Blu-ray Review: “JoJo Rabbit”

  • Starring:  Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson
  • Fox Searchlight
  • Running Time: 108 mins
  • Film: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

Nominated for six Academy Awards and much-deserved winner of the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, “JoJo Rabbit” is unlike anything you’d ever expect to see.  Unless, of course, you were looking to see a film about a young German boy during World War II whose best (and imaginary) friend is Adolf Hitler.

10-year old JoJo (Davis) lives with his mother, Rosie (Johansson) in a small town in Germany.  It is the time of the second world war and, like a good German boy, JoJo is anticipating his upcoming trip to the Kinderlandverschickung, which was a camp designed to indoctrinate young boys and girls into the ways of the Nazi party.  Think of it as the boy/girl scouts but with grenades.  JoJo can’t wait to wear the uniform and display the dagger given to all of the Hitler Youth.  However, after declaring that he is ready to kill for the Fuhrer, he is given a rabbit to kill to prove his fierceness.  Unable to do so, he attempts to set the rabbit free, earning him the mocking laughter of his fellow campers and the nickname “JoJo Rabbit.”  Despite this shame, he is encouraged to walk the Nazi Party line by his imaginary friend, Hitler himself (played by the film’s writer/director Taika Waititi),  To make matters worse, JoJo discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl (McKenzie) in their house.  Whatever is a young Nazi to do?

Brilliantly written and skillfully directed, “JoJo Rabbit” is well deserving of its Oscar nominations, among them Best Picture.  You have to walk a fine line to be able to laugh at one of the most horrible times in our world’s history and Mr. Waititi walks it like he was a member of the Wallenda family.  The film is also carried by the amazing performances delivered.  Mr. Davis, who was eleven years old when he made the film (his first professional acting gig) received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical and, if not for the strong field this year, could have quite easily been up for an Oscar as well.  Also turning in fine work are Ms. McKenzie and Ms. Johansson, who was named the year’s Best Supporting Actress by the readers of Media Mikes earlier this year for her work here.  Strong supporting work from Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant and Mr. Waititi round out a flawless cast. 

There are some great supplements included under the EXTRA tab, including three deleted scenes, Outtakes, a nice behind-the-scenes featurette and an insightful audio commentary by writer/director Taika Waititi.  Also included are the film’s teaser and theatrical trailer.

Charles Fleischer reflects on 25th Anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and talks about Moleeds

Charles Fleischer is known best as the man who gave the voice to Roger Rabbit” in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. The film is also debuting on Blu-ray for the first time on March 12th. Besides voice acting, Charles is also a stand-up comedian and also has two patents including a device to measure the golden ratio He has also invented and patented a Toy Egg. Fleischer is also the author of “The Moleeds,” a book of his own mathematical theories. In 2010, Charles spoke at the TED conference and discussed about his unique theory of everything called “Moleeds”, read more on that below. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Charles to reflect about his role in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and also get to find out his love for science.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you think it is about “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that makes it so unique and holds up over the last 25 years?
Charles Fleischer: It all goes back to good storytelling. It links to the job of the director and that was Bob Zemeckis. He is a genius director and a master storyteller. You combine that with the animation skills of Richard Williams and the script by (Peter) Seaman and (Jeffrey) Price and then on top of that your introducing a new cartoon character. Certain films are just classics and hold up through time and I will certainly say that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is one of those.

MG: We spoke with Christopher Lloyd a few years back, read here, and he said that you voiced the role off screen, was that a difficult task?
CF: It wasn’t necessarily difficult but it was slightly different. We rehearsed face to face and I even had them make a full costume. Then I would be off-camera and I would watch exactly was (Bob) Hoskins was doing. If he reached out and grabbed Roger, I would have to reach like I was being grabbed while performing. It was a kind of performance I named “T.P.A.”, which is Trans Projectional Acting. Where you are there but you are projecting your performance from another space.

MG: Since we are going back 25 years, let’s go all the way back. What was your audition process like for this film and the creation of that wonderful voice?
CF: I was originally called in to help them find the Eddie Valiant character. They needed someone to read Roger off-camera when they did the screen-tests. After doing several of those Bob Zemeckis asked me if I wanted to do the character for the film and I said “Gladly”. So once I got it, I got to read the whole script, got to see some animation tests and I was able to find tune the voice into something that would be appropriate.

MG: How does it compare to your various other voice roles including “Rango” and “The Polar Express”?
CF: Nothing compares to “Roger Rabbit” [laughs]. That pretty much also goes for any role that I have played from “Zodiac” to “Night Shift”. The essence of Roger Rabbit is the closest to who I am. I am a stand-up comedian, I make people laugh and that is what I love to do. I felt this certain kinship with the elemental aspects of Roger Rabbit, which made it more important to me. On another note, his wife was Jessica Rabbit and my youngest daughter is named Jessica. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Roger is in the Alley sitting on a trash can and he is brokenhearted about Jessica playing patty cake. Just the fact that the name Jessica had an emotional sympathy within me that created this resonance that added to the whole projection of my acting dynamic.

MG: I always thought that you must have had no voice after shooting this film with all the screaming.
CF: Well it is a cartoon scream, so it doesn’t hurt you.
MG: Oh ok, I didn’t know that.
CF: Me neither. I just made it up [laughs].
MG: You got me man! [laughs]

MG: Word was released last month about “The Stooge” with Mickey Mouse & Roger Rabbit, have you been approached to reprise?
CF: I think that was a lot puffery. I do not think that there is any substance to that. I think that is the strategy that they were trying to use by putting it out there and see what people think and if they want it. I would suspect that any subsequent Roger Rabbit film would have some like Robert Zemeckis involved.

MG: Speaking of that, I have heard about talks of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2” for as long as I can remember, what do you think is the reason why this never happened?
CF: I think there are a number of reasons. I think one of the main reasons is that at the time it was co-produced by Disney and Amblin Entertainment. So to get both parties on board would be a challenge. It is all speculation. I can only say that eventually I hope they get around to making it because I believe there is a market.

MG: Off-topic, but can you talk a little about your unique theory of everything called “Moleeds”?
CF: You just touched my heart now we can talk now [laughs]. This is very important to me. Moleeds is something that I have been working on for over 30 years. It is a mathematical discovery that deals with prime numbers and creates patterns and relationships that I believe have some significance with the DNA of the universe. I did a talk on TED, check it out below. A mathematican in Vienna saw that and I started corresponding with him. He created these programs for me which allowed me to visualize moleeds on higher levels. The prior work that I had done was just on a calculator and making graphs on the computer. He was able to create these formulas based on my research that allowed you to plug in any prime number and see the symmetrical system that would be generated by moleeds.

CF: Since we are on science, I have another discovery which has to do with gamma ray bursts. I wrote a scientific paper, which was published on the Cornell University’s website. In order to be published there you need to be endorsed by a published scientist. Gamma ray bursts are the largest display of energy in the universe. I found patterns that indicate that they are not random, which if I am correct will change science!

Blu-ray Review "Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition"

Actors: Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleischer, Christopher Lloyd, David Lander, Wayne Allwine
Directors: Robert Zemeckis
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Touchstone Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Run Time: 104 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Wow, 25 years already? I remember watching this film as a kid over and over and over. Now here we are 25 years later and I am watching it with my own daughter. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is such an amazing film.  It really brings you back to the day before everything was all CGI and perfect.  The film definitely has it flaws since it is very ambitious blending animation with live-action.  This is before the days of “The Smurfs” or “Garfield”.  This took some real talent people to make this film work…and still work today. Disney did a pretty good job restoring this film for Blu-ray, but this lacks any effort in the extras department.  I thought it was missing a certain magic touch but still looks and sounds amazing and much better than I ever remembered, but Blu-ray today comes with high standards. If you are a fan of this film like myself you will enjoy this high-def upgrade. I recommend checking this out for sure.

Official Synopsis: On Blu-ray for the first time ever, this digitally remastered edition of Who Framed Roger Rabbit practically jumps off the screen with its brilliant picture, rich sound – and dangerous curves. It’s 1947 Hollywood, and Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a down-on-his-luck detective, is hired to find proof that Marvin Acme, gag factory mogul and owner of Toontown, is playing hanky-panky with femme fatale Jessica Rabbit, wife of Maroon Cartoon superstar, Roger Rabbit. When Acme is found murdered, all fingers point to Roger, who begs the Toon-hating Valiant to find the real evildoer. Complete with hours of bonus features – including three digitally restored Roger Rabbit shorts, this multi Oscar winner (best film editing, best sound effects editing, best visual effects, special achievement in animation direction, 1988) is pure magic in hi-def Blu-ray.

I am not sure what I really expect with the Blu-ray’s 1080p transfer, I think I was expecting it to really pop more.  I really enjoyed watching it but I kept kind of sighing through certain scenes that still felt a little rough.  I will give it a little slack since the film is 25 years old. This new digital remaster still delivers a nice presentation. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is quite impressive. You will be holding your ears for all of Roger’s screams and the constant toon-action. The dialogue is clear and the score flows quite well. Both the audio and video are major upgrades from the last DVD release.  The release comes in a combo pack also, so we can both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD of the film.

The special features are a decent but not really 25th anniversary material.  There is nothing new for this release just ports from the last DVD release. The only semi-upgrade is that “The Roger Rabbit Shorts” – “Tummy Trouble,” “Roller Coaster Rabbit” and “Trail Mix-Up” have been digitally restored and presented in high definition.  The rest of the ported special features are an audio commentary track from Director Robert Zemeckis, producer Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and co-writers Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, which still holds up but I would have loved to see something new.  There is also two featurettes on the production, only in SD, “Who Made Roger Rabbit” and “Behind the Ears”, both worth checking out and have some good behind-the-scenes footage. There is one deleted scenes called “Pig Head Sequence,” with an introduction by the filmmakers. Then we have “Before and After”, which compare raw production footage with final live-action/animation shots. “Toon Stand-Ins” is a short feature on the rubber models used for stand-ins and “On Set!” which is a fly-on-the-wall look at the shoot. Good extras like I said but lacking the anniversary quality.

Interview with Robbie Tucker

Robbie Tucker is co-starring in Disney’s “Prom”, playing the character Charlie, a sweet kid brother that tries to play matchmaker and brings sincere tenderness to the comedy. Robbie also recently appeared in “Little Fockers”, working alongside Ben Stiller.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Robbie about his new film “Prom” and how he loves acting.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you got involved with “Prom”
Robbie Tucker: Well I auditioned with a lot of other kids.  They liked me and I booked it [laughs].

MG: Tell us about your role of Charlie?
RT: He is the little brother of the main character in the film.  I help my brother try and get a date for prom.

MG: Any cool stories from working on the film?
RT: It was just fun in general working on the film.  Everyone was so nice to me.

MG: Did you get any tips from the other actors?
RT: They told me just to be myself, which was really nice.

MG: What make you want to get into acting?
RT: My sister first started acting and when I saw her doing it and I thought it looked fun.  So I tried it out and I really liked it.

MG: When you worked on “Little Fockers”, did you get a chance to meet the whole cast?
RT: I got to meet Ben Stiller.  He was really fun to work with.

MG: How do you find working on “The Young and the Restless” differs from doing the film “Prom”?
RT: Filming on the show is more faster.  It changes pretty often during shooting.  They do a bunch of scenes everyday and that is different from a movie, which is spread over a longer time.

MG: What other projects do you have coming out?
RT: I just did a movie in Michigan called “Family Weekend”. It is about my older sister in the movie and how she kidnaps our parents for the weekend.  They are also too busy for the kids and never listen to them.  It is really funny.

Interview with Raymond J. Barry

Raymond J. Barry has not only appeared over 50 film but also more than 75 plays. He is known most for his role as Ron Kovic’s father in the “Born on the Fourth of July” and for playing Pa Cox in “Walk Hard”, and its well known quote from the film, “The wrong kid died!” Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Raymond about his role in this years film festival favorite “Hamill” and his current play in New York.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you became involved with the film “Hamill”?
Raymond J. Barry: I was asked to do the project by my agent. She showed me the script. I read it and that is how it happened. I like what I read and decided to do it. There was another factor involved though…my son was being recruiting for basketball by the University of Rochester. We shot in that area and I wanted to go check out the college [laughs].

MG: Where you familiar with the UFC fighter, Matt Hamill prior to coming on board?
RB: No I wasn’t. I don’t watch that stuff is it too violent. Mind you, I am not a pussy [laughs] but I don’t just like it. I find professionally wrestling boring. I don’t mean to be a snooty guy, but I like college wrestling though. Professional wrestling looks fake to me, even though I know they get hurt…but it just looks fake.

MG: How was it working with Russell Harvard in the film?
RB: It was great working with him because he is absolutely and totally 100% real. When you are working with somebody with a handicap, they can’t fake it. There is something amazing with the behavior and the means of communication. I really liked working with him, it was great.

RB: What did you think about me in the wrestling outfit?
MG: [laughs] Listen you pulled it off and you got him pinned in that scene [laughs].
RB: You know when I was in high school I wrestled, so I knew a little about it. I thought that was a really funny shot.

MG: Your work has ranged from comedies like “Walk Hard” to dramas like “Born on the 4th of July”, any genre you enjoy to work in more?
RB: It doesn’t matter to me. I can work in either one but actually comedy does come easier for me. I am a lot funnier than people think. I am usually hired to be a tragic figure or a hard guy, something like that. I am pretty funny though [laughs]. People always come up to me in the shopping malls and say “The wrong kid died” [laughs] from “Walk Hard”. It has become a memorable line.

MG: Tell us about working on the hit show “Justified” and tell us about your character?
RB: It is a great character. He is a little crazy, if he is pissed off he will hit you over the head with a baseball bat. He is also charming and people seem to like him. I did a movie up in Spokane, WA and a woman came up to me and said “Are you my favorite father?” I wondered who the hell she was talking about. She said “I watch “Justified” all the time”. So I guess people really like him.  I have been shot twice and I had a heart attack and I am still alive. They keep shooting me but they don’t kill me.

MG: You are a stage veteran, tell us about your new show “Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep”?
RB: I also wrote that play. I am doing it at the Theater for the New City in Manhattan. The play was promopted by a book I read called ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ by John Perkins. Specifically what that book is about is a guy who worked for an organization connected with the CIA. What they do is they engaged in lending, where they will give large sums of money to a country like Panama or Ecuador. They will build a dam and demand it is built by American companies, so money does back into the American economy. The guy in the book got sick of it, quite his job and  he wrote this book and. I read it and it just blew my mind. So I pretended I was him walking through a park on the day he quit his job. He comes upon a woman, turns out she works for a corporation. Then the husband comes, who turns out to be his boss. Meanwhile the woman is attracted to me. You have this threesome going with a backdrop of politics. I think I have gotten something really good. I am doing it in NY until April 24th at which then I will bring it back to Los Angeles.

MG: Anything else you want to throw in?
RB: I got a two year old, a eleven year old, a nineteen year old and a thirty nine year old. I was the New York State High Jumping Champion in 1957 and I am 72. Those are the interesting facts of my life [laughs].

I find

Interview with Steven R. Monroe

Steven R. Monroe is known best for recently directing the 2010 remake of “I Spit on Your Grave”. Steven has also directed a number of films for Syfy Channel i.e. “Ice Twisters” and “Mongolian Death Worth”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Steven to ask him a few questions about his latest work as well and his past films.

Mike Gencarelli: What was the most difficult task in directing “I Spit on Your Grave” remake?
Steven R. Monroe: During the production the most difficult task was making the sure the film was dark, disturbing, raw, upsetting and bleak as it should be for the fans of the original.  Then also trying to address possible new fans, trying to make sure both sides of the audience that would see this film would get what they wanted and then some.  Lastly also trying to be sure I was delivering the film the producers and distributors needed and wanted. Once the film was finished and people were seeing it, the most difficult thing was dealing with people that didn’t get the film at all and probably should never have seen it in the first place and then listening to them making judgments on me personally because they were offended. I don’t care if people take issue with what I have done as a filmmaker, I’ve been at it a long time and you get thick skin, but when people make personal attacks when they know nothing about me or who I am, it can be pretty aggravating and more difficult to just brush off.

MG: Did you feel any pressure to live up to the original?
SR: Yes, absolutely. There are very passionate fans out there of the original and it was my responsibility to do everything I could to be sure they got what they were hoping for or not hoping for. The original stirred up a lot of emotion and a lot of anger, it’s a handful, but a welcome one to try and deliver something that lives up to all that. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

MG: What was your process for casting the lead of Jennifer?
SR: I just wanted someone that was not a name first and foremost. And I wanted someone with a natural beauty, a bit of naivety, a bit of strength. I wanted certain resemblance’s to Camille Keaton in our new Jennifer. As an actress she needed to be fearless and to understand the magnitude of what we were doing and be able to handle what would come at her down the road. Sarah Butler had all of those. She was perfect no matter what anyone says about her, I know the right choice was made to cast her.

MG: Tell us about your film “Complacent”, which you wrote, produced and directed?
SR: “Complacent” is very close to me not only because it is the only film out of 15 that I have directed that I directed, wrote, and produced but also because there are many elements of that film that were inspired by both my life and my wife’s. The film is a study of my perspectives of different events of our lives some that happened together and many that happened to me before we met. A lot of it is very close to her and a lot is very close to me and I wanted to put it all in a dark, sad, funny at times somewhat satirical bag and shake it up together. Most people that have seen it have said to me that they saw part of themselves in the film within at least one of the characters. The cast was amazing and brought all these suburban white Americans to life big time for me. We did the film for literally no money and it was all passion that got it done. I am indebted to everyone that worked on that project.

MG: You have worked with Cerina Vincent on three films now, how did this relationship start?
SR: Cerina is now a very dear friend. My wife and I love her very much. We first met about seven years ago when I was directing a horror film for Stephen J. Cannell and we were trying to cast the lead. He came in the office and said, how about Cerina Vincent from “Cabin Fever”… Without thinking I said “yes”. We hit it off on that shoot, became friends and then she did a Syfy film for me “Devil On The Mountain” (which Syfy changed the title to “Sasquatch Mountain”) then we did “Complacent together”. She is a very underestimated actor, drama or comedy, horror or action or thriller she can do it all.

MG: You have worked with Syfy Channel on quite a few films now i.e. “Ice Twisters” and “Mongolian Death Worth”, tell us about working on those films?
SR: The TV movie world is very different than feature films. For the most part people do not understand that in television directors do not have a whole lot of say in a whole lot of things. Even though I am seriously poked fun at all over the internet for doing TV movies and then “I Spit On Your Grave”, I don’t care because I am actually very fortunate to be able to jump formats like that and shooting a Syfy movie is like being eight years old again and making my sci fi and action films with my super 8 camera. You have creatures, stunts, guns, blood… Come on, it’s a blast. Funny thing with internet critique is that if the people that were goofing on me for the TV movies I did before “I Spit” actually did a moment of research they would see that I have also done six other feature films.