shows through quite well here.  They are actually quite believable in their roles.  That the cast would take its roles with such seriousness even on a flick from an indie studio shows a great deal of respect both for the studio and for audiences.  It also makes suspension of disbelief that much easier for viewers. And in turn, it makes the movie even more worth at least one watch.

The casting of a group of up-and-coming stars for Born to Race: Fast Track and the cast’s seriousness with its roles goes a long way toward making the movie worth at least one watch.  The movie’s script and by connection its pacing add even more value to the overall presentation.  All three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that while being an indie release, is one that any fan of movies with fast cars and young stars will enjoy even with just one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s online store at  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at


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Olive Films’ Operation Petticoat Re-Issue Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time

Courtesy: Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Cary Grant and Tony Curtis’ 1959 military-based rom-com Operation Petticoat is a wonderfully entertaining story that any true lover of film will appreciate. And now thanks to the people at Olive Films, audiences get to see for themselves just why this classic is a must see for audiences new and old alike. That is because Olive Films re-issued the classic comedy earlier this week. This classic comedy could not have come along at a better time. In an era when originality and creativity in Hollywood have become all but extinct, this re-issue serves as an economic and entertaining alternative to all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes currently polluting theaters across the country. The first and most obvious reason that Operation Petticoat works so well is its script. And the acting especially on the part of Curtis and Grant makes for more than its share of laughs. Lastly, audiences will appreciate in this re-issue that the movie looks exactly as it did in its original premiere. These three factors together make this new re-issue of Operation Petticoat an absolute must-have for any true classic movie lover even without any bonus material.

Military movies and rom-coms were two of the most prominent genre of films released in the golden era of Hollywood’s major studios. Unlike in the current era of movies though, those movies actually served a purpose. That aside, few studios even then could boast films that blended both genres into one work. There were military dramas that mixed in a romantic drama. But finding one that mixes the rom-com and military is difficult to say the least. Enter Operation Petticoat. Co-writers Stanley Shapiro and Mauriche Richlincrafted a story with their script that successfully blends both genres into one. The success comes mainly in the ability of both writers to have balanced the elements of both genres without letting one overpower the other. Even with part of the story being a rom-com, the romance is kept to an extreme minimum. Yet there is still a slight level of romance there that some audiences will appreciate. The script’s comedic element is more prominent and will most certainly have audiences of all ages laughing uproariously. Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh as Grant and Curtis face off against one another, and even have to deal with the women brought on board by Lt. JG Nicholas Holden. Their ability to interpret the script makes the movie even more worth watching.

Cary Grant (Arsenic and Old Lace, North By Northwest, Notorious) and Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot, The Defiant Ones, The Great Race) make Operation Petticoat even more enjoyable thanks to their ability to interpret Shapiro and Shiplin’s script for this movie. Neil Simon’s famed buddy comedy The Odd Couple was still some nine years away when Operation Petticoat premiered. Yet Grant and Curtis become their own Odd Couple of sorts as they face off. Audiences will find themselves laughing hysterically at the contradiction of Holden’s naïve yet rather devious personality set against Grant’s far more straight-laced Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman. And as straight-laced as Sherman shows himself to be, he has his own wit about himself that will have audiences laughing just as much. This is especially obvious as he takes Holden’s personal belongings to make up for Holden stealing a man’s pig at one point. This is one of the most entertaining of the duo’s moments on screen together. He also breaks up an attempt by Holden to woo one of the women that Holden brings on board, making for another of so many wonderfully entertaining moments tossed into the movie. Audiences will find plenty more such moments when they purchase this DVD for themselves. It isn’t the last of the positives that audiences will appreciate in this new re-issue, either. Last but not least of this re-issue’s positives is the overall look of the film.

The overall presentation of Operation Petticoat in its re-issue from Olive Films is the last piece of this movie that audiences will appreciate. Watching the movie, audiences will see that it looks just as it did in its original presentation some fifty-five years ago. And thanks to today’s technology, its DVD presentation is automatically upconverted on any Blu-ray player. It is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. But those that purchase the DVD will be just as impressed with the movie’s look when it is upconverted. Audiences can spot every little nuance of the original movie’s quality whether on DVD or Blu-ray. It’s like watching a movie on Turner Classic Movies without having to turn on the television. Even without any bonus material, the movie’s overall look alongside the acting on the part of its lead actors, and the script collectively make Olive Films’ re-issue of Operation Petticoat a true must see for any true lover of classic films.

Olive Films’ brand new re-issue of Operation Petticoat is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Olive Films’ online store at More information on this and other titles available from Olive Films is available online at, and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Despicable Me 2 Fun For An Occasional Watch

Courtesy:  Universal Studios

Courtesy: Universal Studios

The latest installment in Universal’s Despicable Me franchise is more proof of the old adage that the sequel is never as good as the original.  Despicable Me 2 is an enjoyable story.  But ultimately, it is just as forgettable as so many other unnecessary sequels, prequels, and remakes that Hollywood has churned out in recent history.  That’s not to say that it is terrible.  It just was unnecessary.  Though to the script’s benefit, it can be noted that the pop culture references peppered throughout the story make up for the relatively lackluster story.  While the story itself was largely unnecessary, it can be noted of this movie that lead actor Steve Carell is just as entertaining this time out as he was in Despicable Me.  That talent, along with the pop culture references thrown in for good measure, makes this movie one that is good for a lazy day at home, but sadly little else.

The story at the heart of Despicable Me 2 is a continuation of the bad guy-gone-good story established in the franchise’s first flick.  The story of a bad guy-gone good is nothing new to the movie industry.  So the question left to Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul was how to make this story stand out from the others of its ilk.  The end result is a story that is unbalanced and predictable.  Daurio and Paul have crafted a story that becomes more rom-com than its family friendly predecessor.  The story starts well enough with Gru being recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help stop an evil mastermind.  In the process, Gru is teamed up with agent Lucy (KristenWiig).  The rom-com storyline that ensues ends up taking a front seat, while the real story ends up being sadly little more than a distraction.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, at least one of the jokes inserted into the script is one that was completely unnecessary.  The joke in question saw Gru looking for a syrum via a high-tech belt buckle of sorts.  As he searched a store for signs of said serum, it looked like he was dry humping pictures and even a statue.  Despicable Me 2 is supposed to be a family friendly movie.  So the gag in particular will leave some older viewers scratching their heads, wondering why Daurio and Paul thought they had to go blue.  Thankfully, it’s the only joke of its kind through the course of the movie’s near two-hour run-time.  Of course, the script would have been well-served to have not even had the gag in question included in the first place.  Luckily for Daurio and Paul, there are more than enough hilarious pop culture references mixed into the story to make up for that one unnecessary tasteless gag.

Despicable Me 2 suffers from its share of problems as should be evident by now.  But it isn’t without its merits.  One of those merits is the number of pop culture references thrown into the storyline, not the least of which being a handful of James Bond references.  Older audiences will appreciate the references to Dr. No as well as other classic Bond flicks.  At one point, there is also a tribute to the classic sci-fi/horror hybrid Alien.  One wouldn’t think that such a reference would work in this story.  But it does indeed work.  And again, audiences familiar with that movie will also find themselves laughing at the reference.  Daurio and Cinco pay homage to other classics throughout this story.  And audiences that watch the movie for themselves will take joy in each one.

The classic film references added to Despicable Me 2 go a long way toward saving the movie from itself.  The acting on the part of Steve Carell also helps salvage the story.  Carell expertly interprets Gru’s attempts to balance his newfound life on the other side of super villain status with being dad.   Audiences will laugh uproariously at Gru’s reaction by a certain woman to set him up with her friends.  So many older audiences will admit that they can relate to Gru’s relationship plight.  And even as the voice of a computer generated figure, Carell can make audiences laugh in the moments of physical comedy, too.  He makes a scene such as when Gru is attacked by a “watch chicken” feel as funny as any live action physical comedy bit.  It’s one more testament to Carell’s ability as an actor.  This is just one more of so many examples of Carell’s talents.  As with the jokes and gags peppered throughout the story, Carell’s acting is the only other saving  grace to what is an otherwise forgettable film.  It is available now in stores and online.  Despite being largely forgettable, it is still a movie worth renting once in a while.

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MST3K The Movie A Fabulous Farewell For Cult Sci-Fi Show

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Universal Studios Home Entertainment/Gramercy Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Studios Home Entertainment/Gramercy Pictures

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is an absolutely funny final farewell for this cult classic TV show.  The movie was already extremely difficult to find in its original release some years ago.  Now thanks to a partnership between Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Shout! Factory fans of the show and its big screen finale can finale add this piece of movie history to their home libraries.  And they can do so in proper fashion on Shout! Factory and USHE’s release of the movie in a double-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release.  The movie itself is reason enough to pick up this new re-issue.  The choice of movies to be*critiqued* by Mike and his robot friends was another positive.  And in turn, the feature on the making of both This Island Earth and on the history of MST3K: The Movie seal the deal for fans.  Together with the movie and the movie within the movie, the whole package becomes one of the best re-issues of 2013.

The story behind MST3K: The Movie will impress any hardcore fan of this cult show.  It plays out just as if it was an extended episode from the show itself.  Ironically enough, as audiences will learn in the bonus feature, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey”, that actually was not the intent of those behind the cameras and the movie’s script.  That aside, all of the irreverent humor that made the television series so funny is here.  The same can be said of the hilariously intentional low-grade sets and special effects that made the original series so funny, too.  It was obvious that despite being a big screen feature, the people behind the cameras wanted to make sure that this feature entertained the show’s core audiences just as much as the original show did.  And it did just that.  The interesting fact here is that as hilarious as the movie was, those behind it faced a lot of contention from Universal in its creation.  This is revealed in interviews in the extremely in-depth bonus feature that is “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey.”

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey” is one of two bonus features included in the movie’s new re-issue that make it even more enjoyable this time around.  This feature actually should have been the “Making of Feature” rather than the “Making of” feature that was included.  That’s because of just how in depth this feature turned out to be.  It offers a glimpse into the movie from its conceptual stage all the way to its premiere.  Along the way, audiences are presented with both the good and the bad of the movie’s eventual creation.  Some of the most interesting of the stories involve creative conflicts between Universal’s brass and those in charge of the movie itself.  One of the most notable of those anecdotes involved a joke centered on the alien creature crafted for the story.  The joke involved comparing it to one Bootsy Collins.  According to the story shared by Trace Beaulieu, the studio brass didn’t want the joke in the movie because they thought that no one knew who Bootsy Collins was at that time.  So the joke ended up being pulled.  It’s wasn’t the only conflict those behind the cameras had with Universal, either.  According to the stories shared, there were a number of conflicts between the two groups.  And viewers will get to find out just how many there were when they pick up this re-issue for themselves when it is released on September 3rd.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey” is the heart of the bonus features in the new re-issue of this release.  However, just as with the previous MST3K box sets, this one also includes a fully in-depth analysis of the movie screened within the main feature.  And this analysis is no different.  “This Island Earth: 2 ½ Years in the Making” offers audiences a complete look at the work that went into making the movie in question.  In offering the discussion, it also goes into a certain amount of depth as to what makes the movie so important in the overall picture of 1950s science fiction flicks.  One of the most notable facts shared in this special is that had the mutant used to move the story not been included, the movie would have been considered a movie for adults.  And it was Universal’s brass that insisted the mutant be included as it would bring in young audiences.  Speaking of the mutant, those interviewed for this feature actually go into depth about the mutant, even going so far as to share some laughs about it.  As with the previously mentioned bonus feature, there is so much more for viewers to take in here, too.  Together with the previously mentioned feature and with the movie itself, the whole package proves in the end to be another joy from Shout! Factory and one more of the best of the year’s re-issues.  It will be available Tuesday, September 3rd and can be ordered online direct via the Shout! Factory website at  Audiences can find out more about this release and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory on the official Shout! Factory website at and the official Shout! Factory Facebook page at

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Chihuahua Too A Fun, Family Friendly Film For Any Halloween Party Or Fall Festival

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Halloween is just around the corner once again.  That means that before we know it, lots and lots of little ghouls, ghosts, princesses and more will be making their yearly rounds around neighborhoods, malls, and even churches.  Some will also be heading to the associated Halloween parties with their friends and parents.  This means that parents are going to be looking for family friendly fare to share at said get-togethers.  Parents of young ladies would do well to start at the latest canine-centric small screen release, Chihuahua Too.  The sequel to the company’s 2011 movie, simply titled Chihuahua is not a sequel to that movie.  Nor is it a ripoff of Disney’s Buddy franchise.  Though, it can be agreed that it does capitalize on the aforementioned franchise.  EOne isn’t the first franchise to do this, either in its defense.  Keeping this in mind, Chihuahua Too ends up being a good family friendly movie for younger female audiences’ Halloween parties.

Chihuahua Too is the latest family friendly release from Engine 15 Media Group, the company responsible for other canine based movies such as the Bailey trilogy just to name one group of movies.  Chihuahua Too is different from those movies in that it has no link to the previous film in its franchise.  It is its very own stand-alone story.  Much like Engine 15’s other releases though, it maintains a positive message.  The message presented in Chihuahua Too is one of the importance of family.  The message is set up by having a young family that goes by the name of The Fasteners taking on a house once owned by its ancestors.  There’s just one catch.  The Fasteners aren’t alone in the house.  The house is haunted by the spirit of a dog once owned by the Fasteners’ ancestors.  The reason why the dog, named Sophie, is still in the house is revealed late in the story.  And it’s that reveal that plays up the message of family.

The message of family is the most important factor of Chihuahua Too.  It’s just part of what families and churches will appreciate about this piece for their Halloween parties and Fall Festival celebrations.  Engine 15 Media Group is most well-known for churning out movies that are entirely family friendly.  This is another positive to this latest release from Engine 15.  There is no questionable content whatsoever at any point in the story.  Sure, the acting could have been better.  But this isn’t a big budget production.  And Engine 15 isn’t a major studio.  So those audiences that would prefer to talk and write negative things concerning the acting and general production values need to keep this in mind and watch it again.  Perhaps in doing so, they will see the more intrinsic value of the feature, and appreciate it more.

The positive message about family and the family friendly content that make up Chihuahua Too are both important parts of the story’s overall presentation.  There is one factor in this movie that has a latent effect on audience.  Or rather, one would hope that it would have a latent effect.  The hoped for latent effect of the story presented here is of an appreciation for classic movies.  Some might consider this a stretch.  But today’s movie industry pales by comparison to the golden era of Hollywood.  Cohen Media Group, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and others have proven in recent years (2013 included) that there is still very much a market for classic films.  Maybe in being exposed to faux silent films, young audiences will gain a new interest in classics such as Cleopatra or other classics.  Who knows, maybe it will even influence the parents of said children to become interested in the classics.  On a side note, Cleopatra has been re-issued on a 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set by 20th Century Fox.  It’s available now in stores and online.  Chihuahua Too is also available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at

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Admission Gets A “Passing” Grade

Courtesy:  Focus Features/Universal Studios

Courtesy: Focus Features/Universal Studios

Tina Fey’s latest starring vehicle, Admission is a surprisingly entertaining movie for a romantic dramedy.  The movie is on the surface just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  But on a deeper level, it’s more than that.  Presented in this story, audiences are introduced to a woman who is quite the go-getter of an admissions officer at Princeton University, one of America’s elite universities.  She has no husband.  But she does have a long-term boyfriend.  And surprise surprise, she also has a long lost child.  Here’s where things get really interesting.  The identity of said child becomes just one of a handful of twists that no one would have ever seen coming.  And it is those twists, along with Portia’s own personal revelations that make this the surprising story that it is.  The movie’s cast is just as much to thank for the story’s enjoyment, too.  The current slate of sequels and otherwise brainless flicks that have polluted theaters this year only serve to heighten the enjoyment of this movie.  They heighten its importance and work with this last factor to explain even more why Admission is both a romantic dramedy and general movie worth at least one watch.

The main star of Admission is not so much any one member of the cast, but the writing.  Writer Karen Croner’s story was largely panned by critics and general audiences alike when it debuted in theaters in early 2013.  The seemingly common thread between the movie’s criticisms was its casting.  There’s no denying that the pairing of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd didn’t work.  Fey should be commended for making the effort, though.  That’s because she did in fact pull off her role relatively well.  But that will be discussed at a later point.  At this point, the movie’s writing takes center stage so to speak.  As touchy as the casting was, Karen Croner deserves some credit for having crafted a story that turns out to be anything but the standard romantic dramedy.  Sure, the boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  And there’s even a reference to the far too over used romantic airport finale, even that turns out to be quite the surprise.  As the near two hour movie progresses, audiences learn that the movie is less about Portia’s growing romance with John and more about her own personal growth.  The main story is centered on Portia’s personal growth and having to come to terms with her past and how it is directly tied in to the woman that she had become.  The story takes a very realistic element of life and mirrors it in her life in this movie in a fashion that both entertains audiences and moves them.

There are plenty of laughs along the way over the course of Portia’s personal growth.  At one point, she even offers to go toe-to-toe with one of her co-workers over the file of a young man whom she believes to be her son.  The co-workers is one with whom she is competing for the chance to take over as Dean of Admissions at Princeton since their boss, Clarence (Wallace Shawn—The Incredibles, Chicken Little, The Princess Bride, The Cosby Show) is retiring at the end of the academic year.  It’s one of a handful of funny moments that is included throughout the story.  And Portia’s dialogue with her co-worker is what really makes the moment so funny.  She asks her co-worker if she wants to go outside and see just how touchy she is as she throws up her fists.  It’s a wonderfully hilarious moment that once again really exhibited Fey’s comic chops.  This scene is sure to get plenty of laughs from audiences.  By direct contrast, the more emotional moments written into the movie really hit hard as Portia begins to realize what she really gave up when she gave up her child for adoption.

The story’s more emotional moments are wonderful additions to Admission’s script.  They are a good juxtaposition to the more comical moments peppered throughout the story.  And Fey’s interpretation of those more emotional and comical moments plays right into another of the movie’s positives. She does an impressive job of interpreting the scripts in her acting, which is another of the movie’s positives.  She had already proven herself when she starred alongside Steve Carell in Date Night.  Now she’s taken her acting chops up a notch this time out.  This is even despite starring alongside Paul Rudd.  Rudd does next to nothing to enhance the movie.  This is the case even in scenes placing him alongside Fey.  By contrast, her partnership with Carell in Date Night worked far better.  Whereas Paul Rudd didn’t work by himself or even with Tina Fey, his young co-star, Travaris Spears, is a joy to watch.  Thank goodness for his inclusion in the story.  Both in his comedic moments and slightly more serious moments, Spears shines as John’s adopted son, Nelson.  Some of his best lines come with Portia.  Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh when Nelson makes jokes at Portia’s expense about her being dull and predictable.  There’s just something about his delivery that makes these jokes worth every laugh.  By comparison, his more serious moments are just as powerful.

Tina Fey and Travaris Spears are the real stars of Admission in terms of its cast.  That’s not to say that leading star Nat Wolff didn’t do a good job as Jeremiah.  His role was integral in the story.  But it felt difficult to connect to Jeremiah on an emotional level.  Thankfully his chemistry with Fey’s Porta offset that lack of connection, and helped audiences connect even more to her.  To that end, Wolff was a good choice to fill Jeremiah’s shoes.  His was a choice that along with Tina Fey and Travaris Spears, helped to make Admission more bearable than it could have been.

Admission is a movie that is worth at least one watch, whether one is a fan of rom-coms and romantic dramedies or not.  That is thanks in large part to the story’s writing and to its casting.  Sure, not the entire cast was too well cast.  But having Tina Fey and Travaris Spears on board was the right choice.  Their interpretation of the scripts really helped to move the story along.  There is one more factor to consider in this movie’s success.  It is a comparison of this movie to the rest of the movies that have been churned out so far in 2013.  Considering that most of the movies that have come to theaters in 2013 have been either sequels or generally dumbed down flicks, Admission actually holds its own quite well against them.  It’s a romantic dramedy.  But it’s less romantic dramedy than it is a story of one woman’s personal growth and revelations.  It doesn’t play out to the far too perfected formula of so many other movies in its genre.  That’s probably another reason that it was panned by viewers and critics.  But it’s also exactly what makes it so much better than its counterparts.  It doesn’t fit nicely into that mold.  Because of that and the acting and casting combined, it becomes a movie that is worth at least one watch whether alone or as a couple.

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