The Image Revolution Is Not Just For Comic Book Fans

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

With great power comes great responsibility. Regardless of whether or not a person is a Spiderman fan or even a fan of comic books in general, most people know that timeless line spoken by Peter Parker’s uncle Ben.  It is also a piece of knowledge that would have served the founders of Image Comics well when they founded the independent comics company.  That is evident in watching Shout! Factory’s new documentary on Image Comics The Image Revolution.  While it is a documentary that centers mainly on the rise, fall, and re-emergence (of sorts) of Image Comics it is more than just a documentary about a comics company.  It is a documentary about a business.  That being the case, it is a presentation that will reach not just comic book lovers but even those with any interest and/or experience in the business world.  That is the central element of program that makes it worth the watch.  The manner in which the documentary was presented is another element worth noting.  That includes the interviews with those that founded Image Comics and the comic book panel style transitions and the vintage footage incorporated into the documentary.  Last but hardly least of note in this presentation is its bonus interview segments.  The bonus material in question presents the interview material not included in the program’s main presentation.  So basically they round out the documentary in whole.  It’s one more part of the Image Revolution’s whole that makes it such an interesting watch whether one is a comic book fan, an artist, or a business person.  Altogether, all three elements make The Image Revolution an early candidate for a spot on 2016’s list of Best New Documentaries.

The Image Revolution is an early candidate for a spot on 2016’s list of the year’s Best New Documentaries.  The documentary’s subject matter is the main element that makes it such a worthwhile watch.  The documentary’s subject matter centers on the history of independent comic book publisher Image Comics.  It follows the company’s meteoric rise to fame (and that of the men that started the company), its fall, and eventual return to greatness.  The story is one that will appeal not just to lovers of comic books and graphic novels but to artists of all types and even those with any interest and/or experience in the business world.  It is not just a niche presentation despite its subject matter.  It shows how a group of men working for America’s two biggest comic book companies left those companies in order to form a company that was to be the antithesis of those companies yet in its own way became everything that it stood against.  In turn it ended up struggling to a point before enjoying a revival that has continued to this very day.  Those that are lovers of comic books and graphic novels will appreciate the story of how far Image Comics has come as well as the collective story of the men that started Image and the titles that each used to launch the company.  Those that are experienced in art in its various forms will appreciate the discussions on how each man started out drawing his respective title but then found himself growing away and relegating that duty in large part to someone else.  Those that have any experience and/or interest in the business world will find interesting the very story of the financial irresponsibility of the company’s founders.  That irresponsibility would of course serve as a lesson for each as the men grew both by themselves and together.  Whether one focuses on the business aspect of the story, that of the men and titles that launched Image Comics, or the different art styles of each artist, there is something for a number of audiences.  This is just one way in which The Image Revolution proves itself to be such a worthwhile watch and standout documentary.  It isn’t the only element that makes it stand out so well either.  The manner in which the documentary was presented is another important element in the whole of its presentation.

The story that lies at the center of The Image Revolution is in itself an important part of this documentary.  It is a multi-faceted story that will reach more than just the obvious audience base.  This is just one element that stands out in The Image Revolution’s overall presentation.  The manner in which the documentary is presented is just as important to its presentation as the story at the center of the program.  The program is presented through a mix of interviews with Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and the rest of Image Comics’ founders, classic footage from the company’s vaults, and transitions presented in the fashion of comic book page panels.  The interviews allow McFarlane and company to tell the company’s story in their own words.  While each man chooses his words wisely, none minces words at the same time.  Audiences will laugh as Rob Liefeld does his best impersonations of McFarlane from time to time.  On another note, Jim Lee’s discussion on being asked to take part in Rob Liefeld’s removal from Image is just as interesting.  Audiences can hear it in Lee’s voice and see it in his face how much it pained him to have to be part of that change.  Savage Dragon creator Erik Larson and The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman have their own interesting anecdotes over the course of the documentary.  Audiences will laugh as Kirkman reveals how he got Image to take a chance on The Walking Dead.  That won’t be revealed here.  That is because of its link (so to speak) to The Walking Dead series.  Audiences will actually laugh at Kirkland’s ultimate revelation.  At the same time, said revelation will keep audiences watching the TV series just as rabidly as a result.  Erik Larson’s humility in discussing how he handled the fame and fortune early on and even later on is refreshing.  It shows that he didn’t and hasn’t let any of what he does go to his head.

The interviews that are featured throughout the course of The Image Revolution’s eighty-three-minute run time are their own important part of the approach to the documentary’s presentation.  The classic footage that is incorporated into the documentary adds even more interest to its overall presentation, too.  It is clear that the footage was recorded via VHS camcorder.  That is because it is obvious no attempt was made to clean up the footage.  The footage in question features McFarlane and company at comic book signings that were jam packed with fans at every stop.  There is also footage of how things went in the Image offices on an everyday basis along with much more.  Audiences will love watching all of the vintage footage.  It will transport viewers back to Image’s golden age and really serve to show how high things were for all involved at the time.  At the same time, it helps to heighten the story as it advances.  Speaking of that advancement, the transitions are just as important to the program’s presentation as its interviews and vintage footage.

The transitions that are used throughout the course of The Image Revolution might not seem like all that important of an element to its presentation.  But believe it or not they are in fact quite important to its presentation.  The transitions are presented as panels from the pages of a comic book right down to their animation.  They serve a special purpose in the story.  That is because they really increase the story’s emotion in both directions, thus keeping audiences fully engaged.  Together with the interviews and vintage footage all three elements combine to make the presentation of The Image Revolution rock solid.  Of course they are still not all that makes this documentary worth the watch.  The extended interviews that are included as bonus material round out the documentary.

The approach that was taken in presenting The Image Revolution is in itself a powerful element in the whole of this new documentary from Shout! Factory.  So much thought and work obviously went into its thorough presentation.  That set alongside the documentary’s central story gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this program.  As much reason as they give viewers to watch this documentary, they are not its only notable elements.  The extended interviews that are included as bonus material round out the presentation’s positives.  The interviews in question are, as labeled, extended.  They feature more in-depth discussion than what is presented in the main body of the documentary.  Liefeld, Lee, and Kirkland are all featured in the interviews.  They discuss a variety of topics, too.  From the success of AMC’s The Walking Dead to working on specific books and more, there is plenty for audiences to appreciate here.  There is even a secondary set of interviews with those close to Image comics that adds even more interest for audiences.  Those collected interviews combine with the work put into the documentary’s presentation and the documentary’s primary story to make a nearly ninety-minute presentation that comic book fans will love just as much as artists and even those in the business world.

Whether it be for the story of Image Comics itself or for the manner in which the story was presented, or even for the bonus extended interviews, The Image Revolution presents plenty for audiences of all types to appreciate. In having so much to appreciate, that wide range of audiences will agree in watching this program, that it is easily an early candidate for any critic’s list of 2016’s top new documentaries. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/the-image-revolution. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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Scream Factory To Release Hemlock Grove Season One This Fall

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Scream Factory/Netflix

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Scream Factory/Netflix

Officials with Scream Factory made a big announcement Tuesday about a new upcoming release.

The announcement was made Tuesday that Scream Factory will release the first season of Netflix’s hit original series Hemlock Grove. The first season of the Emmy© nominated series will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, October 7th. All thirteen episodes from the series’ first season will be spread across three discs. Both box sets will also include exclusive bonus features not available through Netflix, including six new vignettes. More information on the set’s bonus material will be announced as the set’s release date nears. The complete list of the set’s bonus material is listed below.

Hemlock Grove: The Complete First Season Bonus Features

Vignettes:

“Dysfunctional In Every Way,”

“Anatomy of a Kill,

“Fairytales for Adults”

“The Rust Beneath the Surface”

“The Monster Within”

“It Hurts So Good”

Hemlock Grove is based on author Brian McGreevy’s novel. It is executive produced by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) and was co-created by McGreevy and Lee Shipman. The series stars Famke Jenssen (XMen , X2: XMen United, X3: The Last Stand), Bill Skarsgard (Anna Karenina, The Crown Jewels, Simon & The Oaks), Landon Liboiron (Altitude, Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Howling: Reborn), Penelope Mitchell (The Vampire Diaries, The Joe Manifesto, 6 Plots), and Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II, Hitman, Ever After: A Cinderella Story). The series is produced by Gaumont International Television for Netflix.

Hemlock Grove: The Complete First Season can be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/hemlock-grove-season-one-0. More information including pricing on the DVD and Blu-ray box sets on this and other releases from Scream Factory is available online at http://www.screamfactorydvd, http://www.facebook.com/ScreamFactoryDVD, and http://twitter.com/@Scream_Factory. 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.

Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (XMen, X2 XMen United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

A Monster In Paris A Monstrously Wonderful Family Film

Courtesy:  EuropaCorp/france televisions/france3 cinema/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: EuropaCorp/france televisions/france3 cinema/Shout! Factory

A Monster in Paris is one of the best movies for families and kids to be released in 2013.  Forget Halloween.  This is a movie that the entire family can enjoy any time of the year.  The movie, which was originally released in Europe in 2011 by EuropaCorp, proves that movies from across the pond can be just as enjoyable as those released domestically by some of the biggest names in Hollywood.  This central story of this movie plays out on the surface like a love letter to classic b-grade monster movies.  On a deeper level, it’s a story about friendship, power, and learning to accept others, regardless of what they look like.  Add in some catchy tunes, and families have a movie that is one of this year’s most unlikely family films.

Anyone that is a fan of Universal’s classic monster movies will appreciate A Monster in Paris.  It centers on a flea named Francouer who is accidentally mutated when an arrogant deliveryman by day and inventor by night named Raoul sneaks into the lab of a scientist and takes it on himself to conduct some experiments of his own that ultimately result in the flea, Francoeur, to be mutated so to speak.  Francoeur escapes the lab into Paris and is instantly labeled a monster by the city’s residents, save for one; singer Lucille.  She sees into his heart as he sits in the rain, outside her door, singing sadly.  She sees that he’s just misunderstood and takes it on herself to help him.  Audiences will feel for Francoeur, too.  This is especially the case thanks to the movie’s animators.  Instead of looking big and scary, Francoeur bears the look of a creature that is indeed just scared and fragile.  He is just a big loveable creature that wants to be liked.  He means no harm to anyone.  And he’s got quite the musical skills to boot.  If this single moment doesn’t tug at audiences’ heart strings, then nothing in this movie will.  It’s at this moment that audiences will sympathize with Francoeur and even cheer for him as he tries to evade the evil Commissioner Maynott.  It all leads up to an ending that is sure to leave a smile on any viewer’s face and tear in at least some viewers’ eyes.  There’s even a little bonus for those who are patient enough to sit through the closing credits that helps to bring full closure to the story.  It’s a fairly simple story.  And it’s that simplicity that will initially win over audiences.

If the simple, touching story isn’t enough for viewers, then the movie’s comic elements are sure to entertain.  Audiences will laugh riotously at Raoul’s comic character.  His self assuredness and at times cluelessness are an excellent contrast to Emile’s straight man character.  Even from early on, the pair makes for its own share of laughs.  That’s evidenced when Raoul sneaks into the professor’s lab and decides to mix up some concoctions, all the while Emile tries to get him not to mess with the professor’s stuff.  At another earlier point, a thief steals Emile’s brand new camera.  And thanks to his cluelessness, Raoul unwittingly helps Emile get his camera back.  It’s one more of so many moments that is sure to  leave viewers of all ages in stitches.    

A Monster In Paris has lots of funny and heartfelt moments throughout the course of its near hour and a half run time.  That run time is another positive to the story.  It’s just long enough to keep the attention of younger viewers.  And that is thanks in large part to the story’s pacing.  One Lucille takes in Francoeur, the story really takes off.  But it never moves so fast as to lose anyone along the way.  This is the center of everything.  Since the story’s pacing is so well-timed, not only are viewers not lost along the way, but it allows them to enjoy all of the laughs and heartfelt moments along with tributes to other movies including both the classic Phantom of the Opera (thanks to Francoeur’s mask), and what is either X-Men (one of the wigs that Lucille puts on Francoeur looks like the hair style from Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine) or some 1950’s movie (again thanks to that hair) among other tributes.  Regardless of which movie, it is those tributes along with the strong writing and the wonderfully warm and funny moments mixed into the writing and the story’s pacing that make A Monster in Paris such a surprisingly entertaining story for the whole family and one of the best family films of 2013.  It’s available in stores and online now and can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216856

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

Les Miserables Not So Miserable In Its Home Release

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Adapting classical literature for the big screen is one of Hollywood’s most time honored traditions.  Countless books have been adapted for the silver screen since the industry’s Golden Era.  Just as common for movie studios to do is to adapt stage plays that have themselves been adapted from books.  So as common as this practice is even now in Hollywood’s modern era, it takes a lot to make a movie of this fashion stand out in today’s overly crowded movie market.  Enter the newest big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic story, Les Miserables.

The latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless story of redemption is one of the best movies of 2012.  And now that it has been released to BD/DVD/Digital combo pack, it has proven to be one of this year’s best home releases.   It isn’t the year’s best.  But it does come close as it struggles with at least two glaring issues.  Those issues are the movie’s scene transitions and its general cinematography.  Much of the cinematography issue goes hand in hand with the problematic scene transitions.  Though there’s just as much problem with this movie’s shooting style not directly linked to the transitions in question.  Despite having issues with shooting and scene transitions, the movie’s positives far outweigh its negatives.  And those positives are many.

The primary positive to the home release of Les Miserables is its abundance of bonus features.  The bonus features included in the movie’s new home release offer lots of interesting tidbits that make the movie more worthy of respect.  For starters, viewers learn through the bonus features that star Hugh Jackman actually went through a rather rigorous diet and exercise regimen in order to obtain a specific look of a convict who has spent much of his life in prison.  It definitely worked as he looked every part the convincing character.  Just as interesting to learn in watching the bonus features is the vocal work that went into singing each scene.  Most audiences know by now that the entire movie was sung.  It shows how seriously those behind the movie took its creation.  The bonus features expand on the musical aspect of the movie.  Jackman and company explain the training that was undertaken and how the cast and crew balanced the noise of the cast and instruments with the cast singing.  Part of that balance came in the form of carpeting on the scenery floors to cancel out footsteps and keeping the pianist in a soundproof box, just to point out a little bit.  One could go on for quite some time discussing the role of the bonus features in the new home release of Les Miserables.  But viewers would be better left to check out the remaining bonus features for themselves.  That’s because there is so much more to cover in this new home release.

The bonus features included in the new home release of Les Miserables go a long way toward making the movie better at home than it was in theaters.  So what else could help elevate the movie?  How about the director’s commentary?  Director Tom Hooper discusses a variety of topics throughout the course of the movie.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his commentary is how he and writers Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil adapted not just the famed stage play but also the original literary work into one full big screen work.  Those who have read the novel likely recognize the combination.  But those who are more familiar with the stage presentation will appreciate this little nugget of information.  It explains away the order of events in the movie in comparison to the stage work.  This is just one more factor that makes Les Miserables better than it was originally given credit for in theaters.  And yet again, it’s more proof of the value of special features on a movie’s home release.

Speaking of the movie’s audio commentary, the commentary involuntarily points out one more positive to the movie.  That positive is the movie’s casting.  Experienced fans will recognize both Samantha Barks and Colm Wilkinson from the 25th anniversary performance of the musical from London’s O2 arena. Samantha Barks reprises her role here as Eponine.  Wilkinson on the other hand actually plays the bishop.  This role is just as important as that of Jean Valjean in that it is the bishop who first helps Valjean turn around his life.  He showed in his performance here that his vocal chops are just as sharp as ever.

Just as interesting as Wilkinson and Bark returning for this adaptation of Les Miserables is the mention by [Tom] Hooper that casting Eddie Redmayne was quite the choice considering so many of his fellow actors had also played the role of Marius.  One can only imagine how nerve wracking it had to have been for Redmayne to have been so new to the role and surrounded by those who were so experienced in his role.  He pulled off the role quite well though.  This little piece of information, along with everything else that Hooper discusses in the audio commentary makes the movie that much more enjoyable.  Though, it should be pointed out that while he does discuss the camera work, there is no apology for his shooting style.  It is that shooting style that is really the movie’s one major downfall.

The music, acting, and scenery make this latest adaptation of Les Miserables a huge hit, as do the bonus features and audio commentary.  For all of this movie’s shining positives, there is one glaring negative that none of the positives can erase.  That negative is the general cinematography.  It, along with some of the scene transitions, makes things a little bit difficult to handle; so difficult in fact that they could leave viewers feeling slightly dizzy and even confused.  The problem with the cinematography is that throughout the movie, Hooper tries too hard to catch the emotion of his cast.  The resultant effect is that it makes it seem as if the cast is over emoting, thus making the acting seem a little bit campy. On the other hand, the rough scene transitions do eventually make way for smoother transitions, thus making the movie that much more bearable and more worth the watch, whether one is an experienced fan of this classic musical or not.

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

Les Miserables Not 2012’s Best, But Close To It

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Adapting classical literature for the big screen is one of Hollywood’s most time honored traditions.  Countless books have been adapted for the silver screen since the industry’s Golden Era.  Just as common for movie studios to do is to adapt stage plays that have themselves been adapted from books.  So as common as this practice is even now in Hollywood’s modern era, it takes a lot to make a movie of this fashion stand out in today’s overly crowded movie market.  Enter the newest big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic story, Les Miserables.

The latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless story of redemption is one of the best movies of 2012.   It isn’t the year’s best.  But it does come close as it struggles with at least two glaring issues.  Those issues are the movie’s scene transitions and its general cinematography.  Much of the cinematography issue goes hand in hand with the problematic scene transitions.  Though there’s just as much problem with this movie’s shooting style not directly linked to the transitions in question.  Despite having issues with shooting and scene transitions, the movie’s positives far outweigh its negatives.  And those positives are many.

The most obvious problem weighing down this latest adaptation of Les Miserables is its shooting style (I.E. its cinematography).  Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) makes a valiant attempt to bring out as much of the emotion as possible from each scene with his shooting style.  The problem is that he tried too hard.  Throughout the story’s near three-hour run time, this shooting style is so consistent that it could potentially leave audiences feeling somewhat dizzy and even confused.  The cameras spin, cut, and make every other possible transition so much that it leaves audiences not knowing where they are going to go next.  It happens so much that it would be no surprise if it leaves some audiences so bothered by it that it makes audiences contemplate just walking out because they can’t take feeling the way which they feel.  The issue with the shooting style is just the tip of the iceberg for this movie’s problems.  To make matters worse, the shooting style is at times linked directly to its problematic scene transitions.

Anyone who has seen Les Miserable live on stage knows that while they take time, the scene transitions are smooth enough to keep track of exactly what’s going on in the story.  The case with the latest on-screen adaptation is the polar opposite of the stage play.  The scene transitions in this version happen so fast that viewers almost need a program to keep up with what’s happening.  This is one of the areas in which Hooper obviously struggled to do honor to the legacy established by this timeless classic.  Rather than making smooth transitions, it felt almost as if much of the movie was just a load of scenes tied together with jump cut edits.  Add in that problematic shooting style, and audiences get a work that felt anything but fluid.  Rather it felt like each scene was piecemealed together.  The two factors together made the movie noticeably less enjoyable than it could have been, despite the outstanding performance on the part of both Jackman and co-star Anne Hathaway.

While Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Get Smart, The Princess Diaries) isn’t technically a veteran in the acting business, she surprisingly proved herself in the role of Fantine.  Her chops as a singer were the most impressive part of her performance.  The emotion with which she sang made her portrayal fully believable.  There are those who have alleged that she was doing little more than simply hamming it up for the cameras.  But that obviously isn’t the case.  Considering her previous roles, this could finally be the one to catapult her to the upper echelons of the movie industry.  And while he is already in the businesses’ upper echelons, the choice of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean was common sense considering his current track record both on stage and screen.  He carried the movie on his shoulders.  Watching his moment of redemption at the story’s end will leave any viewer with more than just a tear in his or her eye.  Perhaps the only poor choice in casting this movie was that of Russell Crowe.  Crowe’s portrayal of Inspector Javert worked on the superficial level.  He is old enough that he looked the part.  But his general performance simply was not believable.  Luckily that was about the only poor choice in casting this take on the time honored classic.  That being the case, it is no surprise that this take on Les Miserables has been nominated for a handful of Golden Globes.  And it would be no surprise if it makes the Oscar nod list more than once, too.

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

Philip Sayblack can be contacted at psayblack@wnct.com

Butter Is One Of 2012’s Best Comedies

Courtesy: The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay’s new movie, Butter, is one of the funniest movies of 2012.  This twisted and quirky dramedy is unlike anything out there both in the mainstream and even indie universe.  It’s twisted, yes.  But it also has just enough heart to touch audiences and make them laugh at the same time.  Add in a nice paced story, and the movie’s ninety-one minute run time passes by before audiences even realize it.

The story behind Butter centers on Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner—ABC’s Alias) and ten-year old Destiny (Yara Shahidi).  The pair end up facing off against one another at the Iowa State Fair butter carving championship as a result of Laura’s Husband Bob (Ty Burrell—ABC’s Modern Family) being asked to step down from the annual local butter carving contest as he had won too many years.  Things only get worse when Laura discovers that Bob had been having an affair with a stripper named Brooke (Olivia Wilde).  When Brooke enters the contest and loses, leaving only Destiny to face Laura, Laura’s determination to win gets way out of hand, leading to the story’s twisted comedy.  Garner is absolutely hilarious in her role as the overzealous wife of the former state butter carving champion.  She is reminiscent of Mandy Moore in Saved.  Her vindictive nature is so over the top that audiences won’t be able to control their laughter.

In contrast to Laura Pickler, Destiny will not only make people laugh but also will tug at audiences’ heart strings.  Her attitude will make people root for her and laugh all at the same time.  Seeing her put up against Laura’s overzealous, holier-than-thou personality makes Destiny that much more of a sympathetic character.  She’s so innocent yet also edgy in her own right.  Although she is an orphan, she hasn’t let being sent from home to home define who she is.  She is still very much a confident, strong-willed young woman, yet she is still the exact opposite of Laura Pickler.  That total contrast of personalities makes both the comic and dramatic moments enjoyable.

Writer Jason A. Micallef did an impressive job balancing the twisted, quirky comedy with the story’s more emotional moments without going too emotional.  That balance helped to make the story’s ninety-one minute run time pass by with so much ease.  The pacing was perfect, too, to add in to that.  Not one moment in this story felt like it dragged.  And that the A-list supporting cast didn’t overpower Garner or Shahidi, either.  It would have been so easy for director Jim Field Smith to let the supporting cast carry the movie, being A-listers.  But paired together, Shahidi and Garner carried the movie effortlessly on their backs.  Fellow veterans Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone, and Rob Corddry obviously understood this, sticking to their supporting roles, and thus making the movie that much more of a joy.

So much went in to making Butter the surprisingly enjoyable story that it is.  From the writing of Jason A. Micallef to the direction of Jim Field Smith to the balanced acting of the top name cast, everything came together to make this story another of the year’s best indie flicks.  It’s one more movie that proves to audiences independent films can be and are in many cases, just as enjoyable as major motion pictures released by the industry’s biggest studios.

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