Film Review: “It Started as a Joke”

Starring: Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Michael Ian Black, Kumail Nanjiani, Mike Birbiglia
Directed by: Julie Smith Clem and Ken Druckerman
Unrated
Running Time: 76 mins.
Gravitas Ventures

A couple weeks ago, right as the news in and around New York was starting to turn towards where we are now and I was sort of sick myself (different reason), I saw one of my favorite Tribeca Film Fest movies on a dvd display and knew I had to get it. It was Mike Birbiglia’s 2016 comedy Don’t Think Twice. I hadn’t seen it since enjoying it at Tribeca but it was exactly the thing I needed right now. That film follows a close-knit improv group in New York (including Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Gethard) as one of their number rises to a new level of fame and the others do their best to deal with what that means to the group while also contending with where they are in their personal lives. It’s incredibly heart-warming, honest and very very funny.

Why have I launched into a mini review of Don’t Think Twice at the beginning of this review? For a start, Birbiglia was credited as being part of the “joke” that directors Julie Smith Clem and Ken Druckerman’s new documentary, It Started as a Joke references in its title–many of the stars of Don’t Think Twice were also veterans of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival that it focuses on–so I think they won’t mind. Secondly because they both show how cathartic comedy can be when navigating the uncertainties of life. As one of the doc’s interviewees says, “comedy helps cope.” It’s coincidence that It Started as a Joke landed in the film release marketplace such as it is, but that message would be valid even in the best of times. It Started as a Joke evolves from a showcase of a wealth of comedic talents into something much more intimate and touching. Through the access Mirman grants into how the festival came about and how eventually he used it as an outlet for coping with his wife’s cancer diagnosis, Clem and Druckerman have captured something special.

The documentary does a great job at building up what a specific and joyful time the EMCF was for a certain ‘class’ of Brooklyn comics. It features a big lineup of talents that are now household names: Kumail Kanjiani credits Mirman for helping him to stay in NYC, “The State” members Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter are on hand as well as Mirman’s “Bob’s Burgers” co-star Kristen Schaal, even NPR’s Ira Glass wound up shit-faced at the fest’s “Drunk Show”. Not something I expected to see!

Throughout all the hilarious content of the fest, the interspersed interviews with the talent really illuminate what a unique comedic presence Mirman was and continues to be. He didn’t arrive with traditional observational humor, rather with highly absurdist riffs and things like visual advertisements for shapes (“FUCKEDUPAGON! Let’s PARTY!” is a fave of mine). It struck a chord with his peers and out of that came his comedy festival which, while parodying ‘actual’ comedy fests of the time, grew into something too large to be a prank anymore and had a successful run from 2008-2017.

The subject of Mirman’s personal life was not something he really delved into in his acts but when his wife Katie was diagnosed with breast cancer, it became clear that his work could also be an outlet for some of the fear and frustration. The doc follows Mirman as he develops a bit based on pitch black greeting cards for people with cancer for example–all with his wife’s support, of course. As Mirman opens himself up, so to do his peers which is where this doc really shines. Clem and Druckerman capture many moments of comics letting their guard down both on stage and off. Based on the talent involved with this film, I knew going in I could count on plenty of laughter, but I came away also appreciating the tears that came with them.

It Started as a Joke is now available on iTunes

IMPRACTICAL JOKERS: THE MOVIE GETS EARLY DIGITAL RELEASE

Following a Successful Theatrical Run, truTV’s First-Ever Feature-Length Film is Arriving Early on Digital April 1

BURBANK, CA (March 27, 2020) Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is bringing the pranks into homes this April Fool’s Day with the early digital release of Impractical Jokers: The Movie on April 1, 2020, only five weeks after its successful theatrical debut. The film, an extension of the wildly successful Impractical Jokers series, was directed by Chris Henchy (Daddy’s Home, “Eastbound & Down”). A truTV original production and produced by Funny Or Die, Impractical Jokers: The Movie carries a suggested retail price of $19.99 for the Digital ($24.99 in Canada) and is rated PG-13.

“Impractical Jokers raised the stakes bringing their hijinks to the big screen and we couldn’t be more proud of their impressive box office debut,” said Brett Weitz, General Manager for TNT, TBS, & truTV. “The unwavering support of their fans prove that this comedy franchise continues to provide endless laughs and entertainment that we are pleased to bring into homes.”

“Impractical Jokers first premiered on truTV to much fanfare in December 2011 and quickly became a hit, especially among young adults,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, WBHE Senior Vice President, Originals, Animation & Family Marketing. “The power of the loyal fanbase has proven the sky’s the limit for this comedy franchise, and we are eager to bring home the laughter and antics of their first feature film for the whole family to enjoy.”

“For all our wonderful fans who’ve been requesting, we’re happy to announce that Impractical Jokers: The Movie will be available in your homes to watch digitally on April 1st”, said The Tenderloins. “Hoping we can provide some laughs to families and friends at a time when we can all surely use some.”

Impractical Jokers: The Movie stars James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, Joe Gatto, and Sal Vulvano, also known as the comedy troupe The Tenderloins, playing themselves in a fictional story of a humiliating high school mishap from the early nineties. Featuring appearances from Paula Abdul, Jaden Smith, and Joey Fatone, the movie combines the fictional narrative with real life footage of over-the-top punishments and callbacks to classic moments from the series. Once the Impractical Jokers hit the road, they compete in hidden camera challenges for the chance to turn back the clock and find redemption.

Impractical Jokers: The Movie is produced by Gatto, Murray, Quinn, Vulcano, Henchy, and Funny Or Die’s Jim Ziegler and Buddy Enright. Executive producers include Jack Rovner and Funny Or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell. The Impractical Jokers series has aired eight seasons with over 200 episodes to date and remains a top three original cable comedy series with ratings that continue to grow. New episodes of Impractical Jokers keep truTV in the top 10 ranking among cable networks in primetime.

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.

About truTV
truTV, a WarnerMedia Entertainment brand, is a bold, fresh entertainment network that gives viewers audacious content with laugh-out-loud moments and relatable characters. With millions of engaged fans across linear, digital and social channels, the cable network features a growing roster of critically acclaimed and fan-favorite, premium scripted, non-scripted and hybrid series, such as Impractical Jokers, Adam Ruins Everything, At Home with Amy Sedaris, I’m Sorry, Tacoma FD, The Carbonaro Effect, Paid Off with Michael Torpey, Hot Ones: The Game Show, based off the popular digital series, and more. truTV is also a partner in airing the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship each year.
Website: www.trutv.com

About Funny Or Die
Funny or Die is a premiere entertainment brand and comedy studio that creates award-winning comedy. Known for its celebrity driven and political content, Funny Or Die reaches a global audience of more than 40 million people, and is the #1 comedy brand on both Facebook and Twitter. Funny Or Die’s Emmy Award-winning long-form division produces shows like the critically-acclaimed Brockmire for IFC, Emmy nominated Billy on the Street, the Peabody award-winning American Vandal for Netflix, the Emmy nominated Sarah Silverman series I Love You, America for Hulu and No Activity for CBS All Access, and Between Two Ferns: The Movie for Netflix. FOD also makes award-winning TV commercials and Branded Content for all verticals and many Fortune 500 Companies from soft drinks to automobiles and toilet paper.

About The Tenderloins
The Tenderloins is a New York-based comedy troupe, whose four members – Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn and Sal Vulcano – are the Creators, Executive Producers, and Stars of truTV’s hit series, Impractical Jokers. Now in its ninth season, Impractical Jokers follows The Tenderloins as they compete to embarrass each other while being filmed by hidden cameras, all the while showcasing their longstanding camaraderie. Their newest TV show – TBS’s “The Misery Index” hosted by Jameela Jamil – premiered as a top rated cable comedy in 2019 and recently wrapped production on its second season. In addition to TV success, The Troupe has toured steadily over the last six years with its wildly popular live show, performing for over one million fans in the US and UK, including six sold-out nights at Radio City Music Hall, a sold-out Madison Square Garden, and six sold-out shows at London’s O2 Arena. Natives of Staten Island, NY, Vulcano, Gatto, Murray and Quinn met while attending high school and later formed The Tenderloins Comedy Troupe in 1999. After years of performing live improv and sketch comedy, The Tenderloins crossed over to the web, garnering millions of views for their internet sketches, eventually creating the runaway success Impractical Jokers for truTV. In addition to success in the US, Impractical Jokers is the #1 show on Comedy Central in the United Kingdom and India.

Film Review: “Human Capital”

HUMAN CAPITAL
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, Marisa Tomei, Maya Hawke, Alex Wolff
Directed by: Marc Meyers
Not Rated
Running Time: 95 mins.
Vertical Entertainment

An academic awards dinner serves as a turning point for multiple families when a hit and run accident leaves one of its wait staff dead in Marc Meyers’s Human Capital. The film boasts a solid cast lead by Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard and Marisa Tomei but its rigid structuring choices throw the film off balance as it delves ever deeper into the melodramatic. The resolution to its mystery proves murky and is not quite given enough space to breathe before the film’s conclusion.

Director Meyers and screenwriter Oren Moverman (adapting a novel by Stephen Amidon) split the film up in such a way that the pivotal day of the dinner leading up to the murder is shown through the lens of three characters played by Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei and Maya Hawke. It’s the multi-POV strategy we’ve seen with films such as Crash, but on a smaller scale. The trouble with these rigid thirds is that while they all are sort of negotiating with varying degrees of class inequality and value in humanity over money, they don’t quite convalesce in a meaningful way. Largely they depend on leaden dialogue to hit you over the head with each character arc’s Central Theme before we shift to the next one.

Unfortunately I found the first arc, that of Schreiber’s Drew, to be the most compelling of the three stories. His character figures largest into the characters who felt most genuine–his daughter Shannon (Hawke) and his pregnant wife Ronnie (Betty Gabriel, “Get Out”). Schreiber is also easily relatable as a man woefully out of his depth when trying to make a big deal with Sarsgaard’s slimy hedge fund manager Quint. While the film is in no way interested in clarifying the economics at play, Schreiber’s everyman persona makes up for it in his desperate reactions. I felt more interested in the fallout of his bad decisions than I did in getting to crux of the car accident plot.

Beyond Schreiber the film severely underserves the remainder of the cast. I found little to care about in Tomei and Sarsgaard’s relationship. They’re constantly sniping at each other and no doubt trying to hammer home that money can’t buy happiness. Tomei is eventually driven into the arms of a colleague played by Paul Sparks. Usually Sparks is a welcome addition but here it feels like he’s retreading the role he had during his tenure on “House of Cards.” Meanwhile, Aasif Mandvi is a sneering Wall Street bro sidekick to Sarsgaard and feels straight out of an 80’s movie. Eventually the film turns itself over to exciting newcomers Hawke and Alex Wolff (“Hereditary”) but again, their romance and how it all ties into the central mystery drags and feels like it’s trying to throw even more big social themes into the mix in the rush to the finish.

Human Capital is currently available on VOD

The Dead Are Among Us on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray! Zombie arrives on May 26th!

The Dead Are Among Us on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray!

In Italy, it was considered the ‘unofficial sequel’ to DAWN OF THE DEAD. In England, it was known as ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and banned as obscene. In America, it was called ZOMBIE and advertised with the depraved tag line “WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU!” Tisa Farrow (THE GRIM REAPER), Ian McCulloch (CONTAMINATION), Al Cliver (CANNIBALS), and Richard Johnson (THE HAUNTING) star in this worldwide splatter sensation directed by ‘Maestro Of Gore’ Lucio Fulci (THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, THE NEW YORK RIPPER) that remains one of the most eye-skewering, skin-ripping, gore-gushingly graphic horror hits of all time!

Now Blue Underground is proud to present our critically acclaimed restoration of ZOMBIE in true 4K Ultra High Definition with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos audio mix, bursting at the seams with hours of new and archival Extras!
Extra Features / Sell Points
Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras:
• Audio Commentary #1 with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
• Audio Commentary #2 with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
• When The Earth Spits Out The Dead – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spots
• Radio Spots
• Poster & Still Gallery
• Guillermo del Toro Intro
Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Extras:
• Zombie Wasteland – Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
• Flesh Eaters on Film – Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
• Deadtime Stories – Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
• World of the Dead – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
• Zombi Italiano – Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
• Notes on a Headstone – Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi
• All in the Family – Interview with Antonella Fulci
• Zombie Lover – Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films

Sell Points:
• The worldwide splatter sensation returns on 4K Ultra High Definition Blu-ray Disc!
• Critically acclaimed restoration NOW IN TRUE 4K ULTRA HIGH DEFINITION with DOLBY VISION HDR and a new DOLBY ATMOS audio mix!
• Features 2160p Ultra HD Resolution with Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio for the ultimate home theater experience
• Bursting at the seams with hours of Extras
• National Print Advertising and extensive Online Exposure
• From acclaimed horror maestro Lucio Fulci (THE NEW YORK RIPPER, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, THE BEYOND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, CAT IN THE BRAIN)
• Stars EuroCult favorites Tisa Farrow (THE GRIM REAPER, FINGERS), Ian McCulloch (CONTAMINATION, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST), Richard Johnson (THE HAUNTING, BEYOND THE DOOR), Al Cliver (CANNIBALS, THE BLACK CAT), and Olga Karlatos (PURPLE RAIN, KEOMA)
• For fans of DAWN OF THE DEAD, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE WALKING DEAD

Film Reviews:
• “Belongs In Every Horror Film Collection!” – DVD Review
• “An Instant Gorehound Classic!” – Fangoria
• “ZOMBIE Holds A Special Place In The Hierarchy Of Hardcore Horror!” – DVD Talk
• “A Veritable Orgy Of Cannibalistic Dismemberment!” – Cinefantastique
• “As Gory As The Law Allows, ZOMBIE Set New Standards For Eyeball Violence, Arterial Spurting, Maggot Infestations, Topless Skin-Diving And Zombie Table Manners!” – Chas Balun, Gorezone

ZOMBIE (3-Disc Limited Edition) Blu-ray Reviews:
• “5 out of 5! The release is sourced from an exclusive new 4K restoration that is simply a thing of beauty. I think that it is the best work that the folks at Blue Underground have done to date… All in all, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the folks at Blue Underground have produced the definitive master and release of ZOMBIE. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!” – Blu-ray.com
• “Blue Underground has delivered the definitive home video release of ZOMBIE… It’s difficult to imagine this 4K remaster and three-disc limited edition ever being dethroned… One of the most extraordinary cult cinema packages I’ve ever come across. I haven’t awarded this site’s highest rating to a title in more than two years, but Blue Underground’s astonishing efforts here are richly deserving. DVD Talk Collector Series” – DVD Talk
• “ZOMBIE is a spaghetti splatter cornerstone that looks better than ever in Blue Underground’s new 4K restoration—one of the few absolute ‘must-own’ releases for horror fans this year!” – Rue Morgue
• “Fulci gets so many elements of this film right – atmosphere, gore, story, decent characterization. This is Criterion-level treatment, and in some ways even more impressive. Undoubtedly, some of the best work Blue Underground has ever done, and if you’re familiar with their transfers that’s saying a lot. This is a no-brainer pick as one of the year’s best home video releases!” – Dread Central
• “Blue Underground’s work on this title blew all of my expectations out of the water – the transfer truly is a revelation. After years of seeing this film in substandard quality, it’s a shock to see it in such pristine quality – almost as if it was shot yesterday. Add to that a large extras selection and you have one of the finest Blu-ray horror releases of the year. Beyond recommended!” – The Digital Bits

The Final Battle Has Arrived! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment And DC Present “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War”

COMING MAY 5, 2020 TO DIGITAL; ARRIVING MAY 19, 2020 ON 4K Ultra HD™ BLU-RAY combo pack, & BLU-RAY™ COMBO PACK

BURBANK, CA (March 4, 2019) – The World’s Greatest Super Heroes square off once-and-for-all against the despotic Darkseid – with the fate of all humanity hanging in the balance – in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated film will be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting May 5, 2020, and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack on May 19, 2020.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will be accompanied by the all-new DC Showcase animated short, Adam Strange. The thrilling tale, which offers insight into the space adventurer’s fascinating backstory, features Charlie Weber (How To Get Away with Murder) as the voice of title character.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will be available on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (USA $39.99 SRP; Canada $44.98 SRP) and Blu-ray Combo Pack (USA $24.98 SRP; Canada $29.98  SRP) as well as on Digital. The 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc in 4K with HDR, a Blu-ray disc featuring the film in hi-definition, and a digital version of the movie. The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a Blu-ray disc with the film in hi-definition, a DVD with the film in standard definition, and a digital version of the movie.

Culminating a six-year animated journey that began with the release of Justice League War in 2014, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War finds Earth decimated after intergalactic tyrant Darkseid has devastated the Justice League in a poorly executed war by the DC Super Heroes. Now the remaining bastions of good – the Justice League, Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and assorted others – must regroup, strategize and take the war to Darkseid in order to save the planet and its surviving inhabitants. This is truly the war to end all wars, and only the victor will live to enjoy the spoils.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War features the largest Super Hero cast in the history of DC Universe Movies with dozens of actors/characters spotlighted in a grand ensemble of talent reprising their roles from this six-year story continuum. Matt Ryan (Legends of Tomorrow, Constantine), Jerry O’Connell (Carter, Bravo’s Play by Play, Stand by Me) and Taissa Farmiga (The Nun, The Mule, American Horror Story) anchor the cast as Constantine, Superman and Raven, respectively – the triumvirate determined to assemble the forces necessary to lead humanity’s final attack. Alongside that trio are the long-running core of Justice League voices — Jason O’Mara (The Man in the High Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as Batman, Rosario Dawson (Briar Patch, Daredevil, Sin City) as Wonder Woman, Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds) as Cyborg and Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs, Insatiable, Ugly Betty) as The Flash – as well as JL-adjacents Rebecca Romijn (X-Men, The Librarians) and Rainn Wilson (The Office, The Meg) as the voices of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, respectively.

Tony Todd (Candyman) is the voice of the film’s key villain, Darkseid. The cast also boasts appearances by Camilla Luddington (Grey’s Anatomy) as Zatanna, Ray Chase (Justice League Dark, Final Fantasy XV videogame) as Jason Blood/Etrigan, Roger R. Cross (24, The Strain, Arrow) as John Stewart & Swamp Thing, Liam McIntyre (Spartacus: War of the Damned, The Flash) as Captain Boomerang, Hynden Walch (Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans) as Harley Quinn, Stuart Allan (Batman vs. Robin, Batman: Bad Blood) as Robin/Damian, Sachie Alessio (Batman: Hush) as Lady Shiva, and John DiMaggio (Futurama, Batman: Under the Red Hood) as King Shark.

Directors Matt Peters (LEGO DC: Batman – Family Matters) and Christina Sotta (Young Justice) helm Justice League Dark: Apokolips War from a script by Ernie Altbacker (Batman: Hush, Justice League Dark) and Mairghread Scott (Wonder Woman: Bloodlines), who is also credited with creating the story. Amy McKenna (The Death of Superman) is producer, and Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) is co-producer. Executive Producers are Sam Register and James Tucker (Reign of the Supermen, Justice League Dark).

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is an epic story of supernatural proportions. A blockbuster, battle royale of a film filled with intense action and heartfelt emotions, serving up spotlight moments for our cast of unique characters,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Senior Vice President, Originals, Animation and Family Marketing. “This incredible thrill-ride takes us to the edge of the DC universe and sets the stage for an exciting new chapter.”

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War Special Features

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital

  • DC Showcase: Adam Strange (Animated Short) – On an asteroid mining colony, mysterious drifter Adam Strange is dismissed as an interplanetary derelict. But when the miners open a fissure into the home of a horde of deadly alien insects, his true identity is exposed. He is space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long. Charlie Weber provides the voice of Adam Strange, alongside with Roger R. Cross, Kimberly Brooks, Ray Chase and Fred Tatasciore. Adam Strange is produced and directed by Butch Lukic (Batman Unlimited franchise), who also conceived the original story – which is written by J.M. DeMatteis (Constantine: City of Demons).
  • Darkseid: New God/Evil Classic (New Featurette) – This documentary explores the machinations of one of fiction¹s greatest Super Villains as we learn more about what fuels Darkseid¹s drive to becoming a galactic Atilla the Hun and the importance of Deities in our classic and modern fiction.
  • Filmmaker Audio Commentary – Observations and behind-the-scenes insight from Executive Producer James Tucker, Directors Matt Peters and Christina Sotta, and Screenwriter Ernie Altbacker.
  • Look Back: Justice League Dark (Featurette) – John Constantine leads a group of misfit characters that use magic to vanquish their opponents. This is the dark version of the Justice League taking on the malevolent forces that go beyond our plane of existence.
  • Look Back: Batman and Harley Quinn (Featurette) – Take a peek at the animated feature film, Batman and Harley Quinn, featuring the creators and talented voice cast. 
  • From the DC Vault: Justice League Action, “Zombie King”
  • From the DC Vault: Justice League Action, “Abate and Switch”
  • From the DC Comics Vault: Teen Titans, “Nevermore”
  • A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Superman: Man of Tomorrow – An advanced look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION ELEMENTS

On May 5, 2020, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will be available to own in high definition and standard definition from select digital retailers including Amazon, the Apple TV app, FandangoNOW, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others. On May 19, 2020, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

ABOUT MOVIES ANYWHERE

Movies Anywhere is a digital movie platform that enables movie fans to discover, access, and watch their favorite digital movies in one place. Movies Anywhere brings together a library of nearly 7,500 digital movies from Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment) and Warner Bros., and will continue to expand the consumer experience as more content providers, digital retailers and platforms are added. By connecting participating digital retailers that include Amazon Prime Video,  the Apple TV app, FandangoNOW, Google Play, and Vudu, movie fans can now bring together their digital movie collections (whether purchased or redeemed) in one place and enjoy them from the comfort of their living rooms, and across multiple devices and platforms, including Amazon Fire devices; Android devices and Android TV; Apple TV, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; Chromecast; Roku® devices and popular browsers. Movie fans can also redeem digital codes found in eligible Blu-ray and DVD disc packages from participating studios and enjoy them through Movies Anywhere. Movies Anywhere – your movies, together at last.

ABOUT DIGITAL

Digital movies or TV episodes allow fans to watch a digital version of their movie or TV show anywhere, on their favorite devices. Digital movies or TV episodes are included with the purchase of specially marked Blu-ray discs. With digital, consumers are able to instantly stream and download movies and TV shows to TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones through retail services. For more information on compatible devices and services go to wb.com/digitalmoviefaq. Consult a digital retailer for details and requirements and for a list of digital-compatible devices.

BASICS

PRODUCT                                                                 SRP

4K UHD Combo Pack                                                $39.99 USA, $44.98 Canada

Blu-ray Combo Pack                                                  $24.98 USA, $29.98 Canada

Blu-ray Languages: English, Spanish, French

Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

4K Blu-ray Languages: English, Spanish, French

4K Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Running Time: 90 minutes

Rated R for bloody violence, language and some sexual references.

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc.:

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.

ABOUT DC

DC is one of the largest English-language publishers of comics and graphic novels in the world and home to some of the most iconic and recognizable characters ever created. As a creative unit of WarnerMedia, DC is charged with strategically integrating its stories and characters across film, television, consumer products, home entertainment, interactive games and the DC Universe subscription streaming service. For more information visit dccomics.com.

JUSTICE LEAGUE and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © DC.  © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

About Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) is one of the leading producers of animation in the entertainment industry, producing and developing projects for multiple platforms, both domestically and internationally. WBA’s current series include Animaniacs for Hulu, Green Eggs and Ham for Netflix, Aquaman: King of Atlantis, Gremlins: Secrets of the MogwaiJellystone, Little Ellen and Looney Tunes Cartoons for HBO Max, Harley Quinn and Young Justice: Outsiders for DC UNIVERSE, DC Super Hero Girls, Teen Titans Go!, ThunderCats Roar and Unikitty! for Cartoon Network, Bunnicula, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, New Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo! and Guess Who?, The Tom and Jerry Show, Wacky Races and Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs! for Boomerang. WBA’s full-length theatrical film, Teen Titans GO! to the Movies, was released in summer 2018. As home to the iconic animated characters from the DC, Hanna-Barbera, MGM and Looney Tunes libraries, WBA also produces highly successful animated films — including the DC Universe Movies — for DVD, Blu-ray® and digital media. One of the most-honored animation studios in history, WBA has won six Academy Awards®, 35 Emmy® Awards, the George Foster Peabody Award, a BAFTA Children’s Award, an Environmental Media Award, a Parents’ Choice Award, the HUMANITAS Prize, two Prism Awards and 20 Annie Awards (honoring excellence in animation).

The 10 Best Films of the Past Decade (2010-2019)

This past week Media Mikes celebrated their 10th Anniversary. It seems like only yesterday when Mike Gencarelli and I, who were at the time writing for other websites, decided to start our own. We were Movie Mikes for awhile, until Mike G. had the brilliant idea of helping to promote the upcoming AMC series “The Walking Dead.” His interview series put a big spotlight on the site and convinced us that, rather than be a movie inclusive site, we would cover the entire spectrum of Pop Culture. Hello, Media Mikes.

Since that time we (Mike G, myself and our amazing staff of writers) have reviewed over 1,000 theatrically released films and almost another 2,000 films on DVD/Blu-ray. We’ve told you what we’ve liked and what we haven’t. This week, Jeremy Werner and I have compiled our lists of the Best Films of the past decade. Let us know if you agree with us or if there was a film you think we missed.

Michael A. Smith’s 10 Best Films of the Decade

1917 Might as well start with the most recent of the group. An intriguing story that takes you along with it, thanks to the brilliant direction of Sam Mendes and the amazing Oscar-winning Cinematography by Roger Deakins.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher at his best. I had not (nor have I) seen the original Swedish trilogy but I walked out of this film stunned by Fincher’s handiwork.

The Birth of a Nation Due to negative publicity surrounding filmmaker Nate Parker, this film never got the true recognition it deserved. A tour-de-force for Parker who not only directed and co-wrote the film but starred in it as well.

All the Money in the World Director Ridley Scott took a huge gamble when, due to the negative publicity surrounding star Kevin Spacey, and with the film already completed and awaiting release, he recast Spacey’s role with Christopher Plummer and re-shot all of Spacey’s scenes. Plummer would go on to receive an Oscar nomination for his work.

Bohemian Rhapsody” THIS is what a bio-pic should be. The story of the greatest front man in Rock and Roll history with a brilliant, Oscar-winning performance by Rami Malik. This is the film ROCKETMAN wanted to be.

Get Out Jordan Peele re-wrote the rules on horror films with this Academy Award winning masterpiece. He continued on a roll with his follow-up film, “US.”

Les Miserables Hugh Jackman may be the Wolverine to most of the world but to me he delivered his best performance ever here.

Unbroken” An inspirational true story of heroism and faith capably directed by Angelina Jolie.

Skyfall” Sean Connery will always be the definitive James Bond, but what Daniel Craig has brought to the character is nothing short of brilliant. His final appearance as Bond is due this year. Bring on Idris Elba!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe. This 23-film series (I’m including this past year’s “Spider-man: Far From Home”) is sure to be a blueprint followed by studios until the end of time. When Robert Downey, Jr informs the smug Thanos “I am Ironman” at the end of “Avengers: End Game” the emotional roller coaster takes one more powerful dip.

Jeremy Werner’s Lists

Instead of the stereotypical Top 10, I cheated a lot on my “Best of the Decade” list. Mainly because I find it incredibly difficult to narrow down my choices to a top 10, much less a top 15. So I created three lists, and put them in no particular order, so I can share my love for these movies that still resonate with me in 2020. I also didn’t want to reveal any biases that I may have on this list, so I didn’t include any description as to why I adore these films.

Best of the Decade

“Inception”
“Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse”
“Drive”
“1917”
“Nightcrawler”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

“Silver Linings Playbook”
“The Lego Movie”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Swiss Army Man”

“Eighth Grade”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Inside Out”
“Gravity”
“12 Years a Slave”
“Wolf of Wall Street”
“Inside Out”
“Zootopia”
“Get Out”
“Parasite”

Honorable Mentions:
Midsommar
“Bridesmaids”
“Edge of Tomorrow”
“Detroit”
“Hell or High Water”
“Baby Driver”
“Life of Pi”
“Scott Pilgrim vs the World”
“Blade Runner 2049”
“Sicario”
“Blackkklansman”
“Dredd”
“Under the Skin”
“The Spectacular Now”
“The Florida Project”

So Weird, Shocking, or Unexplainable, they have to be mentioned, even if they aren’t great:
“Climax”
Mandy
“Sorry to Bother You”
“Mom and Dad”
“One Cut of the Dead”
“The Neon Demon”
“The Greasy Strangler”
“mother!”
“Hobo with a Shotgun”
“We are the Flesh”

Michael D. Smith’s 10 Best Films of the Decade

Coming up with a top ten list for a year is difficult enough, but it is at least ten times more maddening to finalize the best of a decade! So, I cheated a bit and added five honorable mentions. As I looked back, I picked those that pushed the envelope in some way or left an impression with me that still reverberates to present day. Beginning with #10…

10. “Hell or High Water”
9. “Prisoners”
8. “Inception”
7. “Ex Machina”
6. “A Quiet Place”
5. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
4. “The Revenant”
3. “Get Out”
2. “Lincoln”
1. “12 Years A Slave”

Honorable Mentions:
“Snowpiercer”
“The Skin I Live In”
“Logan”
“Arrival”
“Interstellar”

Film Review: “Feedback”

FEEDBACK
Starring: Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, Ivana Baquero
Directed By: Pedro C. Alonso
Not Rated
Running Time 98 min
Blue Fox Entertainment

A London radio station transforms into a pressure cooker when a late night host is held captive in his own recording studio. What starts as a not-wholly-unexpected hostage situation for the controversial host quickly reveals the thugs have more personal than political reasons for their chosen target. Director Pedro Alonso’s Feedback, which is now out on VOD and releases February 18th on DVD, is a tightly orchestrated thriller that hinges on a strong leading performance from Eddie Marsan despite a questionable point of view. 

Dolan Jarvis (Marsan) has been attacked before. Anchoring a late night radio show called “Grim Reality” where he rages on all things political (Brexit, Russian election tampering, et al), he isn’t as shaken as the average person returning to work after having been attacked by angry listeners. That said, his producer (Anthony Head) is still angling to force a co-host on him in the form of rocker Andrew Wilde (Paul Anderson, “Peaky Blinders”). As he starts his usual broadcast, a group of masked thugs trap Jarvis in his studio and threaten him to stick to their exact script when Wilde arrives. At first Jarvis balks but he gets on board when he realizes his daughter, who also happens to be in the radio offices that night, as well as his young studio technicians are threatened as well.

What should be a limiting contrivance–holding all action captive in a recording space–is actually one of the film’s strengths. Alonso goes a long way to making sure that the viewers feel Jarvis’s claustrophobia as his assailants bear down on him. The pristine studio also makes for a good visual contrast with the acts of violence. Then in the latter stages of the film, he keeps throwing Marsan further into situations where he feels more and more like a rat in a maze. It’s highly stressful and highly effective.

Marsan meanwhile as the victim gains a lot of sympathy when he’s first caught that pays off in dividends for the film. Alonso pulls a bit of a switcheroo by firmly placing the audience on Jarvis’s team so to speak before the ostensible villains of the piece get him and Wilde to expose more of their past digressions on air. If it weren’t for Marsan and Anderson’s respective charisma, I think this film would have run a real risk of losing viewers completely when all is said and done. Your mileage may vary, but despite where the film takes the characters, it still delivers several gasp-inducing thrills and is worthwhile for Marsan’s performance.

Joker, 1917 and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood Lead Winners for the 9th Annual Media Mikes Awards

Now that the Oscars dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at how we here at Media Mikes, readers and writers alike, voted for our top cinematic achievements of 2019 in our 9th Annual Media Mikes Awards

“Joker,” Todd Phillips’s dark look at the origins of Batman’s greatest enemy, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino’s fable about the summer of 1969 and Sam Mendes’s enthralling WWI drama, “1917”, topped our lists with two awards each.

“Hollywood” took home the big prize as the year’s Best Picture and also nabbed Best Supporting Actor award for Brad Pitt. “Joker” earned wins for Joaquin Phoenix as Best Actor as well as Best Original Score, written and composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir. “1917” earned the award for Best Director for Sam Mendes and was also recognized for its cinematography by the legendary Roger Deakins.

Additional winners included Reneé Zellwegger as Best Actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland in “Judy” and Scarlett Johansson as Best Supporting Actress for her work in “JoJo Rabbit.”

“Toy Story 4” was chosen as the year’s Best Animated Feature.

This year saw more than 3,000 readers submit their choices in the seven top categories, check out the complete list of our winners below

Reader Voted Awards Went to…

Best Picture – “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Best Director – Sam Mendes, “1917”
Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Best Actress – Renee Zellweger, “Judy”
Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Best Supporting Actor – “Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Best Animated Feature – “Toy Story 4”

Awards chosen by our Media Mikes writers went to…

Best Original Screenplay – Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, “Parasite”
Best Adapted Screenplay – Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
Best Documentary Feature – “David Crosby: Remember my Name”
Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins, “1917”
Best Original Score – Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”

Composer John Williams, who recently earned his 52nd Academy Award nomination, was name the recipient of this years Media Mikes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who voted!

“Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho Make Oscar History

“Parasite,” the South Korean thriller directed by Bong Joon-ho, made Oscar history tonight when it became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.  In doing so, it took down more heavily favored films like “1917” and “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.” 

Director Bong Joon-ho became the first person to take home four awards in one ceremony, winning Oscars as the director, co-producer and co-writer of the film.  He also received the award as the director of the year’s Best International Feature Film.   

Joaquin Phoenix was named Best Actor for his work in “Joker” while Renee’ Zellwegger took home the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Hollywood legend Judy Garland in “Judy.” 

Supporting Oscars went to Brad Pitt for “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and Laura Dern for “Marriage Story.”  Dern paid tribute to her parents, former Oscar nominees Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, in her acceptance speech.  

“Toy Story 4” was named the years Best Animated Feature.   Here is a complete list of tonight’s winners:  

BEST PICTURE  

“Parasite”  

BEST DIRECTOR

Bong Joon-ho – “Parasite”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Renée Zellweger – “Judy”  

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Brad Pitt –  “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”  

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Laura Dern – “Marriage Story”  

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Parasite” – screenplay by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won  

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“Jojo Rabbit” – screenplay by Taika Waititi

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“Toy Story 4”  

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

“Parasite” – South Korea

DOCUMENTARY – FEATURE

“American Factory”  

DOCUMENTARY – SHORT SUBJECT

“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”  

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“The Neighbors’ Window”  

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Hair Love”  

ORIGINAL SCORE

“Joker” – Hildur Guðnadóttir  

ORIGINAL SONG

“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman” written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin  

SOUND EDITING

“Ford v Ferrari”

SOUND MIXING

“Ford v Ferrari”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”  

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“1917”

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Bombshell”

COSTUME DESIGN

“Little Women”  

FILM EDITING

“Ford v Ferrari”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“1917”

Film Review: “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

BIRDS OF PREY
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ella Jay Basco
Directed By: Cathy Yan
Rated: R
Running Time: 109 mins.
Warner Brothers

After a major breakup, one Harley Quinn is down in the dumps. But dammit if she’s not going to lift herself out of it and take audiences along for the ride. And what a wild ride it is. Cathy Yan and producer/Harley herself, Margot Robbie deliver a creative, intense and above all, fun burst of action that really couldn’t be better placed on the calendar than right before Valentine’s Day. Grab your favorite colorful candy, your friends, your pet hyenas (just not any shitty exes) and go.

For those unfamiliar with Ms Quinn, director Yan opens with a helpful primer without  having to look at a single frame of Suicide Squad. HQ was a brilliant med student-turned-psychiatrist-turned-lover of the Joker, her former patient. It was a position that allowed her to get away with murder, possibly literally. No one was crossing the Clown Prince of Crime. Unfortunately for her, it was also a subjugated position. Her schemes weren’t appreciated when they succeeded, she was abused and taken for granted. Yan doesn’t go into the particulars of the breakup and blessedly doesn’t bring Jared Leto or any other iteration of “Mr. J” in here—because he’s besides the point—but Harley is a bit of a mess as a result. She’s already dealing with an identity crisis when a crime lord named Roman Sionis (McGregor) places a bounty on the young girl that Harley herself is meant to be delivering to him in 24 hours, on pain of death. 

If the above has you questioning where the “Birds of Prey” from the title come in, you would be right, but I’d also wonder if you watched a single trailer for this movie. This is very much the Harley show. Her teammates come in gradually—Black Canary (Smolett-Bell) first and most prominently, followed by police officer Renee Montoya (Perez) and Huntress (Winstead). They all have their own grievances with Roman. The good news is, Harley cheerfully gets you up to speed on their backstories as they join the party. Meanwhile the actresses truly make the most of their limited screen time. Winstead in particular sells an assassin who is as fierce in battle as she is socially awkward. I mean, if all you do is train for vengeance, yeah, you might not be great with new friends.

The person who gets the most time to balance out Harley’s zaniness with his own brand of ham is Ewan McGregor as Roman, aka The Black Mask. He and main enforcer, Mr. Zsasz (Chris Messina) are operating on their own levels of strange and flamboyant and I was into it. Again, he could have even gone for more over the top as far as I’m concerned, but his finale left me more than satisfied. Above all, if the worst I can say about this movie is I wanted more and not less in a time where bloated two and a half hour runtimes are the norm (sorry, Aquaman!) that’s not a bad thing.

Finally not to mix up my IPs or anything, but as this movie unfurled, I actually thought of Disney Imagineers. As it goes, they’re encouraged to “plus” their rides and attractions–a phrase they use when taking a solid idea and ramping it up with “what if?” possibilities. Every action sequence in Birds of Prey feels like it’s been plussed. It’s not enough that the stunt work be impeccable but what if everyone also dressed fantastic? Or what if a gunfight takes place among rainbow smoke bombs? Turn on some sprinklers while you’re at it! Have a climax in a carnival. The result is a film that feels like a comic book in the best of ways.

Going into the new year, I was majorly psyched for the trifecta of big name female-led superhero movies we have coming our way. Birds of Prey just blew the doors off 2020 and raised the shiny, glittery bar. Bring on Natasha and Diana.

Kirk Douglas dead at 103

Kirk Douglas, one of the last remaining stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, died today at the age of 103.  He leaves behind not only an amazing legacy on screen but one off of it as well.

Born Issur Danielovitch Demsky on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York, to Russian immigrant parents, the family adopted the last name of Demsky, which was the last name taken by his uncle, who came to America before his parents.  He spent his younger years working several jobs to help support his family – he had six sisters – and did so up until he joined the United States Navy.  Prior to enlisting he legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas.  He served on a submarine during World War II and was discharged in 1944 due to injuries sustained during an accident.

He began his acting career when he was granted a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  He was able to support himself, barely, by doing a lot of radio work.  He made his stage debut when he replaced Richard Widmark in “Kiss and Tell.”  He made his film debut in 1946 after a former Dramatic Academy Classmate named Lauren Bacall recommend him to a director.  That film, “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,” co-starred Barbara Stanwyck and help launch his extraordinary career.

Always enjoying his work in the theater, Douglas made his Broadway debut three years later.  That same year he starred in the film “Champion.”  His performance earned him his first of six Academy Award nominations.

For the next six decades he starred in some of the greatest films of their eras, including “The Bad and the Beautiful” (Oscar nomination), “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Lust for Life” (Oscar nomination), “Paths of Glory,” “Spartacus,” and “Seven Days in May.”

Douglas earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of artist Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life”

But it was more than his film work that Douglas will be remembered for.  Despite Dalton Trumbo’s name on the Hollywood “blacklist,” Douglas, who was also the executive producer of “Spartacus” not only hired Trumbo to write the screenplay for the film but gave him screen credit.  Douglas often said that hiring and supporting Trumbo was the proudest moment of his career.

He WAS Spartacus!

Douglas bought the rights to the Ken Kesey novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and in 1963 had it adapted into a play, in which he starred.  He tried for many years to produce a film version of the play but could never find the monetary backing.  He gave the rights to the property to his son, Michael who, with producer Saul Zaentz financed the 1975 film version.  Though Douglas had played the main character of Randle McMurphy on stage, he was deemed too old to play the role on film.  The part went to Jack Nicholson, who won his first Academy Award for his performance.  The film went on to earn nine Academy Award nominations and became the second film in history to win the top five Oscar categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay).

In 1996 he was given an honorary Academy Award in recognition of his amazing career and for being  a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.

Douglas was married twice and is survived by his wife Ann, who will amazingly turn 101 in April, and sons Michael, Joel and Peter.  His youngest son, Eric, passed away in 2004.

It’s No Joke – “Joker” nabs 11 Academy Award nominations!

“Joker,” director Todd Phillips’ “origin” tale about Batman’s greatest foe scored a total of 11 Academy Award nominations today, leading all films this year.  The film earned nods in several major categories, including Best Picture, Best Director (for Phillips) and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix.  “1917” and “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” tied for second place with 10 nominations each.

This year saw an amazing batch of first time nominees, many who have done award-worthy work in the past and have never been recognized.  They include Antonio Bandares (“Pain and Glory”) and Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”) for Best Actor and Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) for Best Supporting Actress.  Scarlett Johansson earned her first two nominations this year, scoring nods for Best Actress (“Marriage Story”) and Best Supporting Actress (“Jo Jo Rabbit”).  But no less than eight of the acting nominees have Oscars already on their mantle while others, like Brad Pitt and Phoenix, have been nominated several times in the past.   The South Korean film “Parasite” also did well, earning six nominations, including Best Picture and Best International Feature Film (formerly Best Foreign Film).

Composer John Williams received his 52nd nomination for his score the “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”  Here are the nominees in the major categories:

BEST PICTURE

FORD v FERRARI

THE IRISHMAN

JOJO RABBIT

JOKER

LITTLE WOMEN

MARRIAGE STORY

1917

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

PARASITE

BEST DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese – THE IRISHMAN

Todd Phillips – JOKER

Sam Mendes – 1917

Quentin Tarantino – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Bong Joo Ho – PARASITE

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Antonio Banderas – PAIN AND GLORY

Leonardo DiCaprio – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Adam Driver – MARRIAGE STORY

Joaquin Phoenix – JOKER

Jonathan Pryce – THE TWO POPES

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cynthia Erivo – HARRIET

Scarlett Johansson – MARRIAGE STORY

Saoirse Ronan – LITTLE WOMEN

Charlize Theron – BOMBSHELL

Renee’ Zellwegger – JUDY

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Tom Hanks – A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Anthony Hopkins – THE TWO POPES

Al Pacino – THE IRISHMAN

Joe Pesci – THE IRISHMAN

Brad Pitt – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kathy Bates – RICHARD JEWELL

Laura Dern – MARRIAGE STORY

Scarlett Johansson – JOJO RABBIT

Florence Pugh – LITTLE WOMEN

Margot Robbie – BOMBSHELL

This year ushers in a few things that you may be able to use when you play Trivia in a few years.  Should Phoenix win, he would become the second actor, following the late Heath Ledger, to win an Oscar by portraying the Joker.  This achievement has only been done once before, when both Marlon Brando (“The Godfather”) and Robert DeNiro (“The Godfather Part II”) each won Academy Awards for portraying Vito Corleone.  Also, this year marks the first time that a husband and wife were both nominated separately in writing categories.  Noah Baumbach is nominated for his original screenplay for “Marriage Story” while his wife, Greta Gerwig, is nominated for her adaptation of “Little Women.”

For a complete list of nominees, click HERE.

The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 9th.

Time to Help Choose the Winners of the 2019 Media Mikes Awards

Award season is in full bloom and once again it’s time for the readers of Media Mikes to vote for their film favorites for the 2019 Media Mikes Awards.

Last year over 3,000 readers submitted their choices in the following categories:

  • BEST PICTURE
  • BEST DIRECTOR
  • BEST ACTOR
  • BEST ACTRESS
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Members of the Media Mikes staff will vote on the following categories:

  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • BEST MUSICAL SCORE
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Votes can be submitted either through our Facebook page or by email. Emails can be sent to MikeS@Mediamikes.com Votes can be submitted through February 5, 2020, with the winners announced on Friday, February 7th.

Random voters will be chosen to receive some great 2019 movie swag!

Our Critics Share Their Choices for Best Films of 2019 (and their WORST!)

Between us I’d have to estimate that Mike G, Lauren, Jeremy, Michael D. Smith, Becki and myself see no less than 150 films a year here at Media Mikes. So when the year comes to an end, many of us like to share with you what films we felt were the Best. And, because they can’t all be winners, we like to tell you which ones we wished we had stayed away from. Ideally, if you haven’t seen any of these particular films you will either be intrigued enough to seek it out…or make the mental note to avoid at all costs! Enjoy!

MIKE SMITH

THE BEST

#1. 1917
Sam Mendes has created an epic film that thrives on its small cast and “continuous shot” presentation. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who shot many of the Coen Brothers’ films, will surely earn Academy Award nomination number fifteen for his work here. (He won previously for “Bladerunner 2049”)

#2. JUST MERCY
This film doesn’t open wide for another week but it has been playing in select cities since Christmas. An emotional look at the injustice heaped upon one man and the attorney who works tirelessly to find the truth. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx give award-worthy performances.
#3. MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
Edward Norton laid it all on the line as he not only starred in this film but wrote and directed it. His eye as a director is keen and changing the time setting of the story from the present to the 1950s was a masterstroke.
#4. JOKER
Todd Phillips’s look at an almost dystopian society and the people who inhabit it. In my mind, it’s between Joaquin Phoenix and “Marriage Story” star Adam Driver for the Best Actor Oscar.
#5. KNIVES OUT
When I was a teenager I loved the Neil Simon-penned comedy “Murder by Death” and, when I saw the trailer for this film I thought it would be similar. Wrong! Funny? Yes. But amazingly crafted. Extra credit for Daniel Craig pulling off a southern accent.
#6. YESTERDAY
What if you woke up tomorrow and found that the Beatles never existed? A true masterpiece that pays tribute to the universal joy brought to us by the four lads from Liverpool. Also contains the year’s most emotional moment. I won’t spoil it but, if you didn’t tear up, it’s quite possible that YOU’VE never heard of the Beatles.
#7. (tie) LINDA RONDSTADT – THE SOUND OF MY VOICE / DAVID CROSBY-REMEMBER MY NAME
Two amazing documentaries that give viewers an inside look at two of the most influential singers and musicians of their time.

#8. THE IRISHMAN
When people look back at the history of film making they will probably be flabbergasted to see that Martin Scorsese won his first directing Oscar for “The Departed.” The creator of arguably the greatest film of the 1980s (“Raging Bull”) as well as “Taxi Driver,” “The King of Comedy,” “Goodfellas” and “Gangs of New York” just may take home his second one for this 3 1/2 hour masterpiece.
#9. ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
I will admit that, while I enjoyed the film, I didn’t LOVE it when I reviewed it. But a second viewing put it on my list. Great performances and a beautifully recreated Los Angeles, circa 1969. And boy…that ending!
#10. AVENGERS: ENDGAME
The final film in a 23-film series, the likes of that Hollywood will never see again (unless Marvel does it). When Robert Downey, Jr declares, “I AM Iron Man” the emotional explosion in the theater is jaw-dropping.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: US, MARRIAGE STORY, BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, STAN and OLLIE

THE WORST

When a web site includes your name you have the opportunity to stay away from most of the stink-burgers that come out. Luckily (and sadly) these two lured me in.
ANGEL HAS FALLEN:
There is a great “Mean Tweet” in which Gerard Butler reads, “Does Gerard Butler have a lot of student loans to pay off? He’s always doing shitty films?” To which Butler replies, “No, I don’t have any student loans. I just like doing shitty films.” Add this one to the list.
DUMBO:
Damn you, Tim Burton. My wife and I skipped the critic’s screening of this so we could take our granddaughter. She hasn’t talked to us since!

JEREMY WERNER

THE BEST

#1. PARASITE
Wild, entertaining, shocking, gripping and a movie you’ll be thinking about for days, if not weeks. This is Bong Joon-ho’s magnum opus. This isn’t just the best movie of 2019, this is easily one of the best movies of the 2010s.
#2. 1917
We’re treated to way more WWII movies than we are WWI. “1917” is not only a visual masterpiece, but the kind of movie that reminds us why WWI shouldn’t be forgotten and just how devastating it truly was for the brave soldiers in it.
#3. THE LIGHTHOUSE
If it wasn’t for “1917,” this would have been the most visually impressive film of the year. Marketed as a horror, I’d say it’s more a suspenseful comedy, with a pair of tour de force performances.


#4. TOY STORY 4
Not to be a narcissist, but to quote my own review earlier this, “I would have never guessed back in 1995…that these plastic toys come to life would make me cry twice later in my life.”
#5. JOJO RABBIT
Channeling Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks, Taika Waititi has given audiences one of the most heartwarming, tragic and uplifting films of 2019, and it’s about a boy and his Hitler.
#6. THE IRISHMAN
I wouldn’t say this is Scorsese’s best, but he certainly has book-ended a beloved genre and given several actors a much-deserved swan song.
#7. MIDSOMMAR
An unsettling nightmare in broad daylight. Besides the unforeseen horrors happening in the sun, there are plenty of laughs to go along with this outstanding horror film.
#8.US
Jordan Peele raved about “Midsommar.” So I’m sure he wouldn’t be upset to see his stellar sophomore outing below “Midsommar.” I can’t wait to see what he does next.
#9. BOOKSMART
I absolutely adored this film and its messages. But just as impressive as the script, were the performances by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, as well as the direction by Olivia Wilde.
#10. CLIMAX
If you’ve ever been on the fence about trying LSD or any other kind of hallucinogens, I wouldn’t recommend “Climax.” It’s a delirious technicolor nightmare that entrances viewers.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: HONEY BOY, LORDS OF CHAOS, ONE CUT OF THE DEAD, EL CAMINO, UNCUT GEMS, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD, SHAZAM, THE REPORT, MARRIAGE STORY

THE WORST

#1. AFTER
Everyone involved in this should be ashamed of themselves. What’s that you say? They’re making a sequel? This is further proof we’re living in the darkest timeline.
#2. SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2
Illumination knows exactly what it’s doing and they feel no shame. I wish people would stop giving them reasons to make awful sequels.
#3.A DOG’S JOURNEY
Sappy sentimentality tries to mask the flawed and unethical morality. I love dogs, but this is a crap story and film.
#4. MIDWAY
When Michael Bay said, “No one can top my crappy WWII movie,” Roland Emmerich said, “Hold my beer.”
#5. DETECTIVE PIKACHU
Knowing that some people loved this movie makes me hate this cliche, predictable, trite flick even more.

LAUREN DAMON

THE BEST

Here’s my Top 9, leaving open that 10 slot as the end of the year has so many films on offer that I’m sure one I’ve missed would be bound to swoop in!

#1. MIDSOMMAR
Oh “Midsommar,” how much did I love this film? Enough to come back for the 171 minute director’s cut at Lincoln Center this August for even more. Ari Aster’s follow up to “Hereditary” showcases yet another powerhouse female performance in Florence Pugh. The film is hard to call a “horror”, unless you’re in the middle of a fight with your romantic partner, but it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. Aster packs this film with so much visual detail that return trips continue to prove satisfying. This film also has a pitch dark streak of savage humor that gave me one or two of the most morbid laughs of the year.
#2. JOJO RABBIT
I elaborated in my five star review of Taika Waititi’s WW2 satire, but this is for me the funniest film of the year while still tugging on a ton of heartstrings. For me, it is Scarlett Johansson’s best performance (and yes, I’ve seen “Marriage Story”)

#3. KNIVES OUT
Chris Evans and Daniel Craig played wildly against type in Rian Johnson’s murder mystery whose twisty turny finale was a delight, or maybe it was a donut…
#4. AVENGERS ENDGAME
I may not be fully on board with all of the character choices for Marvel’s epic Infinity Saga conclusion, but man, if this didn’t do justice to the 21(!) films whose job it was to wrap up. The “Portals” sequence playing to a sold out crowd on opening night was chills, cheers and tears inducing in a way I have never experienced at a movie theater.
#5. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLEM
In a year without a “Mission: Impossible,” John Wick came to the rescue in terms of just absolutely satisfying stunt sequences. That knife fight IN a knife store alone earned the whole movie’s placement on this list.
#6. FORD v FERRARI
I fortunately saw this one in IMAX where the roar of the impeccably edited racing sequences could be felt in my bones. James Mangold delivered a solid spectacle lead by the always-reliable Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
#7. ROCKETMAN
“Rocketman” was everything I wished last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” would have been. From star Taron Edgerton actually recording a slew of Elton John classics himself to the integration of said songs into lively and visually fun musical numbers. Bonus points for a lovely turn from Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin.
#8. LITTLE WOMEN
Greta Gerwig’s sterling adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic assembled one of the strongest acting ensembles of the year and showed the March sisters in a whole new light.
#9. THE LIGHTHOUSE
Robert Eggers’s follow up to 2015’s “The Witch” was just as steeped in atmosphere–this time of an isolated New England lighthouse in the 1890s where Robert Pattinson’s Thomas is taken under the lunatic wing of Willem Defoe who may or may not have a supernatural connection to the beacon they tend to. In stunning black and white, Eggers produced some of the most memorable imagery of the year.

THE WORST

In lieu of a Worst list–since I don’t see enough to pull a whole list confidently–I’m sorry to say MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL was the biggest disappointment. Taking Hemsworth and Thompson, who have a proven comedic chemistry and just throwing them into this lazy script was a huge wasted opportunity.

MICHAEL D. SMITH

THE BEST

#1. 1917
Selected by the Kansas City Film Critics Circle as the year’s Best Film, “1917” is simply a stroke of genius. Nominated for three Golden Globes, “1917” is not only a masterful example of the war film genre, but it is also a masterpiece of cinema in general. Directed by Oscar-winning British filmmaker Sam Mendes (“Skyfall,” “The Road to Perdition”), who co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“Penny Dreadful”), “1917” is an accurate depiction of the Great War with an edge-of-your-seat plot that is essentially Great Britain’s “Saving Private Ryan.”

#2. KNIVES OUT
An impressive piece of creative writing, “Knives Out” deserves to be in the pantheon of great murder mystery flicks. With a terrific cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer and Michael Shannon, “Knives Out” is led by Daniel Craig in a wonderfully entertaining performance that makes you forget all about his more famous alter egoJames Bond. Whether you guess who done it within 15 minutes or not until the very end, “Knives Out” provides a great way to spend the night out at the movie theater.
#3. JOKER
Featuring by far the best male lead performance of the year, “Joker” is the most in-depth character study captured in cinema in 2019. Joaquin Phoenix goes to Herculean lengths to tap into the essence of a man so ostracized by society that when his last thread to sanity is cut, he becomes something that lies somewhere in the middle of being a villain and a hero. Dark, gritty and violent, “Joker” is not your typical comic book or even graphic novel movie. It eclipses both. Phoenix is supported by a memorable supporting performance from Robert De Niro.
#4. MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
Edward Norton’s effort is a triumph of cinematic art and deserves to be an Oscar contender in multiple categories. Adapted from the 1999, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel of the same name by American novelist Jonathan Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn,” written and directed by Norton, is a brilliant, throwback detective story with an all-star cast that delivers the goods. It mirrors early 1950s Brooklyn in such a palpable way that it makes you feel like you are there. Despite its arguably long, two-hour plus running time, the puzzle-like central story is so engrossing with its twists and turns that you can end up losing yourself in it.
#5. US
Academy Award-winning writer Jordan Peele followed up his magnificent horror thriller “Get Out” with another stroke of genius thatwhich should not be watched immediately before bedtime. An inventive work that will give you goosebumps throughout as the Wilson family, led by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, tries to stay alive in the face of eerie doppelgangers who want them all dead. Nyong’o was recently selected by the Kansas City Film Critics Circle as 2019’s Best Actress for her memorable performance.
#6. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Love or hate him, there is no denying the talent of Quentin Tarantino. In this, his ninth and allegedly next-to-last film, Tarantino pays tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age by putting his own unique spin on the August 1969 Sharon Tate murders. With enthralling performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, Tarantino dug deep into his imagination with an entertaining “what if?” story with a climax that will drop your jaw to the floor and imagery that will be stuck in your head for days afterwards.

#7. THE IRISHMAN
At three hours and 29 minutes, “The Irishman” is a Martin Scorsese film not to be tackled lightly. However, if you are a fan of not just mafia-related stories but also a trio of iconic actors – Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino – then you will be greatly rewarded. It is the supposed story of mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran who worked closely with the mob for decades and claimed that he was the one who made labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa famously disappear. Of the three, it is Pesci who outshines everyone as a mob boss. It is nothing less than the greatest performance of Pesci’s long career.
#8. QUEEN & SLIM
Ideally, a great work of art, especially one that is controversial, will have a deeply emotional and/or intellectual impact on the viewer. It is no different with the genre of cinema. Erroneously labeled by some as a Bonnie and Clyde-type story, “Queen & Slim” explores the fear and outrage felt by many in America over numerous fatal shootings in recent years of black men, often young ones, by white law enforcement officers. While its climax is heavy-handed and the overall portrayal of the police is too generalized, “Queen & Slim” remains a terrific specimen of cinematic art.
#9. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Last year, I had the fantastic documentary “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” in the eighth spot of my 2018 top ten list. This year, another Mister Rogers film makes my year-end highlights. Inspired by true events, Tom Hanks puts in a mesmerizing supporting performance as the late, beloved PBS show host as he tries to help a jaded newspaper reporter remember what is most important in life. It is a sweet, lovely story amidst harsh times.
#10. AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Ten years’ worth of Avenger-related movies, some better than others, culminated with “Endgame” and it was all worth it with a tremendously rewarding finale. What made it so spectacular was not that it had great special effects or a cast with enough stars to fill up the nighttime sky. Rather, it contained an emotional story that did not have a neat and tidy ending. It was a true struggle of good vs. evil with many of those on the side of good having to pay a terrible price for their collective success. It does leave one to wonder how the gang at Marvel Studios will do with the next phase of Avenger flicks.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: AD ASTRA, I AM MOTHER, PEANUT BUTTER FALCON

Film Review: “Little Women”

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Eliza Scanlen
Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Rated: PG
Running Time: 135mins
Sony Pictures

Little Women has been adapted to the screen a dozen times, so approaching it hot off of her acclaimed Lady Bird, it appears writer-director Greta Gerwig decided to adhere to its own Amy March’s strict standards: “to be great or nothing” Which is to say, Gerwig’s telling is pretty great. Emphasis on the pretty. Her ensemble cast, lead by Lady Bird alum Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh (“Midsommar”), brings a fresh take to Louisa May Alcott’s iconic characters amidst an absolutely gorgeously mounted production. This adaptation of Alcott’s tale of a quartet of sisters finding their way in Civil War era New England feels both classic and vividly relevant to today.

Full disclosure time–I haven’t read Alcott’s novel. Like many kids of the 90s my introduction to the March family was with 1994’s release starring Winona Ryder and Christian  Bale. It so fit into 90s cozy family fare that it came to vhs in one of those big puffy plastic boxes like Disney cartoons. This isn’t a slight against it, I love that version. But it did make me wary that I would be plodding through some well worn territory. Happily, Ms Gerwig flips the script by shirking a linear adaptation. Instead we follow our heroine Jo March (Ronan) from the point at which she’s already pitching her life story at a New York publisher, and then we go winding back and forth through her adolescence in New England. This approach gives the tales of the March’s idyllic family history a warm veneer of nostalgia, which actually feels a more honest way to see it.

Additionally, with Jo as our primary entry point into Marches, Gerwig’s update places a greater emphasis on the sisterly bonds than their romantic entanglements. Timothee Chalamet does well as Laurie–taking over from Bale as the mischievous neighbor boy who pursues both Jo and eventually Amy (Pugh)–but for this 2019 version, he rightly takes a back seat in screen time to, for example, Jo’s bond with her ailing sister Beth (Scanlen).            

This treatment especially benefits the oft-maligned Amy March. In 1994 the duties of the youngest March were shared between a very childish Kirsten Dunst and a very cold Samantha Mathis but here Florence Pugh effortlessly takes her from tween to adulthood. Pugh is having an amazing year, from her breakthrough leading role in Fighting with My Family to a wrenching performance in Ari Aster’s Midsommar, she is exhibiting an incredible range that she flexes even more as Amy. In this non-linear telling, Amy has the advantage of being introduced not as a clingy youngest sibling, but as the aspiring artist studying in Paris. Her childhood crimes (which are numerous and feature Pugh for the second time this year participating in arson) are more readily forgiven through an adult lens whereas when they were previously presented in “real time”, she was a little monster. Meanwhile, though Pugh is given aging assistance via wardrobe decisions and some well-deployed bangs, it is her performance, her entire bearing and pitch of her voice that fully sells Amy’s growth. It’s a special performance that I am hoping will be recognized this awards season since, if Hereditary’s snubbing last year is any indication, Academy voters might not have the stomach for Midsommar. But I digress. 

Supporting all these sparkling performances, Gerwig’s production radiates warmth and beauty. She gives us a screenplay that lets the March clan talk all over each other like a living, breathing family, costumes and settings that frequently look like they could be paintings and underscores it all with yet another winning score from Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water”). It is a lovely holiday gift of a film.  

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